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 March 2013

All Things to All Men
The Undelivered Mardle: A Memoir of Belief, Doubt and Delight by John Rogers Darton, Longman & Todd, £12.99, pp. 160, ISBN 9780232529562 This 'wry soliloquy', as Ronald Blythe calls The Undelivered Mardle in his introduction, is quite unlike anything...
A Protester's Notebook
If the weather had been this foul have found myself in the middle of the River Thames, or served a six-month prison sentence in HMP Wormwood Scrubs. My plan, then, was to make a protest against inequalities in British society, government cuts, reductions...
Aspiration Nation
I still haven't got over aspiration nation, the Chancellor's watchword in this month's Budget, which now seems a long time ago. Why is it so annoying? One aspect is the rhyme. It stops short of being a repetition, like Humbert Humbert, but settles for...
Boris, a Nasty Piece of Work? I Don't Thinks So
I'm trying to imagine the BBC's Eddie Mair interviewing Nelson Mandela, the elderly African squirming uncomfortably in his seat as Mair, like one of the late Eugene Terre'Blanche's famous Dobermans, snarls ever more menacingly, foam dripping from his...
Boy Wonder
Self-portrait as a Young Man by Roy Strong Bodleian Library, £25, pp. 286, ISBN 9781851242825 Eventually, all of Sir Roy Strong's voluminous personal archive is going - like Alan Bennett's - to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Riffling through it, he...
Cinema beyond Belief
Trance 15, Nationwide Obviously, we all love Danny Boyle and want to have his babies - I'd like at least two of his babies - but his latest film, Trance, is a horrid mess. A psychological take on the art-heist film, it is miscast, iffily acted, confusing,...
Cross Examination
ARTS Cross examinationers food for A s Easter comes upon us in this bitter spring, many of us are drawn to contemplate the mystery of Christ's passion: his Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. You don't have to go to church to do this,...
CUL T U R E N O T E S Country Rose, Take Me Home
Caitlin Rose, Caitlin Rose, Caitlin Rose. I'd feel awkward admitting that I'm rather obsessed with this Na shv i l le chanteu se , were it not for a mitigating truth: you should be, too. Her debut album Own S id e Now, relea sed in 2010, wa s proo f...
Daring to Do
The Real Great Escape by Guy Walters Bantam, £20, pp. 411, ISBN 9780 59307 1908 Human Game: Hunting the Great Escape Murderers by Simon Read Constable, £18.99, pp. 330, ISBN 9781 78033 0204 The scene is chilling. Four men stand in the snow, all in uniform....
Dear Mary, Your Problems Solved
Q. We entertain a lot and are used to coping with requests from guests who are vegetarian or have an allergy, etc. However, recently a guest replied that he would like to attend a dinner (given to enable discussion of a political matter) and he would...
Diary
After £4 million of taxpayer's money and eight months of celebrity handwringing (bar a few notable and worthy exceptions), democracy has finally triumphed: Leveson has got the press where many MPs have long wanted it, i. e. strapped to a chair having...
Drink A Duty to the Club
We should all perform good works. A friend of mine helps to run a soup kitchen in Soho. She summons the wives of the mighty from their seats, in order to fill the lowly with good things. There is a degree of competitiveness. Soignee ladies arrive from...
Evil under the Sun
The plot of The Quickening (A r row / Hammer, £9.99) by Ju l ie Myer son (pictured) revolves around pregnant, newlywed Rachel and her sinister husband, Dan. Rachel's ghostly journey begins when Dan suggests a hol iday in Ant igua . Even though Rachel...
Exhibitions the Art of Darkness
The Angel of the Odd: Dark Romanticism from Goya to Max Ernst Musee d'Orsay, Paris, until 9 June To some extent, all Romanticism has its origins in darkness, coming in the wake of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake that introduced fear into the age of reason....
