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 August 2013

A Fascist's Fireside Chat
Death by Dior by Terry Cooper Dynasty Press, £10.99, pp. 264, ISBN 9780956803863 This book may sound like it's going to be about high fashion, but it's actually about Nazism, satanism, incest and murder. Francoise Dior decided that her uncle Christian...
A Miniature Civil War
Events in one Syrian town cast light on the nation's strife Beirut Ilyas was, he told me, the very last Christian to flee Qusayr. He had been one of just a handful in the town to join the revolution - an odd thing for a Christian to do because the Free...
A Monumental Testimony
The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic by Henry Buckley I.B. Tauris, £20, pp. 431, ISBN 9781780764290 With Spain's economic crisis in the forefront of global news, it would be fascinating to see what a reporter of Henry Buckley's stature would have...
Ancient and Modern
Epicetus on Twitter One definition of addiction is repetition of a behaviour despite adverse consequences. Twitter users will know all about it, especially those on the end of abusive or illegal threats. All communication systems are, of course, liable...
Bloody Vikings
Forget that guff about peaceful farmers with an interest in travel Sometimes the really obvious take on history turns out to be the right one. For generations, we all assumed that the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans in Belgium at the outset of...
Causes and Effects
When spending money is declared to be a good in itself, it is certain that much of it will be wasted. If that was not obvious already, it was proven by experiment when Gordon Brown announced 13 years ago that he wished to increase healthcare spending...
Cinema Love Is Blind
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa 15, Nationwide 48 The thing is, I love the character of Alan Partridge so much it may well be that, when it came to this film, I left my critical faculties outside the screening room, possibly somewhere along Wardour Street....
Dance Hooked on Classics
La Bayadere; The Sleeping Beauty Bolshoi Ballet, in rep at the Royal Opera House until 17 August Tradition is often frowned on. Yet, if properly handled, it can be sheer fun and pure bliss, as demonstrated by the Bolshoi Ballet's current season in London....
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. My mainly male colleagues and I were happy to learn that an attractive young woman would be joining the staff of the boarding prep school where we work. Yet, unfathomably, and despite having gone to the Dragon and grown up in north Oxford, this new...
Diary
Hay-making was easy this year, and over in good time for a holiday. I am opposed to holidays, having worked all my life to build a sovereign territory from which departure will be a guaranteed disappointment. However, the children have yet to be convinced...
Dublin's Dark Heart
Holy Orders by Benjamin Black Mantle, £16.99, pp. 256, ISBN 9781447202189 It's always a little disconcerting for the rest of us when literary novelists turn to crime. Have they become different writers? John Banville, winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize...
Every Little Helps as the Big Banks Continue to Clean Up Their Act
By and large it was a good week for the big banks - underpinned by encouraging news from the wider economy, in which every little uptick brings a few more zombie borrowers back to the land of the living. Lloyds returned to profit, promised to start...
Exhibitions Summer Focus
Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courtauld in the '20s Courtauld Gallery, until 8 September Vermeer and Music National Gallery, until 8 September Michael Landy: Saints Alive National Gallery, until 24 November In 1929, Samuel Courtauld owned the most important...
Food World Shaking
Shake Shack is a hamburger restaurant in Covent Garden market. It came from New York and it is as needy and angry and angryneedy as America itself; it is, I suspect, quite capable of inventing a bogus reason to invade Burger King while posing as a victim...
High Life
I am standing on the deck of a 100ft schooner that was built in Normandy in 1931 by Gerald and Sara Murphy, the golden American couple who invented the south of France as a summer playground and who were in the forefront of artistic and literary Parisian...
History's Great Success Story
The Tudors, England's most glamerous dynasty, were self-invented parvenus, with 'vile and barbarous' origins, Anne Somerset reminds us Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle Chatto, £20, pp. 539, ISBN 9780701185886 As parvenus, the Tudors were unsurpassed....
Is the EU Stopping Britain's Shale Revolution?
A few months after the last election, Oliver Letwin warned Cabinet colleagues that a chunk of Britain's income would be gone for good after the econom ic cr is is. Letw in , who has a lways been the Cameron project's in-house intellectual, told them...
It's Not Hate That Caitlin Moran Can't Stand. It's Being Disagreed With
Hell, it's been tough, but I think I've pulled through. I went out this morning to buy some cigarettes and there were plenty of people about, doing stuff - so the world has not changed beyond recognition these last couple of days. Everyone else seems...
Learn to Switch Off
Why not give your smartphone a holiday? I was sitting on some rocks by the Cornish coast when a teenager swanned by on the sun-warmed boardwalk in front of me. The boy stood on the burning deck, preparing to dash across the sand, dive. Then his phone...
Letters
In defence of bats Sir: I am saddened by the 'us versus them' stance taken by Melissa Kite ('Bats vs people', 3 August) when referring to bats. I might be better known for wielding a different sort of bat, but I am a strong supporter of the winged variety....
Long Life
While sitting beside a pool under a blistering Tuscan sun, I've been reading an article in Corriere della Sera about how to make the most of a summer holiday. The paper says that it isn't enough to do what I have been doing - sweat, swim, sweat again,...
Loved and Lost
A Corner of Paradise by Brian Thompson Chatto, £16.99, pp. 224, ISBN 9780701188023 Author has late-blossoming romance with authoress, both divorcees, and they live together in a cramped house in Harrogate full of stepchildren and then buy a derelict...
Making a Mint
Send George Osborne to the Tower, then he might learn that currency manipulation rarely ends well. Coins and Kings occupies fou r small rooms in a Yeoman Warder's house on the site of the old mint, which was established by Edward I in the 1270s in response...
MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Fracking
62 ' F rankly, my dear, I don't give a frack, ' replied my husband unwittily when I asked how he'd feel if shale gas was discovered at the bottom of our garden. But he did illustrate why the word has proved so good for campaigners. Someone at Balcombe...
Must We Celebrate Gay Weddings Twice?
Apparently I've proposed to my civil partner. He claims that on BBC Radio 2, on the Jeremy Vine show (he thinks it was the JV show) I expressed myself in terms which presumed his prior acceptance. I can't remember a thing about it - on live radio one...
My Companion for Life
Reflections of a Metaphysical Flaneur and Other Essays by Raymond Tallis Acumen, £14.99, pp. 299, ISBN 9781844656660 There are books we read for pleasure and there are books we are paid to review. However enjoyable the books we review, they are still,...
Nature vs Nudists
How a little bird saved my favourite beach Carla , my Italian wife, has a small house in a little town on the Adriatic near Ravenna called Lido di Dante, right next to one of the last unspoilt beaches in Italy. But we cannot go to this spectacular beach...
No Shrinking Violet
A Stone in the Shade: Last Memoirs by Violet Powell Stone Trough Books, £24, pp. 147, ISBN 9780954454289 Evelyn Waugh once recalled the anguish with which he greeted Edith Sitwell's announcement that 'Mr Waugh, you may call me Edith.' I experienced...
Opera A Ring for Eternity
The Ring The Proms The first complete performance of Wagner's Ring cycle at the Proms is already, less than a week after its conclusion, being hailed as historic and will soon be mythic, an appropriate status and designation for this amazing and amazingly...
Places of Enchantment
ARTS Places of enchantment this year's Edinburgh Art Festival Few come to Edinburgh in August for the art but this year they should. The line-up for the official Art Festival is impressive and, happily, rich in painters. Foremost among them is Peter...
Pop J.J. Cale's Vision
'I don't really like most of the music you play, ' said the tall blonde woman with whom I share my life. 'There are no tunes. Where are the tunes? A lot of it sounds like the sort of thing you'd hear in Topshop.' I was outraged. Admittedly, the song...
Portrait of the Week
Home Retail sales enjoyed their fastest July growth in seven years, thanks to demand for beer, sun cream, swimwear and barbecue food. Manufacturing output rose by 1.9 per cent in June, following declines in both April and May. Lloyds Banking Group announced...
Radio Digital Dilemma
Will digital radio ever really take off? We were supposed to be switching over to digital-only reception in 2015 (three years after the TV switchover) but with only 36.8 per cent of listeners as yet tuning in to a digital station the future of DAB is...
Real Life
My spaniel has been pronounced 'too thin' by a lady who rescues dogs from Greece. I had stopped to chat with her in the park, as I often do, because I like the lady who rescues dogs from Greece. I'm not one of those people who say, 'Well, how disgraceful....
Set in a Silver Sea
Island: How Islands Transform the World by J. Edward Chamberlin Elliott & Thompson, £14.99, pp. 241, ISBN 9781909653382 'Tom Island' - that was the name I was given once by a girl I met on an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Of course, she broke my...
Spectator Sport Speculation Season
It's been a long, hot, soccerless holiday. There has been football about - the women's European Championship, for example, and various age-group tournaments, all of which England departed with undue haste - but not the proper stuff. There hasn't been...
Status Anxiety the Myths of the English Countryside
One of the great things about spending the summer holidays in E ngland is that it gives you an opportunity to experience life in the country. All year, Caroline and I dream about moving out of London and spend hours scouring property websites to see...
Television Anglo-Saxon Disaster
'Somerset. Winter 877, ' said the subtitles below an arty, BBC-nature-doc style closeup of a coot paddling amid the reeds on the eerie black waters of the Somerset levels. 'Yes!' I went, mentally punching the air. 'I'm in safe hands here, I can tell....
Theatre A Noo Era
Titanic Southwark Playhouse, until 31 August Alice in Wonderland St Paul's Church, until 31 August Hats off for theatrical recklessness. The producer Danielle Tarento has taken a $10-million Broadway mega-musical and staged it in the 240-seat Southwark...
The Muse in the Bottle
The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing Canongate, £20, pp. 340, ISBN 9781847677945 The boozer's life is one of low self-esteem and squalid self-denial. It was memorably evoked by Charles Jackson in his 1944 novel The Lost Weekend;...
The Peloponnese
Island-hopping is for backpackers and binge-drinkers; if you want a real Greek holiday, the place to go is Koroni, Messenia, on the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese. It's an old town - founded by the Greeks before Christ, absorbed into Byzantium...
The Urban Peasant Diet
You know that something's afoot when Lakeland says so. Lakeland is the kitchenware company which has more of a finger on the pulse of Middle England than most MPs. So when the company declared that it can barely keep pace with demand for home mincers...
Welcome to Big Venice
London is at risk of becoming a tourist trap full of second homes Queuing to gain admittance to the pavement of Westminster Bridge on a ferociously hot Sunday afternoon recently, I found myself trapped. Pinioned by a road to one side, a stall selling...
When the Picturesque Turns Ugly
Country Boy by Richard Hillyer Slightly Foxed Editions, £16, pp. 255, ISBN 9781906562519 Under his real name, Charles James Stranks, the author of this little masterpiece wrote on a number of ecclesiastical subjects: the Venerable Bede, Jeremy Taylor,...
Who's Who?
Through the ages, The Time Lord has been a political weathervane Who inspired Who ? Leave aside for one moment the hyperventilating BBC enthronement of Peter Capaldi, though we shall return to him later. I mean way back at the beginning, 50 years ago....
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