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Is Boris Johnson turning into the thinking man’s Donald Trump? Just like the Donald, he’s got funny hair, charisma, and an appetite for women. He may not be as rich as Trump — although we were all impressed by his latest contribution to the Exchequer — but he makes up for that by having a much bigger vocabulary.
There was a breathtakingly beautiful BBC series on the Great Barrier Reef recently which my son pronounced himself almost too depressed to watch. ‘What’s the point?’ said Boy. ‘By the time I get to Australia to see it the whole bloody lot will have dissolved.’
The menace Boy was describing is ‘ocean acidification’. It’s no wonder he should find it worrying, for it has been assiduously promoted by environmentalists for more than a decade now as ‘global warming’s evil twin’.
Algy Cluff is the longest-serving oilman in the North Sea. He was one of the first to drill for oil there, in 1972, and at the last government handout of drilling licences, two years ago, there he was again, making a handsome gas discovery.
Now 76, he’s also the least likely oilman you can imagine. Tall, rangy, dressed in Savile Row pinstripes; he is no J.R. Ewing. His diffident, patrician voice is so gentle that I have to turn my tape recorder up to transcribe this interview.
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Who can forget the terrible climax of Howards End, when Leonard Bast is killed by a deluge of books? Death by books holds a horrible irony for poor Bast, as he had thought they were his salvation, seeking to escape ‘the abyss’ of poverty by reading Ruskin in the evening and trying to impress the middle-class Schlegel sisters by listing his favourite titles.
On 26 October last year, the Spanish government shut up shop in preparation for a general election. This duly took place in December but then a strange thing happened: after all the build-up, the arguments, the posters and the television coverage, the result was… nothing. The various parties were so balanced, so mutually distrustful and ill-assorted that no government could be formed. Since last October, therefore, there has been no government in Spain.
This is only interesting, well a bit interesting, because the poor man died last Thursday and for a few short days almost anything with the word Prince in it stands a chance of getting some traction. So forgive me if this feels a bit rushed. And opportunist. And exploitative. And attention-seeking. It’s all of those things because I’m cashing in. Obviously. If you want nothing more to do it with it, I can only applaud you.
Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Highway 61 crosses 49 and Robert Johnson met the Devil, who taught him the secret of the blues. Out of the blues came Elvis, rock and roll, most of today’s popular music. My wife Linda was born here when Clarksdale was ‘the golden buckle of the Cotton Belt’. At the height of its prosperity the Delta was a magnet for both capital and labour. The labour had names like Muddy Waters, Son House, John Lee Hooker.
A year or so ago, I inherited a cardboard box filled with plants. It was an offshoot from an enormous collection that belonged to a young botanist from Stockwell. He was about to be turfed out of the derelict building he lived in and hundreds of plants were being spread across London. I offered to rehome a few.
My only outdoor space is a window box, so most of the plants had to face life indoors. Some were happy; others withered.