I’ll learn to play my ukulele when I’ve read Dostoevsky in Russian

It’s been on my mind since I learned of the death of Kitty Lux, sweet-voiced co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

It is not generally known that I do a passable George Formby imitation. Foreign students at a language school I taught at were privileged to hear my Happy Go Lucky Me, but as they’d never heard of Formby they couldn’t really judge how good I was. They clapped anyway. This was before Brexit, when foreigners still thought the English were nice people with a keen sense of the ridiculous.

Knowing my fondness for Formby, my brother bought me a ukulele. It sits accusingly by the side of the settee. Time, time. I’ll learn to play it when I take up reading Dostoevsky in Russian, walk the Silk Road and snowboard. There is much to look forward to when I retire.

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Howard Jacobson: ‘Happy giants exist only in Disney’

Some things are so outlandish, they outrage not only morality, but also the very principles of harmony that underpin the universe

Some things are just too big. I don’t mean too big for their function, I mean for themselves: aesthetically, ideationally, abstractly, too big.

This thought occurred to me as I was waiting in traffic in Wardour Street, Soho, behind a truck that couldn’t squeeze between two other trucks parked on either side of the road. The driver leapt out – for he was a long way up – in order to fold back the wing mirrors of the other vehicles, and for some reason to check his tailgate. As he trudged back and clambered up, I could see from the weariness in his shoulders that he was thinking the same: too big. I don’t know what he was delivering. It doesn’t matter. Whatever his cargo – iceberg lettuces or grand pianos – ...

Howard Jacobson: ‘Happy giants exist only in Disney’

Some things are so outlandish, they outrage not only morality, but also the very principles of harmony that underpin the universe

Some things are just too big. I don’t mean too big for their function, I mean for themselves: aesthetically, ideationally, abstractly, too big.

This thought occurred to me as I was waiting in traffic in Wardour Street, Soho, behind a truck that couldn’t squeeze between two other trucks parked on either side of the road. The driver leapt out – for he was a long way up – in order to fold back the wing mirrors of the other vehicles, and for some reason to check his tailgate. As he trudged back and clambered up, I could see from the weariness in his shoulders that he was thinking the same: too big. I don’t know what he was delivering. It doesn’t matter. Whatever his cargo – iceberg lettuces or grand pianos – ...

Howard Jacobson: ‘Hyderabadi lobster jhinga? No thanks. Give me chicken balti any day’

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Has Jimmy McGovern’s Broken redeemed religion for our times?

I am not a believer myself, but that shouldn’t preclude me from understanding why others are I recently discovered that the “Whit walks” I watched as a child were specific to the north of England, and to Manchester in particular. I thought every town in Christian England had one, but apparently the custom of marking Whitsuntide with processions of excited children done up in their Sunday best dates from the annual closing of the northern mills, and it’s in the north – mills or no mills – that the tradition is still honoured. Whether it was because the walks gave mixed cultural signals, or my upbringing left me in ignorance of their significance, I don’t know, but they seemed part bridal, with the girls in their snowy dresses, part May queen festival and part brass band competition. Whatever they were about, they made me feel there was an England that ...

Howard Jacobson: ‘My personal trainer has me doing tai chi’

I’m a soaring crane, or a tiger sharpening my claws on the living room carpet I make neither boast nor apology, but I have started to explore that form of martial mysticism the Chinese call tai chi. It’s the slow, trance-like movements that appeal to me, even when I’m being a soaring crane or sharpening my tiger claws on the living room carpet. To be frank, all I’m really doing is learning how to breathe, my personal trainer having told me that I have never breathed properly in the whole of my life. I recognise this to be true. Hoping to be able to swim one day, I keep signing up for lessons, but know it’s hopeless the minute the instructor tells me to hold my breath. I would if I could find it. I say “personal trainer”, but in fact he’s my wife’s. I decided to tag along only ...

The riddle of Donald Trump: how a man of few words reached the pinnacle of power

From ‘bigly’ to tweetspeak – the US president’s vocabulary is ripe for satire The Reader’s Digest used to run a feature called It Pays to Increase Your Word Power. The new wisdom – post-Trump and Brexit – is that it doesn’t. How Donald Trump has come so far with so few words – how he even managed to keep up conversationally with all those beauty queens – is a question I don’t expect ever to be solved. Which isn’t to say we haven’t been confronted with similar conundrums before. “The President of the United States has so singular a combination of defects for the office of a constitutional magistrate,” wrote the Atlantic magazine of Andrew Johnson in 1866, “that he could have obtained the opportunity to misrule the nation only by a visitation of Providence.” It is too early to say whether Trump will misrule the nation, and ...