I switched on the radio last week and caught the tail end of a discussion about the Conservative leadership election. The presenter, who seemed to be in a highly agitated state, was talking about one of the contenders: ‘A man who’s lied to both of his wives, all of his mistresses, every constituent, every employer, every party leader, every colleague, every interviewer, every journalist he’s ever encountered, he’s not just lied to them, he’s actively agitated to deceive them…’ On it went.
Quietly and discreetly, the planning for Boris Johnson’s premiership has begun. No one wants to be seen measuring the curtains, but his team are confident he’ll be the choice of Tory party members. It would be the most spectacular upset if he is not. Boris has fixed a Brexit deadline — 31 October — and time is short so his aides are concentrating on what to do when — if — he makes it to No. 10.
The first few weeks in No.
Islands have a special appeal. We imagine that on an island we’ll somehow ‘get away from it all’. In the era of Brexit and climate concerns, Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, more than 3,000 miles from the nearest landmass, is flooded with requests from people hoping to settle there. I would advise them to think again.
I spent several months living on Pitcairn — a mile-by-mile-and-a-half volcanic rock battered by a hostile ocean, home to a handful of descendants from the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians they took with them.
Television cameras get everywhere these days. Or maybe that was always true. Gore Vidal, the grand old man of American letters, wrote a book in which NBC gets the rights to the crucifixion, live from Golgotha, with St Paul as the ‘anchorperson’. So it was only faintly bizarre when CNN ‘crossed’ to a prison in northern Syria to speak to two of the so-called ‘Beatles’, the British jihadis accused of murdering British and American hostages while members of Isis.
In the summer of 1999 I did something radical. Spurred on by my husband’s universal loathing of television I took our TV set to the landfill and I haven’t owned one since. Twenty unrepentant years without the demon box, and alive to tell the tale.
My family long ago accepted this stubborn eccentricity. They’ve grown used to the silence, the missing screen, the brutal fact that they won’t be able to watch the final of Strictly round at my place.
Is the pope a Catholic? You have to wonder. In the old days, a pope’s remit was modest: infallible, but only in the vanishingly rare cases when he pronounced on matters of faith and morals concerning the whole church. But even at their most bombastic and badly behaved, earlier popes would have hesitated to do what nice Pope Francis has done, which is to approve changes in the liturgy which amount to rewriting the Lord’s Prayer.
I was 17, studying for my A-levels in Great Yarmouth. Looking to defy my parents’ instruction to get a part-time job, I hit upon a cunning plan: why not apply to the shop least likely to require the services of a mopey teenage boy? That shop was Claire’s Accessories.
Little did I know at the time that Claire’s — home of plasticky tiaras and tinsel wigs — was a retail empire at the height of its power.