Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, has never been able to keep his mouth shut. Throughout his absurdly long career in politics, he has always said too much, made stuff up, gone too far. His friends and fans just shrug it off. ‘That’s our Joe.’
The trouble is, Biden is now America’s Commander-in-Chief, leader of the not-so-free-anymore world, and his loquaciousness — and the mental fuzziness it betrays — is becoming a problem.
I’ve spent nearly my entire adult life working in Britain, but Uncle Sam never forgets about Americans abroad. We can vote in elections. We still file tax returns. And we also, it seems, benefit from Joe Biden’s spending binges. His latest instalment slipped through my letterbox last week: a cheque for $1,400. It’s a stimulus; intended, of course, to rebuild the US economy, but in practice a giveaway for the world.
When the first cheque arrived at the start of this year, I thought it must be a rare glitch in the system: why would the US Treasury want to boost the restaurants of south London? Maybe it was a fake.
My brother recently decided to get a DNA test. He discovered that our family were all descended from a mix of the usual British suspects — a bit of Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Celt — and were predisposed to standard diseases and health risks. But there was one surprise. My siblings and I had double the normal amount of Neanderthal in our genes.
Reactions were mixed. My girlfriend declared she had suspected something of the sort for some time.
How do I know that Britain’s Covid crisis is over? The fakers are back. The hypochondriacs, the psychosomatics, the pseudo-fitters, the attention-seekers and the lonely. They’ve started to return to the acute medical ward where I work. They’ve been gone so long I actually almost missed them.
This collection of patients, who take up time and resources inversely proportional to the state of their physical health, simulate symptoms for gain (malingerers), simulate/induce their symptoms for the pleasure of the sick role (Munchausen’s syndrome) or genuinely experience symptoms such as pain, seizures or paralysis in atypical ways with no physically identifiable or treatable cause (now vaguely termed ‘functional disorders’).
Not for the first time, our Prime Minister has executed a very sharp U-turn. Last month, heralding the achievements of AstraZeneca, Boris Johnson professed that the vaccine had been made possible because of greed, echoing the phrase used by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street that ‘greed is good’. Now, though, he seems to be of the mind that greed is very bad indeed. He pronounced himself ‘horrified’ that six Premier League clubs intended to form a European Super League, from which, following the American model, they could never be relegated, in order to trouser even more outrageous sums of money for themselves.
Watching the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh at the weekend — that Land Rover, that lack of eulogy — I felt an alien emotion steal over me. Shortly after the last blast of the bagpipes faded away, I realised what it was: I’d like to be like that. Amusingly, the only person this working-class radical feminist has ever felt this emotion towards was a reactionary prince. Somehow, the very incongruity made perfect sense; I can’t think of anything drearier than having a ‘role model’ who was in any way like me.
I come from the Lancastrian town of Ormskirk, which, though pretty, provided little in the way of opportunity or aspiration. No one in our family had been to university. I qualified for free school meals. Expectations for my future were low.
But I was lucky. I had great mentors and ended up in Downing Street. I also worked for a Prime Minister who believes in social mobility and put ‘levelling up’ at the very centre of his premiership.
Angela Merkel never quite managed to appoint a successor. Her 16 years at the helm of Europe’s largest democracy has seen every potential challenger either annihilated or neutered. For all her motherly charms, Mutti Merkel is a merciless political operator.
The Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union, seem to have settled on a political incompetent to lead them into September’s federal elections.
You have to really love old houses to buy a listed building. My wife and I know this to our cost. We’re now on our third in a row. In each case we swore we’d never make the same mistake again and then, idiots that we are, we’d be seduced by some deceptively charming little gem and the same story would unfold.
It’s not just that old houses are likely to be impractical by modern standards: cold, crumbly and liable to leak.
As a footballer, I’m elderly not elite, meaning that I’m one of 60,000 or so 50- to 92-year-olds (yep, 92!) in England who enjoy a more pedestrian version of the sport than the Premier League’s whippersnappers.
A survey last year revealed that for many of us ‘walking footballers’, the sport is our most significant social interaction of the week. So while the Premier League continued through the winter, I was — to use footballer lingo — sick as a parrot when we somewhat older, rather slower players were red-carded by the government.