The pipes are calling: confessions of a pipe-smoker

This morning, like so many other mornings, I spent at least half an hour, over coffee, staring at online pictures of pipes. This does not make me an aspiring plumber, or someone with a fetish for u-bends or draining units. I’m talking about briar pipes, tobacco pipes: for though I know I should quit the habit, I’m one of the dwindling band of pipe-smokers in the world. This isn’t an aesthetic choice, nor an activity I undertake outside the house. No one is more attractive with a 150mm briar-wood appendage sticking out of their mouths – apart possibly from Sherlock Holmes, Tony Benn or Gunther Grass, and I don’t want

Should we blame our ancestors for slavery when we’re equally culpable?

The premise of White Debt is that the author’s ancestors ran a business selling a product grown by slaves. Therefore he wants to investigate Britain’s role in slavery — which is a rather odd framing, since his family’s tobacco firm wasn’t started until decades after slavery in British colonies was abolished. But Thomas Harding apparently only recently learned that slavery happened in the British Empire. He goes as far as to ask: ‘How could I not have known this?’ Well, truly, I don’t know. I don’t recall the time when I wasn’t aware that slavery was the reason that people of African descent live in the Caribbean today. Some of