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When Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, was granted a sneak preview of the new PlayStation 4 at the BAFTA headquarters, his remarks will have resonated with men up and down the land.
“It’s very addictive,” he said. “I’d like to get one but I’m not sure how my wife would feel about it.” He later described himself as an “enthusiastic but quite useless gamer”. (Perhaps it’s the lack of practice.)
Now, I don’t mean to fuel the cliché. Many women are keen gamers, of course, and many men are not. But the paradigm of a husband secretly wishing he could be allowed free rein on the console, only to be thwarted by his no-nonsense wife, is one that will strike a chord in many households.
Including, to some extent, my own… Continue reading on the Telegraph website
“We now have a government who constantly have their Bullingdon Club membership held up to them and I think that, despite all the negative press about benighted entitlement, it still exists,” he said in an interview with the Radio Times.
“However democratic and egalitarian we kid ourselves into thinking society might be, I think that sense of entitlement operates as basically and viciously as it always did.”
But it is hard to take Mr Kinnear’s outrage seriously. You see, unlike Sir John, Mr Kinnear went to public school, followed by Balliol College, Oxford… Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Tucked out of sight between Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, hemmed in by the colourful Bangladeshi market on one side and Edgware Road on the other, lies a striking Art Deco factory. It is the sort of place that is easy to miss. But this is one of London’s many hidden treasures.
Built in 1920, it is one of the earliest all-concrete buildings in Britain, established to take advantage of the timber that was brought up the Thames to the nearby Paddington Basin. To begin with it was owned by Bovis Homes, in the days when entire houses were made by a single factory. Then the war came.
“Hitler began bombing the London docks, where the Palmer Tyre Company aeroworks were located,” says Sir Terry Farrell, one of Britain’s foremost architects, who designed such iconic buildings as Charing Cross Station and the MI6 headqurters, and who both lives and works in the old factory. “The Government requisitioned this place and moved the aeroworks here.”
The factory workers were given specifications for various pieces of machinery but they were never told their purpose. Nevertheless, says Sir Terry, they must have had a pretty good idea. The parts included braking systems, tyres, wheels and gun turrets. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
There can be no doubt about it: for a certain proportion of families in Britain, the only thing that maintains a façade of coherence is the fact that they manage to avoid spending time together. For them, Christmas ruins everything.
I’m not talking about those people, just so you know. Moving on.
Last week, a colleague of mine said that this year she was intending to go French. (She had interviewed a Frenchman, you see.)
Apparently, our Gallic cousins have an obscenely extended Christmas meal, in which each course can take an hour, a copious quantity of wine is knocked back, and the kids can come and go as they please.
Much better, she thought, than the high-octane burst of face-stuffing that defines a British Christmas meal, with the children being forced to sit up straight and eat their Brussels sprouts, poor dears.
Thus, my colleague is intending to abandon the formal British Christmas meal this year in favour of the more enlightened, Francophone approach.
To which I say: bah bloody humbug. There is just no point tinkering with Christmas. The festive period is fantastic, and I look forward to it every year. Without the awful aspects, it just wouldn’t be as good.
As Richard Nixon said: “Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” And he should know… Continue reading on the Telegraph website
In retrospect, the signs — at least some of them — were there. The three-storey council block on the Angell Town estate in Stockwell, south London, is tidy and well-kept, but neighbours say that the opaque net curtains were permanently drawn.
The balcony on the first floor appears to have been used for storage; an unkempt hedge screens the ground floor windows, preventing those living on either side from seeing who went in and out. Members of the local community say the estate is a friendly place to live.
Many of the blocks overlook each other, and people say they know everybody by face if not by name. But the residents of this particular house — a couple of Indian and Tanzanian origin, both aged 67, and three women aged 69, 57 and 30 — stood out because they were so reclusive.
“I thought the elderly couple were looking after the others, as if they were carers,” said a resident who did not want to be named. “But there was something strange about it all. The older couple were definitely the ones in charge. They were the dominant ones, you could tell that.”
A neighbour, who gave her name as Sophie, said she saw one of the women being pushed in a wheelchair by another member of the family three weeks ago.
This was the house from which, on Oct 25, three women escaped, after being held captive for 30 years in conditions of slavery.
They were not sexually abused, but the three were regularly beaten and subjected to profound emotional abuse. The youngest, a British citizen, is believed to be the daughter of the man of the house and has spent her entire life in captivity. The other two are Irish and Malaysian.
Following a succession of secret telephone conversations with the Irish woman, representatives of a small, Norwich-based charity called Freedom mounted a rescue attempt, supported by the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
“What about when Daddy gets annoyed?” said my wife, giving me a sidelong glance.
“What Daddy gets annoyed, he says f–.”
