Meet the Dalis: men who are dependent – and loving itIt sounds like a cushy life for a man. On weekdays he potters about at home, running a duster over the surfaces, tinkering with a short story he’s struggling to compose, painting, daydreaming, listening to a bit of Jeremy Vine; his wife, meanwhile, gets up in the dark, takes the 5.47 to Liverpool Street and toils away in a glass tower all day to bring home the bacon.
Meet Kevin Jackson, the black Tea Party activist disgusted at the prejudices of Obama’s supportersKevin Jackson talks a lot of sense. He also says things that make you wonder if your ears are playing up. As the newest star of the Tea Party circuit gives you his views on Obama, Palin and David Cameron, you repeatedly ask yourself, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’I am interviewing Jackson, a Republican blogger and author of The Big Black Lie, a critique of liberal America, because I heard him on US television saying that voting for Obama was racist.
I was on a plane once that malfunctioned as it was trying to take off from JFK Airport in New York. There was a horrible screeching noise and some smoke and the thing skidded to a halt with its nose poking out over Long Island sound. Trucks pulled up alongside us and sprayed stuff. I don’t think anyone had been particularly scared because the plane was still on the ground. The only thing that worries people about planes is when they fall out of the sky; if they blow up on the runway, that’s sort of OK.
Leaving the Labour party is uniquely traumatic, as Luke Bozier has just discovered – and I know all too wellEven now, exactly 17 years later, I can still remember the sense of anxiety gripping me on that fateful morning. The storm was about to break. I had taken a step that would irrevocably change my life. It was a damp, drizzly Thursday in late January 1995 and the latest edition of The Spectator had just come out, carrying an explosive article by me in which I savaged Labour’s record in local government and warned that the same addiction to waste, bureaucracy and politically correct ideology would be followed at a national level if Tony Blair gained power at the next election.
On Tuesday night in Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands, hundreds of men dressed as Vikings will parade through the centre of town, carrying torches to set fire to a wooden long ship in a festival known as Up Helly Aa. All will march to a repertoire of battle songs, with blood-curdling lyrics. ‘Our galley is the People’s Right, the dragon of the free’ runs the main hymn of the evening. ‘Sons of warriors and sages: when the fight for freedom rages, be bold and strong as they!’ And not even Alex Salmond would be bold enough to suggest that they are singing about Scotland.
Miles Bullough of Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations on the pressure to move jobs abroadShaun the Sheep is at the meeting too. I walk into the office of Miles Bullough, head of broadcast at Aardman Animations, and find him sitting opposite a four-foot model of the ovine superstar. I’m offered a seat, and an assistant comes in with refreshments. Tea for me, coffee for Bullough.
Who will rescue capitalism? As the voices of its critics grow louder, those of us who would defend the moneymakers must not be cowed. But even the most ardent supporters of the profit motive would probably concede that capitalism has been veering in the wrong direction, providing sufficient ammunition for its detractors to raise doubts over the sustainability of the system itself. With public anger over bankers, in particular, and ‘fat cats’ in general, politicians — of all parties — have seen an opportunity to empathise with demonstrators’ banners and the shrieking from the media.
Does the banker deserve his bonus? Of course he doesn’t, but the problem is that the wrong sort of people point it out. The envious and the angry combine at shaking their fists at the super-wealthy; the politicians rehearse the arguments more in sorrow than anger. The rich are impervious to criticism from the unlucky outsider: opprobrium doesn’t work and it hardens them, closing the fist around their wealth.
If you are looking for an undiscovered part of Provence, then you can forget about Le Barroux. Apart from the fact that both Petrarch and Pope Clement V spent their summers nearby in the 14th century, the pretty hilltop village topped by its disproportionately large castle has been the holiday destination of members of the British social stratosphere for generations. The Anglo-French descendants of Axel Munthe, the Swedish author of the spectacularly successful Story of San Michele — perhaps the first example of escapist travel literature — have a very beautiful house in the village, as did Prince Charles’s godmother.
Once, Avignon was hell to get to. Now it’s an easy train journey. Let Ysenda Maxtone Graham, who has known it for decades, show you aroundThe interminable car journeys to Avignon of my childhood! Crammed into the back of the Mini with my sister. ‘Are we nearly there?’ when we were only at Dijon. Hard-boiled eggs and sausages in a polythene bag. The heart-sinking moment when my parents stopped the car for a few hours to have a ‘little sleep’.