‘To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,’ George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is ‘quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously’. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that ‘for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective’.
The veteran British diplomat the late Sir Percy Cradock said that Chinese leaders may be ‘thuggish dictators’ but ‘they were men of their word and could be trusted to do what they promised’. Well, the past year has put an end to the latter half of that statement. From coronavirus to the brutal treatment of Hong Kong, the behaviour of the Chinese Communist party has made it clear that the approach of liberal democracies to China must change.
On a beautifully sunny Maundy Thursday last year, during the first lockdown, I removed my cassock, slung my satchel over my shoulder and rode my bicycle to Lambeth Palace and back. At the halfway point I paused briefly to slip a letter under the Archbishop of Canterbury’s front door, before heading for home and the sad prospect of a solitary evening mass.
In my letter I asked the Archbishop to reconsider his request that we not pray in our churches.
For Israeli critics of Benjamin Netanyahu, myself included, these are rather difficult times. It’s hard for us, or anyone, to deny that he appears to be leading the world in vaccinations against Covid-19. In less than four weeks, two million Israelis — my parents and many friends among them — have received their inoculations. A project spearheaded by the Prime Minister himself promises a return to almost normal life. I’m under 50 and have no underlying illnesses, but am still confident of getting my own vaccine in a couple of weeks.
Should the undoubted intelligence of octopuses change the way we treat them? This question has been asked a lot of late because of the documentary My Octopus Teacher.
The film is about a year-long relationship between a man and an octopus, and it takes place in a kelp bed off South Africa. It celebrates the sensitivity, awareness and intelligence of the octopus.
That’s a difficult concept. Octopuses — octopi is wrong because it’s not Latin and octopodes is insufferably pedantic — are molluscs.
After Brexit, the general assumption was that France and Germany would take their place as the two rulers of Europe. But Angela Merkel’s influence has been waning and Germany is often an absent power — preoccupied as it is by redefining its own politics after 15 years of her rule. This suits Emmanuel Macron, who was never satisfied with sharing the stage with her. He has found himself another ally, one who is far more influential than people give him credit for — Viktor Orban.
Baby, it’s cold outside. It’s dark. It’s January. It’s Lockdown III. There’s only one thing for it: stay home, snuggle up, save lives. Cocoon yourself in cashmere, treat yourself to silk pyjamas, invest in a lambswool throw. Lay the fire, warm the cocoa, watch Love Actually for the 30th time. Practise self-care. Be sure to put you first.
You’ve heard of safe spaces and The Coddling of the American Mind. Well, this is the safe space as interiors trend, coddling as lifestyle choice.
From the moment Donald Trump’s presidency began, he was lacking something. But Joe Biden is about to make up for it — twice over.
Trump was the first president in more than a century not to have a dog in the White House. Biden’s German shepherds Champ, 12, and two-year-old Major will be filling the vacancy left by Barack Obama’s Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, and continuing a tradition of First Dogs that can trace its pedigree back to George Washington.