It’s six degrees in the water at Rhossili Bay, Wales, today. The air temperature’s even lower. But the locals who live beside this brown, windswept strip of British sand are basking, not in sunshine, but in the glory of being named one of the world’s top 10 beaches.
Travel website Tripadvisor.com last week released a list of the world’s top 10 beaches. It included one Australian beach, Queensland’s Whitehaven, as well as the Welsh beach just mentioned. A Sicilian beach was Numero Uno.
That got me thinking. Can a Welsh beach really be that good? Short of hopping on a plane, there was only one way to find out: ring Wales.
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As New Year’s resolutions go, “reclaiming” a cluster of islands you forgot to stick a flag in 180 years ago is certainly up there. Especially if you’ve been trying and failing miserably for 30 years. After you lost a war for it.
I’m writing from the alleged capital of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), Ushuaia on Argentina’s mainland, where it’s blatantly obvious that the Argentinians are like an obsessive ex-boyfriend who thinks an intervention order means there’s still hope.
This week, the Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner celebrated the 180 year anniversary of British rule with an open tirade at British Prime Minister David Cameron and advertisements in the British press, lobbying for the islands to be handed back to Argentina.
In trying to identify the causes of the London riots, we could start by reflecting on the comments from former Greater London Council police advisor Lee Jasper in analysing the mindset of the youths on the streets.
In a finger-pointing monologue on The 7.30 Report on Tuesday, Mr Jasper argued that the one group of people who should definitely not be blamed for the riots were the rioters themselves.
“We’ve seen huge levels of austerity cuts in many inner city areas that are leading to a great deal of anxiety and concern,” stated the one-time advisor to former London Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone. “Unemployment continues to rise and there is a sense of anxiety but also a sense of moral crisis in the country. I think because of the MPs scandal, the corporate tax dodging issue of huge multinational companies, the News International corruption cases with the metropolitan police and phone hacking, there is a kind of failure really of people in power to uphold the kind of moral standards that we all aspire to. And as such, this has had an effect around the country.”
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As one of Australia’s pre-eminent forelock-tuggers for the royal family, there was something faintly hilarious in hearing Tony Abbott firing up about the cultural cringe over the weekend.
It’s a term which dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, lamenting the drift of talented young Australians to emigrate and work in the UK in the belief there was something culturally and intellectually superior about the Old Country.
With the revelation that Britain’s conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had written to Julia Gillard applauding her “bold step” of putting a price on carbon, Abbott came over all republican, saying the Poms could do what they liked and Labor should stop kowtowing to the motherland.
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‘As a result of industrial action this exit is closed.’ The unwelcome tiding is stuck across two massive doors in King’s Cross underground station with what appears to be yellow-and-black crime scene tape. It is not what London’s put-upon commuters want to see.
It is the first week of December and a freezing London is enduring its fourth tube strike in three months, as unions fight plans to cut jobs. Students have staged rallies and campus occupations to protest planned university tuition fee increases. The police have taken to holding protesters in cordoned-off areas for hours on end. This being Britain, the tactic is called ‘kettling’.
And cuts to the defense budget mean Britain’s flagship aircraft carrier will be axed, together with the fighter jets that took off from it. But Britain will be allowed to use a French aircraft carrier, in a deal one commentator dubbed the ‘entente frugale’. The French vessel in question – the Charles de Gaulle – recently broke down.
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The victory speech is probably the easiest of any politician’s career. The fight’s over. All you need to is be gracious and deliver some - let’s face it - platitudes, such as: “Now it’s time to go forward, together.” As opposed to backwards, separately.
So it was as Conservative leader David Cameron, Britain’s new Prime Minister, stood outside 10 Downing Street overnight and delivered his victory speech. “And I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our really big challenges, to confront our problems, to take difficult decisions, to lead people through those difficult decisions, so that together we can reach better times ahead,” he said.
As opposed to not facing the challenges, and taking easy decisions, so that as a rabble we can wind up in a total dystopia. The full text of Cameron’s speech is below, and you can read about it here and here. But can you improve on the victory speech? What should politicians say when they win? What’s really on their minds? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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More than eighty years separate the publication of Evelyn Waugh’s first novel and the Tory campaign for government in the British election, but the two are oddly connected.
The narrative spring that sets ‘Decline and Fall’ in motion is the expulsion from Oxford of its hapless hero, Paul Pennyfeather; and the reason he’s expelled is an act of bullying by the members of something called the Bollinger Club.
They “debag” him (pull down his trousers and pants) and force him to run around the quadrangle. He’s caught, ‘sent down’ as they say at Oxford, and left with no choice but to take a low paying job teaching at a seedy prep school, where his humilations grow steadily worse.
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Welcome to Wednesday @ The Punch
Today in 1990 Britain and France are linked for the first time when the wall of rock separating the Channel Tunnel is removed.
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The arrival of summer brings with it the social season in Britain. During the heyday of the aristocracy, the midsummer would see “well-bred” girls make their grand entry into society. At lavish balls, witty and fine-eyed Lizzys would meet their Mister Darcys. Plain Janes without suitors would be left to contemplate their future as spinsters or governesses.
Things have, of course, changed. But for the most part, the Season remains, and is accompanied by just as much genteel anticipation as it would have been during Georgian and Victorian times. The Wimbledon tennis, the Henley Royal Regatta, the Cartier International Polo are all regarded in some circles as events at which one must be seen. Late last week, I headed to what many now consider to be the opening round of the Season: the races at Royal Ascot.
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There’s nothing quite like the British press when they smell blood. When a star’s foibles move from bite-size skitty spreads in the tabloids to full-on denunciations in the broadsheets, it’s only a matter of time before the sackcloth and ashes come out. Gordon Ramsay apologised this morning - through a spokesman - for calling Tracy Grimshaw a pig.
Yesterday he was belligerent, talking about lawyers, and angry at Grimshaw for bringing up his wife when she denounced him on Monday. (That clip on YouTube has become a minor sensation and you can see last night’s follow-up here.) But Ramsay has copped a bucketing over the past 24 hours, with a columnist in London’s Daily Telegraph declaring she’s convinced he “has a death wish” and that he’s “blown it – certainly as far as female fans are concerned”. It ran on the home page of the Daily Mail website - right beside the latest coverage of the political crisis that is threatening to up-end public life in Britain:
More highlights from the global coverage below, including video of some of Ramsay’s actual comments on stage in Melbourne. (Winner for most obscure angle of the Ramsay stories around today goes to this post, which somehow manages to link the Ramsay incident to LG and the Cronulla Sharks.)
But where does this leave Ramsay now? Share your verdict in the comments.
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