‘War’, in Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz’s most famous dictum, ‘is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.’ A generation of Democrats — the American variety, but also European Christian and Social Democrats — have sought to ignore that truth. Appalled by the violence of war, they have vainly searched for alternatives to waging it. When Vladimir Putin ordered the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Barack Obama responded with economic sanctions.
Sitting alone at the end of an absurdly long table or marooned behind a vast desk in a palatial hall, Vladimir Putin’s idea of social distancing has gone beyond the paranoid and into the realm of the deranged. His distance from reason and reality seems to have gone the same way. In little more than 48 hours, Putin’s sensible, peace-talking statesman act flipped into something dark and irrational that has worried even his supporters.
If I lift my eyes from my laptop, I can stare across my hotel’s rooftop infinity pool to the soft tropical blues of the Laccadive Sea. In a minute I might order another one of those excellent Sri Lankan crab curries. And another chilled Lion lager. Meanwhile the weather app on my phone tells me that London is shivering in a succession of bitter storms as the government ‘ends all Covid restrictions’, meaning everyone can go back to catching trains in the freezing fog.
The Queen has suffered ‘mild, cold-like symptoms’ from her Covid-19 infection, according to Buckingham Palace. The wording reminds us that, except in the very vulnerable, the common cold is always and everywhere a mild disease. There are 200 kinds of virus that cause colds and they hardly ever debilitate healthy people, let alone kill them. Yet we were recently told by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) that ‘it is a common misconception that “viruses mutate to cause less severe disease”’.
Something very strange happens to men as they get older: they like to go nude. I don’t mean they become practising nudists who seek out and enjoy the company of others of their kind. But unlike most younger men, they feel no embarrassment or regret at being seen naked.
Consider the recent battle between one nude man and his neighbour. Simon Herbert (54) was in his Oxfordshire garden mending a fence when he spotted his next-door neighbour — Air Marshal Andrew Turner (54), the RAF’s second-in-command — strolling naked in the paddock of the cottage Turner shares with his wife.
In August 2015, Tom Hayes, then aged 34, was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment after being found guilty on eight charges of conspiracy to commit fraud when working as a yen derivatives trader in Tokyo. Hayes was alleged by the Serious Fraud Office to be the grand ‘ringmaster’ of a group of traders who sought to enrich their banks and themselves by rigging Libor, the rate charged for interbank loans. His sentence was reduced to 11 years on appeal but it is still one of the longest--ever jail sentences handed out by a British court for a white-collar crime.
Just two months from the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron’s self-belief and risk-taking — not to mention setbacks — seem to know few bounds. And no more so than in foreign affairs. Following the French President’s telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine on 20 February, the Elysée triumphantly announced that a Biden-Putin summit was agreed in principle, only for the Kremlin to pour cold water on the idea the next morning.
Living, as Clive James put it, under a life sentence, and having refused chemotherapy, I find I respond to the time issue in contradictory ways. On the one hand, I read avidly, almost as if I’ll be tested at some later date. I am morbidly well-informed on current affairs, the status of the old white male and the situation in Ukraine. I crawl through Lucretius and Horace in search of wisdom. On the other hand, I avoid my favourite filmic masterworks (Chinatown, On the Waterfront, The Remains of the Day, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) in favour of Secret Army, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre
and any 1950s thriller that features frequent chases to some Tudoresque Surrey cottage.
Short of leg but big on personality, the eccentrically shaped dachshund is one of Britain’s most beloved pets. Originally known as the ‘dachs kriecher’ (badger crawler) or ‘dachs krieger’ (badger warrior), dachshunds as we know them today can be traced back to 15th-century Germany where they were bred primarily for hunting.
With extended, sausage-shaped body, elongated snout and long whippy tail, the scent hound’s ability to flush out badgers and other smaller mammals became a highly prized trait.