My father, an avowed liberal, taught me old-school manners: hold the door and give up your seat for ladies; stand up when anyone, male or female, enters the room or approaches you at a social gathering; extend your hand in greeting; listen politely when others speak. My mother issued similar instructions in French, and as a consequence I almost never fail to say bonjour before I address a French merchant or telephone operator.
As if American politics were not scary enough, the prospect of President Hillary Rodham Clinton has once again reared its frightful head. The woman is a proven horror, politically speaking. One senior Democrat strategist calls her the ‘kiss of death’. She loses elections she ought to win because people don’t like her.
Just over a week away from the midterm elections, Democrat candidates in various states are said to be relieved that she isn’t conducting one of her vanity tours of the country.
Simon Ngwa is a gentle and polite man, and he apologised to me first for what he was about to say. ‘I’m sorry if this upsets you, but we in Cameroon are very bitter towards Britain,’ he said. ‘As a child, I was taught to look up to the British Crown as a symbol of fair play and the Queen as a guarantor of moral values. But Britain is doing nothing to stop this genocide.’
Mr Ngwa and I had our conversation in a shabby refugee centre in the Nigerian town of Calabar, on Cameroon’s western frontier.
In a British circus, you will no longer find big cats, dancing bears or sea lions balancing on balls. Anne, the last elephant, paraded around the ring for the final time almost a decade ago, after a circus career lasting more than 50 years.
The only wild animals that continue to perform under the big top are a fox, three camels, three raccoons, four zebra, half a dozen reindeer, a zebu, and a macaw called Rio.
In another time, in another place, we might never have known about the death of Jamal Khashoggi. In a Saudi consulate, the staff are guaranteed to say nothing. The reason we know so much is that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, has been willing to tell the world not just what he knows, but what he suspects. It has been clear from the offset that this isn’t just about the death of a journalist but a battle for political leadership of the Islamic world.
Richmond Park is an eerie place at this time of year. It’s not just that it’s the deer rutting season, when huge stags fight over their harems, charging heavily about the misty grassland and bellowing as they go. It’s also the herds of photographers looming out of that mist, as strange as the prehistoric cries of the deer. Deer rutting is one of the most spectacular sights of autumn, and if you’re an amateur wildlife photographer like me, it’s hard to resist the attraction of rising early to photograph a 200kg monster roaring into the dawn.
It’s pretty hard for Britain’s friends, here in Australia, to make sense of the mess that’s being made of Brexit. The referendum result was perhaps the biggest-ever vote of confidence in the United Kingdom, its past and its future. But the British establishment doesn’t seem to share that confidence and instead looks desperate to cut a deal, even if that means staying under the rule of Brussels. Looking at this from abroad, it’s baffling: the country that did the most to bring democracy into the modern world might yet throw away the chance to take charge of its own destiny.
The first time I encountered Morwenstowe on Cornwall’s north coast I was alone. It was early spring and the church wore a fresh skirt of primroses. As I crossed the stone stile next to the lych-gate, the churchyard inclining before me, I glimpsed beyond the sturdy grey church tower a triangle of greenish blue, a patch of sea tantalisingly held between the sides of the combe. The faint but undying roar of the Atlantic rolled in across the pastureland.