When the pictures of the dead came in, it was hard to take, even from a distance. There was Georgina Callander, 18, a bespectacled Ariana Grande ‘superfan’ who had tweeted that she was ‘so excited’ to go to the concert in Manchester Arena. There was Saffie Roussos, aged 8 and still at primary school, who went with her mother and older sister. There was Olivia Campbell, aged 15. I looked at their bright faces and thought of all the love their families had carefully decanted into them over the years, their wealth of possibility.
The meeting place of the two worlds could not have been more sharply defined. In Manchester Arena, thousands of young women had spent the night singing and dancing at a show in Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour. Songs such as the hit ‘Side To Side’ were performed: ‘Tonight I’m making deals with the devil/ And I know it’s gonna get me in trouble…/ Let them hoes know.’
Waiting for them in the foyer as they streamed out was Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old whose Libyan parents settled in the UK after fleeing the Gaddafi regime.
Day 1: The New York Times reveals that President Trump offered FBI director James Comey a 25 per cent discount on membership at Mar-a-Lago if he would end his investigation into former NSC director Michael ‘Mikhail’ Flynn.
Vice President Pence secretly convenes the cabinet at Camp David. The site is chosen because Trump has visited it only once, declaring it ‘a dump’, and is therefore unlikely to show up.
A hundred years after the Russian revolution, Russia has a tsar and a court. Proximity to Putin is the key to wealth, office and survival. The outward signs of a court society have returned: double-headed eagles, the imperial coat of arms, the cult of Nicholas II (one of whose recently erected statues has ‘wept tears’), an increasingly wealthy and subservient Orthodox Church. In 2013, ‘to strengthen the historical continuity of the Russian armed forces’, the main honour guard regiment in Moscow was renamed Preobrazhensky, after the oldest regiment of the Imperial Guard, founded by Peter the Great in 1683.
J.L. Carr’s classic novel How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup (1975) contains a character named Arthur Fangfoss. Mr Fangfoss is a rural tyrant who, when standing for the local council, limits his election address to a pithy eight words: ‘If elected, I will keep down the rates.’ No such brevity, alas, attends the 2017 manifestos of the UK’s three main political parties. The shortest of them — the Lib Dems’ Your Chance to Change Britain’s Future — weighs in at over 80 pages, while Labour’s For the Many, Not the Few extends to a well-nigh novella-length 23,000 words.
On the Today programme a month ago, Education Secretary Justine Greening was asked whether she could name any ‘respected figure or institution’ in favour of more grammar schools. She declined to answer, which was taken to mean that she couldn’t, and that there wasn’t.
I’ve been travelling a lot this year, so wasn’t around to offer my support. I’m back now. Assuming that a professor of education at a Russell Group university is respectable enough, let me wade into the debate: yes, I’m in favour of more grammar schools.
As a wine bore, holidays abroad are a battle with the family to cram in as many vineyard visits as possible when all they want to do is go to the beach. But it’s only recently that I have begun to take advantage of the riches on my doorstep. I wonder how many Londoners realise that half an hour from St Pancras is one of the world’s most dynamic wine regions — Kent.
My previous reluctance might have something to do with the weather.