The simplest and best way to get straight to the heart of the Highlands from London is by sleeper. Board in Euston, have a plate of haggis and tatties (and perhaps a nip of whisky to knock you out) and before you know it, you’ll wake up the next morning as the train crosses Rannoch Moor. Don’t think about the fact that the train line is effectively floating on a bed of earth and tree roots, since the peat soil was too soft to support its weight.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is a decent and well-meaning man. He’s genuinely excited about the new, radical reforms planned for the NHS which he announced last weekend. I have been told that Hunt and his old friend David Cameron see this restructuring of the NHS as the next great step, as significant and successful as Gove’s education reform; something the Prime Minister will be remembered for gratefully in 100 years’ time.
Borders are fascinating places. The subtle changes in scenery and atmosphere as you near the limits of one territory and enter the orbit of the other; the way fencing gets higher and fiercer. Then there’s the shuffling of papers and passports, the opening of suitcases, car boots and, sometimes, wallets. The nervous sweat in no-man’s-land as men who reek of tobacco and bad coffee judge your suitability to enter or, worse, leave.
In the modern political firmament, is there any creature more ridiculous than the agitating intern? Interns are rising up. These one-time coffee-makers have reimagined themselves as history-makers, fancying that they are latter-day Wilberforces striking a blow against the ‘internship slave trade’. They’re demanding back pay, retrospective remuneration for all that hard graft in air-conditioned offices with nothing but a usually paid-for Pret sandwich to sustain them.
Whose side is Vladimir Putin on? It’s a question worth asking, because of late the Kremlin has come closer and closer to the tipping point between obstreperousness and outright hostility towards the West. Last week Barack Obama cancelled a September summit with Putin after Russia offered asylum to the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. But in truth the Snowden affair is only the latest and most trivial of a long and growing list of issues where Russia and the US are on radically opposite sides.
The coalition said they would tame health and safety, which would be great for those of us in the food -business. But they, like the public, like to blame Brussels, and the problem is not with Europe, or not often. EU law is basically Napoleonic, and sensible. It places the onus on the operators to ensure safety, and to be able to prove that what they do is safe. If it turns out not to be, then they will be prosecuted and likely clapped in jail.
With his wife, Anne Boleyn, in the Tower, Henry VIII considered every detail of her coming death, poring over plans for the scaffold. As he did so he made a unique decision. Anne, alone among all victims of the Tudors, was to be beheaded with a sword and not the traditional axe. The question that has, until now, remained unanswered is — why?
Historians have suggested that Henry chose the sword because Anne had spent time in France, where the nobility were executed this way, or because it offered a more dignified end.
I recently had to spend a great deal of time attempting to clear my name from a ludicrous assertion in an actress’s memoir that I and my then husband Anthony Newley had invited her and her then husband to strip off and watch some porn together. She continued that I had very kindly presented the couple with chicken, steak and fish for dinner, all of which, due to the convenient absence of my maid for the evening, I had single-handedly concocted.