Guests of the Godfather

I’m embarrassed. Not because I didn’t know. Of course I knew. I just didn’t know how much I didn’t know. If you’d asked me if everything that happens in this house was legitimate, I’d have hedged. I’d have told you that I’m just one of a few upstairs house guests, and we don’t get toContinue reading “Guests of the Godfather”

The revolution doesn’t want to succeed

Raoul was a revolutionary. He’d been fighting for almost ten years. That’s how old we all were. Almost ten. He arrived in my primary school class like a Molotov cocktail through the window of a bank. He made it clear that the rules of polite, bourgeois company were not for him. He swore. He smoked.Continue reading “The revolution doesn’t want to succeed”

We’ve already been hit

Two years ago, the killing started in earnest. Throughout the 2000s, the amorphous monster called “global terrorism” had been a creature of the shadows, stepping out into the world to kill and maim but then slipping away again. In 2013, however, it stepped out and stayed out, illuminated by fire. The number of atrocities surgedContinue reading “We’ve already been hit”

I, not us and them

I’m going to say “I” quite a lot in this column. Lately there’s been a little too much “we”, “us” and “them” for my taste, but mainly I’m doing it because writers indulge in the imperious “we” only when they’re feeling authoritative, secure enough to speculate on what “we” think; and right now I’m notContinue reading “I, not us and them”

Assume the brace position

The cabin crew are smiling tight-lipped smiles but everyone knows what’s happened. You can see it on their faces when they slip out of the cockpit and quickly pull the door shut behind them. The pilot has died. And there’s no co-pilot, because the recently departed was an arrogant dickhead who insisted on working alone.Continue reading “Assume the brace position”

Resistance is futile

National Cat Day isn’t one of the more widely celebrated holidays in the US. People who don’t have cats don’t care, and people who do have cats are usually too busy arranging their online photo albums (Mr Spanky, subfolder “Outdoors”, subfolder “Lying on his side”, subfolder “Thursday”, subfolder “10am-11am”) to make much of a fuss.Continue reading “Resistance is futile”

Future shock

The violence of midday was over. The riot police had finished their work. Now, as five o’ clock rolled around, the students were sitting sprawled across the street outside parliament, waiting for the politicians to come out. The police were still there, standing in a line inside the gates, staring dully at the students. Nearby,Continue reading “Future shock”

That’ll do, pig.

“Do you want to hear something truly perverse?” asked the chef. I did. Jonny is a mercurial gastronome who delights in language almost as much as he relishes food, and I knew that when he said “perverse” he really meant it. In France, he said, there is a certain songbird: the ortolan. It is aboutContinue reading “That’ll do, pig.”

A royal pain

Like all great fairy tales, it started with a palace; a gigantic thing, all gold and gleaming. The young man at the nearby table used his hands to describe soaring columns and endless corridors. His friend shook her head, enchanted. The Palace of Versailles was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, he said.Continue reading “A royal pain”