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The strange death of the middle class

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Notes on…Walking in the Auvergne

The homicidal sheepdog that launched itself at me from behind a grassy hillock, had the look of a demented hearth rug but the fangs of a leopard. No self-respecting Border collie would have taken such a creature as a serious competitor in the herding business. But French sheep are different, at least those in the

In defence of binge drinking

Such an ugly word, ‘binge’. Why can’t we talk about ‘spree drinking’ or ‘frolic drinking’ or ‘extravaganza drinking’? But no, it has to be ‘binge drinking’, a term loaded (pre-loaded?) with connotations. Well you can stick your connotations: it’s binge drinking for me every time. Or rather not every time. That’s the whole point: you

Why G.K. Chesterton shouldn’t be made a saint

The bad news for fans of G.K. Chesterton is that there are moves afoot to make him a saint. The Catholic bishop of Northampton, Peter Doyle, is reportedly looking for a priest to promote his canonisation. Pope Francis is an admirer, too; he supported a Chesterton conference in Buenos Aires and was on the honorary

Who cares if Wagner’s 200? The plague of the anniversary

Back in the 1960s, the producers of the Tonight programme had a running joke for linking the show’s segments. They would use lines like: ‘And that item commemorated the 23rd anniversary of….’ Or: ‘On Tuesday Mr Jones would have been 73.’ There is something about anniversaries, however audaciously crowbarred in, that always gives the illusion

Meet the Gypsy entrepreneurs

Ask anyone from the settled community (known as ‘gorgias’ to Romani Gypsies and as ‘country people’ to Irish Travellers) what Gypsies do for money and the list would be short: tarmacking, roofing, scrap-metal dealing, hawking or maybe horse dealing. This picture, of course, has a germ of truth in it. Many Gypsies still work as

Roll up for the Bo Xilai show

In a stuffy courtroom in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, a major political triumph is being celebrated. Bo Xilai, the Communist princeling, challenged the system and lost, and the system is having its revenge. Under Marxism-Leninism a trial isn’t an exploration of truth, it’s a balletic demonstration of the rightness of the political system.

The strange death of the British middle class

To Voltaire, the British class system could be summed up in a sentence. The people of these islands, he said, ‘are like their own beer; froth on top, dregs at bottom, the middle excellent’. A harsh judgment, perhaps, but one that might still have some truth  in it today. Yes, we have horrible poverty in