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 October 2010

A Far-Fetched War
Crimea: The Last Crusade by Orlando Figes Allen Lane, £30, pp. 575, ISBN 9780713997040 First, a disclaimer: this review will not touch upon some recent, odd behaviour of this book's author, Orlando Figes, because I can't see that it's relevant. The...
Ahead of Their Time
Dynamic Structures: Painted Vessels by Elizabeth Fritsch National Museum Cardiff, until 2 January 2011 'Museum decides against building new extension' is not the stuff of newspaper headlines, so most of you will be unaware that the National Museum of...
American Notebook
To New York, for a benefit gala at Cipriani 42nd Street for the Norman Mailer Centre and Writers Colony. We are there as a team to present British GQ's first student writing award to a 65-year-old mother of two: Helen Madden, who presented the children's...
An Open and Shut Case
Responding to Chekhov by Harvey Pitcher Swallow House Books, £13.50, pp. 304, ISBN 9780905265087 Harvey Pitcher has been translating Chekhov and writing about him for much of the last 40 years. His earlier publications include a book about Chekhov's...
Banach Vacuum
There is a common belief that strong chess players will have a predilection for mathematics. I know from my own personal experience that this is not always the case. Someone who did conform to received opinion in this respect was Professor Nigel Kalton,...
Barometer
Exit stage right A new far-right movement, the English Defence League, held protests in Leicester and London. Postwar British history is full of the corpses of failed far-right parties. - The League of Empire Loyalists was a neo-Nazi party which split...
Carbon Captives
Why is the government wasting a billion on technological pie in the sky? While waiting for the comprehensive spending review, I passed the time watching two clips from British Pathe newsreels of the late 1940s. One featured Welsh housewives moaning...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. I was staying recently with a very old girlfriend and her mother at her mother's house in the country in England and was given my old girlfriend's bedroom for the weekend on the upper attic floor. I suspect that the room had not been used for a long...
Diary
The other day my husband and I went to Winter's Bone, the much praised (overpraised, we thought) film set in Missouri. Both of us have normal hearing but neither of us caught more than about half of the dialogue. Naturally, we didn't fully grasp what...
Education in Horror
When my brother and I were teenagers growing up in the arse end of nowheresville - Bromsgrove to its friend - we were mainly looked after by Nanny VHS. Every day, Mummy would take us to the rental store to hire a new video so as to keep us off her back....
Family at War
Tribes Royal Court, until 13 November The Charming Man Theatre 503, Battersea, until 13 November I couldn't wait for this one. Nina Raine's debut play Rabbit was a blast. With exquisite scalpel-work she dissected the romantic entanglements of a quartet...
Finding a Voice
It's one of the most haunting sounds I've ever heard - the plangent wail of a female Sufi singer from Afghanistan. Her song, 'Gar konad saheb-e-man', which translates as 'If my eyes meet the eyes of the Lord', was filled with religious longing for the...
Friends Indeed
Jarrow playwright Peter Flannery's superb television serial Our Friends in the North started life as an RSC production in Stratford in 1982 and has finally been re-released on DVD. The £8 million, tenhour adaptation that reached the small screen after...
Good News for the Governor: A Groundswell of Responses to the Era of Bad Banking
'Of all the many ways of organising banking, ' declared the Governor of the Bank of England this week, 'the worst is the one we have today.' That spurred me to continue my search for 'relationship banking' - and the latest batch of readers' nominations...
High Life
Throughout his life my friend Porfirio Rubirosa made about $5 to 10 million out of women, and he married three of the richest in the world. Flor de Oro Trujillo, only daughter of the Dominican strongman; Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress; and Barbara...
How Far Will You Go to Be Offended?
I was standing smoking a cigarette in a near-deserted above-ground open-air car park last week when I noticed a car driving directly towards me from a distance of about 80 yards. When it was right by me, the car stopped, the door opened and a middleaged...
