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[/audioplayer]German chancellor Angela Merkel may still be the most formidable politician in Europe, but this week she lost a bit of her reputation as the scourge of Mediterranean debtor nations. Greece’s firebrand leftist premier, Alexis Tsipras, actually gets on well with Merkel, however much his countrymen enjoy burning her in effigy and adorning her portraits with Hitler moustaches.
Wimbledon next week. Like the tournament dress code, all sports want their heroes white. In terms of virtue rather than skin colour. Sport demands the appearance of righteousness. Its default position is to pride itself on the moral lessons it teaches the rest of us.
All of which makes sport one of the great hypocrisy opportunities of modern times, lagging behind only religion and politics. A sports star who wants to make serious money must set himself up as a ‘role model’.
1. Leaving the EU would hurt the UK’s ability to trade with it.
The fearmonger’s favourite argument. But fear not: the global economy has changed dramatically since Britain joined the EU in 1973, seeking entrance to a common market. The World Trade Organisation has brought down tariff rates around the world; even if we didn’t sign a free-trade deal with the EU, we would have to pay, at most, £7.
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[/audioplayer]What’s happened to poor Ukip? Not so long ago, they seemed unstoppable. They were revolting on the right, terrifying the left and shaking up Westminster. The established parties tried sneering at them, smearing them, even copying them.
When I first encountered the global phenomenon that is André Rieu, I had my heart set on hating him. If that seems unkind, you have to understand that I had been forced to watch hour upon hour of his concerts on the Sky Arts channel that is all but dedicated to him and plays on a constant loop in my parents’ home. The moment my mother discovered the classical music impresario, our lives were never quite the same.
Not long ago, I woke up in hospital, in pain, with a damaged back, but grateful for the sleep that a couple of doses of morphine had secured. ‘Morning,’ said a sixtysomething man who appeared by the side of the bed. ‘I’m Derek, I’m a volunteer here.’
‘I’ve bought you some cornflakes.’
I wanted to hug him.
‘Also…’ He produced a sheet of paper. Oh no. ‘There are a few questions here about how you’ve found your stay with us.
Usually, one of the first indications that you’ve entered a bilingual country is that the road signs are in two languages. At least this is the case in Ireland or Wales — but not in Belgium. In Flanders, the signs are written in Dutch. In Wallonia, they are all in French.
French is spoken in Flanders, by the small local Francophone community, but more notably by the huge number of French people who descend on Brugge for the Christmas sales.