A gang of sheep rustlers is stalking the county – who will be the next target?

Though autumn is happily still some way off, we’ve already reached that stage in the shepherd’s calendar when full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn. In fact they now look bigger than their mothers. The easiest way of differentiating the ewes from the lambs is that the latter still have their fleeces while the former are shorn and look thoroughly careworn and knackered from having to feed their demanding and needy adolescents long after it’s strictly necessary.

What’s rather spoiling my nature notes at the moment, though, is the nagging fear that next time I venture out into the fields on my morning walk with the dog, our pastoral idyll will have been reduced to a bloody shambles of discarded entrails and severed heads.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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The reason Gomorrah is one of the best series ever shown on TV is its fidelity to truth

Patrizia (Cristiana Dell’Anna) in Series 4 of Gomorrah
Patrizia (Cristiana Dell’Anna) in Series 4 of Gomorrah

Some of the killings are so heartbreaking you half-wonder how decency could possibly allow such horror as TV entertainment.

My favourite epithet about my favourite TV series was the headline in a review by the Irish Times: ‘Gomorrah. Where characters die before they become characters.’

The review appeared to suggest that this was a bad thing. But I disagree. What made Game of Thrones so original and compelling, especially in the early seasons, was its refreshing willingness to break convention by murdering key players at the drop of a hat.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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God, I Hate Wasps!

Halfway up the back stairs on a ledge is the body of a wasp so big it’s either a queen or some kind of hornet. I’ve left it there as a warning to other wasps and also because I enjoy the weird effect it has on me. Even though obviously I know it’s there, every time I pass it its shape triggers in me an involuntary shudder: the sinister curve of its abdomen, articulated like plate armour; the warning yellow and black; the horrible sharp black stinger which you can just imagine jabbing into your skin. God I hate wasps!

Read the rest in the Spectator!

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Pure hagiography – the BBC’s Extinction Rebellion: Last Chance To Save The World?

Plus: season three of Stranger Things is self-indulgent and twee – more Scooby-Doo than Alien.

Members of Extinction Rebellion, Britain’s most tiresome protest group Credit: Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
I’m beginning to feel like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers: almost the last person on Earth who hasn’t been assimilated by the evil, shapeshifting, floral pod creatures from outer space.

Losing my comrade Christopher Booker the other day didn’t help. Nor did turning to the once robustly sceptical Sun newspaper this morning to find a spread on how to cut your carbon footprint and recycle. The final ‘reeeee!’ moment (fans of the movie will get the reference) will no doubt come when I next bump into Matt Ridley and he tells me: ‘We really must heed the wise things the Prince of Wales and Greta Thunberg are telling us about climate change!’

Read the rest on Breitbart.

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My daughter’s gone to Magaluf, and it’s hard not to worry

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At the Leavers’ Ball held to mark our daughter’s last day at boarding school, there were only two topics of conversation among the anxious parents. How early could we decently slope off without being rebuked by our girls? And the dreaded Leavers’ trip to Magaluf.

Magaluf — Shagaluf as the kids all call it — is the post-A-levels destination of choice for what seems like every school leaver in the country. If you’ve seen The Inbetweeners Movie you’ll know what it’s like: charmless, garish avenues of overpriced bars and clubs with pushy greeters, expensive party cruises, grotesque drunkenness, epic hangovers, sunburn, STDs and gallons of vomit.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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Kanye wipes the floor with David Letterman

Plus: why I’ve come round to Bob Dylan.

David Letterman and Kanye West spar on Netflix. Image: Joe Pugliese / Netflix

My plan to cut the BBC out of my life entirely is working well. Apart from the occasional forgivable lapse — that excellent Margaret Thatcher documentary; Pointless and Only Connect because they’re the only programmes we can all watch together as a family — I find that not watching or listening to anything the BBC does is making me calmer, happier and better informed.

I’m also learning stuff about myself that I never imagined possible. Like the fact that I have a massive man crush on the rap star Kanye West. Though I’ve long been a fan of his albums, I went right off him as a person a few years ago when he headlined Glastonbury and played quite the worst, most self-indulgent, dreary set I have ever had to endure: no decent tunes or hook, just Kanye the egotist and some glaring white lights shining full in your face as if to show how much he despised you.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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Smart motorways are very stupid

Smart road

‘An attempted improvement which actually makes things worse.’ The Germans have a name for this — Verschlimmbesserung — and I ran into a perfect example the other day when my power suddenly failed in the fast lane of one of those so-called ‘smart’ motorways.

These are the new breed of motorways so clever and advanced that they don’t have hard shoulders on to which you can retreat in emergencies. No: instead, if you can’t make one of the safe haven pull-ins supposedly spaced every mile and a half, then you get the thrilling (and, you pray, never-to-be-repeated experience) of grinding to a halt in the live lane of a motorway, with lorries thundering towards your rear at 50mph.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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Girls will love it – and there’s just enough eye candy for boys: Big Little Lies reviewed

The latest from David E. Kelley, who also wrote Ally McBeal, shows he has a rare knack for getting inside women’s heads

The photogenic womenfolk of Otter Bay: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern in Big Little Lies
The photogenic womenfolk of Otter Bay: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern in Big Little Lies

Six hundred and thirty years ago, Chaucer revealed in ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’ that what women really want is to be totally in charge of everything. With Girl now back home permanently having done her A levels, I can confirm that this is true: no longer am I in control of what we watch on TV, not even when I plead that it’s my job and how else am I going to be able to afford the extensive tour of Magaluf and Bali etc. that she’s got planned this summer?

But I don’t mind really because it means I’m forced to watch stuff there’s no way I would have seen otherwise. And in doing so I become a better and wiser person because of all the fascinating things it teaches me about the female psychopathology.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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It would be weird if Gove hadn’t taken drugs

Cocaine is an abominable drug, by far the most hateful of all the various uppers and downers and psychoactives because it turns you into such a complete moron.

The problem with coke, as my friend, the drug historian Mike Jay, once explained to me, is that nature never intended us to use it the way we do. In its raw, coca leaf form, it’s a handy and pleasant stimulant, just what you need to keep you going on a long trek over the Andes. But in its refined form it’s just nasty, not least because it plays a cruel, built-in trick on you. You take cocaine to get high — and sure it helps, up to a point. What it really stimulates, though, aren’t the pleasure receptors but the impulsive part of your brain that makes you want more and more of something.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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Blast from the past

Accidental hero: one of the Chernobyl liquidators
Accidental hero: one of the Chernobyl liquidators

How many people do you think died at Chernobyl? 10,000? 50,000? 300,000? The correct answer, according to the never knowingly understated World Health Organisation — in a thorough report released nearly 20 years after the 1986 explosion — was ‘fewer than 50’.

Ah, but what about all the mutant babies who ended up with two heads and webbed feet? What about the inevitable epidemic of cancers? Well, yes, it’s true that 4,000 more cases of thyroid cancer were loosely attributable to Chernobyl, mainly in children and adolescents. But the survival rate was 99 per cent.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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