It is much easier to learn another language when you are young, enthusiastic and unembarrassed.
In Formula One, the car can make a difference in a way that a driver cannot. Whereas Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna spent their early seasons in second-rate machinery, Hamilton walked into the equal best car on the grid. His first season none the less has, by any standards, been extraordinary.
Following the end of the Cold War, there was much discussion concerning the point of NATO. In the event, it was reinvented as a means of reducing Russia's reach on its western frontiers and seeking to isolate it. Its former East European client states were admitted to NATO, as were the Baltic states.
If the truth be told, we are a society that is dripping in racism. This is not in the least surprising. For the best part of two centuries, we British ruled the waves, controlled two-fifths of the planet, and believed it was our responsibility to bring civilisation to those who allegedly lacked it.
Just as the Japanese pioneered a new form of manufacturing - lean production and quite new standards of reliability - so Tata, too, is embracing new forms of manufacture in order to revolutionise the price to meet the consumer needs of a poor, developing country.
Never underestimate the ability of political leaders to misread history on a monumental scale. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have both served to hasten western decline: they have both failed to achieve their objectives and in the process demonstrated an underlying western impotence.
Ever since the Meiji restoration in 1868, Japan has turned its back on Asia in general and China in particular: its pattern of aggression from 1895 onwards and the colonies that resulted were among the consequences.
Sport is increasingly played according to the tune, and rules, of those with the biggest bucks, whether their practices be legal or illegal.
The Chinese view the state, not just as an intimate member of the family... but as the head of the family.
The emergence of an increasingly globalised market has engendered a belief that we are all consumers now, all of a basically similar identity, with our Big Macs, mobile phones and jeans. In this kind of reductionist thinking, the distance between buying habits and cultural/political mores is close to zero: the latter simply follows from the former.
The more expensive and/or exclusive a sport, the whiter it tends to be: the fact almost has the force of a law. That is the main reason why the Rugby World Cup, the Pacific islands excepted, was so desperately white, the Springboks included.
Although one of the key justifications for the Vietnam war was to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S. defeat was to produce nothing of the kind: apart from the fact that Cambodia and Laos became embroiled, the effects were essentially confined to Vietnam.
The world is fortunate - for the time being, at least - that it has an American president in Obama who is prepared to take a conciliatory and concessive attitude towards America's decline and that it has a Chinese leadership which has been extremely cautious about expressing an opinion, let alone flexing its muscles.
An increasingly multipolar world requires an entirely different kind of U.S. foreign policy: far from being unilateralist, it necessitates a complex form of power-sharing on both a global and regional basis.
Neoconservatism in all its pomp conceived - in the Project for a New American Century - that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world could be remade in the American image, that the previous bipolar world could be replaced by a unipolar one in which the U.S. was the dominant arbiter of global and regional affairs.
With the United States in slow long-term decline, how will that affect the position of English? And where will all that leave monolingual Britain? Our political leaders like to boast about how global Britain is, but when it comes to languages, it is near the bottom of the global league, together with another island state, Japan.
The American model was celebrated by Thatcherites and New Labour alike, California worshipped as the model of the future, 'Anglo-Saxon' embalmed as the fitting metaphor for the shared Anglo-American legacy, Europe denigrated and the rest of the world ignored.
The U.S. might enjoy overwhelming military advantage, but its relative economic power, which in the long run is almost invariably decisive, is in decline. The interregnum after the Cold War, far from being the prelude to a new American age, was bearing the signs of what is now very visible: the emergence of a multipolar world.
At the heart of globalisation is a new kind of intolerance in the West towards other cultures, traditions and values, less brutal than in the era of colonialism, but more comprehensive and totalitarian.
My guess is that good and bad parenting is spread fairly evenly across different social groups. But can you imagine Tony Blair lecturing the middle class on how to bring up their children? He is far more comfortable as a latter-day exponent of the Poor Law mentality.
If one wanted to find a modern symbol of personal freedom, the motor car is right there near the top of the list. But a car has come to mean much more than that. It has become a powerful statement about who you are and how much you earn.
In its heyday, the car was an expression of technical flair and design genius: the original Mini, the Beetle, the 2CV, and the Fiat 500 were all, in their various ways, inspired incarnations of functionality.
After its defeat in the Second World War, Japan, unlike Germany, failed to show true contrition or give a fulsome apology, though it showered its neighbours, including China, with generous economic assistance. Only in 1995 did it finally offer an apology, but this was of the most limited and formulaic kind.
After the Meiji restoration in 1868, Japan adopted an expansionist and colonial attitude towards its neighbours. It sought to identify itself with the West and looked down upon the Asian continent as backward and inferior. For most of the next 70 years, Japan was at war, mainly with its neighbours.
The World Cup is not just a great global sporting event, it is also inscribed with much deeper cultural and political importance.
Now, I know it's a widespread assumption in the West that as countries modernize, they also westernize. This is an illusion. It's an assumption that modernity is a product simply of competition, markets and technology. It is not. It is also shaped equally by history and culture. China is not like the West, and it will not become like the West.
In my experience, there are plenty of bad middle-class parents: those who put their own lives and careers before those of their children and make precious little time available for their offspring, preferring instead to hire in childcare and shower them with the latest and most expensive gadgets.
Labour was always aligned with the U.S. during the Cold War, but the ignominious implosion of communism reinforced the belief that no alternative to the prevailing common sense was possible.
Stuart Hall was an utterly unique figure. Although he arrived at the age of 19 from Jamaica and spent the rest of his life here, he never felt at home in Britain. This juxtaposition was a crucial source of his strength and originality. Because of his colour and origin, he saw the country differently - not as a native, but as an outsider.
The Chinese state is constructed in an entirely different way from western states. Unlike European states, for over a millennium the Chinese state has not been obliged to compete for power with rivals such as the church, the aristocracy or merchants.