The titanic

The power and the glory that was Belfast

What should we make of present-day Belfast and its compelling, fractious backstory? English visitors have long found the city invigorating, confusing or exasperating – often all three – but undeniably characterful. Philip Larkin, who lived there for five years in the 1950s, noted its ‘draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint/Archaic smell of dockland’ and found himself enjoying the ambiance: ‘the salt rebuff of speech/ insisting so on difference, made me welcome’. Not so Sir Reginald Maudling, on his first visit as home secretary amid the escalating sectarian insanity of 1970. He boarded the plane back to London with the words: ‘For God’s sake, bring me a large Scotch. What

Will quarantine for travellers become normal again?

It wasn’t a coincidence that the US government chose Ellis Island as an immigration station. The crucial word is ‘island’. Had the RMS Titanic missed that fateful iceberg in 1912, she would eventually have taken up station at a quarantine area at the entrance to the Lower Bay of New York Harbor, to await medical inspectors who would board the ship from a cutter. The quarantine exam would have been performed aboard, but only for first- or second-class passengers (US citizens were exempt). These would have been inspected for cholera, plague, smallpox, typhoid fever, yellow fever, scarlet fever, measles and diphtheria. A few might have been marked to be sent