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 September 2011

A Dancer's Progress
Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro Canongate, £12.99, pp. 225, ISBN 9780857861696 In 1971, at the height of the IndoPakistan war, my parents took me with them to Bombay. I was ten and it was my first trip...
ANCIENT AND MODERN - Two Kinds of Tyrant
If the Libyans really do want to move from 42 years of tyranny to a western-style 'democracy', i. e. an elective oligarchy, they will need a friendly tyrant to help them make the transition. In his Politics, Aristotle offers some top tips on the subject....
Barometer
The taxes of sin Bonn has introduced a flat-rate tax of ?6 a night for prostitutes working in the city, payable at a ticket machine. Attempts to tax prostitution have been made since at least Roman times: a receipt from Roman Egypt suggested that a...
Bistro Battleground
The Hotel du Vin is a mini chain of tasteful hotels, usually found in 'heritage' cities - Henley, Cambridge, wretched Tunbridge Wells. They have baths in bedrooms, rush-matting and white linen, and, although the name is French, they feel amazingly class-conscious,...
Blackpool's Ups and Downs
The town's first visitors were daytripping mill workers; now it's a place for hen and stag parties. William Cook charts its changing fortunes, as a photographic exhibition reveals Think of Blackpool and fine art probably isn't the first thing that springs...
BOOKENDS - How to Bury a Body
Dr Temperance Brenner, like her creator, Kathy Reichs, is a forensic anthropologist. She works in North Carolina, specialising in 'decomps and floaters'. This ensures that in Flesh and Bones (Heinemann, £18.99) you get plenty of authentic sounding detail...
Botvinnik
As this article appears a tremendously strong tournament will be coming to an end in Moscow. I t is to celebrate the great Soviet world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik, in the centenary of his birth. Over the course of his career he defeated the world...
CULTURE NOTES - Danger Zone
If you ever experienced the adrenalin of a Quasar or Alien War birthday party as a child, part of you is going to love Our Days of Rage, a play by the winners of the Write to Shine competition, at the Old Vic Tunnels (until 15 September). 'Security...
Day by Day through Someone Else's Life
Is the book - the solid, rectangular repository of the whole damn thing, from Chapter 1 to Chapter 32 - always and in principle the superior vehicle for a story? I ask because among readers of a reactionary cast of mind (among whom I sometimes count...
Day of Reckoning
Many saw disaster coming, including Philip Hensher, but no one did anything The 9/11 Commission Report: The Attack from Planning to Aftermath with a new afterword by Philip Zelikow Norton, £9.99, pp. 544, ISBN 9780393340136 The Eleventh Day: 9/11 -...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. We have friends who we would like to see much more of but when they come to dinner they always stay until 1 a. m. - often a full three hours after we have got down. This even when all other guests have left, saying they have to be up early and they...
Don't Wait for One Day
The perfect soulmate is an illusion that can ruin your life The correct response to the film One Day is, apparently, to cry your eyes out. Me, I couldn't squeeze a single tear; in fact the sentiment I could barely suppress throughout was rising irritation....
Fifteen Minutes Later
Her tirade against rioting in Hackney gave Pauline Pearce sudden, national prominence. So what does she want done now? Pauline Pearce did not know she was being filmed when she spoke out against the rioters running amok in her Hackney neighbourhood....
Friendships Resurrected
Lazarus is Dead by Richard Beard Harvill Secker, £14.99, pp. 263, ISBN 9781846555060 A fact which often surprises those who pick up the Bible in adulthood, having not looked at it for years, is how very short the stories are. Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark,...
High Life
Gstaad It's been very sunny and hot, with the bluest of blue skies above and the greenest of green mountains around me; in fact, it does not get any better than this. The farmers have cut their grass and packed it for the winter's feed, soon the cows...
Is NATO Finished?
The Libyan adventure shows a dwindling capacity for intervention After Muammar Gaddafi and his ghastly children fled Tripoli, Libyans desecrated his statues and stamped on his posters. As it turned out, the Libyans really did hate Gaddafi enough to...
Letters
We had no choice Sir: 'Britain remains an expeditionary nation keen on shaping the world, ' says James Forsyth (Politics, 27 August). Come off it, James. We weren't consulted about Libya any more than we were about Iraq (a referendum would have been...
Low Life
I took my grandson, Oscar, 20 months old, down to the regatta on the bus, a double decker, his first experience of one, and we sat upstairs at the front. The bus was far too big for the narrow country lanes and the overhanging branches of trees thrashed...
Marriage Guidance
In Competition No. 2711 you were invited to cook up a recipe for marital bliss on behalf of a poet of your choice. It was agony to whittle an especially fine entry down to the half-dozen printed below. Inevitably, some good 'uns missed out. Space permits...
Michael Gove's Free Schools Are a Triumph - but Can They Keep Up with the Baby Boom?
When Michael Gove first proposed 'free schools' four years ago, he could have been written off as another Tory daydreamer. The idea of creating an education market, with independent state schools competing for pupils, was considered by Keith Joseph...
Musical Heaven
Here in suburban Surrey it is already the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The damson tree in our front garden is so weighed down with fruit that the branches almost reach the ground, as if it were impersonating a weeping willow, and my dear...
Music, Moonlight and Dahlias
Extravagant Expectations by Paul Hollander Ivan Dee, £16.95, pp. 264, ISBN 9781566637770 The words that echoed constantly in the back of my mind as I read this book were from Paul Simon's song 'Train in the Distance': 'the thought that life could be...
New York Notebook
When the earth began to move, I was on lying on my bed with my cats in my lap. My son was in his room across the hall. The bed began to shake and I thought, inexplicably: is my little brother doing this? And then I thought, 'Oh no, are we under attack...
