‘The numbers just don’t stack up,’ one cabinet minister wearily declared to me on Monday night. This is, perhaps, the single most important fact in British politics today: Theresa May does not currently have the votes to pass her Brexit plan even if she could get the European Union to accept it.
Boris Johnson and David Davis’s resignations mean that it won’t just be Jacob Rees-Mogg and a dozen ultras voting against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, but a far larger group.
Last week, for the first time since 1996, and for the second time in nine attempts, England won a match that was decided by a penalty competition. You may have read something about it.
The penalty shoot-out is the classic example — the type specimen — of a sport transforming itself for television. Television loves penalties because television loves drama. When drama is mixed with partisanship the mixture is irresistible: a perfect piece of entertainment.
I’m losing my patience. Not so long ago I’d happily wait ten minutes for a bus, or even whole days for the next instalment of my favourite television programme. It didn’t seem to bother me in the slightest that my holiday photos would not be seen until I’d picked them up from the chemist. I even went to the library to get information from an encyclopaedia.
Life, in short, used to be a waiting game, and patience was not just a virtue but a habit.
When I was a child in the 1950s it was unheard of for someone to be killed by a dog. Dogs were rarely killed by other dogs. By the early 1990s, things were different. Dog-fighting made a comeback and the fad was for the ‘weapon’ dog, promoted via American gangsta rap. Staffordshire bull terriers were being bred in large numbers again and other fighting breeds, previously unheard of here, were brought into this country.
Buying fish at Cambridge market on Sunday, I found myself chatting to the fishmonger about the prospects for England in the World Cup. Another customer, a middle-class woman, joined in. None of us, I think, was a habitual fan. But we found ourselves enjoying a few minutes of spontaneous shared pleasure. It was not mere satisfaction in winning, but shared pride in a team of nice young men, seemingly unassuming, modest, sporting, decent.
For more than 40 years we’ve lived in a beautiful, listed, Cotswold stone, Stonesfield slate-roofed farmhouse in Oxfordshire. The trouble is it’s an ex-Blenheim house, within earshot of the palace, and the current duke is having Potus — that unlovely acronym for ‘President of the United States’ — to dinner. Locals are muttering about this World Heritage Site being used to fete a pantomime villain. On Thursday we’re invited to a friend’s 70th birthday party at the Athenaeum, and there’s also a press night at the National Theatre.
Of all the window displays in Amsterdam this spring there was just one that stopped me in my tracks. I had come for tulips, canals, the tremendous Van Gogh and Japan exhibition, but the unexpected highlight of my trip was the sight of
a dozen alpacas beaming through the glass of a shop front off the Herengracht.
Nothing could have made me forget the rain like this jubilant herd. I have long had a passion for alpacas but had never seen faux ones quite so lifelike.