Z is for Zanzibar
Z is a destination, standing enigmatically at the extreme end of the alphabetical line. Crazy zigzags at odds with a gentle song, its qualities are both puzzling and exotic. After Z there is nothing.
Zanzibar, fittingly, enjoys not one but two Zs. It is a word that buzzes with African mystery and rare spices, of foreign adventure and dark magic. For a country looking to attract travellers and tourists, its tantalizing name is perhaps one of its greatest assets.
Blessed with stunning coral beaches lapped by the warm green-turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar's government is staking the islands' future on being a destination for hundreds of thousands of international tourists. But many local people associate change with turmoil and visitors with exploitation. Transforming Zanzibar's fortunes has not proved easy.
"It is true that we did not start very well," Zanzibar's vice president Seif Sharif Hamad says, leaning across the table as if sharing a confidence. "To be frank with you, there are still some people who are not very happy," he tells me. "They prefer to go back. Some people benefit when there is trouble."
Hamad is no stranger to the strife that has afflicted his beautiful islands over the past few decades. He has done time in Zanzibar's Central Prison on politically motivated charges that served to fuel the acrimony between his Civic United Front (CUF) party and the rival Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
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.
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.