The worst has not happened; Scotland has not seceded from the United Kingdom. But David Cameron will have known some time ago that, whichever side won in the referendum, there would be no victory. This morning, the United Kingdom wakes up to one of the biggest constitutional messes in its history.
Given that the unionists had the best product to sell — Britain — it is alarming that they were supported by only 55 per cent of Scots.
The words are strong, the sentiment behind them no doubt heartfelt. ‘We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes,’ said David Cameron, speaking as Britain recoiled in horror at yet another jihadist beheading video, this time of a British man, David Haines. Sadly, Cameron’s promises are empty. Ask a Whitehall official how many suspected murderers of British hostages have been brought to justice and there is a long silence.
Cool, calm Sweden can still produce a surprise from time to time. Yes, our economic recovery has been the best of any major European country. Yes, our finance minister, the earringed and formerly pony-tailed Anders Borg, is hailed as the best in the world. And yes, our government has somehow managed to cut taxes so the disposable income of the average Swede is 18 per cent higher than before the crash.
Henry Kissinger doesn’t believe in retirement. At 91, having had a heart-valve operation three months ago, he is nonetheless publishing a book entitled World Order. As I happened to be interviewing him about it on 11 September, I asked him about his memories of 13 years ago. ‘I was in Frankfurt addressing a business group,’ he recalled in that voice of his that sounds like gravel has found its way into your car’s exhaust pipe.
Anglicans aren’t the sort of church-goers who set much store by miracles, signs and wonders. Yet their own church is one of the greatest miracles of our society: it has managed to hang together, in spite of raging differences, for centuries.
Since 14 July, that miracle has been under threat. For most, it was a great leap forward when the General Synod finally approved the ordination of women bishops.
In the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM (‘More stars than there are in the heavens’) was rumoured to have had a very strange chart on his wall. This graph, allegedly, kept a record of the menstrual cycles of the studio’s leading ladies: Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Grace Kelly and the rest. By consulting it, directors and cameramen knew when their precious cargo might be feeling a mite tearful and would ruin her make-up if spoken to sharply, or when her skin might not be in the best condition for a big close-up.
We’d taken off smoothly and the two-seater Cessna 152 was climbing through 1,000 feet on full power. Then my instructor, Gill, reached over and closed the throttle. As the plane’s nose began to sink, she told me calmly, ‘We’ll simulate an emergency now. Can you find a suitable field to land in?’ Hurrying panic wouldn’t look good, I felt. On the other hand, finding somewhere more or less immediately might be appreciated.
However the sand got into Sandwich, it did Deal a big favour. As the Cinque Port’s harbour silted up from about 1500, the merchant ships out in the downs, protected by those hidden shallows from the Channel’s full fury, began to offload their cargo into small boats called hoys that came out from Deal. A new town was the result, expanding until about 1860, by which time bigger ships had forced trade away and the Royal Navy depot was closed.