Hay festival

Wayne Rooney, the war buff

I blame Thierry Henry and I never blame Thierry for anything. He’s funny, charming and was a majestic footballer. But it was his outrageous handball assist for a France goal against the Republic of Ireland in 2009 that ushered in VAR – Video Assistant Referee – technology to rescue on-field refs from ‘clear and obvious’ errors. VAR was meant to end debates over refereeing decisions. Yet this form of VAR, usually a man in a ref’s outfit sitting behind a bank of screens in an industrial unit near Heathrow, has caused carnage in the Premier League. Some decisions take five minutes while fans chant obscenities. Football’s many Luddites blame the

Off the books: there’s more to Hay-on-Wye than the literary festival

Chances are you will have heard of Hay-on-Wye. You might even have been. It’s the town on the Anglo-Welsh border where more than 30 years ago a man called Peter Florence began what has become the world’s most famous literary festival. Now some 200,000 people descend on the place each May and June, and for 11 days it feels like the centre of the literary universe, with hordes carrying tote bags traipsing hither and thither and pubs and restaurants overflowing like Venice in high summer. If that’s what floats your boat, then get stuck in. But for my money, Hay is worthy of a visit in its own right –

Let’s not forget all the decent cops out there

One victim of police brutality is police decency. Our son has a tutor, J., who works with autistic kids in our corner of West Cork. After lockdown began, she was no longer able to work with her students, one of whom had a birthday coming up in March. The boy lives in Bandon, 15 miles away, so J. phoned our local garda station to ask for permission to drive beyond the lockdown radius to deliver a small gift and card. The garda on duty gave her a polite no, as birthdays weren’t on the list of exemptions. Fair enough. Twenty minutes later, the sergeant called J. back. He had to