Governing in style

You’ve won the election and soon you’ll be sworn in as the governor of the state. What is top of your list of priorities? Fulfilling manifesto pledges? Dishing out patronage? Dealing with the legislature? One thing most of America’s state governors don’t have to worry about is where to live. All bar three states in the USA have official governors’ residencies. Governors of states in the USA have considerable political power. They […]

Going to the Gaeltacht

I handed over the money with a polite thank you and received a friendly but firm tá failte romhat in response. I had been cycling in County Waterford and following signs for the coastal village of Ring. In the space of a few metres I was been transported into a different world where both Waterford and Ring had been replaced by Contae Phort Láirge and An Rinn. We had entered the Gaeltacht. […]

Juche couture – North Korea and the fabric of the future

The economic sanctions placed on North Korea have forced the People’s Republic to develop novel ways to sidestep western technology. Step forward Vinalon, a fabric made from the unlikely source materials of anthracite and limestone? Do rocks make for natural, luxuriant fibres? Not particularly, but the raw materials are plentiful on the Korean peninsula. So why has the rest of the world failed to succumb to Vinalon’s mineral charms? The list of […]

Are you U or are you non-U?

Does the way you speak give away your background in an instant? Do you pop to the loo or go to the toilet? Do you live in a house or a home? Do you enjoy a sweet or pudding and do you eat it after dinner or tea? In this world of binary class linguistics, you are, quite simply, either upper class or not. So, are you U or are you non-U? […]


Fordlandia! Where civilisation conquers the wild and untamed heart of the great Amazon rainforest. A city forged in adversity, the triumph of will and the product of the daring imagination of Henry Ford. This is America’s new frontier; a wilderness transformed by technology, labour and innovation into the prosperous hub of the world’s rubber production. To some it was a daring vision, a glimpse of the future from one of America’s, heck, […]

The Duke of Sutherland’s Railway

Few things were more powerful than a Victorian-era duke. They shaped empires, armies, estates and cities and had a particular interest in the development of the railway network. For some, this was manifested in vehement opposition. For others, it was a promise of further riches and easier access to pleasures in both the capital and countryside. Few peers have influenced the development of a railway quite as definitively as the Duke of […]

Once in Saint David’s City

The City of St Davids lies in the south-west corner of St Davids Peninsula surrounded by some of the most stunning Pembrokeshire coastlines and countryside. It is easily the UK’s smallest city by population: home to 1,797  in the 2001 census. The next smallest, St Asaph, is also a Welsh cathedral city but has nearly twice as many residents. Over the border, Wells is a bustling metropolis of 10,406 in comparison. So […]