Amid the confusion and the almost deafening cries of treachery and collusion over Donald Trump’s relations with Russia, few noticed the most tangible outcome of this week’s Helsinki summit. In the lead-up to his face-to-face talk with Vladimir Putin, senior US and Russian diplomats — in close coordination with leaders from mutual ally Israel — brokered a deal among all the warring parties (bar the Islamist terrorists) finally to end the devastating seven-year Syrian civil war.
The atmosphere in Brussels has become, of late, reminiscent of the late Brezhnev era. We have a political system run by a bureaucratic apparatus which — just like the former USSR — serves to conceal important evidence. Especially when it comes to the health of its supreme leader, Jean-Claude Juncker.
At the Nato summit gala dinner last week, videos emerged showing Juncker unable to climb the few steps leading to the podium.
England didn’t just lose the World Cup. When it comes to male nudity, the country has also lost its sense of shame. Everywhere — on the Tube, in buses, on the streets, in the pub — men are striding around topless.
On Sunday in north Oxford I saw a man skiing topless, on roller-skis, with poles, down the Banbury Road. It’s as if Adam and Eve never ate from the tree of knowledge.
Yes, it’s very hot.
What to do about illegal migration from Africa into Europe? The EU’s repatriation programme seems at first like a great idea. Rather than just watching as desperate people risk their lives in the Med, we persuade them to go back home and help them to remake their lives there. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has coughed up £125 million for the scheme and about 25,000 migrants have already taken part, most heading home to west and central Africa.
On 20 July, Germany’s political elite recalls the day in 1944 when Colonel Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg exploded a bomb intended to kill Hitler, and ran an abortive coup which ended in his own death and that of other plotters. To mark the anniversary, a military band in Berlin will thump out ‘Prussia’s Glory’, whereupon Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen will urge massed recruits to emulate the rebels’ ethics.
My wife died earlier this month. We knew it was coming. A lump in the breast begat bone tumours, begat liver lesions. In the end, cancer in the brain carried her off quickly. A ‘good death’.
I keep staring at my wedding ring and its redundant metallurgy. In one of our final lucid conversations my wife urged me to be ‘sensible’. No tantrums. I don’t rear up when another call centre executive offers me condolences for her ‘passing’.
‘Safe as the Bank of England.’ So goes the old phrase. And yes, with walls 8ft thick, the Old Lady is pretty impregnable. Even the keys to her vaults are more than a foot long (the locks also now incorporate voice-activated software). Until 1973 the building was guarded at night by soldiers from the Brigade of Guards, who received a pint of beer with their dinner there. With all this security, how can you hope to get in?
One answer came in 1836, when the directors received an anonymous letter inviting them to meet the letter writer in the bullion room late one night.