How dangerous is it to fly by helicopter?

Crime without borders How many nations are signed up to the International Criminal Court? – 124 signed the Rome Statute in 1998 and ratified it. – 31 have signed it but never ratified it (includes Iran, Thailand, Ukraine). – 2 (Philippines, Burundi) ratified it but have subsequently withdrawn. – 4 signed the statute, never ratified it and have since withdrawn (US, Russia, Israel and Sudan). – 41 have never signed (including China, India, Turkey).  Chopper cropper How dangerous is it to fly by helicopter as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft? It is hard to find comparable global statistics, but the National Transport Safety Board keeps figures for the US: – In

The perils of Prague: Parasol Against the Axe, by Helen Oyeyemi, reviewed

An informal survey of friends, family, acquaintances and previous reviews suggests that the word most usually associated with Helen Oyeyemi’s fiction is ‘weird’. The author of eight novels has hardly shied away from unconventional storytelling, with books about everything from Brexit-through-biscuits (Gingerbread, 2019) to magical trains and a pet mongoose (Peaces, 2021). Her style is one of high and low: song lyrics jumbled up with references to medieval literature; nods to Shakespeare next to 1980s films. The result is either lauded – Oyeyemi was on the 2013 Granta list of best young novelists and her short story collection won a PEN award – or hated. In a TLS review, the

How Monte Carlo went to hell

I now find resorts more fun out of season. Civilised tourists are as rare as an intelligent Hollywood movie, so local talent will do nicely, and to hell with the vulgar jet set. Gstaad is perfect in June and July, March and April, as are St Moritz, the Ionian Islands, and Patmos, my next destination. Once upon a time the French Riviera was a must, but now it’s a sweaty hellhole, a shabby place for not so sunny people. Although I spent my youth on the Riviera, I was two going on three in 1939, the time I would have chosen to be an adult had I been given the

Scotland is open – and desperate for English tourists

When I told my friends I was heading to the Outer Hebrides on holiday — escaping from London as soon as it was legal to do so — I thought they might be envious. Instead, a few were worried for my safety. ‘Just don’t say you’re from England,’ suggested one. Another encouraged me to ‘lay low’ with my fiancé when boarding the three-hour ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway. Dangerous times, they seemed to think, for anyone down south to head to the Highlands and islands. I initially brushed off these concerns as confusion over Covid restrictions. Travel rules have changed so many times over the last year — not just

Mother Nature is giving us her middle finger

Gstaad I have never experienced such a long, continuous blizzard, and I’ve been coming here for 63 years. The ski lifts are closed, as are the hotels, and it’s been coming down for a week non-stop. My Portuguese handyman Fernando now lives on his snow plough, clearing the private road that leads to the house, as useless a task as trying to bail out the Titanic. By now I should be in London, enjoying my new rented house in Glebe Place. Instead I’m housebound and snowed in, a modern Prisoner of Zenda without the Ruritanian uniforms. My only worries are the possibility of an avalanche, and my son’s insistence that

I found a confused elderly man in my bedroom

There are several cave houses built into the cliff. Ours is the highest and can be reached only by a precipitous footpath with a lot of puffing and panting. The postbox is at the foot of the path, but occasionally the postman carries up something or other that needs to be signed for. When you go to the door to answer his knock, you find him doubled over, his hands on his knees, pouring with sweat, gasping pitifully, unable to speak. Guests likewise. The path up to the house is a public footpath that is part of a tourist trail called ‘Visit the Grottos’. One pays €2 at the tourist

An elegy for Vienna

Vienna Somebody once described Vienna as a top opera performed by understudies. The remark was unquestionably witty, but utterly false when it was made. It is perfectly true today, however. During the 650-year rule of the Habsburgs, Vienna reigned supreme, an opera sung by its greatest stars. It is the present-day Vienna, which has lost its empire, its imperial family and its power, that is sung by the understudies. I’ve just spent three days there, in Harry Lime time. Okay, close your eyes and imagine the Grand Canal with just a few gondolas and no behemoth floating horrors, the Bridge of Sighs without the crowds of visiting Chinese beneath it,