Observatory

Only If You’re Having One

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If the British are so obsessed with tea, why are there no hip teashops, only coffee bars? All sorts of theories abound. Coffees can be fancified with complex rituals, from the patterning of froth to the ordering of ‘soy decaf flat white with a side of hot milk and a twist’ variety. (I actually heard […]

The Great Game Reaches An End-Game

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When a group of deluded North Africans went on their Barcelona rampage, a friend of mine was working in her office nearby, and found herself trapped there. With no previous experience of such an event, she was profoundly shocked. Her reaction reminded me of the woman in the rubble of the Twin Towers beseeching; ‘Why […]

Blowing Up The Planet

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The deranged despots of North Korea and a mentally disturbed American president aren’t all we have to worry about; last week another Icelandic volcano threatened to detonate, surrendering us to a further three months of no-fly zones – luckily, it didn’t happen. But it reminded me about an earlier cataclysmic event in world history. In […]

Next Door? Mind Your Own Business!

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‘UK neighbourhoods are dying!’ cried this morning’s headline. Research in a new report commissioned by the social network Nextdoor, which aims to link people living in the same area, found that ’60 per cent of UK residents would not feel able to borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbours’. First, why would anyone borrow […]

Broadening The Mind

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It costs a lot of money to bring a body back from overseas. When my best friend died in France, we had to decide whether to ship him back or have him cremated on the spot. We opted for the latter option. Some of him was sprinkled from the back of a boat in Monte […]

Gender Fluidity: Not A Trend But A Cycle

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There’s an old joke that goes like this; Parents are having guests for dinner, including the local vicar, but their son won’t go to sleep. Their ecclesiastical guest offers to help and goes up to see the boy. When he comes down, all noise has ceased. ‘That’s marvellous,’ say the parents. ‘Whatever did you do […]

Atomic!

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Something a little less London-centric today. So much has been written about the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos and the creation of ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ that you’d be forgiven for imagining there was little more to explore, but some extraordinary information was declassified by NASA telling the story of Project Orion. America in the […]

Acting Your Age

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One of the UK’s leading social scientists has suggested that people should not be called old until they are seriously frail, dependent and approaching death. This is not because of any notion of political correctness, but because these days people in their 60s and possibly 70s and 80s can still be considered active adults, with many […]

The Curse Of The Bucket List

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Above, some visitors to Venice got the city and the lido confused, and presumably thought the city was a beach. Meanwhile, residents of the Orkney Islands, which has a population of around 20,000, will be joined by more than 120,000 visitors this summer. The influx is putting attractions such as Skara Brae, Europe’s best-preserved Neolithic […]

A Curmudgeon In Paris

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When you think of Paris you think of Danton, Marat and Robespierre, Victor Hugo and Japanese wedding photo-opportunities. Sadly now you also think of terrorist atrocities and desperate homeless migrant families. To hear a police siren is to become acutely aware of where you are, and there are few sights more heartbreaking than entire families living […]