Impossible to estimate how much the Scots have enriched the Life of Man. They gave us the Telephone (sorry, wrong number), Penicillin (much better today, thank you, doctor), the Television (but there's nothing good on any more), and the Wandering Dipso (K'you spear us fufty peents, pal?). To this we must add their latest innovation: the weather-proof, bomb-proof, completion-proof building. The new Scottish Parliament is emerging, with Darwinian slowness, at the base of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.
Nobody I know goes to the Savoy Grill any more. It used to be a place to be seen – probably the most important such restaurant in the business community. The staff were dressed formally, delivering a discreet and respectful service. Customers were addressed by their titles, where such existed. The food was reminiscent of country-house cooking – or, sometimes, school dinners – and seldom surprised the palate.
One has to be careful of saying anything nice about people like Idi Amin, even when they are dead and gone. It is easy to get a reputation for being deliberately provocative, or for seeking compassion kudos like the late Lord Longford, who befriended convicts for the sheer magnitude of their infamy.For many years, Idi Amin was the civilised world's stock example of 'pure evil'. Nearly a quarter of a century after the end of his outrageous tyranny, everybody still knows about him.
As Mr Mugabe continues to flout international opinion, suppress democratic opposition to his regime, and reduce this once rich nation to abject poverty, some commentators are asking if it might not be desirable to remove this despot by means of military intervention.I leave it to others better qualified than I am to debate the legality in international law of such an action. And, of course, whether or not the United Nations would sanction military intervention is a big question.
Modern life is full of terror. We quake at global warming, Arab terrorists, gene-tinkered foods and rogue vaccines. New plagues from the East, our mobile phones and our railways all have the ability to induce panic. These are all new fears of new things. And all, to a greater or lesser extent, are irrational.But there is another, and I would argue even greater and more insidious, fear that has crept up on us in the past 20 years or so.
As a conservative, I am against all unnecessary change, of course, but I welcome innovation that improves the quality of life. Thus I rejoice to learn that certain doctors in my neck of the woods are now conducting clinics for difficult and challenging (i.e., violent and dangerous) patients in local police stations. This will improve the quality of clinical care no end.Naturally, the principal beneficiaries of this innovation will be the doctors themselves.
Washington, DCWe were an odd sight to the young crowd in the pool hall late on a Sunday night. A couple of middle-aged family guys don't exactly blend in, at least not in Adams Morgan, a hip young neighbourhood in Washington, DC – especially when one of them is Mel Gibson. It was the night before the screening of Gibson's controversial film about the Passion of Christ. The man better known as Mad Max, or William Wallace, was relaxing in the pool hall after his long flight from Los Angeles.