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 January 2011

All These Indias
David Gilmour enjoys an idiosyncratic journey around this vast country of sometimes unbearable contrasts India: a Portrait Patrick French Allen Lane, £25, pp. 436 ISBN 9781846142147 Some years ago I went to a dinner party in Lucknow, capital of India's...
America's Islington
The New York City neighbourhood where politically correct prejudices are born Most people, when they hear the word Brooklyn, will think of big-bellied pizza-spinners, or men hunched over pints of the black stuff in Little Ireland, or black kids in hanging-down...
Asking the Wrong Questions
It is as if we are stuck in a hideous loop. Every few months, it seems, Tony Blair is once again hauled up to give evidence to the never-ending Iraq inquiry. Each time he is dragged from a luxury hotel in some distant land to London, where he gives...
Barometer
Wiki whispers Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia which anyone can edit, has celebrated its 10th anniversary. The following are among the dubious 'facts' that have been added to its pages - and then removed by more scrupulous users: - Alan Titchmarsh...
Blood Price
US marines believe that they are succeeding where British forces failed - while suffering a death rate three times higher Sangin, Afghanistan 'You don't want to end up on a bracelet or on a fucking T-shirt. If you see people that need to die, kill...
BOOKENDS - OK, by Allan Metcalf
One of Allan Metcalf's content ion s in OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word is that the two letters have become America's philosophy: 'we don't insist that everything be perfect; OK is good enough'. It's a pity that his book proves the...
Creative Protesting
It's time to heed the complaints and free art schools from the constraints of the university system, says Niru Ratnam The Turner Prize award ceremony always attracts protest - usually in the shape of the Stuckists, a group of bedraggled, eccentric-looking...
Dark Art
Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography Victoria and Albert Museum, until 20 February Edward Gordon Craig: Space and Light Victoria and Albert Museum, until 13 March Shadow Catchers is an effective title, with its magical and occult associations, and...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. How, when you have asked people for drinks at seven, can you make sure that they do not stay all evening? We recently moved to the country at weekends and my husband has invited some neighbours to come up for a drink on Saturday night. It did not...
Diary
I seem to have spent the first three weeks of 2011 attempting to prove my innocence. 'So sorry to keep you, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to call for my manager, ' the checkout lady at Waitrose informed me, sounding vaguely alarmed. I think she probably...
France-Latin Quarter
Harry Mount tracks Roman footsteps in Provence When the Romans pulled off their first conquest outside Italy in the second century bc, they weren't too imaginative. Although the territory was officially named Gallia Narbonensis, they simply called the...
From the Land of the Risk Assessment, Everywhere Looks as Dangerous as Beirut
There was a stupid woman on the television news the other night, interviewed the day after she and her family had arrived for their holiday in - yes - Tunisia. The rioting had been going on for the best part of a week by the time she showed up, but...
Gender Problems
Madam Butterfly King's Head, Islington, until 23 January It's sometimes intriguing to speculate, as you go to an opera in a fringe production of one kind or another, about how much messing around (used neutrally) this or that popular work can take....
Hell or High Water
Unbroken: An Extraordinary True Story of Courage and Survival by Air, Sea and Land by Laura Hillenbrand 4th Estate, £20, pp. 475, ISBN 9780007378012 As his battered bomber hurtled towards the Pacific in May 1943, Louis Zamperini thought to himself that...
High Life
Gstaad Having spent a great part of my life charting the decline of civilisation, I am not at all surprised at the goings-on in Tunisia, especially as I never considered the place to be civilised. How apt that the arch crook dictator Ben Ali (Baba)...
How to Warm Your Mansion with Other People's Money
Let no one say this is not a redistributive government. It is taking benefits away from the poor and giving them instead to people with large houses and a bit of spare capital. How? Through a great green energy scam, originally devised by Labour, which...
It's Business, Russian-Style - and Let's Hope It's Third Time Lucky for BP's Bob Dudley
'It was just business, Russian-style.' That was how Bob Dudley described to me his experience in 2008 of having to manage the TNK-BP joint venture in Siberia by email from a secret location in Central Europe - because BP's Russian partners had made...
Labour of Love
I have long believed that a part of you dies in winter and doesn't come back to life until you feel the sun on your face and a midwesterly breeze in the air. We must take comfort where we find it in these dark days and I have recently discovered a splendid...
Letters
Lib Dems in poll position Sir: Nick Cohen's article on the strange death of the Liberal Democrats (15 January) was itself dead in the water by the time the magazine hit the newsstand, because although they came second, the Liberal Democrat share of...
Living Dolls
Butterfly's Sisters by Yoko Kawaguchi Yale, £30, pp. 339, ISBN 9780300115215 Born in Japan, growing up in America in the Sixties, Yoko Kawaguchi was perplexed by the persistence of what she felt to be an anachronistic image of Japanese culture: the...
Low Life
This old tin miner's cottage that I'm now living in is normally uninhabited in winter. The remoteness, incessant foul weather, guaranteed frozen pipes and impassable roads make the place unattractive for short-term tenants. 'See how you get on, ' said...
