For Theresa May, the most worrying part of Donald Trump’s talks with Kim Jong-un came two days before the two men met. The US President had arrived in Singapore early after escaping the G7 summit in Canada, still sore at being upbraided by his European and Canadian counterparts about tariffs. With time on his hands, he took to Twitter to hit back by switching the conversation to defence and one of his favourite bugbears: Nato.
I had been in Los Angeles for less than a month when I received the call from a concerned neighbour back home in London. ‘Why are there men queuing up outside your flat at 3 a.m.?’ It was a good question. ‘And are you aware that a locksmith came over the other day to change your locks?’ I had no idea. ‘Oh and by the way, your tenant has put some kind of security camera outside your front door.’ Concern turned to panic.
This week, Prince Edward was paying tribute to a much-loved Queen. Not ‘Mummy’ — but Queen Æthelflæd, Alfred the Great’s eldest child, the Lady of the Mercians and one of our greatest, if largely forgotten, Anglo-Saxon leaders. If it wasn’t for Æthelflæd kicking the Danes out of Mercia during her reign from 911-918, we’d all be speaking Danish. You could call her the first Brexiteer.
Æthelflæd died in 918, 1,100 years ago this week, in Tamworth, Staffordshire, heart of her Mercian kingdom (roughly equivalent to Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire).
I was born in north London, at the Whittington Hospital in Archway, and at the age of 62, after many years of trouble and wandering, I have come to rest in the streets where I was born. And in my usual cunning way I have become one of the roughly 300 or 400 people living in inner London you perhaps think of as ‘homeless’, making the rounds from drop-in centres to churches, from morning till night, in the hunt for free food.
In the end, after all the waiting, the document didn’t look like much — a sheet of A4 paper adorned with a German eagle, and one of those tongue-twisting Germanic compound nouns beneath it: Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis. At last, my Certificate of German Citizenship had arrived. How did I feel? Elated, tearful, overjoyed. It was at this moment that I finally understood how so many Brexiteers must have felt when Britain decided to leave the EU.
I remember the autumn day in 1990 when they came to cart away the large hammer and sickle outside my Moscow block of flats. It was about the size of a cow and made out of a gritty grey metal alloy which had, like almost everything in the USSR, never looked new or clean. Once, these objects had been all over the city. Now they were vanishing. Nobody else seemed especially interested in its departure, probably because there were — more excitingly — eggs on sale down the street.
About halfway across Lundy, if you’re trudging from the landing bay towards the north lighthouse, there’s a tiny holiday cottage all on its own. It’s a mile and three quarters from the island’s village and very basic inside. There are two bunks in the single bedroom; a dodgy oven in the kitchen that only works if you jam a wooden stick between the wall and the ‘on’ button; and, in the sitting room, the kind of gas lights that died out in the 1930s, because there’s no electricity — and so no wifi or TV — in the whole place.