Drones have come of age in the war on terror. When the United States and Britain invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the technology was barely out of the lab. Today, these flying machines represent a huge security threat. If reports are to be believed, a Houthi rebel-launched drone attack in Saudi Arabia last weekend shut down 5 per cent of the world’s global oil supply and caused the largest spike in the price of oil since the first Gulf War in 1990.
Who runs Britain? When Boris Johnson’s lawyers made their case in front of the Supreme Court this week, defending his right to prorogue parliament, they in effect brought it back to this simple question. This was a controversy for politicians to settle, not courts. Judges, they said, should think twice about ‘entering the political arena’ and unsettling the UK’s ‘careful constitutional and political balance’.
‘How have you been?’ David Cameron asks, bounding up to meet me. Fine, I say, then make the mistake of asking him the same question. His face drops. ‘Oh,’ he says. ‘Well. So-so.’ Watching the political news, he says, has been getting him down (in a way it didn’t when he was in office) and if you’ve picked up a newspaper in recent days, you’ll know why. His memoir, For the Record, is out and the extracts make it sound like a 700-page apology note to the nation.
The first book I ever produced, some 50 years ago, was a collection of poetry written by children. I called it Children’s Words. There are poems in there by the young Daniel Day Lewis and Montagu Don, among others, and another by one Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
I was a young teacher trying all I could to help children find their voices. It was at a time when teachers were not so confined to and driven by a narrow curriculum, the children not so taught to the exam, not so force-fed.
Since I’m not an alcoholic, recovering or otherwise, I don’t belong to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) but I am close to several people in this ‘12-step fellowship’ who have changed their lives for the better through it. Most of them say its ‘programme for living’ would help anyone, drinker or not, to cope more successfully with mental stress. I’ve certainly found the memorable sayings and catchphrases in which their fellowship abounds to be useful in confronting my own anxieties — and sometimes very funny, too.
When I told two neighbours that I had become a no-deal Brexiter they physically recoiled from me.
‘But there’s no other option,’ I said.
‘You can vote Lib Dem,’ they said.
‘But that’s the same as a second referendum. Even if the Lib Dems came to power, the ones who hadn’t voted for them would hate the ones who had.’
Until 2016 I wanted to leave the EU. My thinking was half-baked. There were the silly laws driving farmers mad, the judgments of the European courts and the fact that Brussels hadn’t signed off its accounts for years.
President Harry Truman once observed: ‘If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.’ Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister in the unfriendliest era British politics has known, and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds have taken on a Jack Russell puppy called Dilyn. They and I are therefore among the 24 per cent of UK citizens who are dog-owners, with nearly nine million animals in our national ownership.
Taking on a puppy in retirement, said our friends, was madness — especially in a house full of antiques and with a carefully tended garden.