If Joni Mitchell were writing her song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ today, about the ruination of the natural world by the march of modernity, the lyrics might run something like this: ‘They paved paradise, put up a cycling route.’ Not content with demanding cycling lanes through our towns and cities, the cycling lobby — by which I don’t mean old maids bicycling to communion, I mean the Lycra brigade — are starting to turn the countryside into a surface on which they can pedal themselves into an endorphin-rich sweat as well, it seems.
James is 15 years old, coming up to his GCSEs; and the researcher he is talking to is clueless about girls. Yes, he tells her, girls at his school, underage girls, do indeed have sex. With guys in their class, like him. The researcher is surprised. Haven’t girls gone studious; aren’t they collecting the top grades, leaving the boys behind?
James states the obvious. ‘It’s not girls with As or A*s,’ he explains.
Colditz: Here I am, stuck in the same ventilation shaft that Pat Reid used to escape through just over 70 years ago. It’s a tiny letterbox-shaped hole, about three feet in length, one of the few natural holes through the castle’s monstrously thick outer walls. Captain Pat Reid and his fellow escapers had to strip off naked in order to shimmy through. It’s a cold day and even unclothed I’m far too well-fed to get through the gap, though Steffi, our well-informed guide, tells us ‘two English boys managed it last year, though you have to go through on your back, otherwise your knees get stuck’.
When I first came to this country nearly a decade ago, Britain wanted immigrants like me. Back then you could get a visa just for being creative. It was called the ‘Artist, Writer, Composer Visa’ — a Blairite flight of fancy if there ever was one — and all you had to do was fill out a form proving that you’d made a name for yourself in your country of origin in one of those three disciplines. The application, as I recall, made a point of including conceptual artists and sculptors.
It is a wearyingly obvious observation, but the Church of England remains crippled by the gay crisis. It is locked in disastrous self-opposition, alienated from its largely liberal nature. Maybe the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has a secret plan that will break the deadlock: there is no sign of it yet. The advent of gay marriage has made the situation look even more hopeless. It entrenches the church in its official conservatism, and it further radicalises the liberals.
Paris: Revolutions are often sparked by an unexpected shock to an already weakened regime. As commentators in France remark not only on the crisis engulfing François Hollande’s government but also on the apparent death-rattle of the country’s entire political system, it could be that his flagship policy of legalising gay marriage — or rather, the gigantic public reaction against it, unique in Europe — will be the last straw that breaks the Fifth -Republic’s back.