The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from November 2010

A Common Sense Revolution
Growing numbers of volunteers are refusing to put up with humiliating and unnecessary safety checks Last January, Annabel Hayter, chairwoman of Gloucester Cathedral Flower Guild, received an email saying that she and her 60 fellow flower arrangers would...
A Farewell to Arms
In Competition No. 2674 you were invited to submit an elegy on the death of Paul the Octopus, who died peacefully in his tank last month aged a respectable two-and-a-half. Paul was catapulted from the obscurity of an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany...
Ancient and Modern
No one yet has the remotest idea what the Big Society actually is. Had you asked a Roman, he would have told you: it was the rich spreading their largesse among the poor, as Pliny the Younger did (c. ad 61-112). In a letter to his friend, the great...
Anthony Whitworth-Jones: Garsington on the Move
When is a country-house opera not a country-house opera? When it no longer has a country house attached. This is what is about to happen to Garsington Opera, which is moving, lock, stock, barrel and picnic basket, from the exquisitely planned and intimate...
At the Heart of Europe
Van Eyck to Dürer: the Flemish Primitives and Central Europe 1430 - 1530 Groeningemuseum, Bruges, until 30 January 2011 The Reality of the Lowest Rank: A Vision of Central Europe Five venues around Bruges, until 23 January 2011 The historic centre of...
Auntie's Blind Spot
I may finally have a way to make the BBC see its own left-wing bias The BBC is like a goldfish. Just as we have no way of communicating to the poor creature that it is confined by a bowl, experts of the utmost skill and renown have sought in vain for...
Barometer
Having it so good Lord Young was forced to resign as an adviser to David Cameron after claiming that people in Britain 'had never had it so good'. The phrase is associated with Harold Macmillan, who used it in 1957, but he was echoing the 1952 US presidential...
BOOKENDS - Gothic Tales
Much of Stephen King's recent work ha s been relatively lighthearted, but in Full Dark, No Stars (Hodder & Stoughton, £18 .99) he returns with gusto to his dark side and explores the perils of getting what you ask for. The first and longest of these...
Brave on Occasion
Hitler's First War by Thomas Weber, OUP, £18.99, pp. 416, ISBN 9780199233205 Hitler's experiences in the Great War have long been shrouded in mystery and controversy, not least because there is relatively little material from that time written by himself....
Catching Up with Clooney
The American 15, Nationwide There are quite a few reasons to like The American. It is an action film with almost no action, making it a non-action action film which, I now know, is my favourite kind of action film. It stars George Clooney, and while...
Chinese Burn
A kind of madness has taken grip of the art market. It seems that the world's super-rich have decided that money has no value - or at least that it has a value different from that understood by the rest of us. Just this month, one of Alma Tadema's fanciful...
Conflicting Passions
Adriana Lecouvreur Royal Opera House, in rep until 7 December La belle Hélène Suffolk Opera, Bury St Edmunds Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, his biggest success, dating from 1902, leads a fringe existence, but it persists thanks primarily to the...
CRIME FICTION - Mean Streets
The best recent crime thrillers have an urban setting, according to Andrew Taylor Christmas is coming, which generally ble crime novels have appeared in the past few months. Among them is Val McDermid's Trick of the Dark (Little, Brown, £18.99). This...
Dazzling Puzzles
Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets by Don Paterson Faber, £17.99, pp. 500, ISBN 9780571245024 Halfway through his new book about Shakespeare's sonnets, Don Paterson quotes W.H. Auden. Auden was one of Shakespeare's great commentators and he firmly warned...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. The other day, when making a purchase in a rather poncy shop, I was taken aback when the assistant stared directly at the keypad while I was entering my PIN. Normally they make a point of rather ostentatiously looking away, but this one made a point...
Evans Gambit
I am sorry to hear of the death of my old friend, grandmaster Larry Evans, in Reno at the age of 78. Evans was five times US champion and both an individual and team chess olympiad gold medal winner. However, his reputation chiefly resided in the assistance...
'Forget the Special Relationship. America Is Just Not That into Us': A Spectator Debate
Churchill popped up early at last week's Spectator debate, which was sponsored by Brewin Dolphin. James Crabtree, the Financial Times 's comment editor, deplored the way our war leader's bust had been 'removed from the White House' by an incoming Barack...
