The civilised world felt as if its heart had been touched by an icicle. Photographs of murdered children. Biogs of people like us; we could have been on that plane. We will be on similar ones, now reminded of our vulnerability to frivolous barbarians in possession of terrifying weapons. Grief and fear lead rapidly to anger: to the demand that something must be done to punish the evildoers and rescue us from insecurity.
Turkey, Syria, Iraq: ‘It’s jihad, innit, bruv.’ The young British Muslim cut an absurd figure in ski mask, dark glasses and hoodie. He had not used that exact phrase but it would have summed up our faintly comical encounter. I remembered a security analyst’s remark that British Islamists in the Middle East are best explained by Four Lions, the mock documentary about some Yorkshire jihadis on an incompetent quest for martyrdom.
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[/audioplayer]A question to ask yourself on sunny days: are you, as you conduct your conversations with people, trying to convince them that you are Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix? You’re not? Then will you please take off your sunglasses?
Hardly anyone does these days.
Recently one morning, as I was weeping over Caitlin Moran’s (daughter of Mr and Mrs Moran of Wolverhampton) brilliant book How to Build a Girl — specifically, the heartbreaking way she writes about coming from an impoverished family — a report came on to the radio with the glad tidings that working-class white children are now doing worse in schools than any other ethnic group. Said one Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the education select committee, ‘They do less homework and are more likely to miss school than other groups.
According to Russian state television, flight MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian government forces who believed they were targeting Vladimir Putin’s jet returning from a summit in Brazil. An unnamed Spanish air traffic controller allegedly overheard two Ukrainian fighter pilots talking about the secret operation at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport. Ukrainian jets were supposedly seen tailing the doomed flight just before it exploded.
When Queen Victoria came here for her summer holidays, Lucerne was already a bustling tourist destination. Today it’s just as popular. It’s easy to see why. When you emerge from the busy train station (Lucerne is far too civilised to have an airport), Switzerland’s loveliest lake lies before you, framed by a ring of mountains. The forecourt doubles as a quay. If you like looking at the Alps but can’t be bothered to trek up them, Lucerne will suit you perfectly.