Mexican Rave
Possibly the greatest ever festival of chess took place in Mexico City towards the end of last year when Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov descended on La Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico (UNAM), which chose a chess theme to celebrate its centenary....
Non-Stop Larks
The Fitzrovia Radio Hour; Barbershopera, Apocalypse No! Trafalgar Studios, until 5 February Gently does it. The Fitzrovia Radio Hour takes us back to the droll and elegant world of light entertainment in the 1940s when the airwaves were full of racy...
Pig in the Middle
The Stranger in the Mirror: A Memoir of Middle Age by Jane Shilling Chatto, £16.99, pp. 241, ISBN 9780701181000 Writing an autobiographical account of middle age is a brave undertaking, necessitating a great deal of self-scrutiny at a time of life when...
Portrait of the Week
Home The government introduced a Health and Social Care Bill to give control of a large part of the NHS budget to consortia of GPs. Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, refused a request from the Iraq inquiry for exchanges between Tony Blair,...
Reality Check
Horizon (BBC2, Monday) asked, 'What is reality?' and didn't really have an answer. Well, it seems nobody does, though plenty of physicists, mathematicians and astronomers are working on it. As the voiceover told us, 'Once you have entered their reality,...
Real Life
Some sadistically cheerful young popsy called Keeley or Tasha, I can't remember which, terminated the call because I breached security. My own security. This is a bit rich, even if I didn't keep completely to the rules. I always cheat during the beginning...
Sir Humphrey's New Suit
The Civil Service has finally learned something from business: it is now fluent in management jargon A friend of mine has just come back from a few days of Civil Service inhouse training. He managed in no time to get the hang of the exercise, namely,...
Sometimes, Freedom Requires Doing Your Homework
'Have you heard about the vast Libertarian conspiracy? We're going to take over the government - and then leave you alone!' This is the kind of joke that makes me proud to be libertarian, as a lot of the wisest, funniest and best people are these days,...
Star Crossed
'Why should those of 60-plus use valet parking?' inquired one of my Christmas cracker mottos. 'Because valets don't forget where they park your car.' Life does catch up on you, as I recently discovered when my son beat me 3-0 at table tennis despite...
Steps to Destruction
Black Swan 15, Nationwide I have always suspected that, if you look for the black swan within yourself, it will end in tears, and now Darren Aronofsky has proved me right. It will end in tears, as well as bloody gashes, horrors glimpsed in mirrors,...
Still Life
Giselle Royal Opera House, in rep until 19 February Ballet is a dying art, according to Jennifer Homans's best selling history of ballet, Apollo's Angels. Sensationalist as it may sound, this claim is cogently argued at the end of the book, which turns...
The Plot Thickens
Sherlock Holmes is devilishly hard to kill. Within a few years of his birth in 1887, Conan Doyle had already grown tired of Holmes, and tried smother him by demanding ever larger fees for his adventures. W hen the fees were paid, he was driven to desperate...
The Racehorse Diet
At 16-and-a-half stone, I chose to lose weight the hard way: by training to become a jockey Being married to Rose, one of the greatest cooks in the country, is an especially pleasurable thing. No meal is ever dull. Breakfast can be a variety of treats...
The Spectator's Notes
T o interview people for my biography of Lady Thatcher, I often go the House of Lords, where many of the best witnesses lurk. Recently, the place has become so crowded that queues form at the Peers' Entrance and mobs of petitioners are kettled beside...
The Sweet Smell of Danger
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller Atlantic Books, £12.99, pp. 288, ISBN 9781848874527 If this novel is ever published with a scratch and-sniff cover - which incidentally, I think it might be successful enough to warrant - this is what it would smell of: cheap...
The Terror of Being on Any Questions without Any Easy Answers
I enjoy BBC Radio 4's Any Questions and feel privileged when I am asked to join Jonathan Dimbleby's panel. But like (I suspect) any other panellist when the On Air light goes on, I'm conscious of a temptation to play to the gallery and adjust my opinions...
Triplicate
In Competition No. 2681 you were invited to submit a treble clerihew about a public figure who was prominent in 2009 or 2010. Jaspistos, who ran a similar competition some years ago, noted that it was E .C. Bentley's son, the author and illustrator...
Tweaking the Formula
The annual Ferrari junket to Madonna di Campiglio in the Italian Alps last week is, understandably, regarded by motor-racing journalists as the king of freebies. Expect a whole slew of sports stories about the new Formula One season, which roars off...
Under Eastern Eyes
An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Celebi translated by Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim Eland, £25, pp. 482 ISBN 9781906011444 The Ottoman Empire inspired great travel books as well as great architects. Travellers like...
What Would Tony Do?
The voters may hate Blair, but the new government worships him It is easy to tell when David Cameron is wading into trouble during interviews. He becomes defensive, audibly irritated and - as an emergency self-calming measure - tries to force a little...
Writerly Magic
A frock that shocks, a terror-filled red coat and diamonds of seductive power are all promised next week in an alluring late-night series on Radio 3 (produced by Duncan Minshull). Listener, They Wore It gives us five 15-minute essays about clothes....
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