When Emmanuel Macron was elected just over two and a half years ago, his ambitions stretched a long way. He described the presidential role as being like Jupiter, and believed that the momentum that took him to the Elysée would excite forces far beyond France’s borders. He hoped to deliver a ‘European renaissance’ that would overhaul the continent’s political structures. Only last year, he addressed a letter to the ‘citizens of Europe’ describing his vision of renewal.
Which fad diet have you chosen to follow this year? One that helps you lose weight, or one that cures your mental health problems? Chances are that if you’re really following food trends, you’ll be discarding the piles of ‘clean eating’ recipe books in your kitchen in favour of a whole new swath of literature on dieting for mental health. There’s the ‘Mad Diet’, which promises ‘easy steps to lose weight and cure depression’, the ‘Anti-Anxiety Diet’, which is a ‘Whole-Body Programme to Stop Racing Thoughts, Banish Worry and Live Panic-Free’, or ‘Food and Mood: Eating Your Way Out of Depression’.
A decade after the Arab Spring, good news anywhere is hard to find. In contrast to Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, extreme poverty has increased in the Arab region. Both internal economic growth and direct foreign investment have declined. Unemployment, especially among the young, has grown. Education standards are falling. There is less press freedom, less freedom of association. A BBC survey last year found that more than half of Arabs want to emigrate.
In October 1987, Hugh Falkus, the most famous name in salmon fishing, and I, with three other friends, caught 124 wild salmon in a week’s fishing on the Junction Pool of the River Tweed. This included several fish over 20lb. Today, you would be lucky to catch a tenth of that number, and there would be no big fish among them. In the 1980s there were approximately nine million salmon swimming in the Atlantic.
A two-line email popped into my inbox: ‘I regret to inform you that your application for the post of communications officer has not been successful on this occasion.’
Two decades as a national journalist, plus experience as a ministerial and corporate press adviser, and yet again, I’d failed even to secure an interview — this time to be a part-time communications officer in a college.
If you have not applied for work in the past few years, ‘human resources’ — or HR as it is known — may be unfamiliar.
‘Epiphany.’ That was the word that Robert Rowland, soon-to-be-ex-MEP for the Brexit party, used to describe his discovery of the real inner workings of the European parliament. I met Rowland in Strasbourg, a mere eight months after his election last May, at his very last plenary session. With no small degree of pride, he showed me around the debating chamber, with its sleek interior and its hi-tech voting machines.
Driving home through Kent the other day, I was struck by how much the topography has changed. When I was growing up there in the 1970s, first in Rolvenden and then in Hawkhurst, there were hop gardens. Today there are vineyards.
I’m not sure Alfred Jingle would recognise the county about which he stated in Pickwick Papers: ‘Kent, sir — everybody knows Kent — apples, cherries, hops and women.’ The apple and cherry orchards are not nearly as numerous as they were in either his day or mine and the hop gardens have largely, although not entirely, disappeared.