I am one of those odd creatures who likes to sit on a train in the opposite direction to which the train is travelling, preferring to see the world going by me, as opposed to coming towards me. You get to see more of the panorama of a train journey that way.
This week, as the train pulled out of Connolly for Belfast, I took in the capital’s inner city and the docks from my elevated position above the traffic. Scanning the city, framed by the Dublin mountains on the horizon, you see many cranes on the skyline.
The crane count published last week is reminiscent of 2007. It reveals that there are 117 cranes in the Dublin skyline – a near-record figure.
Britain in 2019 doesn’t feel quite like Yugoslavia did 30 years ago, but then again Yugoslavia didn’t feel like Yugoslavia until it became the former Yugoslavia. Brexit is pointing to the end of the UK.
The surface unity of the May-Corbyn truce is nothing but a marriage of convenience forged in desperate circumstances.
Long-term, we face something bigger than the UK leaving the EU: we face the potential Balkanisation of the United Kingdom.
In his hilarious and award-winning novel Absurdistan, the American writer Gary Shteyngart tells the story of Misha Vainburg, son of the 1,238th richest man in Russia who flees Russia for the imaginary country of Absurdistan.
Absurdistan is a post-socialist, cowboy-capitalist, ethnically divided oil kingdom somewhere on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The capital, Svani City, is an uproarious metropolis, desperately trying to mimic a western urban entrepot.
And what defines western in these people’s eyes? Naturally, a McDonald’s, the twin Hyatt and Radisson hotel offering, a Banana Republic, a Gap and of course, a “Molly Malone’s” Irish pub.
As the train screeches to a halt, the young man, in his slim-fit Tom Ford suit, alights energetically. This is Revolution Square station, deep beneath Moscow’s congested boulevards.
Built in 1938, the station is one of the gems of the Moscow metro system, itself one of the finest pieces of public transport infrastructure in the world. Stalin understood symbols. The metro system served as a reminder of the splendour of the Soviet Union. In the war, these places were air-raid shelters. In 1941 and 1942, a hundred war babies a month were being delivered down here as war raged overhead. What else are you going to do?
Today, the metro carries seven million passengers a day, close to half the population of this enormous city of 15 million citizens. Trains arrive off-peak every two minutes and at rush hour every 30 seconds.
I’ve hit Peak Brexit. I can’t stomach watching the nightly political blood-sport that is BBC’s Newsnight anymore.
I can’t listen to self-important Tory politicians, who have somehow risen above their natural station in the Territorial Army Cadets, droning on about being trapped; or Labour politicians for that matter, spouting equally infantile, neo-Marxist drivel.
That’s it. I’m done.
There’s something exciting and substantial about Berlin. The city exudes history. Bismarck and Hitler are here, but also Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and Angela Merkel. Political decisions taken here often have a far-reaching impact.
In terms of ramifications, who would’ve thought that one of the standout beneficiaries of the fall of the Berlin Wall would be Ireland?
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the seminal geo-political event of my generation. No one, least of all the CIA, expected it.