Skiing is about being comfortable with your snowboard bindings and feeling the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you personally describe the contours of snow-covered mountains at extraordinary speed. It is the closest many of us come to flight
“Eh?” I said. I couldn’t believe it. The bus was winding up from Moutiers towards our ski resort, and one of the wives was giving me a sensational piece of news. It concerned the skiwear of two old friends. If she had told me they were going to be wearing padded bras and cami‑knickers, I could not have been more astonished.
I mean, I have known these people for decades. We have been skiing together for years, and I can testify that they are, in general, as brave as the next man. When the light is fading and the last lift is about to close, they are the kind of chaps who come to the edge of some vertical mogul‑field and shout “Man or mouse!” before hurling themselves into the icy void. When you are going up in a lift and you look beneath to see a couple of lunatics negotiating the virgin snow of some precipitous couloir, that’s them.
And that is where we are now – with other European countries wondering how to throw Greece a lifeline without being pulled under
“It was late last night and I was rifling through the sock drawers for euros to fund the annual half-term skiing. There were all sorts of useless coins – Uzbek som, Iraqi dinars, 2d bits – and there it was, like a sudden Proustian blast from our childhood. It was a 50-drachma piece, with Homer on one side and a boat on the other. It was dull and scuffed and technically as worthless as all the other coins in my hoard. But as I turned it over in my hand it seemed to glow like a pirate’s doubloon, radioactive with political meaning. This coin was more than just a memento of beach holidays when 50 drachmas was five ice creams. This was the history of Greece in the palm of my hand. When Socrates asked Crito to buy a cock and kill it for Asclepius; when Sappho bought her Lesbian girlfriend a Lydian hat; when his listeners rewarded old, blind Homer for chanting by the fire – how did they all pay?
“They paid in drachmas, a currency that served the people of Greece for at least 3,100 years, until they junked it for the euro. And the object I had in my hand, therefore, was a symbol of the economic freedom the Greeks gave away for the sake of national prestige. Continue reading The Greek Economy→
Downing Street has admitted “time is tight” to get laws for a referendum on scrapping Britain’s first past the post voting system through Parliament. Gordon Brown wants to replace it with “alternative vote,” where candidates are ranked in order of preference. The Prime Minister says this is a better way of choosing MPs but the Conservatives say the existing method is fair and “keeps extremists out”.
To continue Boris’s theme of voting methods here is a latest offering from Dungeekin who thinks we should have a little song in honour of the debate:
I remain convinced that the sublime instincts of the British people will cause them to make a decisive break with the past and vote for change. In fact, my money is still on a Tory majority of 40 seats or more
It seems I just can’t get away from him at the moment. They have the 24-hour news running in my outer office, and every time I come out for a breather – there he is. He’s churning the airwaves with his Polyfilla sound bites, all of them perfectly balanced, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand feats of meaningless mutual contradiction.
With his purple ties, his neat grey suits and his air of youthful earnestness he’s like some cut-price edition of David Cameron hastily knocked off by a Shanghai sweatshop to satisfy unexpected market demand. I open the papers to find him consulted daily, like some oracle, about every problem from the Taliban to babies crying in the night – and in both cases, incidentally, he adopts the classic Lib Dem position of simultaneously favouring intervention and leaving well alone.
It is not often that fate hands you what appears to be a total moral and political victory. But this one looked like a slam dunk. As some of the world’s most self-important people descended last week on the World Economic Forum in Davos, I was delighted to find myself on the same plane as Peter Mandelson, President of the Board of Trade, deputy prime minister and Lord High Everything Else.
I was thrilled, that is, because my colleague and I were travelling steerage, in keeping with the new spartan regime at City Hall. Mandy and his entourage, of course, were flying sharp end; and as we struggled on down the aisle they subjected us to a certain amount of jocular raillery. They would send us some food, they scoffed, and perhaps a glass of champagne.