Freddy Gray, Paul Wood and Kate Andrews discuss Trump's arrival at the White House:
As president, Barack Obama was too cool for the special relationship. The romantic bond between the United States and Great Britain, which always makes Churchill fans go all soggy-eyed, left him cold. Obama was more interested in globalism, ‘pivoting’ to Asia and the European Union. Donald J. Trump is a very different creature.
The astonishing has happened at Stonehenge. Some prehistoric force has driven ministers to make a decision. It is to spend half a billion pounds burying the adjacent A303 in a tunnel, to bring ‘tranquillity’ to the ancient place. The result has been a predictable outcry from protestors. The television historian Dan Snow has compared the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, with Isis in Palmyra: ‘vandals and zealots who destroy ancient artefacts’.
The ‘most deadly adversaries of republican government,’ wrote Alexander Hamilton, arise ‘chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?’ Hamilton’s warning against ‘intrigue, and corruption’, published in 1788, speaks eerily to the Washington of today, where Donald Trump’s enemies imagine he is a Russian ‘agent of influence,’ bought or blackmailed by the Kremlin.
Stoke-on-Trent is an unsettled place, figuratively and literally. The ground under the city is riddled with shafts from coal and ironstone mining. Some of its most beautiful buildings are propped up by metal supports to prevent subsidence and the council once worried that homes earmarked for demolition would instead demolish themselves, collapsing into the mines below. The ceramics industry has retreated, leaving a moonscape where pottery kilns used to fill the city with smoke and glow.
I’ve always lived in London. I grew up near Baker Street and went to school in Camden. Even when I was at college in Kent, I lived in Islington and commuted. Five years ago I moved to Belsize Park and I’ve been here, the nicest place I’ve lived, ever since. I didn’t mean to stay — I was going to see the world, but my father died and my mother said she needed me to be close. She said it with a tremor in her voice, so I stayed.
The well-dressed lady turned the fur collar over in her hands and fixed me with a withering stare. ‘Is this real fur?’ I was helping out in my friend’s clothes shop, a fashionable haunt in a chichi area of south-west London. ‘Yes,’ I said, bracing myself. She stroked the luxuriant fur, then asked, ‘What is it?’
‘Fox?’ I said, making the answer a question, as you do when you are expecting protest.
‘Where did the fox come from?’
This was too much.
We all love to mock Bond villains for their hilarious ineptitude at killing the hero. The ‘genius’ Dr No has a tarantula placed in Bond’s bed — though as it happens, tarantula bites do not kill humans except via anaphylaxis; he tries to have Bond run off the road, irradiated, and boiled alive in a nuclear cooling tank. Time and again, Bond is in the clutches of Smersh or Spectre or that chap with three nipples, and time and again they pass up the obvious bullet to the head in favour of crowd-pleasing stunts involving sharks, poison--tipped shoes, alligators, and men with giant metal teeth.
There’s trouble brewing in the Alps. Skiers arriving in the mountains over Christmas were greeted, not by snow-clad chalets and oodles of fresh powder, but by thin ribbons of artificial snow snaking down green mountainsides.
For the fourth time in as many years, the ‘white gold’ had failed to materialise. Whether climate change is to blame is anyone’s guess (I’m no scientist), but it’s certainly a worrying pattern.