• This is surely a mistake, I thought, stooping to kiss the hand of Algeria’s minister of culture. Madame la Ministre Toumi Khalida is throwing a party to mark the start of Algeria’s annual book fair, the Salon International du Livre. This year’s line-up includes a contingent of South Africans led by Breyten Breytenbach, the dashing poet and former revolutionary, now resident mostly in Paris. My inclusion is a complete mystery, given the event’s broadly anti-imperialist tenor.
Young people say capitalism has failed them. They’re right.
We must change the system to save itIt would be easy to attack the London spin-off of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which manifested itself in the form of a 300-tent encampment outside St Paul’s last weekend. Their political agenda? The same, meaningless, Dave Spartesque gobbledegook which has been a feature of anti-capitalist demos for the past decade and a half, such as the demand for ‘Structural change towards authentic global equality’ and ‘an end to the activities of those causing oppression’.
You can tell that the economy of East Anglia is more flourishing than that of the West Midlands because the fine for drunken vomiting in the back of the taxis of Peterborough is £50, whereas it is only £40 for doing so in the back of the taxis of Wolverhampton.The other difference between the taxis of the two cities (as I discovered on making the journey between them recently) is that the former are driven entirely by Muslims, the latter by Sikhs.
Where would gentleman actors be without Churchill? No prime minister has given as much work to the profession as Winston (though Blair comes a close second), patron saint of jowly thespians of a certain age. Churchill now features in a new stage play called Three Days in May, about the British war cabinet in May 1940. The great man is played by Warren Clarke, whose fleshy fizzog is well known to fans of the 12 series of the BBC’s Dalziel and Pascoe — he plays Detective Superintendent Dalziel.
If I had neglected to brush my hair, my grandmother would say that I looked like a birch-broom in a fit. Untidy clothing made me look as though I had been pulled through a hedge backwards. If I appeared unhappy she would say that I had a face like a wet week. These similes, exaggerated and invariable, were so familiar that their metaphoric images scarcely registered. You could call them clichés. If so, they were clichés that went with my grandmother’s character, like her powder-compact, rain-mate and the mothball smell of her fur coat.
Andrew Strauss is arguably the most successful England captain of the modern era. He shares with Mike Brearley the distinction of having beaten Australia at home and away, and this year he became the first captain to take England to the top of the official world Test rankings. Yet, unlike Brearley, Strauss is not talked about with hushed awe. His achievements are acknowledged but not mythologised, and when we meet for lunch at a busy pub in the Chilterns, no one pesters him for an autograph.
Britain must publish the truth about Irish presidential candidate Martin McGuinness – before it’s too lateMartin McGuinness is standing for the presidency of a cash-strapped Ireland. Soon after this paragraph is printed he may be among the world’s heads of state. If so he has promised to refuse the €250,000 salary and subsist on the minimum wage. It is ‘high time’, he has stated, that ‘those at the top shared the pain’.
Less than four months away from her Diamond Jubilee — only the second in history — we still tend to forget that we have the oldest monarch (85) and oldest consort (90) in history. We see a monarch who is reassuringly unchanged — and unchanging — in an uncertain world. It is an integral part of her appeal, at home and overseas. In Australia right now, the republican tide is out. Invited to field a ‘royal’ phone-in on national Australian radio earlier this week, I was struck by the consistent level of affection for the Queen.