High Life
New York The actor Harvey Keitel and I are good friends and we go way back. For any of you who hate movies and Hollywood as I do, Keitel is your man. He was on Broadway for ten years then made Mean Streets, the first of many gritty films with Robert...
How to Marry a Prince
The turbulent but often triumphant record of Britain's royal weddings is full of lessons for Kate and William The popularity of the monarchy has been slowly improving since the Queen 's 'annushorribilis ' speech in 1992. But the vital spark needed to...
Humorous Books - Dying of Laughter
Marcus Berkmann on the few genuinely funny books aimed at this year's Christmas market It's a worrying sign, but I suspect that Christmas may not be as amusing as it used to be. For most of my life, vast numbers of so-called 'funny' books have been...
I'd Rather Hear about Condoms from the Pope Than from the Spice Girls
My problem with condoms was always a very different confusion from that which apparently afflicts the Pope. It was simply that I felt sure they would be far too large, like putting a tea cosy on a soft-boiled egg. And so I never used them, to spare...
I No Longer Understand What 'Ireland' Means
The defining commentary of this ongoing financial crisis, for me, came from Gerald Hill of the Midlands, in a letter to the Times in March 2009. 'Sir, ' he wrote, 'I can now understand the term "quantitative easing" but realise I no longer understand...
It's Getting Lonely over Here on the Right
In New York last week I was gobsmacked to discover I'd won the Bastiat Prize for Online Journalism. So gobsmacked that I hadn't thought to prepare a magnanimous, funny victor's speech, only a halting, rueful runner's-up one. No one ever gives me prizes....
Lessons from South London
Having transformed his inner-city primary, Greg Martin has bought a stately home in Sussex - and is preparing to turn it into a fully free state boarding school We're chatting poolside, which feels somewhat incongruous since this isn't the Riviera or...
Letters
Royally remote Sir: Perhaps Charles Moore's concerns that the university education of Prince William and his future queen (The Spectator's Notes, 20 November) could undermine national morale are unfounded. Reflection on my time as a St Andrews undergraduate...
Low Life
After swapping emails for three days, Cow Girl sent me her mobile number and I rang it, and we agreed that I should drive up to north Wales and meet somewhere. Meeting for a coffee, the usual drill, seemed a bit pathetic to us, so I booked us into a...
My Tip for Enterprise Tsar from Cameron's List of Loads-of-Money Peers: Lord Fellowes of Downton
Who, I wonder, will advise David Cameron on entrepreneurship now that Lord Young of Graffham has been fed to the sharks by the Downing Street crew for his unguarded remark that in this 'so-called recession. . . most people have never had it so good'?...
No Laughing Matter
Joseph K Gate, until 18 December The Master Builder Almeida, until 8 January 2011 The Nobel prize is nothing. The real badge of literary greatness is the addition of the 'esque' suffix to one's name and, if you're truly outstanding, the word 'nightmare',...
No Man's Land
Levant by Philip Mansel John Murray, £25, pp. 480, ISBN 9780719567070 The shores of the eastern Mediterranean, from the eastern Aegean to the delta of the Nile, constitute a region known as the Levant, from the French for the sunrise. The French were...
Now for the Real Examination
If William Beveridge were commissioned to write another report into Britain's social ills, he would find that two of his 'giant evils' - ignorance and idleness - still stalk and shame Britain. At the time, one might have argued that this was because...
On the Charm Offensive
Derek Hill by Bruce Arnold Quartet, £35, p. 448, ISBN 9780704371712 Derek Hill (1916-2000), writes Bruce Arnold, was an English representational landscape and portrait painter of 'haunting and evocative creative spirituality that is perhaps indefinable'....
Peak Power
Only over the past two or three weeks has the horse-racing community turned its attention to jumping but the National Hunt world has not been standing still. When Flat racing ended at Doncaster on 5 November, the racing phenomenon known as A.P. McCoy...
Plain Speaking
Thank heavens for radio, and its ability to survive the depredations of new technology (even the botched introduction of DAB). Channel Four's much-hyped adaptation of William Boyd's novel, Any Human Heart, is just so lazy, letting the images do all...
