[audioplayer src="http://rss.acast.com/viewfrom22/thedisasterofthesnp-silliberal-one-partystate/media.mp3" title="Adam Tomkins vs. Kevin Pringle on the SNP's 8 years in government" startat=37]
[/audioplayer]Imagine a country where the government so mistrusted parents that every child was assigned a state guardian — not a member of their family — to act as a direct link between the child and officials.
In my next life, I’m going back in time to become a tea planter in pre-war Ceylon. I half knew this even before I’d ever set foot in Sri Lanka. After a blissful couple of days at Rosyth, an estate house in old tea- growing country about an hour from Kandy, I understood exactly why: the climate, the views, the staff, the sundowners…
Which are the same reasons the colonial British took so particularly well to tea-growing, whether in Assam, Darjeeling, Kenya or Ceylon.
In the grounds of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University stands a one-tonne sculpture. Roughly hewn and about five feet high, it carries in its top corner an ill-carved sun. Beneath it are some words of Alex Salmond, half-sunk in the sandstone, as if they were the thoughts of a Scottish Ozymandias:
‘The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students.’
This clunky celebration of SNP -policy should raise a few doubts.
‘This is one of the strangest places on the face of the earth,’ wrote a Victorian naval officer. Another early visitor called it ‘the abomination of desolation’ — and to this day, on the 200th anniversary of the British occupation, Ascension remains decidedly odd.
The summit of an extinct volcano, it pokes up out of the Atlantic eight degrees south of the Equator, and although the latest eruption is thought to have taken place 70,000 years ago, most of it still looks raw.
Almost exactly three years ago, Tom Watson stood up in parliament and demanded the Metropolitan police investigate ‘clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No. 10’. It was an incendiary claim which, because it was made during Prime Minister’s Questions and broadcast on live television, set hares running on social media and beyond.
We know, now, that the police found no evidence to support an allegation of rape made against Leon Brittan by a woman known as ‘Jane’.
Sheila Pugh is 91 and in good health. She lives on her own in Congleton, Cheshire, where she takes pleasure in cooking for herself and moving about the place with a dustpan and brush, albeit a little gingerly at times. She has a private garden with a pond and views over arable land.
A lot of her friends and a great number of people of a similar age have had to move into retirement or care homes, cashing in their savings and surrendering their independence in the process.
Zanzibar has become a honeypot for honeymooners — with good reason. This exotic island is a mere six degrees south of the equator and is roughly 60 miles long and 25 miles wide. That means it’s toasty all year round, while being big enough for some exploration if you want it.
Its white beaches are stupendous, its people desperately poor but rich in spirit. The sea is a glorious turquoise, with plenty of coral reef for divers, and when the tide is out on the eastern side of the island, the horizon is dotted with women in bright kangas (wraps) wading through the water, scooping up chunks of seaweed that are later weighed and shipped off elsewhere, often to pharmaceutical companies in China.
'It sounds like you’re having an Ann Summers party up there,' a male traveller called, as our group erupted into girlish hysterics on the viewing terrace of Punta Helbronner, a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif. Unfortunately for him there was no lingerie in sight; instead our shrieks had been brought on by the threat of a lightning storm hitting us at 3,462 metres up. As my hair stood on end and my phone crackled, a guide ushered us back to the cable car, part of the new Mont Blanc skyway which offers the idler Alpine adventurer an easy way to get close to Europe’s largest peak.
There was much talk about the anti-austerity party Podemos when we visited Andalucía in June. It was hot and sunny, and the orange trees smelt wonderful, but at the same time, youth unemployment sat at 49 per cent, second only to Greece, and that seemed to be what people wanted to chat about.
Podemos, which means ‘we can’ in Spanish, does seem to have generated some hope for bright but frustrated young things, many of whom have given up hope of ever finding a professional job.
'Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians, appear and inspire…' Auden wrote his words for the young Benjamin Britten, who was born on St Cecilia’s Day, and who set them to music, but his poem would also be a tribute to the composer that Britten admired above all others except Mozart. Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, and died there 31 years later.
‘Let us honour the memory of a great man,’ he said, raising a glass after attending Beethoven’s funeral in March 1827, ‘and drink to the man who shall be next.
[audioplayer src="http://rss.acast.com/viewfrom22/thedisasterofthesnp-silliberal-one-partystate/media.mp3" title="Jenny McCartney and Paris Lees discuss the new sexual revolution" startat=1710]
[/audioplayer]The first thing you need to know about the new sexual revolution isn’t how to do it: it’s how to talk it. Confining yourself to terms such as straight, gay and bisexual — which once, perhaps, covered most of what you thought you needed to know about a person’s orientation — is indicative of adherence to a ‘binary’ view of sexuality.
Gozo — Malta’s tiny island neighbour — was once rather a crucial spot in the Mediterranean. The Knights of Malta built a wall across Gozo’s Ramla Bay to stop Napoleon invading. The clever little Corsican attacked via the undefended gully next door instead.
Homer’s island of Ogygia — ‘the navel of the sea’ in the Odyssey — is thought to be Gozo. It was in a love-cave above Ramla Bay that Odysseus caroused with the honey--voiced sea-nymph Calypso.