I Must Have Had a Reason to March against Tuition Fees. but I Don't Know What It Was
The first time I saw my name in print, in almost its own right, was in late 1997, after a person who was a friend, but isn't one any more, called up Londoners' Diary and told a young journalist who would later become a friend, but wasn't one at the...
Laughter from the Gallery
A Long Lunch: My Stories and I'm Sticking to Them by Simon Hoggart John Murray, £20, pp. 320, ISBN 9781848543973 This is an amiable book. The parliamentary sketchwriter Simon Hoggart, also the wine correspondent of this magazine, for which he drinks...
Letters
God and taxes Sir: I was surprised that we won the advance vote in the Spectator debate over faith schools ('Taxpayers' money should not fund faith schools', 13 October). Ten years ago we would have lost it resoundingly, and it demonstrates the massive...
Life's Too Short to Be Nice to Lefties
Now I know why so many people hate me. It came to me in a flash during dinner with a group of bright, articulate, well-balanced sixth-formers from Roedean girls' school. I was banging on in my rabid right-wing way about the importance of free markets...
Local Heroes
I was acting and directing at Helmsley Arts Centre last week, in a little piece of 'cafe theatre' performed in the bar to an audience of only 50. But it was a sell-out every night and, I hope, a light-hearted distraction for the citizens of my Yorkshire...
Low Life
I've two convictions for drink-driving and I might have had a third a couple of years ago when I hit a bus. Fortunately, I was injured and taken unconscious to hospital so there was no opportunity for me to blow in the bag. The rule back then was that...
Man with the Midas Touch
Nobody communicates his pleasure in winning with a more all-embracing bonhomie than professional gambler Harry Findlay. Labrador puppies presented with a dog treat are a model of restraint by comparison. E ven so, the degree of Harry's enthusiasm as...
Mr Jingle
In Competition No. 2670 you were invited to catapult Mr Jingle into the 21st century and have him deliver an anecdote. Alfred Jingle, the lean, green-coated stranger, makes his first appearance in Chapter Two of The Pickwick Papers and immediately steals...
Northern Lights
The Merry Widow Opera North, Leeds, and touring The Barber of Seville (or Salisbury) King's Head, Islington, until 14 November It's been too long since I saw The Merry Widow. I have been thinking that for some time, and the superb new production of...
Objective Thoughts
Timothy Clifford enjoys the British Museum director's tour of human history - but misses the beauty of Kenneth Clark's 'Civilisation' 'Mission Impossible' is how Neil MacGregor, in the preface to this book, describes the task set for him by Mark Damazer,...
Only Prigs Wear Mini-Skirts
The misogynist mayor of an Italian town has his sights set on the wrong target Uncle Norman likes to talk about the year the mini-skirt was born. (The name has been changed to protect him. ) It was 1965 and he was a law student living in Chelsea. And...
Picasso by Picasso
Picasso Kunsthaus Zurich, until 30 January 2011 In an upstairs room in an unfrequented corner of Zurich's Kunsthaus, there is a portrait of one of the unsung heroes of modern art. Wilhelm Wartmann was the first director of this splendid gallery, and...
Playing with Fire
After two decades of co-operation, rivalries between the major powers are rising again. China and America are preparing for economic war In a couple of weeks' time, David Cameron and George Osborne will arrive in China and witness at first hand an economic...
Portrait of the Week
Home The gross domestic product of the United Kingdom was 0.8 per cent greater in the third quarter of the year than in the previous quarter, which had seen a growth of 1.2 per cent; the new figure was higher than expected. A Sovereign Support Grant...
Pulling It Off
Putting It On by Michael Codron and Alan Strachan Duckworth, £25, pp. 416, ISBN 9780715639443 Asking a resting actor to review the biography of a top producer is like asking a sheep to eat a shepherd. I was trained as a boy to hate theatrical producers...
Real Life
Only one thing is worse than noisy neighbours and that is neighbours who are almost noisy. Loud music and uproarious parties are covered by the law. Someone walking about all night in the room over your head is not. I have been unlucky in this arena....
