The backlash has been brutal, unforgiving and, in common with the left’s reactions to so many things, almost hysterical in its hot-blooded fury. My crime? Starbucks shares? Casual racism? Advocating military action in North Korea? No, I have just bought a puppy, a pedigree puppy — and not just any pedigree, but an aristocratic-looking Cavalier King Charles spaniel — the apotheosis of canine privilege.
On Tuesday morning, an 85-year-old man was forced to his knees while his throat was slit by Islamic fanatics. The murder of Father Jacques Hamel in the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, has been recognised by western public opinion as an act of unspeakable barbarity. One could say that the facts speak for themselves. But for Catholics, this atrocity possesses a special horror.
Father Hamel was killed while re-enacting the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
How is your Merkelsommer going? For now, Britain seems to be missing the worst. True, a couple of men of Middle Eastern appearance tried to abduct a soldier near his base in Norfolk for what was unlikely to have been an interfaith dialogue session. But Britain’s geographical good fortune, relative success in limiting weapons and our justified scepticism of the undiscriminating ‘open borders’ brigade mean that we have so far been spared the delights of what Angela Merkel’s growing army of critics refer to as her summer of terror.
Spy novels and James Bond movies; post-war Vienna and East Berlin; Manchurian candidates and Third Men. The pop culture of the Cold War era created a set of stereotypes about hostile foreign intelligence services, especially Russian intelligence services, and they still exist. We still imagine undercover agents, dead drops, messages left under park benches, microphones inside fountain pens.
It’s time to forget all of that, because the signature Russian intelligence operation of the future, and indeed of the present, is not going to unfold in secret, but rather in public.
At the start of the 21st century, no one felt the need to reach for studies of ‘third-period’ communism to understand British and American politics. By 2016, I would say that they have become essential.
Admittedly, connoisseurs of the communist movement’s crimes have always thought that 1928 was a vintage year. The Soviet Union had decided that the first period after the glorious Russian revolution of 1917 had been succeeded by a second period, when the West fought back.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever ITV or the BBC decides — the latter usually with charter renewal in the near or middle distance — that it needs to make some of that World-Class Drama it’s so proud of, its thoughts turn to regency frocks, scruffy urchins, pea-soupy London, agreeable country houses and the incessant clip-clop of hoof on cobble.
Classy costume drama — invariably based, for extra classiness, on classy fiction of the sort you might find in Penguin Classics — is one of our major exports.
The fact that we get sun when we expect hail and hail when we expect sun provides those of us who live in Britain with a handy subject to cover the most awkward of conversational lulls. The weather forms the backbone of our national discourse — perhaps because our own personal observations and doom-laden predictions are about as likely to be as accurate as the official forecasts.
Ariane Sherine and Lara Prendergast discuss why our weather forecasters just can't get it right:
To look on the sunny side for a moment, perhaps this should cheer us.
It was a mistake to tell us about the gelati-to-sightseeing ratio. This was the formula my father, his younger sister and brother came up with when being dragged round Italian churches as children. The ideal was 3:1, that is: three ice creams for each dreary chiesa. My grandparents thought it should be the other way around: three improving historic sights for every one ice cream.
Of course, once my brother and I knew about the gelati ratio — and what an astonishing thought it was that our father had once been young and had sat mutinous on the steps of the Parthenon — we knew not to be fobbed off with one lousy scoop of choc chip.