Books, we are continually told, particularly by people who rarely read them, are going the way of the dodo. The shops that sell them are closing at an alarming rate, as the dreaded Kindle takes over, and public libraries are being encouraged to turn themselves into noisy ‘resource centres’, designed to attract the feckless young.One might think that the places continuing to sell such glorious, old-fashioned things would be eager to put their best foot forward.
I caught the figure strolling towards me out the corner of my eye. At first I thought I was mistaken. Then it nearly took my breath away. I was standing in the impressive wooden-beamed assembly hall of Paisley Grammar, where I’d gathered at the start of each school day many years before, silent and smartly uninformed, along with 900 other pupils. The current head was explaining how this ancient institution, dating back to the 16th century, was still giving children as fine an education as the one I had enjoyed.
The outcry over Sayeeda Warsi’s speech on Islamophobia last week cannot be understood without a clear grasp of the balance of power within the coalition government. There are two factions, and the strongest can loosely be described as neoconservative. This faction remains an unconditional supporter of the United States of America, continues to defend the Iraq invasion, powerfully admires and in some cases worships Tony Blair, and automatically takes the side of Israel in the middle east.
When you have guests over for dinner — Tuscan lamb with truffled polenta, perhaps, followed by pear tarte tatin — at what time do you raise your hand, or bang a knife upon a glass and say.When you have guests over for dinner — Tuscan lamb with truffled polenta, perhaps, followed by pear tarte tatin — at what time do you raise your hand, or bang a knife upon a glass and say. ‘Friends: it’s time to have a go at the Muslims’? I ask because at my dinner parties we usually spend a half an hour moaning about Muslims in between the dessert and the cheese board, whereas rather more well-off friends of mine in London insist that this arrangement is de trop, and Islamophobia is best expressed while the white wines are still being served and before one moves on to moaning about the blacks.
When Poles arrive in Britain, we learn some fascinating things about ourselves. We are, it seems, from a part of the world known as the ‘Eastern bloc’. It is populated by lazy benefits thieves, most of whom want to move to Britain. When the EU flung open Britain’s barriers seven years ago, the stereotype wasn’t entirely false — at least about wanting to move. Hundreds of thousands of Polish workers, students and professionals did come to Britain; I was one of them.
Heinz Wolff’s latest and most ambitious experiment might just solve the problem of care for the elderlyHeinz Wolff has been offered Maidenhead by the government as the laboratory for his next and boldest experiment, but it is not enough. ‘They should give me the Isle of Wight,’ he cries, domed cranium pulsing beneath his Branestawm specs. ‘All of it. It’s perfect for my purposes.’As seasoned film audiences know, when a scientist starts making territorial demands in a strong German accent, it’s generally time to confiscate his Bunsen burners.
Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti once known as Baby Doc, returned to his native land last week, looking wide-eyed and frail. He read a statement in which he expressed ‘deep sorrow for all those who say they were victims of my government’ and promised that he hadn’t come home to cause trouble, but to help rebuild his country.Should we believe him? The press think that he wants to clear his name in order to get access to $6 million in frozen Swiss bank accounts; Haiti’s socialist leaders worry that he has returned to seize power; many people living in dugouts beneath scraps of corrugated iron might secretly hope that he has and — although it seems a shocking thing to say — perhaps we should too.