It was World Mental Health Day this week — and it drove me mad. I don’t have ‘mental illness’. I have bipolar disorder, and I feel as possessive about my diagnosis as Gollum did his precious ring. One term. One label. To lump the manifold terrors of the mind together under the monolithic ‘mental illness’ is an offence against the person. Failing to differentiate shifts the stigma like a bubble under a carpet.
In the 1962 Japanese sci-fi classic King Kong vs Godzilla, the two giant monsters fight to a stalemate atop Mount Fuji. I have been wondering for some time when the two giants of American social media would square up for what promises to be a comparably brutal battle. Finally, it began last month — and where else but on Twitter?
‘Facebook was always anti-Trump,’ tweeted the President of the United States on 27 September.
I am not a bad friend. I enjoy my mates, and I am generous, showering them with fun, money and sympathy. But I do not crave their company when I am without it, for whatever length of time, and should we lose touch, I do not miss them. In fact, I find there’s a profound pleasure in parting with a chum, whether by their hand or by yours. We should all have the courage to admit it when a friendship has become more work than play, more duty than beauty.
The Great Storm of 1987 doesn’t have a name like those hurricanes that devastate the Caribbean and the United States each winter — it wasn’t until Abigail in November 2015 that British storms were given a personality — but it deserves its capital letters.
The worst storm to hit England since 1703 killed 18 people, felled 15 million trees, famously reducing Sevenoaks to Oneoak, and cost the insurance industry more than £2 billion.
The Sunday Times’s literary editor Andrew Holgate recently tweeted the news that Robert Harris’s latest thriller had entered the bestseller list at No. 2: ‘Pipped to the post by Ken Follett.’ Harris retweeted it: ‘Well done Ken. You bastard.’
Pipped to the post only by Follett. That’s the level Harris is at now. Even before it hit the shops, his novel was being chased for film rights by two studios.
Since the EU referendum result last June our nation has been divided: not only by the vote but also by language. If 62 per cent of Britons (many of whom undoubtedly voted for Brexit) now say Britain ‘sometimes feels like a foreign country’, it’s not anti-foreigner prejudice so much as a feeling that people in authority are speaking at them in a foreign language. Not Polish or Punjabi but PC-speak, that opaque code that connotes whether you are ‘on message’ and one of ‘our kind of people’ or one of those racist lizard-brained Leaver oiks.
The first railway line in Spain, from Barcelona to Mataro a few miles up the coast towards the French border, was built in 1848 by British workers and with British expertise. I was reflecting on this, and the huge difference today between the services provided by our two countries’ railways, as the train passed through Mataro on the way to Girona. The 90-minute journey, for those of us of a certain age with a tarjeta dorada, cost five euros.