David Randall: Mr Bun takes advantage of an extreme case of wishful thinking

Four corners of the world

Related Topics

The biggest puzzle of the past seven days concerns the exploratory negotiations in Afghanistan with what everyone assumed was the Taliban's second-in-command, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. It now seems that it was the British who had initial contact with this man, cultivated him, and brought him to Kabul for three meetings with the Afghans. So far, so normal in the murky world in which we find ourselves enmeshed courtesy of our foolish invasion.

What has made it less normal, even by the surreal standards of Afghanistan, is that the man, turned out to be an unknown shopkeeper from Quetta in Pakistan. The real Mansour, apart from being one of the wily, resourceful brains behind the Taliban, is well known in Kabul, having been the minister for civil aviation there in the 1990s. How do you meet, greet, and hold talks with a small trader and mistake him for one of the Taliban's high-flyers and a former aviation minister? What were we discussing with him? The price of apples? The mark-up on tinned peaches? And, of course, apart from mistaking this Pakistani Mr Bun the baker for one of the world's most dangerous people, we also gave him piles of cash. All a matter, one suspects, of wishful thinking, the defining motto of our Afghan policy for at least a century and a half.

* To a certain kind of person, theatricals ar e "luvvies", a modern form of the snobbery that once viewed all actors and actresses as ne'er-do-wells and tramps. By way of an antidote, I offer you the life of Ingrid Pitt, star of some of the more raunchy Hammer films, who died last week. Forget, if you can, her heaving bosom and vampire's teeth, both ever-ready to be bared, and think instead of the following. Born in Poland in 1937 and half-Jewish, she spent three years in a Nazi concentration camp, and escaped with her mother as they were being taken into a forest to be shot. She was reunited with her father, and raised in East Berlin, attending medical school, and a theatre school run by Bertolt Brecht's widow. Her criticism of East German repression irked the authorities, and, on the eve of her stage debut, she escaped to the West by diving into the River Spree. She married the US serviceman who saved her from drowning.

She won her role in Where Eagles Dare almost by accident, and went on to appear in Hammer films, Dr Who, and founded her own touring company. She also wrote more than a dozen books, was a karate black belt, a qualified pilot, and an enthusiastic devotee of cricket. Some luvvie.

* The United States, normally the font of all innovation, is struggling to cope with a European invention – roundabouts. Virtually unknown 15 years ago, they are proliferating because they are safer (far fewer high-speed right-angled crashes), and easier on fuel consumption. Yet Americans are strangely resistant to these sensible arrangements, writes The New York Times. The paper quotes a Pennsylvannia teacher saying: "Just because something works in one culture, doesn't mean it's going to work in another." Can a Sarah Palin campaign for "patriot intersections" be far behind?

* We are so used to buoyant economic news from China that a recent statistic which leached out of its vast bureaucracy received little attention: while overall inflation in the 12 months to October was 4.4 per cent, food prices rose 10.1 per cent. Non-optimists may find this worrying.

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
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
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