The relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland has ‘reached a hunger-strike low’, says a new study by an academic from Trinity College, Dublin. ‘Relations have not been as tense since the early 1980s and political rhetoric that had vanished by the 1990s has re-emerged,’ the paper grimly concludes.
The fragility of relations between Britain and Ireland is hard-wired into me. Having grown up ‘London-Irish’ in the 1970s and 1980s, all I ever wanted was for the two countries that define my ethnicity to get on.
Declarations of hope that Notre Dame can be resurrected have been much in evidence this Holy Week. Such is the lesson of Easter: that life can come from death. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, that other great emblem of Paris, Notre Dame provides the French with evidence that their modern and secular republic has its foundations deeply rooted in the Middle Ages. Notre Dame has always been more than just an assemblage of stone and stained glass.
Four years ago, the Assisted Dying Bill was overwhelmingly defeated in parliament. The euthanasia debate hasn’t disappeared, however. One recent poll showed that 90 per cent of the UK’s population now support assisted dying for the terminally ill. So is a relaxation of the law inevitable? Would it represent progress? Or is it very dangerous? Our literary editor Sam Leith joined our associate editor Douglas Murray to discuss.
Mary Berry’s dependable The Aga Book — a book of the last century and part of my kitchen library — is full of the good sense of a domestic science instructor. There’s little hint Mary would later be crowned glam granny celebrity judge on TV’s The Great British Bake Off; neat as a pin in floral jacket, tough but twinkly, fair but firm. The iron hand in a pastry glove. Post-Bake Off, she is still unstoppable.
Before embarking on this hymn to hymns, I’ll admit that hymn-enthusiasts feel a slight sense of anticlimax on Easter Sunday, when the pleasingly austere hymns of Lent are replaced with the too-happy, exclamation-mark-ridden hymns of Easter. Within minutes of the start of the Easter Eucharist, our mouths will ache from repetitive singing of the over-vowelled word ‘Alleluia’.
I’ll also admit that I sometimes long for hymns to be over.
I first came across Philip Larkin’s poem ‘This Be the Verse’ when I was 18 in the late 1970s. You know the one: ‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad/ They may not mean to, but they do…’
I was working as a volunteer in a care home for physically handicapped adults in Camden, north London. I had dropped out of school without doing my A levels. When I visited my parents over Easter, my father was angry about my newly acquired pierced ear and earrings: ‘What does it say about who you’re associating with? You’ve really upset your mother.
It is claimed that the prophet Muhammad loved cats. His favourite was called Muezza and he would do without his cloak on a cold day rather than disturb his sleeping pet.
Muhammad was not alone in finding these creatures beguiling. Indeed, despite there being no mention of them in the Bible, cats have a prestigious holy pedigree in Christianity too.
The medieval mystic St Julian of Norwich locked herself away in a room attached to a church, dispensing prayer and advice to those who passed.