Game of Thrones? It's Just like the Tory Party
On the face of it, Game of Thrones doesn't look very good. The HBO television series, based on a sequence of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin, is set in a fictional, medieval kingdom called Westeros where various ambitious men do battle for the...
Happy Easter
'Distracted from distraction by distraction' was one way in which T.S. Eliot described the inhabitants of 'this twittering world' in his Four Quartets. Eliot's words seem more accurate today than even he might have expected. With the apparently ceaseless...
High Life High Life
A nice package arrived by post just as I was going to ring a friend in London and inquire how old and how good a title is if the bearer uses it more often than a footballer says the F-word. I will not name the bum because I did a few weeks back and...
How Bitcoin Could Destroy the State (and Perhap S Make Me a Bit O F Money)
Last time I was here (two weeks ago; how've you been? ) I briefly mentioned Bitcoin, an emerging internet currency I didn't understand at all but via which I had nonetheless made a bit of money (£57). Since then, I've been reading up and the whole thing...
'In the Beginning Was Breath'
Lloyd Evans talks to Declan Donnellan about his acclaimed production of Ubu Roi and taking a holiday from words Declan Donnellan is riding high. His acclaimed production of the burlesque classic Ubu Roi has confirmed his membership of the elite group...
Letters
Right to say NO Sir: Three cheers for the Spectator NO! ('Why we aren't signing', 23 March). I would rather be informed by the slimiest of Fleet Street's journalists or the rudest blogger than any one of Westminster's incompetents. Dr A.E. Hanwell York...
Long Life
Apart from the weather, which has been so relentlessly horrible that it now deservedly takes precedence in the headlines over even our desperate economic plight, this is turning out to be rather an encouraging time for the old. I do not underestimate...
Low Life
Look, I was in a bad mood. Again. No particular reason, or possibly the weather. The silly thing is I'd been looking forward to it so very much. The builders are about to start work on an £8.5 million extension to the local school, and my grandson,...
Most Tories Expect to Lose. and Now Some Want To
Downing Street aides nervously run through the symptoms: a flat economy, poor press, leadership mutterings. Then they say, 'It's just mid-term blues, isn't it?' A second later, they add nervously, 'It's nothing more serious than that, is it?' The truth...
Nothing like a Dame
Philip Hensher explains how Rebecca West's remarkably West's World: The Extraordinary Life of Dame Rececca West by Lorna Gibb Macmillan, £25, pp. 320, ISBN 9781220714625 Lorna Gibb ends her book on Rebecca West by saying: 'That she would be remembered...
On the Beach
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki Canongate, £20, pp. 422, ISBN 9780857867964 About halfway through A Tale for the Time Being I had the uncomfortable feeling that this was going to be a reincarnation story and that I would soon discover one of...
Opera Agony and Ecstasy
Francesca da Rimini Live from the Met Orpheus St George's Hanover Square For its penultimate HD cinema relay this season the New York Met enterprisingly put on a revival of its production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, with enormous solid sets necessitating...
Pleasure vs Happiness
Our celebrity culture grows fro a twisted idea of the good life Easter is the season of rebirth and renewal. It is hard to renew ourselves, not because we are weak and tempted only, but because our pleasure-seeking culture pours scorn on all the old...
Portrait of the Week
Home David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in a speech designed to show that Britain was no longer to be a 'soft touch' for immigrants, said that people from the European Union would have to show they had a 'genuine chance of getting work' in order to...
Quintilian on Michael Gove
One hundred professors have complained that Michael Gove's new curriculum will stifle children's 'creativity' because they will have to learn things. How very true! The Roman educationist Quintilian (c. AD 35-100) argued that memory was the surest sign...
Radio Come Together
'That's the power of ritual, ' said the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, on Thought for the Day last week. He was thinking particularly of the Jewish festival of Passover with its ritual gathering of the family to eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs as...
Real Life
Sadly, I was being over-optimistic when I declared that if all went well with the builder boyfriend I would never need Stefano the Albanian again. It turns out that I never stopped needing Stefano. I needed him while I was dating the builder, because...
