Embrace Your Inner Eccentric

May cup by Tom Pilson

May madness matters. It’s a festival of British eccentricity — from dancers at dawn on the Cerne Abbas giant to maypole plaiting in Gawthorpe. The sinister ’Obby ’Oss has already cavorted through Padstow, but huge crowds will watch the Jack-in-the-Green do the same in Hastings this morning. It is easy to dismiss these things as silly and say they are mostly relatively recent inventions, the product of guesswork and improvisation designed to attract tourists as well as hark back to some illusory time when we were closer to the land. That’s all true. But they are also an example of something else, which is very relevant this week: good old British wilfulness, a stubborn resistance to being told what to do and what to think, and an eagerness to stick two fingers up at those who try it. A piece for The Times

‘There are important reasons for staying alive’ Sir Richard Branson

Photo Neale Haynes

Sir Richard Branson leans back in the captain’s chair on board his £18 million racing yacht, as Formula One cars tear along the Monte Carlo quayside just a few yards away. He puts his shoeless feet up on the control panel and – would you believe it – yawns. ‘Sorry,’ he says, grinning. ‘I had a late night. My children took me out on the town.’

The sleek Necker Belle has been sailed all the way from Branson’s island home in the Caribbean to be moored among the giant cruisers belonging to the super-rich over this Grand Prix weekend, but he isn’t even staying on board. The Virgin tycoon and his children Holly, 28, and Sam, 26, are sleeping (or not) at the Columbus Hotel, owned by driver David Coulthard. ‘The Monaco Grand Prix is very social,’ says Branson sheepishly. ‘There is a lot of noise though.’ Yawning? Complaining about the noise? Is this really the buccaneer billionaire, the tireless deal-maker just as famous for risking his life trying to break world-speed records at sea and in the air? He must be feeling his age. Read the rest here

The Cost Of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry

On a shelf in a glass case, in a room in the Bogside area of Derry, there is a yellowing cotton Babygro covered in brown blotches. The stains were made by the blood of Michael Kelly, a 17-year-old boy who was shot dead in the street just outside. “We carried him into a house,” recalls his brother John, still angry and grieving 36 years later. “The woman there grabbed anything she could to try and stop the flow of blood.” A piece for The Independent On Sunday

The intimate truth about Nick and Dave

I’ve been able to sit down with both Nick Clegg and David Cameron in the last year and ask awkward questions. They told me some fascinating things about themselves and their personal lives. What do you think Dave said when I asked if he had ever had an affair? What do you think he said he would go to war over? What justification does he have for claiming a second home on expenses, given his vast wealth? And what was Nick doing, wearing a dress? Why did he say “I was appalling, I was criminal …” One of them offered coffee but didn’t deliver on his promise. The other offered coffee and delivered. Which was which, do you think? Have a look at this interview with Cleggy and this interview with Dave and decide for yourself. By the way, one of them also saw his own picture and said, “You’re not using that, I look like a total moonface.” Slightly easier to guess, perhaps … There’s also an analysis of the Cameron article here from Peter Hitchens, should you wish to have a look.