On His Majesty's Silent Service
Sea Wolves by Tim Clayton Little Brown, £20, pp. 448, ISBN 9781408702291 Sub by Danny Danziger Sphere, £17.99, pp. 304, ISBN 9781847444691 Of all the Allied fighting service branches in which you wouldn't have wanted to spend the second world war, probably...
Portrait of the Week
Home In London more than 2,000 had so far been arrested in connection with the August riots, of whom 1,135 had been charged. Nationally, 70 per cent of those who appeared in court were remanded in custody for trial. In more than half of Britain's postcode...
Punish the Rich, Hurt Everybody
The Bible tells us that the poor will always be with us, but there is no good reason, and certainly no scriptural authority, to support the widespread belief that the rich will be too. As capital has become more mobile, slipping across fiscal boundaries...
Real Life
'What are you doing on Sunday evening?' asked my friend Colin. 'The usual, ' I said. 'Feed the horses, drive back into town, have a bath, make cheese on toast, go to bed.' I'm all about the glamour. 'Well, come over for dinner. It's just a few friends...
Scottish Football, Double Standards and the Notting Hill Carnival
Sadly, I wasn't among the 260 souls who watched Stranraer FC narrowly defeat Berwick Rangers a couple of weeks back. I've only been to Stranraer once, in 1975, when I watched my father stand by the docks and spit in the direction of Ireland, which loomed...
Short and Sweet
Alcina Arcola Don Giovanni Soho Theatre, until 17 September During August the only opera-going possibility used to be a festival, of a fairly grand kind, but in recent years the small, 'alternative' opera companies that are proliferating have sensibly...
Something Old, Something New
Peter Blake: A Museum for Myself The Holburne Museum, Bath, until 4 September Very last chance to see the inaugural exhibition at the magnificently revamped Holburne Museum - a selection from the collections of Peter Blake, together with some of his...
Speech Impediment
Anna Christie Donmar, until 8 October Top Girls Trafalgar Studio, booking until 29 October Anna Christie, an early Eugene O'Neill play, has brought Jude Law to the tiny Donmar Warehouse. Set in New York among migrant long shoremen, the script takes...
Steve Jobs: The Perfectionist Who Raised Industrial Design to the Level of High Art
I'm no techie but I have long been an admirer of Steve Jobs, whose declining health has forced him to step down as chief executive of Apple, the Californian technology giant he co-founded 35 years ago. Many tributes have been paid, the Sunday Times...
Ten Years On
Historical eras rarely start or finish smoothly. But the tenth anniversary of September 11th next week presents a useful opportunity to reflect on the decade since those attacks - what we have won and where we have lost. In the immediate aftermath,...
The Bees' Knees
'It makes you happy that something like that exists, ' says Devente, a young beekeeper from Hackney as he emerges from his protective suit in a halo of smoke, having just checked that all is well in the colony. You could almost hear the puffs of smoke....
The Enemy Within
Inside the Pakistan Army by Carey Schofield Biteback, £19.99, pp. 240, ISBN 9781906447021 The most telling figure in Carey Schofield's book on the Pakistan army is Faisal Alavi, a major general who was murdered in November 2008. As head of Pakistan's...
The Game in Spain
So the blink-and-you-miss-it summer break is over and football is back with an all-consuming vengeance. Despite the new season hardly having had time to clear its throat, it is already spewing headlines like a TV newsbar gone postal. And that is just...
The Odd Couple
Years ago I did some charity gig with Will Self, a sort of Desert Island Books. He had chosen a Raymond Chandler, and I remarked on the similarities between Chandler and P.G. Wodehouse. Both were educated at Dulwich College, both were wonderfully stylish...
There Will Be Blood
Fright Night 15, Nationwide Fright Night (3D, which we shall just ignore) is a remake of the 1985 vampire movie of the same name and, while it's not the most fun I've ever had, it's not the least either. I've just come back from a week in a Welsh holiday...
The Road Not Taken
Abdul Haq and the 'Afghan solution' Just after September 11 2001, a piece appeared in the London Evening Standard under the headline: 'Rebel chief begs: Don't bomb now, Taleban will be gone in a month'. The accompanying photo showed a bearded man shaking...
The Spectator's Notes
'Up for Grabs' shouted a notice at the ticket office at Sissinghurst. It was not easy to buy a ticket without signing the National Trust's petition which the slogan advertised: 'For decades our planning system has protected much loved places from harmful...
Thus Do Empires End
Moscow: 25 December 1991 by Conor O'Clery Transworld, £25, pp. 423, ISBN 9781848271135 'This book is a chronicle of one day in the history of one city.' As first sentences go, that one is hard to beat - particularly given that the 'one day' is the last...
Victim's Victory
Fifty years of the movie thriller that helped decriminalise homosexuality in Britain On this Friday 50 years ago, at 1.30 p. m. , the house lights at the Odeon Leicester Square dimmed for the first public screening of a British movie called Victim ....
When You Really, Really Need the State, Will It Still Be Able to Save You?
At my uncle's holiday apartment in Salcombe, Devon, is a tiny service lift so cramped and claustrophobic that you only use it in extremis: when you have heavy bags to carry up from the car, say, or a pile of sodden wetsuits which need drying on the...
Who Are the 'Undeserving Rich'?
Westminster isn't sure. But it's suddenly obsessed with them Recently, one Tory Cabinet member went for dinner at a top London hotel with some of the most famous members of the financial elite. Good food and better wine: it was the kind of occasion...
Winning Women
The lovely thing about Hayley Turner is the girl-next-door quality which she retains despite having become Britain's highest-profile woman jockey. But while she still sounds genuinely surprised about her achievements her steady gaze reflects the inner...
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