Spectator Wine
The other day I had one of those awkward moments. We were guests at dinner. 'You're a wine writer!' said our host. 'I'd like your opinion on these two!' You're still supposed to say, 'Goodness, these are delicious! What did they cost? Only £4.99 a bottle!...
Stealing from the Thieves: Why Poor Russians as Well as Rich Share Cyprus's Pain
In their second attempt to clean the Augean stables of Cyprus's banking system without jeopardising the integrity of the euro, bailout negotiators seem to have heeded most of my advice from last week. After the 36-0 rejection by the Cypriot parliament...
Television Time Travellers
It used to be that when an arch-villain wanted to decimate a community, he'd put something in the water. Now, it's something in the wi-fi. In the new Dr Who, the Time Lord battles a baddie who runs a group called the Spoonheads, whose mission is to...
The Art of Philanthropy
Three years ago, on an Ignatian retreat in Wales, two of the staff were taken ill - a priest and a kitchen maid, Maria. At Eucharist, we were given regular updates on the progress of the priest, but radio silence when it came to Maria. Inwardly furious,...
Theatre Jokeless and Pointless
The Book of Mormon Prince of Wales Theatre, booking to 21 December The Winslow Boy Old Vic, until 25 May Impossible, surely. The Book of Mormon could never live up to the accolades lavished on it by America's critics. 'Blissfully original, outspoken,...
The Curse of Public Speaking
Put an ordinary person in front of a microphone and they start to talk in pompous cliches. There's something about the word located that makes me want to slit throats. Not that I'm a naturally furious chap, not a bit of it. But located makes me want...
The Great Savings Robbery
What's happening quickly and loudly in Cyprus is happening slowly and stealthily here. There are many reasons that the fate of Cyprus is being followed so closely in Britain. One is sympathy for those who are about to pay the price for the sins of a...
The Home-Wreckers
Britain's great contribution to domestic architecture is being sacrififed to make white houses for Russian oligarchs. Now that his old arch-enemy, Boris Berezovsky, has bitten the dust, Roman Abramovich can devote his full attention to another bete...
The Spectator's Notes
'And just to round off the week, ' said the chirpy Radio 3 announcer, 'the St Mark Passion on Friday.' Just to round off the week, eh? Did Jesus say, 'It is finished', just to round off the week? His death, alone, did not round off anything. Wait till...
The Turf National Pride
Nothing hurts quite so much as the ones that get away. Unable to be at Cheltenham's Festival the day the improving Holywell, one of this column's Twelve to Follow, was running in the Pertemps Final, I had assumed I would be able to phone in my bets....
The View F Rom Cyprus
Downtown Nicosia has been closed, on and off, for more than a week. On the terraces of the upmarket coffee shops, the torches flicker and the disco music babbles. When the Cypriot government shut the banks, many retailers decided to close as well, so...
The Wiki Man Never Trust Anyone You Can't Punish
The city of Granada is notable for several things. Most visitors go to see the Alhambra, or for a strange procession during Holy Week interesting chiefly for having provided fashion tips to the Ku Klux Klan. Judging by its Wikipedia entry, it is also...
When the Solution Becomes the Problem
To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny Morozov Allen Lane, £18, pp. 432, ISBN 9781610391382 Technology may not have taken over the world, but it is making quite good progress in taking over our lives. Thirty years ago, receiving a phone call was the...
Why I Fear for My Daughter
It's not so much the cuts to disability services that's the problem, as how ideology is changing them To listen to many disability pressure groups, adult social care for people with learning disabilities is being slashed by a heartless government. What...
Why I'm a Convert to Ukip
'A conduit for pissed-off protest voters.' 'Farage's Falange.' 'Fascists in blazers.' These are some of the things friends have said about Ukip recently and I don't want to embarrass them by naming names, for the last thing I'd wish on a mate is the...
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