To Ultima Thule and Beyond

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, billions of miles from any Earthly celebrations, the New Horizons space probe swung by a small and extremely distant lump of ice and rock. It’s known to cataloguers as (486958) 2014 MU69, but the New Horizons team call it ‘Ultima Thule’ after the ancient expression for a place at the edge of the known world. More »

A ‘Country Life’ Cut-Up

Click on the image to see more

What is Corbyn thinking?

Jeremy Corbyn is getting a lot of stick just now – certainly on the anti-Brexit Facebook pages I subscribe to – for not coming out clearly in favour of a second referendum, and for Remain. The Guardian is especially critical: but when hasn’t it been, of this untidy bearded radical who flouts even liberal standards of political respectability? I have to say, a part of me is disappointed too. I’d have liked Labour to have taken more of a pro-European lead. But then I think again.

There are three reasons for suspending judgment on Corbyn until the whole sorry affair has worked itself out. More »

No Turtle Doves

The Christmas season technically begins on Christmas Day, not, as it may often seem, in mid-October. Christmastide – as the period is called in liturgical circles – lasts for twelve days, until 5 January, the night before the feast of Epiphany.

The origins of the Christmas carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ are not entirely clear, More »

Duet with the Bushes

During the flurry of George H.W. Bush’s death, funeral and canonisation, it was impossible to escape the photograph of George and Barbara Bush at their house in Maine, in their PJs, sitting up in bed surrounded by a mob of grandchildren. First published in 1987 in Life magazine, it’s a candid shot meant to show that, in their homey, comfy setting, the vice-president and his wife were just regular folks: doting grandparents, game for anything, unfazed at being awakened early (reportedly, 6 a.m.; ‘Poppy’ does look a tad dazed) by an invasion of grandkids, stuffed animals, and – oh! hi there! come on in! – a photographer.

Behind the vice-presidential bed is a reassuringly messy bookcase, stuffed not only with photos, a clock, coffee mugs and various doodads and tchotchkes, but actual books. My fifth novel, Duet, is at the top of a stack of them, just above the veep’s head. More »

Travel Restrictions

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a union territory of India, are a group of more than five hundred rainforest islands in the Indian Ocean, closer to Bangkok than Calcutta. Some of the first settlers came to the islands in 1858 when the British Indian government built a penal colony to imprison the rebels of the Sepoy Mutiny; another wave arrived in 1947 after Partition. The indigenous people are the descendants of hunter-gatherers who came to the islands about 55,000 years ago. Only four tribes survive on the Andaman Islands, with populations numbered in the dozens or low hundreds.

John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old American from Vancouver, Washington, went to North Sentinel Island last month. More »

Disrupting an Aerodrome

The Stansted 15 – non-violent protesters who stopped an aircraft taking off with deportees to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone in March 2017 – have joined the ranks of highly motivated people willing to risk jail to stop a perceived injustice. The passengers on the flight included deportees who were subject to the Home Office’s then policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’, which the Supreme Court later ruled to be unlawful. The 15 got through the airport fence and blocked the path of the plane, causing the flight to be cancelled. Some of the deportees subsequently won the right to remain the UK. The 15 were found guilty under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 of ‘disrup[ting] the services of … an aerodrome, in such a way as to endanger or be likely to endanger the safe operation of the aerodrome or the safety of persons at the aerodrome’. They are awaiting sentence. The maximum is life imprisonment, but the question for the court is likely to be whether to give them a prison sentence at all. More »

At ‘Guantánamo North’

It is March 2005. I am nine years old and my father has just been arrested for a crime he did not commit. He had volunteered at various charities that provided relief for civilians in war-torn Bosnia and Chechnya. He collected, sorted and sent food, medicine and clothing. The government says he sent those supplies to aid the enemy. He is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. More »

A Singular Disappointment

The two most famous graduates of the Horace Mann School for Boys, class of ’67, were Barry Scheck, of O.J. Simpson ‘dream team’ fame, a lawyer who became expert in the use of DNA evidence in criminal defence cases, and William P. Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general. He previously held the post under the late George H.W. Bush.

Barry and Bill at the age of 14 were almost entirely recognisable as the adults one reads about or watches on TV. Both boys, so far as I remember, entered Horace Mann in the ninth grade, as a handful were allowed to do. Most of us started in grade seven. We all were required to wear ties and sports coats and proper trousers. I remember Barry in a tweed jacket, a small-ish boy, my size, carrying around an outsize and packed-to-bursting briefcase. He was very determined, and academically aggressive.

Bill was then, as now, a pleasant-faced, pillowy-looking boy. More »

In the Fog of the Real

As the gilet jaune revolt moves forward and another destructive showdown looks imminent tomorrow in Paris, the government – and the president – have opted for the lesser of two contradictions. The greater: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you set aside progressive fiscal policy and tax rich and poor at the same rate, putting social justice – a grand French aspiration – in parenthesis. That didn’t work. The lesser: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you get alongside low earners and help them through a difficult transition, even though the climate jeopardy of clapped-out diesel UVs is absurdly obvious. But that hasn’t worked either. More »

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • Simon Wood on The Little Island that Could: Four powerful paras, Stu. I hadn't seen the Kundera letter and I have to say I giggled at the signatories - this was truly la crème de la crème. But...
    • Stu Bry on The Little Island that Could: The idea that Brexit is a parochial folly is very naive. It is part of the same discontent that drove Scottish independence close to a majority, that ...
    • Joe Morison on The Little Island that Could: It’s certainly looking more likely, but it’s not over till it’s over. Corbyn appears to be going to May’s aid; but, perhaps, as Steve Bell su...
    • mauisurfer on The Little Island that Could: Here is what Putin actually said about Brexit when he was asked at his annual news conference: quote let them decide this for themselves, this is no...
    • Rod Miller on Where are the protesters?: There's a happy medium somewhere between mediaeval serfdom and bling-worshipping, overpopulated, climate-busting, mass-extinction-summoning overindulg...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement
Advertisement