Was it the sumptuous leather armchairs? Or the perfect teacups? Or the toothsome selection of custard creams and ginger nuts? I have never sat in a more quintessentially English workplace than the London office of Tata, India’s largest conglomerate.
Travellers to India often remark that many Indians love British culture more than Brits do. Where else do airport bookshops offer tottering towers of P.
One hundred pages into his absorbing new memoir, written entirely in the third person, Salman Rushdie declares that ‘Friendship had always been of great importance to him,’ since so much of his life had been spent separated, physically and emotionally, from his own family. ‘Friends,’ writes Rushdie, ‘were the family one chose.’
The conceit of third person remove can be annoying, but I understand why the author chose it for Joseph Anton, the title of the book and Rushdie’s assumed name during his long period in hiding after the Ayatollah -Khomeini sentenced him to death.
Oklahoma will always be a red state on the political map, but the colour goes deeper than that. Everything here was red: red earth, red brick, red dust, red rust. At Little Sahara State Park, 1,600 geologically anomalous acres of iron-rich sand dunes were pinky-orange, the colour of thousand-island dressing.
The sitcom Friends had a storyline in which a character accidentally went to Oklahoma, the implication being that that’s the only reason anyone would go there.
‘If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.’ Well, Mark Twain, I waited a couple of days and I liked the weather a lot: bright blue skies, warm sun and a cooling breeze off the Atlantic during a September weekend in Newport, Rhode Island.
Two days is not long to explore the delights of the town, so here’s my advice for a -whistle-stop tour. Walk up and down the streets, past the variously coloured clapboard houses (some old — dating from the 17th century — some new) that would make Farrow & Ball devotees swoon in admiration.
Ooh, sir! Do you? At your age, sir? Well, yes. Revolting though it may seem, I still love New York. Every time I go there — as I did earlier this month — I fear I am not going to like it, but every time I fall in love all over again. I think it was Evelyn Waugh who said that when we are young we are Americans, but when we grow up we become Frenchmen. There is some truth in that. Although I cannot claim to have grown up, I do find as I hurtle towards my seventies that I have more in common with cheese-eating surrender monkeys than with Twinkie-scoffing war-losers.
Everyone thinks travel writing is a doddle. You soak up the sun for a couple of weeks and when you get home the words pour forth, dazzling the reader with wish-I-was-there images. Then you sit back and wait for the cheque to drop through the letterbox while planning your next safari or walk in the rainforest or flop on an Indian ocean beach, encouraged by bubbly travel PRs who tell you that the ‘views are breathtaking’, the food ‘to die for’ and the whole experience ‘the stuff of dreams’.
When my parents emigrated from India in the 1960s, they sought what might be called the ‘-British dream’: stability, opportunity and the chance of a better life in the world’s third-largest economy. So when I told my parents that I was moving to India for the same sort of reasons, they were shocked. India may be going up in the world, but what about the corruption, bureaucracy, pollution and overcrowding? Would I really earn enough money and live in a nice house? It made no sense at all to them that, aged 32, their daughter had chosen to go east — and join a steady exodus which is passing almost entirely unnoticed.
In a few weeks’ time, a couple I have been friends with for the best part of 20 years will be holding a bat mitzvah for their daughter. Anyone who knows even a little about Judaism will know the importance of the event: a celebration for a girl reaching 12, and a great excuse for a great party for friends and families. I would love to have gone but I won’t be there. You see: it’s in Liverpool. And I knew from the emails over the past 23 years and from the anonymous keyboard warriors of Twitter that were I to be seen in the city I would literally be in mortal danger.
Harriet Harman’s office reflects her status as the grande dame of British politics. Ensconced in a corner of Portcullis House, she enjoys two of the finest views in London, over both the Palace of Westminster itself and Parliament Square. As she ushers me in, the imposing effect is only spoiled by the fact that the windows are in dire need of cleaning.
As deputy leader, Harman is, officially, the second most important person in the Labour party after Ed Miliband.
François Hollande is nothing if not a traditionalist. French governments of the left usually come to office promising to reject austerity and pursue a holy grail of growth, only to hit the buffers of economic reality on election. In 1936, the Popular Front sought to overturn the orthodoxy of its predecessors after the Great Slump and in 1981 François Mitterrand pledged to escape from Giscard d’Estaing’s rigorous policies in reaction to the first oil shock.
Ten years ago next week, the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock exchange hit its lowest point ever, as the dotcom crash shuddered to an excruciating conclusion. With Facebook shares now approaching half their May offer price and debate raging over the role of banks in society, this is a good time to ask what we learnt from that enigmatic earlier shock — the answer being not enough.
Even by the standard of bubble-induced collapses, the dotcom crash was thorough.
Some time around the middle of the last decade, Japan’s population began to shrink. The disappearing act has continued unabated: at the present rate of decline, this remarkable mono-cultural race will have all but become extinct within a hundred years. Worth a visit then, while stocks last: so I gratefully accepted an invitation from the business association known as Keidanren (like the CBI, only with influence).