Call me a terrible lightweight, but I’m a little wary of drinking cocktails when the sun is out. A summer drink should be like a good soak in the pool, but the sort of cocktails I love — martinis, manhattans etc — are all about a sharp injection of alcohol into the system, a sharp injection which can quickly turn to drowsiness or even irritability on a hot day. The fact that most cocktails need to be drunk quickly, so that they don’t warm up or become dilute, compounds the problem.
When the Chancellor stands up to present his spending review next Wednesday it will be with the reputation of a crazed axeman. Much of the country, whether it thinks it a good thing or not, subscribes to the belief that George Osborne is shrinking the state year-on-year, slicing here, chopping there. In a recent poll 58 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that Osborne’s ‘austerity drive’ is ‘harming the economy’.
One of the most rewarding exercises a Latinist can attempt is to turn a piece of English prose into Latin. The reason is quite simple: it means getting under the surface of the English meaning — to ‘get beyond the word to the thought behind it’ (Gilbert Murray) — and transferring it into a form most closely corresponding to a Roman way of thinking and writing. It takes one to the very heart of how Romans made sense of their world.
It’s the funniest scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. A parable-seeking mob gathers outside Brian’s home. They think he’s the messiah and will dispense some wisdom they might live their lives by. Instead he tells them to think for themselves, because ‘You are all individuals’. ‘We are all individuals,’ the mob intones, robotically. ‘I’m not,’ pipes up a lone, individualist voice, only to be shushed by the unthinking crowd.
It’s exactly ten years since Iranian dissidents first blew the cover of a secret uranium-enrichment facility under a mountain at Natanz, in a bleak stretch of desert near Isfahan. Ever since, relations between Israel and Iran have headed inexorably towards war. Israeli leaders have insisted that they are ready to launch a military strike — unilaterally if necessary — against Iran if the uranium enrichment continues.
Daniel Radcliffe is wearing the standard rehearsal outfit of T-shirt, black jeans and trainers. ‘Ah, this is for The Spectator. I probably shouldn’t have worn my fake Che Guevara T-shirt.’ It’s the classic Guevara image with a cartoon smiley face substituted. ‘I bought it because I’m so sick of people using him as a fashion icon.’ Radcliffe is 5ft 5in and his head looks slightly big on his body. But it’s the big pale blue eyes that you notice.
On New Year’s Eve 2011, I asked a senior Swedish diplomat, who had just crossed over from Damascus and was ready to see in the New Year Beirut-style, how long he gave Bashar al-Assad as Syrian president. ‘Longer than we think, but not as long as he thinks,’ he said with a wink.
That was still in the days of what we naively called the Arab Awakening; we Lebanese assumed we could sit back and wait for Syria’s hated system to fall.