Alexei Navalny, the de facto leader of the demonstrators who thronged freezing Moscow on Christmas Eve, minces no words. On rospil.info, a website he founded that is dedicated to the investigation of local and municipal corruption, he introduces the topic like this: ‘Why is all of this necessary? Because pensioners, doctors and teachers are practically starving while the thieves in power buy ever more villas, yachts, and the devil knows what else.
It’s not easy seeing the Masai Mara on horseback, says Charles Moore – but it’s also impossible to forgetOn the third day, we left our original camp to ride 30 miles to the next. There were 15 of us, including our leader Tristan Voorspuy and two Masai grooms. We had all gathered for a moment in a salt-lick when a dik-dik, one of the smallest of the African antelopes, shot out from a bush under our feet.
At the height of empire, Britain used to send missionaries out to Africa and Asia to instruct the natives in personal hygiene, instil good table manners and preach the gospel. The occasional unlucky one found himself in a cannibal’s pot for his trouble; but mostly they won out, establishing themselves as the kindly, civilising arm of imperialism, founding schools and clinics, and converting the heathen.
The high-speed rail link will spell disaster for the countryside – and for CameronMy outing with the Bicester hunt has already taken me over a five-bar iron gate when a lady on a handsome dapple grey pulls up alongside me. ‘You’re visiting, aren’t you?’ she says, as our horses snort and stamp. ‘You need to know that the next bit is called the black run.’ Seconds later we are hurtling through a fine, rainy mist over hedge after hedge.
Director Phyllida Lloyd on Meryl Streep’s eerily accurate portrayal of the Iron LadyMaybe she’s lost interest. Perhaps she’s just knackered. Almost certainly she’s had a bellyful of listening to herself talking about her film, The Iron Lady. When I meet Phyllida Lloyd, who also directed the 2008 smash hit, Mamma Mia, I’m expecting to find the sparkling quintessence of Hellenic romance and frivolity.
Can the President really pose as the ‘fair shake’ candidate?Barack Obama knows that, after three unsuccessful years as president, he cannot again sell himself to the electorate as a messiah who brings hope and change. The hope that accompanied his election vanished as the American economy continued to sink. Little has changed. But the unpopularity of the Republicans — widely seen, even among conservatives, as America’s nasty party — has given Obama an opportunity to re-invent himself for re-election in 2012.
Alaska is best seen by ship, says Patrick Allitt – just so long as you choose the right seasonFor two thirds of every year Alaska is a nightmare of ice and darkness. For 16 or 17 weeks, by contrast, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, and anyone who can find a way to get there should seize the opportunity. John Muir, the pioneering American environmentalist, cautioned young people not to see it too early in their lives because ‘the scenery of Alaska is so much grander than anything else of its kind in the world that, once beheld, all other scenery becomes flat and insipid’.
When I was just starting out on the slopes, a slip of a boy with nothing but training skis and a dream, there were a number of issues I wish someone had warned me about: 1. Don’t let your mother kit you out
The piste is really just a massive catwalk. I look all right these days, but I had to learn the hard way: skiing on a hot day in a puffy bright yellow onesy, goggles and a crash helmet is apt to cause scoffing from overhead chairlifts.
A friend of mine called Mike Peyton had what he modestly describes in his memoirs as an ‘average war’. It included having his battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers overrun and wiped out in the Western Desert; nearly starving to death in an Italian POW camp; witnessing the bombing of Dresden; escaping from his camp to fight for several months with the Soviet army, personally killing many Germans.
Who would have thought that a pig and an elephant would become best friends? ‘When we began looking after Kimba, an orphaned elephant, she took an instant liking to Whisky, our pig,’ says James Varden, my guide. ‘Elephants are social animals, so they slept together. Whisky was extremely protective of Kimba and panicked if she was not there.’I last came to Zimbabwe in the 1990s when tourism was blooming — so I’m interested to see what Mugabe has done to his country.
How was it for you? Christmas, I mean. Was it a week of joy and revelry? Or was it, like mine, a rather miserable few days of pretending not to be bored stiff? The solution may be to take a year off — take a cruise: somewhere that matches the character of the season. There is no place on earth more beautiful than the banks of the Danube in December. Fire scorches the mantelpieces of ancient schlosses, snow covers the forests, the lights glimmer in the waters below Budapest, and songs resonate around the drinking halls of Salzburg.