Boris Johnson is far from being the first prime minister to holiday in Scotland. David Cameron used to slip off the radar at his father-in-law’s estate on the Isle of Jura, and plenty of other Conservative premiers have enjoyed a Scottish August on the grouse moor. But Johnson may be the first to holiday north of the Tweed as a matter of political calculation and convenience. He comes to Scotland to show his commitment to what he calls the ‘magic’ of the Union.
Alexander Lukashenko, labelled by the Bush administration as ‘Europe’s last dictator’, was never going to go down without a fight. In his final public address before Belarus went to the polls he offered a thinly veiled warning to those who wish to remove him from power: ‘[Our Belarus] is rather naive and a little bit fragile but she is beloved and when you love something you do not give it up.’
On election day, Lukashenko delivered on his grim campaign promise.
The common horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus affinis, is a feat of biological engineering. The size of a small pear, it spends most of the day hanging upside down in dark, dank caves. To keep itself warm it huddles in tight colonies, wrapping its wings — which can measure up to two inches — around itself like a blanket. Even so, in winter its body temperature can fall as low as 43°F (6°C).
Then, two hours before sunset, it emerges to forage for insects using a horseshoe-shaped sonar dish on its nose to find its bearings.
At the start of lockdown, the government was obsessed with how other countries were dealing with the Covid crisis. In No. 10 press conferences, Britain’s daily death toll was shown next to numbers from the rest of the world, putting our handling of the virus into perspective. But when our death toll jumped, the government claimed the calculations were too different to compare and dropped the graph. A few weeks ago, the Office for National Statistics picked up where the government had left off, revealing that England had the highest number of excess deaths in Europe, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were in the top eight.
When 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left in Beirut’s port exploded last week, a three-year-old girl named Alexandra Najjar was torn from her mother’s arms as they ran inside from their balcony. In the same instant, every-thing in the apartment was flying through the air — doors, window frames, shards of glass, the air-conditioning unit, the family’s piano — and something hit the little girl. She died later from her wounds and on Lebanese social media she has become the ‘Angel of Beirut’, a symbol of the innocent people ‘murdered’ by their government’s negligence and incompetence, as her father, Paul, put it.
To read the press releases, you would think we’ve found the panacea to racism in the form of unconscious bias training. Numerous organisations, including the Labour party, have announced they would be putting their staff through such programmes. This follows in the footsteps of the civil service, which has required all civil servants to undertake unconscious bias training since 2018, magistrates, for whom the training is compulsory, and the Met police, where it forms part of ongoing officer training.
By the 1980s, after decades of immense popularity, the great British holiday camp was in terminal decline. The huge camps founded by Billy Butlin and Fred Pontin — the chalets, the dining hall, the redcoats (Butlin’s) and bluecoats (Pontins) — were becoming passé. Now the few that remain have been rebranded as holiday villages.
But why not bring them back? Surely old-fashioned camps had exactly what we need today: simplicity, gentle fun and a sense of community.
Stroll around Florence and you’ll notice little ornate openings embedded in the walls of Renaissance palazzos. They look like doorways for tiny people, though they would have to be quite athletic tiny people, as the openings are three feet off the ground. But they’re not entrances for Tuscan pixies — they’re for selling wine.
There are more than 150 buchette del vino dotted around the city and they date back to the 17th century.