Boyd Tonkin: btw

Related Topics

'As predicted, Hank Bumblebee cleaned up with Pentecostalist rattlesnake-handlers in Appalachia. But will his appeal to reptile-friendly faith communities trump Chip McHawk's iron grip on the votes of used Chevy dealers in desert states? In the other camp, can Billary Frinton's coalition of poodle-walking psychotherapists on the Upper West Side and Korean grocers in the Rustbelt match the excitement inspired by Toastrack Oblimey among goateed computer-game designers in Silicon Valley who used to play in Grunge bands..." I slogged through pages and hours of this stuff in the wake of Super Tuesday. Never has the 51st-Statism of mainstream British culture felt more abject than it did this week. Meanwhile, back in boring Brussels (yawn...), discussions take place all the time that will shape every aspect of our daily life. Which media outlet will dare to devote even 5 per cent of the space and time reserved for transatlantic shenanigans to spotlight the EU system that really makes a difference to us all?

* Primary elections work like sporting tournaments, which explains their headline-grabbing power. Yet a real – and enthralling – continent-wide contest has been building to its climax through this week. On Sunday, Egypt will play Cameroon in the final of the African Cup of Nations. I was in Cairo as Egypt's footballers began the defence of their title in Ghana. At a publishing dinner, a giant screen planted in the centre of the room upstaged all literary chit-chat as the local boys thrashed Sudan 3-0 in a regional derby. On any normal day, Cairo's traffic already boasts a honk level that sounds like the delirious aftermath of a famous victory. Heaven knows what the decibel count might reach if Egypt triumphs this weekend.

* In comparison with Europe (even Greece), Egypt remains a smoker's paradise. Cairenes claim that tobacco at least promises some choice over the substances that seep into your lungs – the traffic fumes offer none. During that dinner, on a converted river steamer anchored in the sacred stream, plump cigars were not only passed around, but left to burn as smokers dashed off to check the football. It gave a whole new meaning to Death on the Nile.

* France may have yielded meekly to a public-smoking ban, but elsewhere the "French exception" thrives. This week I met Erik Orsenna, one of those multi-tasking mandarins that Paris still designs to a world-beating spec. Goncourt Prize-winning novelist, sailor, economist, jurist, presidential adviser (to Mitterrand), member of the Conseil d'Etat (like being a law lord for governmental matters), he launched his book, Portrait of the Gulf Stream: a blend of travel, science and ecological warning. Worse, he manages to be funny, mischievous and unstuffy too. He's also one of the 40 "immortals" of the Académie française, where he occupies the seat formerly held by another doyen of the life aquatic: Commander Jacques-Yves Cousteau. It all makes my Lord Bragg look slightly under-employed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The victory of the NO campaign was confirmed at 6.08am on Friday morning  

Scottish referendum: Partisan fallout, Gordon Brown's comeback and Elizabeth, the Queen of unity

Jane Merrick
The central concept of Death Row Dinners is an interesting way  to make us think more about our food  

Out there: A death row diner, the other musicians taking a leaf out of U2's (i)book and rolling up my CV for a smoking hot job opportunity

Simmy Richman
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam