Has an albatross ever wielded so much influence? The bewildered chick who regurgitated a plastic bag in front of Sir David Attenborough’s camera crew — fed to him by his mother after she had scooped it from the sea — has caused one of those regular ructions in public opinion. The supermarket chain Iceland has announced it would phase out all plastic packaging from its own-brand foods. The compulsory 5p charge on supermarket plastic bags is to be extended to all shops in England and a 25p ‘latte levy’ may be put on coffee cups containing plastic.
Last year, more than 15,000 communists gathered in the Russian seaside town of Sochi for a week-long commemoration of the centenary of Lenin’s revolution. Nearly every nation was represented. Stalls manned by party members from Zimbabwe, Greece, Cuba and India lined the narrow concourse of the event’s main piazza.
Under the eye of the Russian police, celebrants staged rallies, meetings and marathon seminars.
Last week, Peregbakumo Oyawerikumo, aka ‘The Master’, was finally caught and shot by the Nigerian army. Oyawerikumo and his Egbesu Boys had styled themselves as local Robin Hoods, taking riches from oil companies in the Niger Delta, but they won’t be much missed. In the remote swamp town of Enekorogha, their demise will be celebrated, because this was the scene of their most notorious crime.
It was here, last October, that the Egbesu Boys kidnapped Ian Squire, an optician from Surrey who was working at a clinic, and three fellow Britons: Cambridgeshire GP David Donovan and his wife Shirley, and optometrist Alanna Carson, from Northern Ireland.
Last Sunday night a capacity crowd of mainly young people packed into the Emmanuel Centre in London. Those who couldn’t find a seat stood at the back of the hall. When the speaker entered, the entire hall rose to its feet. It was his second lecture that day, the fourth across three days of sold-out London events. For an hour and a half the audience listened to a rambling, quirky, but fascinating tour of evolutionary biology, myth, religion, psychology, dictators and Dostoyevsky.
With my friend Maurice, I have long frequented the Ironmonger Row baths behind Moorfields Eye Hospital. As married men, we appreciated the circumspect and respectful behaviour; for a few quid one felt properly laved and rejuvenated. Nakedness is a great leveller. City traders mingled with taxi drivers; a High Court judge might ‘testiculate’ (talk bollocks) with Maurice, a Labour peer. Afterwards in our robes we relaxed in the cooling-room over cups of tea; the steam induced a state of blissful lassitude.
Holy smoke! The sleepy old Church of England is a greedy, money-grubbing property tycoon. This month, it emerged that since 2010 the church has laid claim to minerals under 585,000 acres of land, including territory it doesn’t actually own. Its current holdings amount to only 105,000 acres, but it retains the underground mineral rights to vast areas that used to belong to the church.
And it’s making damn sure it retains those rights.
The furore over the parole granted to John Worboys, the rapist taxi driver, misses the point entirely — that the system of parole is disgraceful in theory and irredeemably unwork-able in practice. The only thing that it is good for is the employment of large numbers of officials engaged in pointless or fatuous tasks who might other-wise be unemployed.
The system is predicated on the ability of experts to predict the future conduct of convicted prisoners.
When we arrived, we discovered that our villa had a padel court. Few of us had seen one before and no one knew the rules, so we invented them as logically as we could and got on with it. Within a couple of sets we were hooked. Some people started to get up early to practise; others began watching matches on YouTube. Specialist websites were consulted to establish the basics, such as how many underarm serves you get (the answer is two) and whether the ball is out if it hits the back wall without bouncing first in the court.