In the basement of the Boole Library at University College Cork, I find myself face-to-face with a death mask. Slightly collapsed cheeks give it a look of the elderly Churchill. It is actually Sir Arnold Bax, the Romantic composer from Streatham, in south London, who briefly became one of the more unusual advocates for the end of British rule in Ireland.
Alongside the mask, dust lies thick on the autograph scores of tone poems and chamber works, and personal effects including a pair of glasses and a cigar case from the Savoy Hotel.
The influential American journalist Robert Kaplan recently commented that the real shapers of his country's foreign policy are junior and middle-ranking military officers. When an engineer captain in Afghanistan mobilises his men to de-mine a road, or a major in Baghdad oversees the training of competent new policemen, the 'Global War on Terror' (GWOT) moves one step further towards a successful conclusion.
This being the time of year when people are hiring new nannies and au pairs, I would like to offer some words of caution: do not hire a fatty. Although it is no doubt offensive and quite possibly illegal to say so, my considerable experience of the fat ones is that they are not very good.
When my daughter was about a year old, we hired a great fat girl from Northumberland. I was sceptical about having something so space-consuming and undecorative in our moderately sized house, but held my tongue.
Tony Blair told us the truth. There, said it. Shocking, isn't it? Something you would never dream of reading in a family publication. Especially The Spectator - the paper that supports Andrew Gilligan.
Everyone knows, after all, that Mr Blair is a liar. We wouldn't believe him, would we, if he told us the time. Everyone knows he made up the threat from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction because none have been found, and if something isn't found then it proves that it never existed.
The process is drearily familiar from the plots of countless tawdry novels. Opposites attract: two unlikely people begin a passionate affair. Friends all warn them that it cannot last. The friends are ignored as the lovers stand magnificently alone against an uncomprehending world. Then the first trace of an unfamiliar lipstick is found on a collar, and breezily explained away. Someone else's earring is found in a suitcase after a business trip and laughed off as a colleague's practical joke.