The sad death of the pony ride

Pony rides were once a staple of every village, church and primary-school fête. A brusque, horsey mother would swing you up into the saddle, and the patient pony would trudge up and down while you clung to its mane, before it was the turn of the next child in the queue. No one ever plonked a hard hat on your head. There were certainly none of those restrictive body protectors that children are encased in now, bundled up like scarab beetles. These days, I am that horsey mother. When we moved to the country from London after the lockdowns, ponies were top of my shopping list – above a replacement

What I learned from being debanked

My own debanking story concerns a card rather than a bank account. Not the same degree of inconvenience as Nigel Farage, but a similarly telling insight into modern administrative culture. I feel awkward writing this, because in the 30 years I have used American Express, including an enjoyable decade when I also worked for the brand as a copywriter, few companies have impressed me more. They are unfailingly courteous and responsive. On many occasions, such as when arriving at an airport to discover I had to pay £4,000 for an unratified airline ticket, my card has been invaluable; I willingly follow their advice not to leave home without it. But

A Scotsman’s home is no longer his castle

If you suggest to an English politician that your home should be your castle to use as you like, he will probably nod. Tell that to a member of the SNP ruling class in Bruntsfield or Kelvingrove, however, and they will take any such view as a challenge to be overcome. A couple of years ago, following a public consultation answered by a whacking 122 respondents, the SNP quietly changed Scottish building regulations. The new rules allow the government at a future date to order every homeowner in Scotland to install smoke detectors and other safety devices of a type dictated by it, whether they liked it or not. That

Must we always be treated as infants by a monstrous regiment of scolds?

What an awful title. Something we hacks are forever saying (along with ‘Make mine a double’ and ‘Is it still plagiarism if I change the names and set it in Singapore rather than Sheffield?’) is: ‘WE DON’T WRITE THE HEADLINES.’ How much worse, then, when it’s a book, and such an excellent one to boot: a right robust romp of a read — short but perfectly formed essays on how everything from bats to Best Picture has been weaponised by the monstrous regiment of modern scolds. Of course, nagging is nothing new. Quentin Letts believes it came to this country with the Norman Conquest, remarking on ‘the centralised bureaucracy of

Will video-calling kill bureaucracy?

Having grown up in a family business, my earliest exposure to corporate life was often baffling. I remember the first time I presented some work in a client’s office 30 years ago. He suggested some small edits, and asked that they be enacted before he presented the work to his superior, who was called Dave. ‘I’ve got a window in Dave’s diary next Wednesday to present the work on up to him, so I’d like to have the changes made by then.’ Fair enough, I thought. Perhaps Dave was flying in from Chicago. Or maybe Dave was a highly elusive figure who only appeared in the building on Wednesdays during

Saying yes slowly is what’s hampering progress today

One of my long-held beliefs is that evolutionary biology should be taught extensively in schools. There may be some objections from religious fundamentalists, but these are silly. Evolution does not tell you anything about whether or not God exists; it simply proves that, if he does exist, he really hates top-down central planning. In any case, it would pay to teach evolution in schools even if evolution were not true — for the simple reason that by understanding evolutionary mechanisms, you are gifted with an entirely new way of looking at the world. In the words of the computer scientist Alan Kay: ‘a change in perspective is worth 80 IQ