Everything I know about the U.K. I learned from TV

I’ve developed a real affection for British TV, even when the accents are so gumbo-thick that I’m forced to turn on subtitles

Everything I know about the U.K. I learned from TVIn my TV-besotted youth, we had precious little exposure to British television. There was Dr. Who, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Avengers. The Avengers starred the curvaceous, recently departed Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, every teenage boy’s fantasy figure (tied with Julie Newmar’s Catwoman on Batman). Otherwise, that was about it for exposure to British…

Time to make Britain answer for its colonial wrongdoings

Time to make Britain answer for its colonial wrongdoingsI’ve been teaching about Canada’s 2008 apology for residential schools for some time. In discussing the topic, I point out that this isn’t only a Canadian issue. Australia has apologized to its Indigenous peoples, and New Zealand continues to make progress in its reconciliation process. Quite often, I hear these questions from my students: “What…

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

Queen Elizabeth must juggle her duties with her family responsibilities. But in her case, the stakes are higher and the scrutiny is intense

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crownThe House of Windsor is making headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons. “The Firm,” as Prince Philip is fond of calling the British Royal Family, doesn’t look kindly on bad publicity. Ringing in my ears is a line from William Shakespeare’s play Henry IV: “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”…

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the bill

While not scrupulously accurate, it is still quite engrossing

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the billAn electrician in to do some wiring work a couple of months ago ran his eye over the media shelf, noticed the Vikings DVD set and announced that The Last Kingdom was better. So in the midst of a pandemic winter, we tracked down the extant four seasons and gave it a whirl. The series…

Boris Johnson: the man who got Brexit done

Boris Johnson: the man who got Brexit doneIn December 2019, I wrote a column arguing that United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson was shaping up as a genuinely consequential politician. And the recent announcement of a new trade deal between the U.K. and the European Union bears that out. First, though, a clarification of terms. Declaring someone as consequential isn’t necessarily an…

Christmas pantomime a charming holiday tradition

There’s no requirement to stick to the details of the original story. The entertainment imperative trumps ‘authenticity’ every time

Christmas pantomime a charming holiday traditionPeople raised in North America aren’t usually exposed to the phenomenon of the Christmas pantomime. Some might even think it has something to do with mime, which it most assuredly doesn’t. But those who grew up in Britain or Ireland will have an entirely different perspective. Pantomime – panto for short – is an integral…

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheid

The Thatcher-Nelson Mandela relationship is a reflection of how very different people can evolve a respectful, albeit wary, understanding

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheidMargaret Thatcher isn’t a name most people associate with the end of South African apartheid. But Thatcher biographer Charles Moore begs to differ. And he devotes a lengthy chapter in his third volume about the former British prime minister to making his case. As Moore tells it, Thatcher’s goal was to convince the white South…

More than just a Spectator to world events

The long-running weekly publication offers depth, broad perspective on a variety of issues, and doesn’t shy away from controversy

More than just a Spectator to world eventsThe Spectator is a United Kingdom weekly first published in 1828. This purportedly makes it the longest-running magazine of its kind in the English-speaking world. And while the primary focus is current affairs, the Spectator’s subject matter ranges further than that. There’s lively coverage of books, music, film, TV, food and travel. From time to…

Statue-toppling and the narrowness of righteous minds

Just because someone else’s history makes you uncomfortable doesn’t give you a moral licence to erase it from public space

Statue-toppling and the narrowness of righteous mindsIf I were a Brit – which I’m not – I’d be materially annoyed at the vandalization of Winston Churchill’s statue and the related attempts to remove it from its perch in London’s Parliament Square. And in keeping with today’s enthusiasm for rhetorical hyperbole, I’d be tempted to consider it the thin end of the…

COVID-19 shows modern politics lacks common sense

Placing trust in the public has become an alien idea. Our governments have become too large and self-serving

COVID-19 shows modern politics lacks common senseIf there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us – and it has taught us many things – it’s that partisan politics has completely taken hold of public discourse and, in effect, banned common sense. This truth was made most clear in early May when United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the…
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