Are we entering an unknowable future?

Neither of the UK’s main political parties is saying anything especially interesting about education. In an economy chronically short of skills – more than ten million people lack the skills they need to do their jobs effectively – that’s odd. The education cupboard is not entirely bare. Last week saw the latest instalment of the

I’m a tourist in my own town

‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,’ groans a weary Al Pacino in The Godfather III. This is what it feels like being in/out (I’m not sure which) of the Sex Pistols. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle has filmed a six-part drama about the life and crimes of my childhood buddy

Why I gave up writing fiction

When, three years ago, I announced my retirement from writing fiction, the only thing that surprised me was the surprise it generated. I had long come to the somewhat un-arty view that writing was a job like any other (well, almost) and that nudging 80 was a good time to step back and consider a

The challenges of being an England supporter in Italy

Dante’s Beach, Ravenna My fiery Italian wife Carla is not just a passionate patriot but also a devout Catholic, and so with perfidious Albion looking good and leading gli azzurri one-nil she disappeared to wash her hair and pray to the Madonna. The next day, when the dust had settled, I asked her why. ‘I

The Prince Harryfication of Boris Johnson

The acting one sees upon the stage doesn’t show how human beings actually comport themselves in crises, but simply how actors think they ought to. It is the same with politicians, but they are not actors, only a sort of reductio ad absurdum of a thespian. Their profession bears the same relation to proper acting

How will Carrie cope with the hideousness of Chequers?

Zut alors! The court of King Boris gets more like Versailles each day. With some talcum powder on that ramshackle hair, the Prime Minister would be the image of Louis le Something after a night on the Tuileries. His government, meanwhile, totters towards the tumbrils. Le Marquis d’Ancock, Comte de Raab and Le Petit-Maître Gove

After London lockdown, LA is like Disneyland

When I arrived a month ago, one wouldn’t believe LA was suffering a major pandemic. The roads were still busy with fast cars, the freeways choked when we ventured on to them, all vehicles seeming to be dodgem cars, zooming across the lanes with ferocious abandon. There was a major accident recently in front of

The joy and suffering of writing a book

Spring is coming. There was snow in the garden till last week, here in Canada, where I have been spending this strange winter. But today the sky is shining blue and the sunshine is soft and warm. I guess this is what Easter is really about. Rebirth. I have spent months without going farther than

Will the Tokyo Olympics go ahead?

Tokyo This week was the tenth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the country. It, along with the tsunami it triggered, claimed an estimated 19,000 lives. I was walking in the Shibuya district of Tokyo when the quake knocked me off my feet. I recall being first

Here in Texas, Hell has frozen over

Austin ‘If I owned Texas and Hell,’ General Phil Sheridan famously said, ‘I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.’ Although the weather was unusually warm for the season in central Texas we guessed something was up when, in broad daylight with hawks about, our normally crepuscular attic mice risked running down a porch

John le Carré’s wild MI6 Christmas parties

In the middle of December, for reasons I’m coming to, I woke early in a posh hotel. I lay semi-dozing while my partner, Jo, was in the shower, and eventually worked out how to tune the bedside radio, an internet device, to Radio 4. The six o’clock pips sounded as a bathrobed Jo emerged, earbuds

My taste of lockdown freedom on the Camino pilgrimage

A few of the hip young things sitting along the Lisbon quayside turned their heads my way as my walking sticks scraped along the pavement. I didn’t slow down, though, because I was self-conscious about how I looked. Hiking 2,000km along an extended Camino pilgrimage from the French-Spanish border through northern Spain then down through

Cressida Bonas: My perfectly imperfect lockdown wedding

I had a lockdown wedding. A 30-person, socially-distanced, sanitised church service was organised in under two weeks. Restrictions meant no hymns, no wind instruments and no speaking too loudly. A disappointment for a musical family. Not what we’d envisaged, but a more intimate and special day than we could ever have imagined. Imperfect yet perfect

Joan Collins: The politics of Christmas trees

To say that the past nine months have been tough is like saying a hurricane felt like a spring shower. For many people it must have been utter hell, particularly those who own hospitality businesses. I simply cannot imagine how they could plan and manage ahead when our government refused to give anyone a clue

Quentin Letts: The unstoppable rise of June Sarpong

Eton’s free-speech rumpus must surely become a David Hare play, Goodbye Mr Had-Yer-Chips, starring Jeremy Irons as the headmaster and Maxine Peake as the staff member who sneaks on the English beak teaching non-feminist critical thought. Like most attempts at suppression, Eton’s will be counter-productive. Teenage boys adore political martyrdom. Eton’s top man, Simon Henderson,

The rotten legacy of communism in Albania

Our heavily laden taxi turned off the main highway from Tirana and started to negotiate the rough, one-track road. The road wound its way around the edges of the mountains until we reached the ruins of Spaç prison, once a slave labour camp in the communist era of Albania. Two three-storey buildings housed the large