What do Historic Royal Palaces think they are doing? They’re the people who look after the five royal palaces not occupied by the Queen, and their activities have been constrained by the fact that most of the contents are owned by her. But the recent reopening of Kensington Palace has gone to their heads. It’s as if, after decades of patiently interpreting the arcana of royal households, they’ve burst out of their corsets and gone wild.
Sister Catherine Holum remembers her first Olympic speed-skating race very clearly. The crowd, she says, was very loud. Three men with television cameras knelt in front of her as she tied her skates up. She felt the whole world was watching. And when she had finished the race, she burst into tears. At the time — it was the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan — she was only 17. She had come from an Olympic family: her mother was a gold medallist and a US star coach.
Homs province Between the distant pop of the mortar when it’s fired, the pressure wave, and the roar of the blast five or six seconds later when it lands, the rebel fighters recited the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith. ‘There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.’ ‘We do this in case one hits us,’ the group’s leader tells me, smiling. ‘So we go straight to paradise. No delays.
It is midsummer, and England are playing the West Indies at cricket. The teams have completed a three-Test series, which England won 2-0, and they are now playing five matches of 50 overs a side, a form of the game that suits the big-hitting Caribbean batsmen. You would have thought that West Indian supporters would be flocking to the ground, yet they are staying away in their thousands. At Lord’s, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, which staged the Test matches, the West Indian supporters could have arrived on a decent-sized bus.
Under such headlines as ‘British butterfly defies doom prediction to thrive in changing climate’, the usual suspects (e.g. the Guardian and the Independent) recently publicised a study claiming that, thanks to global warming, ‘a once-rare British butterfly’, the Brown Argus, ‘is becoming a common sight in the English countryside’. A paper from York University, it was reported, showed that these butterflies have moved so far north that they can now be seen ‘within a few miles’ of York.
If you wanted a preview of the future of British politics, you should have headed through the back alleys of Westminster to Lord North Street on the last Monday in February. There, in the slightly cramped premises of the Institute of Economic Affairs, you could have seen the early stirrings of a Tory revolution. A group of MPs, most of whom had been in parliament for less than two years, were explaining why nothing less than ‘fundamental structural reform’ of the economy would solve the country’s woes.