Senses Working Overtime
Rosas: The Song Sadler's Wells Postmodernism must be the key motif of this year's autumn dance season in London, because almost everything there is to see at the moment abides by the uncertain rules of that much-debated artistic movement. There is no...
Silent Witness
Andrew Lambirth meets Leon Kossoff, an artist of few words who prefers to let his work speak for itself A new exhibition of paintings and drawings by Leon Kossoff (born 1926) is an event in the art world. Kossoff is an intensely private man and keeps...
Something in the Tea
Anyone tempted to use the expected success of Tea Party-backed Republican candidates in next week's US elections to pronounce the beginning of the end of Barack Obama's presidency should not raise their hopes too high. Success in mid-term elections...
Spare Us the 2018 World Cup!
Andy Anson and Simon Greenberg are two splendid, clubbable chaps. Their current gig is running England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, and forgive me for sounding disloyal but I hope these two delightful fellows find themselves disappointed when Fifa...
Spectator Mini-Bar
Corney & Barrow is one of our grandest wine merchants. I have a fantasy that it began with Jim Corney, who had a barrow in Oxford Street, from which he sold knock-off Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (actually Romanian Pinot). As business grew, he went...
Stiff Competition
Burke and Hare 15, Nationwide So, a funny thing happened on the way home from the screening: I bumped into Paul Whitehouse, who has a cameo in Burke and Hare, and congratulated him on an extremely convincing tumble he takes down two flights of stairs...
The Coalition Gets Away with a Sneaky Power Grab
On Monday night, David Cameron and Nick Clegg succumbed to the temptations of power. They went against the spirit of their pre-election commitments to restore trust in politics. While the press concentrated on the government's strategy for the economy,...
The Laws of Shadows
In May 1904 a young artist called James McBryde wrote excitedly to his great friend M.R. James. 'I don't think I have ever done anything I liked better than illustrating your stories. To begin with I sat down and learned advanced perspective and the...
The Pecking Order
My children have finally left home - but their pet parrot still controls my life Every now and again you read about 'Empty Nest Syndrome' - a curious affliction suffered by parents who are sad that their children have left home. It sounds like heaven...
The Spectator's Notes
Sometimes certain words become morally compulsory. Current examples include 'sustainable' and 'transparent'. A new phrase coming up the track is 'energy security'. It is stated that we risk the energy security of the United Kingdom by being so dependent...
The Start of the Affair
Eight White Nights by André Aciman Farrar, Straus & Giroux, £17.99, pp. 360, ISBN 9790374228422 In this season of Franzen frenzy, spare a thought for Andre Aciman, an American writer whose name, I think, is so far unmentioned in the daft pursuit...
Two Wars and Three Cs
MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service, 1909-1949 by Keith Jeffery Bloomsbury, £30, pp. 810, ISBN 9780747591832x When in 1909 a 50-year-old retired naval officer, Mansfield Cumming, was asked to set up what became today's Secret Intelligence...
UnEnglish Triumph
The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy Ashmolean, until 5 December Sometimes an exhibition does what it says on the tin. The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy, the Ashmolean's first major show post-revamp, is such an exhibition. This fidelity is simultaneously its...
Who Do You Trust?
It's not 'vulgar' or 'patronising' to make National Trust properties more appealing. Stephen Bayley should back off Visitors to Thomas Hardy's birthplace in Dorset, a small thatched cottage built by Hardy's great-grandfather, used to be met by a bare...
Wifelet-on-Wifelet
Apparently Lord Bath is writing an online autobiography, 'an oeuvre of some seven million words'. For those without a computer, a broadband connection or any better way of spending a few years, Nesta Wyn Ellis's The Marquess of Bath: Lord of Love (Dynasty...
Work? Nice If You Can Get It
It's difficult to keep a job when you have Asperger's, however hard you try I am not unemployed due to laziness. I have ambitions. I would like to be successful. I would like to have a beautiful, grounded wife, children, and earn a good crust. My grandfather,...
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