OK, OK, but is this a problem? Davina Wakelin, headteacher of Meeching Valley Primary School in Newhaven, East Sussex, seems to think so. In this month’s school newsletter, she wrote to parents asking them to mind their language when their children were present.
“You do hear the parents talking to each other and there are some parents who swear,” she wrote. “It can be carried through to children… It is unacceptable but we can’t blame children, they are just repeating what they have heard.”
Maybe it is time for a national debate. Have the days of squeamishness about bad language passed? Should people be allowed to talk how they like? Or should standards be maintained? Continue reading on the Telegraph website
I really didn’t want to like episode one of Backchat (BBC Three). My feeling was that we’d been fed too much hype already: that upstart Jack Whitehall and his grumpy father Michael. Their book, Him & Me; their countless joint interviews. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hadn’t even seen it, and I felt like I’d seen it all before.
But the programme was actually really funny. Barring the occasional rehashed joke, it was fresh and intelligent and, most of all, like an experiment that was just a hair’s breadth from going wrong. Which was all confected, of course. But which made, I’m reluctant to admit, compelling and entertaining viewing.
The interesting thing about it was that by rights the format shouldn’t have worked. You had Whitehall the younger behind a desk, University Challenge style, facing a sofa on which sat his guests (in this case the unlikely duo, Jeremy Paxman and the hardman cockney actor Danny Dyer). And on stage left you had Whitehall the elder, seated in a leather armchair and glowering over his spectacles.
As Jack conducted the interview, his father would occasionally butt in with sardonic remarks, and Jack would come over all embarrassed. Doesn’t sound very good, does it? But it was. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
That’s where Timeshift: A Day at the Zoo (BBC Four) started its retrospective of the relationship between the British and our zoos. And it was pretty beguiling.
From its origins in Victorian Britain – and the first “scientific zoological garden” in Regent’s Park – to Gerald Durrell’s zoo in Jersey, this nostalgic documentary charted our love affair with the zoo. Wonderfully, it paid special attention to extraordinary animals that have captured the nation’s affections: Jumbo the preternaturally enormous Victorian elephant, and Alfred the gorilla, who became a symbol of Bristol’s wartime spirit. When he died, a nation mourned.
Yes, Victorian zoos. What fun! By the time modern kids see a lion in real life, they’ve already been pumped full of so much CGI that it’s an anti-climax. And when they are taken to the aviary, the only thing they’re interested in is which of the birds are angry.
But when the Victorians saw an animal, they saw an animal. You know? Continue reading on the Telegraph website
He’s vastly overweight. He has been captured on camera making drunken death threats. He stands accused of using “racist language” in the workplace, has admitted smoking crack cocaine while in a “drunken stupor”, and more besides. He makes Godfrey Bloom look like a member of the PC brigade.
Yet Toronto loves him.
Yesterday, Rob Ford, the city’s scandal-ridden mayor, was politically castrated when councillors voted to drastically reduce his budget and confiscate his staff. His response was predictable enough: he yelled at members of the public and charged at opposition councillors, barging over an elderly lady (now that’s “bullish”).
Everybody has their own favourite Rob Ford quotation. My own has to be his comment on cyclists: “My heart bleeds for them when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”
Yet from a British perspective, the oddest aspect of the story is Toronto’s seemingly indomitable affection for its mayor. It is only now, after months of scandal, that public confidence in him is finally starting to dip, and not particularly sharply.
The reason for this reveals the sharp divisions within Canadian society. And while it would be simplistic to offer a like-for-like comparison between different countries, it seems certain that there are lessons here for Ukip… Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Yesterday, I met a chap called Matt Baxter. He’s an illustrator who runs his own design company and draws cartoons in the evenings and on weekends. The highlight of his working week, he told me, was drawing a comic strip for a children’s magazine called Phoenix. Apparently, this is the only comic available for children that is not connected to a television programme or commercial enterprise. The only one.
There are certain moments when it is driven home that the world has changed. This was certainly one of them. In my day – I was a sucker for comics – there was a plethora of the things in the newsagent’s each week. Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Topper; Commando, Roy of the Rovers; even something called Bog Paper (about which the less said the better).
Now, it seems, the medium has been comprehensively hijacked by big corporations who have taken children’s enthusiasm for this art form – and it is an art form – and turned it into an “income stream generator”, or some such gobbledegook. Sad.
I am not, I hasten to add, in any way squeamish about free market capitalism. There are many in Britain who seem to think that “profit” is a dirty word, and that “big business” is a byword for the devil incarnate. I am not one of them.
For these people are obviously wrong. In the fight between capitalism and communism, there has only been one winner. Is capitalism flawed? Yes, it is. Is it unfair at times? Of course. But there simply is no realistic alternative. The people who gripe against corporate Britain are doing so from the comfort of eternal opposition, whatever Russell Brand may say… Continue reading on the Telegraph website