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Blackout Britain — why our energy crisis is only just beginning

BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, has been headquartered in Germany since before the country formally existed. Founded in 1865 by the industrial pioneer Friedrich Engelhorn, it still occupies the vast site on the banks of the Rhine at Ludwigshafen where its first dye and soda factories were built. A third of its staff are

Notes on… Motoring in Greece and Italy

‘Buy on the bullets’ is the cry of the most ruthless stockbrokers — invest just before a war, after the stock markets dive, before the recovery kicks in. In the same way, now is the time for us heartless continental drivers to head for poor, battered Greece. Maybe it’s not quite war-torn yet, but driving

The man who made it OK to talk about immigration

It takes a lot to make the subject of immigration respectable for liberals, at least if you’re pointing out its problematic aspects. But Paul Collier, an Oxford economist specialising in the world’s bottom billion, has, in the 270-odd pages of his new book Exodus, opened up the issue for the left — well, for all

St. Petersburg: Off Nevsky Prospect

‘On the shore of desolate waves / he stood, full of lofty thoughts / and gazed afar.’ So begins Pushkin’s epic poem ‘The Bronze Horseman’, with the legend of Peter the Great founding his new city in 1703. A remote and inhospitable swampland in north-western Russia was transformed into his ‘window on the West’, a Baroque and neo-classical masterpiece.

Berlin: The best bar in the world

‘You were at the Fish, I hear,’ a Berlin friend told me. ‘I didn’t know you were an old hippie.’ Reputations can cling to places as they do to people. Zwiebelfisch, the Berlin inn he was referring to, has not been a haunt of hippies — radicals, more like, ‘the class of ’68’ — for

George Galloway’s one-man mission to save the Union

George Galloway is unhappy. One of his interlocutors on Twitter has told him to ‘Fuck off back to England’. Gorgeous George is in Glasgow for the first in a series of roadshows in which he sets out his case for Scotland remaining part of the Union and he’s not going anywhere. Not today, not tomorrow,

Paris: Parc life

Autumn in Paris has been immortalised in one of Rainer Maria Rilke’s most poignant poems. Having left his wife in Berlin, Rilke moved to Paris in 1902 where he wrote ‘Herbsttag’ (Autumn Day). ‘Whoever is alone now, will remain so for long. He will stay up late, write long letters and wander restlessly in the

Tangier: Hidden treasure

‘I remember you from last time,’ said the young man on the promenade. It was my first night back in Tangier. I was alone and tired and lonely. I liked the idea of meeting someone who knew me, if only from a brief encounter a few years before. ‘Yes, of course,’ I said, though I

Venice: A feast of great art

Venice is a 10,000-carat jewel set by the greatest ever goldsmith pinned to the breast of the most beautiful woman to have lived. Built out of a need for security in the turbulent world of late antiquity, it was protected by the lagoon, which also gave it political stability, and with political stability came riches,

New York: Literary ghost tour

Deep below West 52nd Street is a massive stash of booze. The cops never found it during Prohibition, and it belongs to the 21 Club. Famous for its sumptuously New Yorky dishes (like filet mignon with kumquat vinaigrette), 21 is a real boys’ den. Dark and plush, the subterranean rooms are festooned with intriguing junk: