‘Labour are in so much trouble here you can’t even believe it,’ says Nigel Farage as we sit in a parked blue bus in Dudley in the pouring rain. Outside, a group of campaigners in anoraks wave Brexit party banners and sing ‘Bye bye EU’ to the tune of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. A mix of locals and supporters from out of town have assembled to hear Farage. A Japanese camera crew rush to film the circus around him.
Protestors on the anti-Brexit marches have sensed an eerie absence. ‘What is it?’ I thought back in March as I stood on a soapbox to address an audience so jammed by the weight of numbers on Park Lane that it could not escape. Then it hit me. ‘What the hell have they done with the left?’
There were no Socialist Workers Party placards or George Galloways. The people who hijacked every demonstration I could remember had vanished.
I’ve just had new bookshelves put up in the hall, a whole wall-full of them, and for the first time in years, books that have been forgotten are finding a home. There are far more books than there is shelf space, so I’ve had to select which ones to display, and I’ve discovered a surprising amount about myself. Anyone coming into the flat will see them and make judgments on my literary tastes and so most of my new library is pretty erudite stuff.
On 20 May, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, predicted that Donald Trump would fail to subdue Iran just as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan had failed before him. That Alexander burned Persepolis to the ground and Genghis and his descendants wrought devastation before colonising the Persian plateau doesn’t connote defeat in the Iranian long view; neither the Macedonians nor the Mongols were able to extinguish Iran’s vigour and creativity, which reasserted themselves as soon as the invaders had moved on or been assimilated by the superior civilisation around them.
The mother of a little girl in my son’s year at school recently committed suicide. On the surface she was a radiant person, smiling and full of light. Devoted to her daughter, successful at work, always good for a laugh at the school gates. No one — save those loved ones who knew her private struggle — saw it coming.
For days, waves of confusion and sadness emanated out through our patch of north-west London.
‘It’s official. Turkey is a banana republic!’ My friend Mustapha, a serial entrepreneur, sends me a flurry of doom-laden WhatsApp messages on hearing the news that Istanbul’s mayoral election is being re-run. One of them is a cartoon of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan standing in front of the national flag, crescent turned into a banana. In March, his ruling AKP lost Istanbul, the engine of what remains of the Turkish economy, together with Izmir and Ankara.
Chelsea, the most famous flower show in the world, pulled in its devotees once more this week, with its accustomed mixture of colour, scent and glamour. The continuing success of the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘flagship’ show has much to do with the BBC’s need to fill schedules, the foreign media’s enduring fascination with ‘Englishness’ and royalty, and the desire of committed gardeners to worship in the company of their co-religionists.