What a lucky coincidence. At the start of a week that could see the ignominious collapse of Boris Johnson’s premiership, an opportunity to go fully Churchillian has appeared out of the blue. In an unprecedentedly detailed and direct memorandum, the British Foreign Office announced that it had exposed Russian plans to mount a coup in Kiev. Johnson was quick to back the alarming news with a grave warning to Vladimir Putin.
‘God Save the Queen’ trended on Ukrainian social media over the weekend. ‘As a Brit in Kiev I have never felt so popular,’ one expat tweeted. Four hundred miles to the south, however, on the once grand, now shabby streets of Odessa, the enthusiasms of the Twittersphere seem remote. There is little optimism that Britain, or indeed any other western country, can do much to halt the tidal wave that locals fear Russia is about to release on them.
I’m perched on the bed reading an old Mothering Sunday card. It’s just one item in a box of miscellanea that I must sort and prune and I really can’t afford the time to linger. That box contains a fraction of what I have to deal with before I move house and I need to crack on. But I am sweating the small stuff.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. One of the legacies of lockdown has been a longing for more space. Across the UK, families with children are falling over themselves to find bigger places.
The great thing about classified ads is that they have not usually been created by an agency — so what you get is the advertiser’s own best efforts to announce themselves, and what they have to offer, in just 20 words or so.
You can glean a lot from what they say, and not always in the way intended. Take this particularly telling example from the Spectator personal ads a couple of years ago: ‘Looking to meet woman on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
Jacinda Ardern recently told an American television host that she finds it ‘slightly offensive’ when outsiders assume every other New Zealander starred in Lord of the Rings. Quite so. New Zealand has only one real film star in 2022, and that’s the Prime Minister herself. But the way things are heading, she might best suit an adaptation of Lord of the Flies.
The place has gone mad. Many countries, even nearby Australia, have responded to the arrival of the Omicron variant by drastically easing many of their formerly draconian measures in response to Covid, in particular the widespread use of lockdowns, or what some might prefer to describe as mass house arrests.
There is a lesser-known Robert Redford film, The Candidate, in which he plays a no-hope Democrat taking on a popular and well-liked Republican in a Californian election. After engaging unexpectedly well with the public and winning an improbable victory, he turns to one of his aides and asks, bewildered: ‘What do we do now?’ The question is left hanging in the air like the back end of the bus in The Italian Job.
The script might as well have been written about Boris Johnson and the Brexit referendum campaign.
The two leading candidates for South Korea’s presidential election in March, Lee Jae-myung of the incumbent Democratic party and Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative People Power party, have both made men’s rights central to their campaigns. They hope to appeal to the growing constituency of outraged men’s groups who vent their frustration at feminist overreach on internet message boards and sometimes even protest on the streets.
We in Britain have long been much more squeamish about fur than other Europeans. I still well remember the snide comments I would get even in the 1980s when my German mother would collect me from my London school in the fur coats she insisted on wearing. The ocelot number especially raised eyebrows.
The UK’s domestic retail market for fur has always been small. Britain’s half--dozen fur farms were closed when Tony Blair’s government legislated to ban them in 2000.