‘There are two things that are important in politics,’ said Mark Hanna, the American senator, in 1895. ‘The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.’ In 2020, Hanna’s maxim could be updated: the second thing is being an old white guy from New York.
The presidential election is 36 weeks away and it looks as if the winner will be one of three men. There’s the Manhattan billionaire incumbent, Donald Trump, 73, whose fortune is estimated at $3 billion (he claims eight).
‘Quotation (n.) — The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.’ Ambrose Bierce said that, or at least wrote it in the
Devil’s Dictionary. That was in 1906, and those are words for the ages. In his Rhetoric, centuries before the birth of Christ, Aristotle identified one of the most common and effective ways of making an argument seem stronger. In his section on ‘proofs’ he talked about what he called ‘ancient witnesses’.
I’m no Nostradamus, but 20 years ago when I was commissioned to write a short book about disease in the new millennium, I predicted that if a new pandemic did happen it would be a virus, not a bacterium or animal parasite, and that we would catch it from a wild animal. ‘My money is on bats,’ I wrote. We now know that the natural host and reservoir of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, is a bat, and that the virus probably got into people via a live-animal market in Wuhan.
If you ever need a reminder of what northern Britain has achieved, I’d recommend a trip to York. The National Railway Museum brilliantly evokes the local creative energy that produced Stephenson’s Rocket which ran on the world’s first inter-city passenger railway and ushered in the railway age. Just over the River Ouse is the chocolate museum, which celebrates York’s chocolate-makers and their entrepreneurial legacy.
Like Ozzy Osbourne, I was last year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the degenerative condition that impairs the functioning of the body. In a series of recent interviews, Osbourne has spoken frankly about the impact of the neurological disorder. ‘That thing has knocked the shit out of me,’ he said, Brummie-style. I’m with Ozzy. It’s done the same to me.
My difficulties began about 18 months ago, when my left leg developed an involuntary twitch, which soon extended to my other limbs.
Recovering from a bad cold and bored to tears by the fare on television, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu (it’s shocking how much schlock there is with so many choices), I broke open a big box set of Dynasty and started binge watching. It occurred to me that I had actually never seen the series, except for a few snippets here and there, and I was curious to see the reason why the show’s ratings started to plummet after the fifth season.
It’s not known which inspired Victorian first had the idea to take a chopping block and carve it into a circular ‘bread-platter’, as they were called, with a raised centre and decorated rim; but William Gibbs Rogers was the one to turn it into a craze.
In the mid-19th century Rogers was considered one of Britain’s most accomplished wood-carvers. An 1847 issue of The Spectator said he had single-handedly ‘restored to carving the same interest and execution which it possessed in the best days of Grinling Gibbons’.