Six years ago, the publishers Hachette took the well-meaning yet preposterous step of making ‘sensitive text revisions’ to Enid Blyton’s classic Famous Five books. So ‘tinker’ was changed to ‘traveller’, ‘mother and father’ to ‘mum and dad’ and ‘awful swotter’ to ‘bookworm’. The suggestion that tomboy George needed ‘a good spanking’ became ‘a good talking to’, while girly Anne’s assertion, ‘You see, I do like pretty frocks — and I love my dolls — and you can’t do that if you’re a boy’ had its final clause removed, rendering the sentence throwaway rather than poignant.
Soon, soon, you will see a wondrous sight,’ says the Isis anthem, ‘for your destruction, my sword has been sharpened. We march by night, to cut and behead… We make the streets run red with blood, from the stabbing of the bayonets, from the striking of the necks, on the assembly of the dogs.’ The people of the Syrian town of Deir Ezzor were left in no doubt that they were the dogs in question. This nasheed — or chant — was posted on the internet, played over video from Syrian state TV of Deir Ezzor residents criticising the Isis siege.
Gerard Manley Hopkins said that if the English had done nothing but ‘left the world the notion of a gentleman, they would have done a great service to mankind’. He was right. Yet in Britain today, you’re so very embarrassed by what we regard as your greatest single industry — turning out polished young people.
Here in China, we look at the education statistics you view with horror — the ones that show how independent schools teach just 7 per cent of the population and yet their alumni account for 51 per cent of solicitors, 61 per cent of senior doctors, 67 per cent of Oscar winners and 74 per cent of judges — and we think: yes please.
Corbyn’s allies on the hard left are lining up to reform the Labour party. Some make him look like a moderate. Here are the most notable, from the least to the most radical…
Owen Jones, 32, is a Guardian columnist and former poster boy for the left. Jones suggested Corbyn could do more to appeal to the masses and, as a result, was one of the regime’s first casualties. Throughout the Labour leadership election, Jones has become increasingly vocal about Corbyn’s limitations as leader.
This leadership contest was meant to topple Jeremy Corbyn, or at the very least weaken him. It has ended up strengthening him. The Corbynites will be now emboldened to go after all those who stand in their way, from the general secretary and the deputy leader to party staff and regional organisers. They are tightening their grip over the party from top to bottom, something the Blairites never did.
Alarmingly for the moderates, the party could be beyond saving by 2020.
Sometimes an idea is so barmy that worrying about it ever becoming reality seems pointless. So when the Labour MP Andy Slaughter asked the Environment Secretary a few weeks ago about re-introducing lynx to the English countryside, the instinctive reaction of all those listening must have been, ‘Yeah, right! Good one!’
In fact, the basis of Mr Slaughter’s inquiry was a concept known as ‘rewilding’, which is fast becoming the new obsession of the left and the avowed intent of the more fundamentalist members of the naturalist lobby.
On 14 June, a short email popped up in the inboxes of all Financial Times editorial staff. It came from the paper’s style guru and announced tersely: ‘The out campaigners should be Brexiters, not Brexiteers.’ As usual for the FT’s style pronouncements, the memo did not lay out the reasoning behind the decision, but it followed a discussion among editors over whether the word ‘Brexiteer’ had connotations of swashbuckling adventure.
Thomas Hardy, while still married to his first wife Emma, but arranging assignations in London with Florence, his second-wife-to-be, used to ask her to meet him at the Victoria and Albert Museum by the great, towering plaster cast of Trajan’s column. Really, Thomas? Trajan’s column? How obvious can a man be?
Knowing what I know about Hardy’s column, and with the added burlesque of the modesty fig leaf that was cast for Michelangelo’s plaster David, I cannot now keep a straight face in the Cast Courts at the V&A and have to take myself off upstairs to look at silver salt-shakers the minute I get the sniggers.