Advice for foreigners on how Britons walk
We drive on the left, but which side do we walk on?
Some friends from Australia asked me this question as we battled down London's Oxford Street the other day, weaving our way through determined shoppers, rushing office workers and ambling tourists.
The answer is we don't. The British have little sense of pavement etiquette, preferring a slalom approach to pedestrian progress. When two strangers approach each other, it often results in the performance of a little gavotte as they double-guess in which direction the other will turn.
The British are ambulatory anarchists. We are oblivious to the Rules for pedestrians helpfully published by Her Majesty's Government. There are 35 in total but, frankly, who knew and who cares?
Rule Number One tells us we must "avoid being next to the kerb with your back to the traffic" which implies we ought to walk on the left of the pavement. Such advice is blithely ignored, as any stroll down a busy high street will confirm.
Should teachers 'promote' British values?
Come September and every school in England will be required to promote British values.
Promoting something is not the same as teaching something or having respect for something. One can respectfully disagree. One can inform without endorsing.
'Trojan horse' scandal - extreme or diverse?
Where does diversity stop and extremism begin? That, it seems to me, is the central question posed by the so-called "Trojan horse" affair.
It is official government policy to create a "more diverse school system" with academies and free schools liberated from some state controls. They don't have to follow the national curriculum and they operate independently from the local education authority.
Is Britain really becoming more racist?
Journalists like their stories to fit into an accepted current narrative. With domestic politics dominated by concerns over Europe and immigration, and the rise of the far-right elsewhere in the EU, it is understandable that editors are alert to evidence of rising racism in Britain.
But today's figures are not evidence of rising racism. In fact, if anything, the trend is of flat or declining levels of self-reported racial prejudice.
Parks in peril
Cuts to funding has left the UK's parks "on the edge of a precipice", according to a landmark report to be published next month by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The research into the quality of Britain's 26,000 public parks is expected to conclude that new ways of financing their maintenance are essential to prevent a return to the crisis days of the 1990s. MPs then described our urban green spaces as "shunned, neglected and vandalised".
Who are the UK's foreign workers?
On New Year's Day, construction worker Victor Spiresau was greeted by politicians, reporters and photographers at Luton Airport - the first Romanian immigrant to arrive in Britain after the controversial lifting of employment controls on Romania and Bulgaria.
Victor became the reluctant symbol of what many predicted would be a vast wave of East Europeans flocking to the UK.
The truth behind the rise in sex crimes
Today's figures showing a 20% annual increase in recorded rapes and a 17% rise in sexual offences reported to police in England and Wales may seem like evidence of a horrifying social trend. But perversely, the statistics are actually a cause for optimism.
Survey data and academic research has long indicated that the criminal justice system was identifying only a fraction of the sex crimes being committed. Most victims were suffering in silence.
Are late night brawls a thing of the past?
Our society is becoming significantly less violent. Today's figures suggesting a 12% year-on-year drop in admissions to English hospitals for violent injuries are just the latest evidence of a remarkable and welcome trend. Something extraordinary is happening.
The chances of being a victim of violent crime in Britain are half what they were less than 20 years ago. Murders are at their lowest level since the early 1980s.