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[/audioplayer]It has taken six long weeks to uncover the real hidden reasons why, from the West Country to the Thames Valley, the flooding caused by the wettest January on record has led to such an immense national disaster.
‘Prizes are for boys,’ said Charles Ives, the American composer, upon receiving the Pulitzer in 1947, ‘and I’ve grown up now.’ He was using humour to make a serious point, but it would be lost on many people today. Never has there been a lusher time for self-congratulation; when all, as in Alice in Wonderland, must have prizes.
Not all prizes are bad. Nathan Filer, who collected the Costa last month for his first novel, The Shock of the Fall, was granted the kind of recognition that evades most first-time authors.
A few weeks ago, I accompanied my daughter to an Open Day at Roehampton College, where she is hoping to start a teacher training course in September. I enjoyed it — and was impressed by the broad mix of motivated young men and women who, if all goes well, will soon be teaching the next generation of primary school children.
Towards the end of the afternoon, the co-ordinator said she wanted to offer a few tips about the interview process that would begin once all the applications have been submitted.
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The other day I casually remarked to my ex-wife that our son’s new teacher is ‘really hot’. She gave me a look of disgust, shook her head and said, ‘You dirty old man!’
It’s not the first time I’ve been called that, and usually I just keep smiling and stay silent.
I am a banana. In Singapore, where I used to live, this needs no explanation — it means I’m yellow on the outside but white on the inside, someone who looks ethnically Chinese but whose way of thinking is ‘western’. There are bananas all over Asia, and I daresay the world. We are better versed in Shakespeare than Confucius, our Mandarin is appalling, and we often have pretentious Anglo or American accents.
There are good reasons for serious people to despair of the news. A minor country singer dies, and the BBC gives him the front page. An actor dies and every channel mourns him as if a president had expired. There’s one final fact that particularly sticks in the throat of serious news people: the most followed news website in the English language, by an enormous factor, is the Mail Online, purveyor of a stream of appalling ‘human interest’ stories of the lowest kind.
When I first visited the Marche a dozen years ago, folk who knew about such things tapped their noses and confidently predicted that it was to be Italy’s ‘next big thing’. The British would tire of Tuscany and Umbria, they said, and would head in Boden-clad hordes further east. They said exactly the same thing when I returned five years later and yet again more recently.
The invasion has yet to happen.