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[/audioplayer]Who’s up, who’s down? Who’s in, who’s out? While Westminster spent last week gossiping about which minister’s special adviser said what, in another city, not far away, a very different Britain was unveiled.
The introduction of a madrassa curriculum at a secular state school in Birmingham and talk of Christian pupils at risk of ‘cultural isolation’ seem to have come as a revelation to non-Muslim Britain. They should not have. Islam in Britain is dominated by a very specific, and rather illiberal, version of the faith — one that, if anything, seems to be becoming more conservative over time.
As the Muslim population became more established, one might have assumed that a westernised form of Islam would have come to dominate Britain’s mosques.
There is really no question about whether it is best for babies to be breast-fed, at least for the first few weeks of life. Plenty of research from around the world has proved conclusively that breast-fed babies, who receive all the mother’s antibodies from the colostrum (produced during the first few days) and then the milk, have a better resistance to infections and viruses, and get them more mildly if they do succumb.
World Cup fever has arrived. Every morning on the way to work, more little plastic flags of St George flutter from white vans or, in my case, from the window of our trusty Audi A6. Many of my fellow countrymen regard this footie orgy as wholly unnecessary — not me.
Bunting will go up at the front of our house if we advance to the quarters, whereupon my wife will spend most evenings in a curry house with a girlfriend, leaving me to invite the lads round for random games such as Honduras v.
The Kindle has changed reading in so many ways. A library in your pocket rather than the hulk of a hardback. Uniform pixels where once dust motes rose from an ancient page. But the biggest change, the most fundamental one, is emotional rather than physical. Reading, which used to be the most private of activities, is now an increasingly public one.
The same internet that lets you download a book’s content also lets you upload your reaction to that content.
Americans make movies about slavery and its abolition. In the past two years we’ve seen the Oscar-winning Twelve Years a Slave, based on a 19th-century slave narrative, and Django Unchained, with Christoph Waltz as a bounty-hunter who, uniquely among bounty-hunters of the period, did not make his living from capturing fugitive slaves. Spielberg’s Lincoln was about the Great Emancipator himself, as was the less historically rigorous Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Salzburg is so ridiculously pretty, it’s sometimes hard to take it seriously. Standing on the ramparts of its knights-in-armour castle, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, admiring the delicate cluster of domes and spires and turrets below, you can’t help thinking, ‘Is this for real?’ Well, yes and no. Salzburg is absurdly beautiful — the baroque architecture, the Alpine scenery — but what’s most intriguing is its sense of theatre, the way it’s adapted to fit the fantasies of millions of foreign visitors like me.