On reading recently that Italian is the fastest disappearing language in America, my thoughts were mixed. I felt fleeting sorrow that such a beautiful lingo would be heard less. Between 2001 and 2017, there has been a reduction of 38 per cent — and this during a period when the proportion of Americans who speak a second language at home actually rose from 11 per cent to 22 per cent. But on the bright side, it demonstrates the assimilation of Italian-Americans, always an excellent thing for immigrants.
Last week’s Lancet report and its ‘planetary health diet’ of next to no red meat will have bolstered the egos of vegans who claim that they are doing the Earth a favour. But just how environmentally friendly are many of the alternatives favoured by vegans?
Fancy a bowl of quinoa, a grain stacked with amino acids, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, which in 2013 enjoyed the endorsement of the UN as a ‘superfood’? Not so fast.
As January — the month of penitence and tax returns — grinds towards its close, it would be foolish to imagine we can go back to a life of thoughtlessly eating, drinking and making merry. Dry January might give way to Wet February, as grateful drinkers furtively crack open the rioja, but the intense passions aroused by Veganuary now seem set to continue all year round.
Veganism — the shunning of meat, fish and all dairy products — was once regarded as a harmless but inconvenient hobby.
Ten days ago, Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, hiked the price of petrol by 250 per cent, making it the most expensive in the world. There had been an acute fuel shortage for months and this move was supposed to ease the situation — presumably by making petrol beyond the reach of most in this impoverished country.
Mnangagwa then jetted off to Russia and Kazakhstan, a warm-up tour for his gig at Davos.
When I was called to the Bar in 1967, the aim was to be appointed as a judge to the High Court. It was the destination to which all ambitious barristers not only should but would aspire. The job offered security, the conventional knighthood, an avenue to public service and a modicum of public power. But there is now an unprecedented and growing shortfall in candidates of adequate quality. Where did it all go wrong?
This development hasn’t appeared from nowhere.
Justin Welby is working in Thomas Cranmer’s old study in Lambeth Palace, a room that looks as if it hasn’t changed at all since the Book of Common Prayer was written here almost six centuries ago. It feels like a mini-monastic retreat: there is a desk, a crucifix, several Bibles and not much else. The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury studies and prays here, deciding how best to lead a national church whose Sunday services are now attended (according to its own figures) by barely 1 per cent of England’s population.
Somehow I had managed more than a quarter of a century in journalism without ever going to Davos. It had become almost a badge of honour, the one gathering of global nabobs I had been able to dodge year after year. But here I am in the mountains of Switzerland, a new boy amid the pilgrims come to worship at the altar of globalisation. I am international by profession and inclination — could a diplomatic correspondent be anything else? — but I can report that this annual meeting of the world’s great and good makes itself easy to lampoon.
Constable painted only three religious paintings, and when you see the one in St Mary’s Church in Dedham you realise why. The Ascension is a tricky topic, even for a master painter like John Constable, and his Jesus Christ looks distinctly awkward as he ascends into heaven — like a bloke at a toga party trying to dance to the house band. Never mind. Here in Dedham you can wander through the subtle East Anglian scenery he painted, and marvel at a nirvana that remains virtually unchanged.