Portrait of the Week
Home Britain is to lend Ireland up to £9 billion. 'Ireland is a friend in need, ' George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House of Commons, 'and it is in our national interest that we should be prepared to help them at this difficult...
Real Life
As Stefano the builder positioned his drill, I sat watching him serenely. In a few minutes my home improvements would be complete. One last storage unit would be fixed to the kitchen wall, thus bringing to conclusion three weeks of painting, plastering,...
Rewarding Rubbish
If you went on holiday to Italy this year, you may have come back with a plate, a mug or a jug - an item or two of the painted pottery still handmade (at least sometimes) by craftsmen and women, mostly in Umbria, but also in the Marche, and which you...
Ring of Truth
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin Weidenfeld, £18.99, pp. 295, ISBN 9780297863298 The glamorous art world of Manhattan is a natural subject for novelists and filmmakers, but with the honourable exception of William Boyd's Stars and Bars, written before...
Round and Round the Garden
Juliet Townsend finds that children's arcane playground rituals have survived television, texting and computer games The Lore of the Playground by Steve Roud Random House, £20, pp. 576, ISBN 9781905211517 When Iona and Peter Opie published their...
Smoke and Mirrors
Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, until 23 January The Prince, according to Machiavelli, 'should appear, to see him, to hear him, all compassion, all good faith,...
Spectator Mini-Bar
Christmas a month away, and while we don't begin the festivities in November, it's a good time to plan your choice of wines. Next week there will be our final pre-holiday offer. Both this week and next, we hope to suggest tip-top bottles for the day,...
Tendentious Drivel
'Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things. The honest thief, the tender murderer, the superstitious atheist.' So I suppose you could argue that Jimmy McGovern was merely following the fine tradition of Robert Browning when he wrote his drama about...
The Folly of Ambition
Andrew Lambirth talks to the artist Keith Coventry about drawing inspiration from Sickert, Churchill and Ladybird Books Keith Coventry has no time to visit the two lap-dancing clubs that lurk a few doors down from his studio, a small room with barred...
The Right Way to Help Ireland
Would you trust an economic forecaster who had recently said this? The euro has done more to enforce budgetary discipline in the rest of Europe than any number of exhortations from the IMF or the OECD. If we remain outside the euro, we will simply continue...
The Sound of Broken Glass
The Strange Case of Tory Anarchism Peter Wilkin Libri Publishing, £12, pp. 240, ISBN 9781907471100 What do Evelyn Waugh, Peter Cook and Chris Morris have in common? I would have said 'irreverence' and left it at that; but the social scientist Peter...
The World Cup We Just Might Win
Quite how much tawdrier the plotting and deal-making for the 2018 football World Cup could become it is hard to imagine, and how appropriate that not just Sepp Blatter but officials at England's campaign are so keen to denounce the devastating Sunday...
This Be the Verse
Philip Larkin, who died 25 years ago this week, was a truly great poet. His personal habits are utterly irrelevant Spending pleasurable hours looking for books is not like drilling for oil. Recently, however, while browsing in the excellent Slightly...
Treasure Trove
One afternoon in the winter of 1992 I was on a bus traversing London's Millbank when an extraordinary sight caught my eye. A bright red Triumph Spitfire had been driven up the imposing front steps of the Tate Gallery and abandoned there. Not for the...
Two Legs Good
The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson Harbour Books (East) Ltd, £12, pp. 278, ISBN 9781905128150 In September 1954, Albert Speer decided to walk from Berlin to Heidelberg, a distance of 620 kilometres. As Hitler's architect still had more than...
Vertically Challenged
St Paul's Cathedral is quite rightly something of a national obsession. No other building has protected 'view corridors' as a result of legislation in 1935, when new building regulations allowed the surrounding buildings - notoriously a telephone exchange...
Visual Pleasure
To the Ones I Love Compagnie Thor, Barbican FAR Random Dance, Sadler's Wells Cinderella Royal Ballet, in rep until 13 December According to the programme note, the message in Thierry Smits's To the Ones I Love 'does not direct itself to the mind but...
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