There is no lavatory paper to be found in government buildings in Kiev. Plan ahead, locals advise, if you visit a tax office, the council or some other arm of the bureaucracy. This state of affairs is one small sign of the corruption that pervades Ukraine. Even the trifling sums spent on toilet roll are stolen by dishonest officials. Patients bribe doctors to get treatment; students bribe professors to pass exams; citizens bribe tax inspectors… actually, many people don’t bother with tax in the first place, working instead in a vast shadow economy.
It’s exactly 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality, received the Royal Assent on 27 July 1967 after an impassioned late-night debate in the Commons. I wish I could say — death of Kennedy-like — that I remember where I was. But I don’t.
I had only one concern that summer. It was to get the First which would enable me to return to Cambridge to study for my PhD in Tudor history under Geoffrey Elton.
For a man with a reputation as a bit of an egghead, Emmanuel Macron has acquired a sudden passion for sport. In recent weeks, he’s been seen at rugby matches and football internationals, invited the Lyon women’s football team to the Élysée Palace to celebrate their Champions League win, and found time to chat with Chris Froome during the cyclist’s ride to a fourth Tour de France title. He’s even donned boxing gloves and sparred with a young pugilist as a means of promoting Paris’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.
Sir James Dyson would make a good therapist for anxious Brexiteers. Everything about him is comfortingly precise — his manner and way of speaking, his owlish round glasses and blow-dried white hair. He exudes a Zen-like calm.
What he has to say is reassuring, too. He is as sunnily optimistic about leaving the EU as he was before the referendum last year.
‘I am very confident,’ he says, ‘in our ability to negotiate trade deals outside Europe — with Japan, Australia, China, America and so on — because it’s very easy.
The credit for decriminalising male homosexuality in 1967 — for those over 21 in England and Wales at least — goes to Harold Wilson’s government, the Labour MP Leo Abse, and the Conservative peer Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran.
Yet more than a decade before the Sexual Offences Act received royal assent, a journalistic campaign to overturn an unjust and unworkable law had begun in the pages of The Spectator.
Twenty years in August since Diana died. The anniversary is sad for me on many levels — she was definitely the final famous person I’ll have a pash on, and it reminds me that I haven’t yet earned back the whopping advance I was given for my book about her. To be fair, the book was an absolute stinker, written through a haze of gin, tears and avarice, containing such clodhopping clangers as ‘with blue skies in her eyes and the future in her smile’ and ‘affection swooshed out of her like a firework from a bottle’.
The South Downs cover 260 sq miles from Hampshire’s Itchen Valley to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Nestled near the southernmost point is Goodwood racecourse, which claims to be the most beautiful track in the world — and you can certainly see why. The downs are stunning, and from the top of the stands you can look out for miles.
The course — part of the Goodwood estate — is owned by Charles Gordon-Lennox, the current Lord March and future 11th Duke of Richmond, who lives just a few hundred metres away in Goodwood House.