SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Colin Brazier

January 19, 2021
My 16-year-old daughter is studying politics at A-level. I wasn’t sure it was the right subject for her. But – in between lockdowns – she comes home with stories of ideological spats in the common room that took root in the classroom; a sign, perhaps, that her interest in the course is catching fire. Endearingly,
January 12, 2021
I enjoy a lively old-fashioned pen-and-ink correspondence with an 82-year-old friend. She was an Oxbridge undergraduate in the 1950s and part of the pleasure in receiving her letters is in savouring the diction and idiom that fill them. Her stories are full of people who don’t avoid booze, but “forswear” it, and travellers who bought
January 04, 2021
“One death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” Coinage of the world’s most heartless quotation is disputed. But most agree that Joseph Stalin was sufficiently indifferent to human misery on an industrial scale to make him the likeliest author. As a journalist I recognise the hideous paradox coiled-up within that quote. Important
December 28, 2020
If you’re a driver, do you remember how it felt when you passed your driving test? That sense of freedom. How weird it felt moving off with nobody in the passenger seat? Just you and the open road. My 17-year-old daughter, Agnes, had that experience this month. Her test was in Salisbury, medieval cathedral city,
December 17, 2020
Nothing against Chapter House, but my son’s not a fan. He’s only 11 mind you, and not a keen observer of the religio-political social media landscape. So I can say, without fear of discovery, that his Christmas stocking has a guiding theme this year: space. Perhaps it was that long car journey to Scotland in
December 12, 2020
Early next year Japan will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the tsunami that claimed more than 10,000 souls. Most of the victims were drowned by a wall of water which rose to more than 100ft in height and travelled up to six miles inland. A few days after the tsunami struck I arrived to report
November 30, 2020
Is there still a place for the word “widow”? Has it become, to use the modern jargon, “problematic”? And, if it is, what – if anything – will take its place? I pose the question as a widower myself. That, and 30 years in the business of trying to choose the right words to describe
November 25, 2020
I’m self isolating with the five of my children who still live at home. My fourteen-year-old, Gwen, received a positive Covid-19 diagnosis a few days ago. There was no arguing the point. Her test was part of a pilot scheme organised by scientists at Porton Down, a few miles from the school she goes to
November 16, 2020
At journalism school thirty years ago, the police who caught the Yorkshire Ripper were held up as an object lesson in how not to break news of an arrest. At fault was their announcement on TV that – in not so many words – they’d solved the crime. For detectives whose efforts to find Peter
November 09, 2020
At the weekend parents in Scotland lost the right to “reasonably chastise” their children. In a couple of years they’ll be followed by their counterparts in Wales, when the principality introduces its own ban on smacking children in 2022. Devolution, it turns out, isn’t just about taking a different approach to Covid-19. Sweden was the
November 02, 2020
Remembrance Day will look different this year. This may not be the end, but it may be the beginning of the end for the poppy. Covid-19 restrictions have made them more difficult to find. Many of the veterans who sold them are shielding. Places where you would buy them are shut or, like offices, depopulated.
October 26, 2020
Why I Am Still a Catholic was published in 2006 by Continuum. It was a lovely idea and beautifully realised. It was an anthology of essays by Catholics in public life, all of them answering the question posed by the book’s title. It was edited by the former Catholic Herald editor, Peter Stanford, who succeeded
October 26, 2017
Ours is a house divided. By which I mean my wife takes the girls to Mass on Sunday and I take John-Jo to Saturday vigil. It’s not ideal. The family that prays together stays together and all that. But in a society where Sunday mornings represent prime recreational real estate, it’s a choice faced by
October 12, 2017
In our family we do not have the Book of Kells, but we do have a Book of Kelso. It’s a notebook dedicated to the study of the Scottish border town on the banks of the River Tweed. Why? The answer can be traced back to the moment we realised that our children could save
September 28, 2017
The friend who acted as best man at my wedding is still single. Gifted with good looks by his Italian mother, he is educated, well-travelled, wry and caring. Why then, at 50, does Nick have nobody to care for, save himself? There are reasons I can guess at, but there is also a general trend
September 14, 2017
I only met Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor half a dozen times. As a TV journalist, I found him the perfect interviewee. When necessary – and that meant usually – he could speak in pithy soundbites. But when the occasion demanded, he could switch gear and cut loose that wonderful natural raconteur’s tongue. He was the third
August 31, 2017
What do I want for my children? Most parents, when asked that question, would say “for them to be happy”. It’s an understandable response, but I can’t help feeling it’s a wee bit spurious. The world is home to many people who are made happy by inflicting misery on others. One man’s mirth is another’s
August 17, 2017
Is fixing things in the blood? My wife, a dogged problem-solver, has regular “daughter of an engineer” moments. This is more than an observation of family history, rather a state of mind. If the washing machine breaks, her first recourse is not to reach for the warranty, but for a spanner. She will search YouTube
August 03, 2017
With a large family, trips to the cinema are not cheap. The clamour to see Dunkirk, however, proved irresistible. It was led by my eldest daughter, Edith, whose attachment to World War II movies can be traced back to an old VHS copy of The Battle of Britain. She still quotes verbatim passages of dialogue
July 20, 2017
Every couple of years my TV bosses send me and others on a residential course to cope with working in a war zone. It was noteworthy that this month’s refresher contained a module looking at how to survive a terror attack in Britain. It was presented by a former Royal Marine. He had no time
July 06, 2017
In a world where all trouble must have a demonstrable cause, horses pose a problem. There may have been a reason why my ordinarily millpond-calm cob threw me off the other day, but who can tell? A burr under the saddle, a wasp in the tail, a bellyful of fresh grass, a stiffening wind, Aries
June 22, 2017
Most television journalists, if they came to it via newspapers, retain a soft spot for print. It’s a purer medium, in that no part of the story is harder to tell than another. With telly, if the pictures aren’t there to illustrate a point, then it is either not made, or arrived at by a
June 08, 2017
The petitioning has started in earnest. Candidates are making their pitches, pointing out the flaws in the arguments of rivals. It’s not the general election campaign, but the contest to secure occupancy of our eldest daughter’s bedroom. In September, God willing, she will be off to university. Her five younger siblings all believe this sought-after
May 11, 2017
Back in Brussels. Not to present Brexit news, but to speak to MEPs at the European Parliament. They want to hear about Sky TV’s campaign against plastic pollution. It feels dangerously liberating, presenting an argument with the conviction of an activist, rather than with the even-handedness of a referee. The case, however, is pretty robust.