Don't worry,' said our guide, Niels Bryan-Low, his eyes bright with malice, 'the only time a wild boar is really dangerous is if you get between a mother and her baby.' A few minutes later, crunching across a patch of orange ferns, there was blur of movement to our right. Niels froze, sniper-style, and we turned to see a terrier-sized wild boarlet, striped dark brown and fawn, zigzagging towards us through the undergrowth.
A photograph was taken of the Blair Cabinet immediately after the 1997 general election. There is a bemused, nervous air about the Prime Minister and his colleagues, as if they had just won the National Lottery but weren't quite sure whether the cheque had cleared. But there is also a palpable sense of common purpose. That unity was finally destroyed last week, as Clare Short quit the Cabinet. She is the 13th of the original 22 to leave since 2 May 1997.
I have been toying with the idea of founding a Cyclops Club, drawing its membership from the dwindling band of individualists who persist in defying the zeitgeist of Cool Britannia by wearing a single eyeglass, commonly known as a monocle. We are a species threatened with extinction and we probably qualify for victimhood, as an oppressed minority.The impending crisis first became apparent last summer when an incident in Bromley provoked national headlines.
Golden days, golden child, as good as gold, heart of gold, golden oldie – from the cradle on, gold plays an important part in our language and imagination. The word 'gold' is used in praise, celebration, congratulation and reward. Yet few of us have any notion of where it comes from, or even why gold is so admired. For centuries gold was a symbol of romantic adventure, excellence and wealth. Sadly, it is increasingly a symbol of vulgarity and crass ostentation.
I have always really, really hated flying. The first whiff of an airport and I'm scared out of my wits. But not only am I terrified; I also loathe and resent the contempt in which passengers are generally held by the airlines – the way we're herded like cattle and the way we're expected to eat unspeakable food with a neighbour's elbow in the face. Even a short London
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the fullness of Time, even Rolexes rust. Fast cars, foxy clothes, fancy wines and fine jewellery are fun while you can enjoy them, but when you find yourself facing Eternity, you can't take those goodies along. When push comes to Judgment Day, all such trinkets turn to trash. If you want real, lasting luxury, it's not your body you should be pampering, but your soul.
It seems that hardly a week goes by without the threat of another great work of art leaving these shores. Certainly Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota must think so. Just as he announces, with palpable relief, that a private benefactor has stepped forward and promised £12.5 million to 'save' Sir Joshua Reynolds's celebrated portrait of Omai from export (more of that later), the gallery may well feel obliged to embark on a new campaign to save yet another costly treasure.
Those of us who worked at the Arts Council of Great Britain, some 40 years ago, were as often as not introduced, even by our own families, as being at or from 'the British Arts Council'. In vain did we explain that lumping these two institutions together was utterly inaccurate, that the Arts Council brought art from overseas to Britain while looking after art appreciation and practice in Britain, whereas the British Council promoted British culture abroad.
If you thought that wooden jigsaw puzzles were a quaint blast from the past, long consigned to the dustbin of recreational history, along with sticks, hoops, tops and diabolo, let me assure you that it ain't necessarily so. First thought up by Thomas Spilsbury, a printer of maps, in the early 1760s, the original 'dissections' were created to help children learn their geography. Thomas pasted maps of the four continents (yes, we have no Australia) to thin sheets of mahogany, then cut around the borders of each country with a fretsaw, and sold the puzzles in plain wooden boxes.
Colin Powell has said that he can see signs of progress over the Middle East road-map. Israel, he noted, had taken measures which 'constitute the beginning of the road-map process'. Well, that's just terrific, Mr US Secretary of State, because we all know that the big issue is that Israel has not accepted the road-map, which all right-thinking people praise, and is therefore the main obstacle to peace.
Emma Williams says good and
conscientious Israelis live in denial of what is being done to the PalestiniansLiving in Jerusalem for the past two and a half years has meant living Israeli fear: the fear of taking children to school and hearing a suicide bomber detonate himself outside the school gates; of not wanting to go to a restaurant or bar or coffee shop for fear of being blown up; of hesitating to call Israeli friends for fear that one of their children had been killed in the latest Palestinian terrorist atrocity.
Like most New Labour ministers, David Blunkett gets considerably more things wrong than he does right. Up to now, his tenure at the Home Office has been characterised by a series of ill-thought-out reforms, half-baked policy proposals and regular verbal gaffes. In three years we have had the draconian Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act – which suspends the 800-year-old habeas corpus in the case of foreign nationals suspected of terrorism – attacks on trial by jury, as well as criticism of Asian arranged marriages, and lectures on what language immigrants should speak in their own homes.
I like my Vespa. In fact, I can't think of anything that has improved the quality of my life in London more in the last couple of years than my slightly retro 49cc 'Chelsea blue' Piaggio ET2. Getting around town takes half as long as it once did by bus, car or taxi; scooters are exempt from Ken's congestion charge; and it is a cheap way to travel. A full tank of petrol costs £5.50 and lasts at least two weeks.
Tories are used to getting blamed for many things, but to be blamed for a Labour Cabinet minister's lack of principles is surely a first. That was their fate at the hands of Clare Short. For weeks, people have struggled to understand the former International Development Secretary's failure to resign after calling the Prime Minister's policy on Iraq 'reckless'. Now we know that her hypocrisy was all the fault of the Tories.
Anyone inclined to despair at the European Union's headlong rush towards statehood should visit Poland. It is impossible, when one talks to the Poles, to imagine that having survived Hitler's and Stalin's attempts to destroy them, they will allow their nation to be drafted out of existence by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and the other notables who are even now completing a new European constitution. The Poles' habits of thought and behaviour, including their tradition of disobedience to foreign powers, render them quite unfit for the submissive role envisaged for them by French and German politicians.
If there is any justice in the world, Captain Duane Haddock of US special forces is due a medal. He was, we can reveal, the first coalition soldier to find something approaching concrete evidence of Saddam's evil arsenal of weapons of mass destruction; to wit, a trailer believed to be a mobile bio-weapons laboratory found parked by a roadblock south of Mosul. Captain Haddock made his discovery o