Lloyds Bank has been fined a record £28 million for ‘serious failings’ in its ‘seriously flawed’ sales practices. Lloyds says it ‘recognises that its oversight of these particular schemes during the period in question was inadequate and apologises to its customers for the impact that they may have had.’
Last month, the bank wrote apologetically to its offshore customers to let them know that it would no longer be able to aid and abet them in their criminal activities. Of course it didn’t really say that. What it said was: More »
On 4 December, the University of London was granted an injunction from the High Court that prohibits ‘persons unknown (including students of the University of London) from ‘entering or remaining upon the campus and buildings of University of London for the purpose of occupational protest action’ for the next six months. Many such injunctions have been granted to universities across the country over the past four years, with increasing frequency and ever wider restrictions on student protest. In this case, the University of London argued that the occupation of Senate House threatened the liberty and freedom of senior university personnel, and presented a risk of damage to property, despite assurances from the occupiers that staff were free to come and go from the building and no such damage would occur. The eventual eviction of the occupiers was rough and violent. On 5 December, 35 students were arrested and several of them detained overnight. Some were assaulted by the police. More »
In her review of Monopolising the Master, Anne Diebel briefly mentioned my father, Michael Swan. In a 1955 piece for the London Magazine, he’d quoted liberally – and without permission – from James’s letters to the sculptor Hendrik Andersen. The letters were astonishingly candid and indiscreet, and loaded with exclamation marks. It’s also astonishing that the London Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, which reprinted the piece, weren’t sued by the estate. More »
At noon on 25 August 1968, eight men and women walked out onto Red Square and unfurled a banner: ‘For your and our freedom’. They were protesting against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia: eight people out of an empire of 250 million. Natalya Gorbanevskaya was the most famous and most controversial of them, because she took her baby with her. Afterwards she spent three years in punitive psychiatric wards, force-fed haloperidol. In 1975 she emigrated to Paris, where she died last Friday. The eight protesters were dissident heroes. ‘They cleansed our conscience,’ my parents told me.
Last week, Boris Johnson gave the third annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, organised by the Centre for Policy Studies. Most of the spluttering that followed has focused on what the Mayor of London is supposed to have said about the impossibility of equality, his remarks about IQ, and his comparions between people and cornflakes. More »
Nelson Mandela’s death, at the age of 95, comes as a relief. He should have been allowed the dignity of only dying once. In the past two years, in and out of hospital, he seldom recognised his wife Graça Machel, his former wife Winnie, his children or his old comrades from the ANC. What is more, since the end of his presidency in 1999, the ‘rainbow nation’ had been dying with him. More »
Jardin du Luxembourg (1895)
There are great tracts of space in Félix Vallotton’s paintings; they are not quite flat, but are built up from tiny feathered strokes in shades of the same colour: arsenic green walls and sofas like medicine phials in a chemist’s window. More »
‘The Subtleties of Organ Smuggling’, a short story by Serhiy Zhadan, is a series of interconnected sketches set on the EU-Ukraine border, where a rag-tag collection of pining lovers, gypsies and ageing prostitutes try to bluff their way over the Schengen line. As an awkward teenage Hungarian border cop searches through the contraband of Ukrainian women ‘smelling of life and vodka, talking in broken English and broken Russian’, he has to
take away their surplus alcohol, take away their electric shavers and chocolate, take away their explosives and hand-grenades, take away their copies of Hustler (for his boss), take away their methylated spirits, cocaine, aromatic sticks smelling of hash, herbal oils with heroin extract for Thai massages, haemorrhoid suppositories, glass jars full of gypsy women’s hair for wigs, fish and human blood in thermos flasks, frozen sperm in empty Kenzo perfume bottles, grey slices of human brain hidden in plastic bags with Russian salad, hot Ukrainian hearts folded into fresh Russian newspapers – all these objects they’re trying to smuggle over the border in their rucksacks, bright canvas hold-alls, fake-leather briefcases and laptop bags.
After a thirty-month campaign for sick pay, holidays and pensions on the same terms as directly employed staff, and a two-day strike last week, outsourced cleaning, security and maintenance staff at the University of London have won major concessions from their employer, Balfour Beatty Workplace. The agreement doesn’t give them the same rights as directly employed workers, and entitlements are dependent on length of service, but the changes are still significant. Instead of statutory sick pay, a cleaner who’s been in the job for six years could now be entitled to six months on full pay. ‘That’s extremely rare in the cleaning industry,’ according to Jason Moyer-Lee, the secretary of the University of London branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain. More »
Hannes Råstam’s Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer was translated into English earlier this year. We can highly recommend it for any fan of Nordic noir. Thomas Quick trumps any of Henning Mankell or Stieg Larsson’s villains, with more than thirty victims to his name: boys, girls, women, old men, blacks, whites; slaughtered all over Sweden and Norway (and one in Finland) between 1964 and the early 1990s, by knifing, clubbing, strangulation or suffocation; sometimes raped (both sexes); dismembered; and in one case cannibalised. He was tried for eight of the murders, and found guilty of all of them, serving his sentences in Säter psychiatric prison in Dalarna. He puts British ‘rippers’ in the shade. Except that he doesn’t. Because he almost certainly didn’t commit any of these crimes. He was formally pardoned for the last of them a few months ago.