Evening all! Actually not at all.

22nd October 2017 6

The other week there was a town meeting at which our local Police and Crime Commissioner spoke. First he explained what he did in return for his £100,000 a year, though I cannot now remember what exactly it was. Did he commission crime? This is a very important role, for what would the army of lawyers we have trained do … [Read on]

Turkish Delight

13th October 2017 1

Waiting for a flight in Istanbul Airport recently, two policemen with a large black muzzled Alsatian dog walked by at a distance of perhaps twenty yards. ‘That dog is useless,’ said a Turk in his mid-twenties sitting next to me. He spoke excellent American-accented English; his baseball cap was pointed backwards as a sign of his liberation. ‘If it had … [Read on]

Me in a Niqab

25th September 2017 3

You would not normally expect pointed social commentary in cartoon form in the Bahraini English-language daily newspaper, but I was pleasantly surprised to find precisely such a cartoon when, on a recent visit to that small kingdom, I opened the newspaper (the Gulf Daily News). A man at a funeral was taking a selfie with an idiotic smile on his … [Read on]

Pop while you Piss

12th September 2017 2

At Nîmes station, you pay 80 centimes to go to the lavatory (it recently went up from 70 centimes). What do you get for your money? The facilities have recently been refurbished. There is now an automated entrance machine, into which you pay your fee: though the supervising lady is still there, who seems mildly disapproving of the basic human … [Read on]

The Fulminating Niceness of Canada

27th August 2017 7

Recently invited to Canada to give a paper at a conference, I had to apply for a travel document on-line. When it came to gender (not sex, of course), I was given a choice of three possibilities: male, female or unspecified. I was outraged. Only three? Surely, if there is one thing we have learned in the last few months, … [Read on]

Into the Abyss

3rd July 2017 4

In so far as I have heroes, one of mine is the late Pierre Ryckmans, better-known as Simon Leys, the great Belgian sinologist who lived more than half of his life in Australia, and retired early from his chair at Sydney University because he said that universities had become mere degree-mills. As a colleague of mine put it with regard … [Read on]

Chancellor McDonnell; Murder will Out.

26th June 2017 7

The demagogic statement by the Shadow Chancellor, Mr McDonnell, that the residents of Grenfell Tower were murdered by political decisions, is proof  that he is unfit for public office. It was a grossly inflammatory, as well as erroneous, thing to say; no doubt he would defend it in his own mind as conducing to a Leninist heightening the contradictions. As … [Read on]

Sexual discrimination in the second hand book trade

21st June 2017 7

Ideological obsessions manifest themselves nowadays in all the nooks and crannies of intellectual life. The other day, for example, I received an antiquarian book catalogue through the post and enclosed was a bookmark advertising book fairs taking place in the near future. The bookmark also advertised the 30th Annual Conference on Book Trade History to be held at Stationers’ Hall … [Read on]

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