For Vladimir Putin, Syria has been the gift that kept on giving. His 2015 military intervention propelled Russia back to the top diplomatic tables of the world — a startling comeback for a country that had spent two decades languishing in poverty and contempt on the margins of the world’s councils. At home, the war took over as a booster of Putin’s prestige just as the euphoria over the annexation of Crimea was being eroded by economic bad news caused by low oil prices and sanctions.
These days there are more than 1,000 members of the Side Saddle Association. Well, of course there are. People go to Bisley to shoot muzzle--loaders with black powder instead of modern rifles with laser-sights; people prefer Bugattis to brand-new electric cars. And of course it’s a bit mad. We mustn’t go around criticising things just because they’re mad; that would leave us all terribly vulnerable.
Hannah Roberts, an English Catholic friend, was once telling me about her family’s long history in Yorkshire. She spoke with yearning of what she had back home and how painful it is to live so far away. I wondered aloud why she and her American husband had emigrated to the United States from that idyllic landscape, the homeland she loved. ‘Because we wanted our children to have a chance to grow up Catholic,’ she said.
Last week, Nick Robinson wrote an article in the Radio Times saying Radio 4’s Today programme no longer has an obligation to balance its coverage of Brexit. This led to criticism from Charles Moore that he was, in effect, admitting to BBC bias. The two met for a discussion in The Spectator offices.
Nick Robinson: As you’re so fond of pointing out, Charles, most economists, business organisations, trade unions and FTSE 100 chief executives were Remainers.
Howard Jacobson awoke to the news of Trump’s victory in November. He had no newspaper column so, what could he do? Write a novel, said his wife, and he did, in six weeks. It is called Pussy, and it is a short and horrifying hypothetical biography of Donald Trump, now an infant prince called Fracassus, born into a noble family of property developers. Fracassus hates words. He hates women. He tweets.
It was the third time in a row that she had cancelled our date for drinks. The first time she’d forgotten. The second time she remembered a previous engagement and the third time she claimed she’d got the dates mixed up. The next day I got the text she always sends: ‘Sorry darling, I’m such a flake!’
I used to have friends. Now I have flakes — people who are always screwing up arrangements to meet.
Go inside the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, preferably when it is empty. Look round. Look up. And there it is, with its elegant decorated and gilded curves, rising to the ornate cupola, panelled in duck-egg blue. Look at the proscenium arch, the swagged red curtains with seats to match. The chandelier above the stalls. It is perfect. The lines please the eye, painting and gilding are to just the right degree of ‘Over the Top’.