The fact that Éric Zemmour hasn’t yet declared himself a candidate in next year’s French presidential election is a bit of a joke. A Harris poll last week put him on 17 per cent, ahead of all other rivals to President Emmanuel Macron. And he’s holding rallies across France at which adoring fans in ‘Zemmour 2022’ T-shirts chant: ‘Zemmour! Président!’
He’s still pretending to be a TV personality on a big book promotion tour.
Béziers is the ancient winemaking capital of the Occitanie region in the deep south of France and a stronghold of the French right. Its popular mayor, Robert Ménard, a former journalist, was elected as an independent, but with a strong endorsement from Marine Le Pen. Her political movement, the Rassemblement National, formerly the National Front, with historical roots in anti-Semitism, has been powerful here for decades.
Why would anyone want to dine in the nude with other nude diners? Yes, I get being nude on a sunny beach. Swimming nude. Walking nude. But eating nude in public? What’s the appeal? Why leave your comfort zone for the Twilight Zone?
Yet nude dining is making a comeback — or at least it’s trying to. The food-in-the-nude movement was just taking off in Bristol — and various secret places in London — when Covid first struck.
More than any other country in the West, Britain has become practised in the arts of self-deception and subject avoidance. If a politician in France had been butchered by a Muslim of Somali descent, the French media and political class would have gone through a cycle of debate about the ideology that propelled the killer. Government and security sources would have talked about the networks surrounding the suspect. And the whole society would have learned a little more about what might have led to such an outrage.
By now, almost everyone who’s remotely interested will know that Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, a man once tipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury, has converted to Catholicism. Dr Nazir-Ali is the second senior Anglican cleric to jump ship this year, which makes church gossip sound pleasingly Shakespearean: ‘Ebbsfleet has fallen… what and Rochester too?’ But it’s also sad. It’s as if the Church of England is exploding in slow motion, all its constituent pieces — bishops, buildings, parishioners — drifting off for want of a centre to hold them.
‘Excommunication,’ reads a stone plaque on the wall of the church of St Theodore in Rome, ‘and a fine of 200 gold ducats for any person who should dare to unload… waste of any kind and cause a stink outside these precincts.’ This threat might have worked when the plaque was erected in 1703, but it certainly doesn’t work now. A few paces down the street, a waist-high pile of stinking rubbish bags festers in the autumn sunlight, pecked at by seagulls.
On 12 March last year, I texted a trusted source connected to Australia’s foreign intelligence agency. ‘What do you think about the theory that the virus came from a virology lab in China? Does that have credibility? I know it’s officially a conspiracy theory but China is not exactly a picture of transparency so I thought it’s possible.’
He replied to say he knew someone ‘very involved in the observation of that lab and its activities’ and it was a definite possibility the virus leaked from the facility.
Last week, my mobile phone stopped working. No big deal you might think. If you can get emails on your computer, and you’ve got a landline and that old-fashioned thing, post, why, you’re not cut off, are you?
There are, of course, people who wilfully eschew their phones so as to be more in touch with the present moment… birds, clouds, flowers etc. And I’m hardly a junkie. I don’t do social media. I’m a grown-up, so I’m not on Snapchat.
The gin craze of recent years has reached a scale that would have horrified Hogarth. You can now buy strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb, blueberry and lime gins in supermarkets.
For me, though, there is only one flavoured variety worth bothering with: sloe gin. Where the rest are novelties, this is a staple dating back to the early 19th century.
Sloe gin is everywhere — Buckingham Palace even launched a line this year. But it is the easiest thing to make at home and there’s something very pleasurable about the ritual of doing so.