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 July 2007

After All the Television Fakeries, I Am Even Beginning to Doubt That Roland Rat Was Real
There was a photograph in one of the Sunday papers, and it caught my eye. It showed a cheery bald man in some drowned Gloucestershire village traversing the floodwater on a penny-farthing. Hmm, I thought to myself, almost immediately, I bet that's faked....
A Very Private Enterprise
Private equity investment, backing venture capital and management buy-outs, has been around a long time. Private-equity takeovers of public companies listed on the stock exchange are a more recent development; and the number and size of such transactions...
Bare Necessities
The Nnaked Portrait Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, until 2 September, then Compton Verney, Warwickshire, from 29 September to 9 December The advance publicity I saw for this on the whole excellently curated exhibition contained a health...
Celebrity Squares
Autograph-hunters are easily maligned. When not frequenting sci-fi conventions, they are to be found lurking like discomfited pigeons at film premières or the opening nights of West End theatre productions, clutching pocketbooks bearing signatures of...
Common Sense Submerged
The waters of the River Avon, recounted the vicar of Bengeworth, outside Evesham, 'reached almost to the keystone of the arch of the bridge, and extended up Port Street to the public pump on the south side of the street, so that inhabitants were compelled...
Defence against the Dark Arts
Sir: Deborah Ross's review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was unworthy of The Spectator (Arts, 21 July). I had better set out my stall: I'm afraid I am among those 'middleaged wierdos' she is likely to spot reading the books on the Tube....
Diary
I am registered as a voter in EalingSouthall and have a problem. Though a member of the party, I could not vote Conservative. The candidate put up by 'David Cameron's Conservatives' had been a Conservative for a matter of hours and been parachuted in...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Good news at last. Dezzy and Paddy (sorry, Mr Swayne and Mr McLoughlin) have successfully identified the traitors who are calling for a vote of no confidence in Dave. When you look down the list it's clear that we are dealing with some extremely...
Eye Trouble
My boy's mother's husband was plastering a wall last week when a sack of lime fell off the scaffold and landed on his dog, which was lying at the foot of the ladder. The sack burst open and some lime went in the dog's eye. For nearly a week the poor...
Family Favourites
The Simpsons Movie PG, Nationwide As you'd expect -- doh! -- The Simpsons Movie has some glorious lines in it. Lisa to Marge: 'I'm so angry.' Marge to Lisa: 'You're a woman. You can hold it in for years.' Bart to Homer: 'This is the worst day of my...
Fashion's Hidden Secret
I once called Milan the ugliest city in Italy, which in hindsight is unfair, if still not far from the truth. Here, in the country's northern powerhouse, everything lies behind closed doors, and the beautiful mediaeval gardens and tree-lined courtyards...
Going Dutch
I've been reading Still Life with a Bridle by the poet Zbigniew Herbert in preparation for Dutch Portraits: The Age of Rembrandt and Franz Hals at the National Gallery. It's a fascinating collection of essays which examines and pays tribute to the Golden...
I Am Proud to Have Been on Dave's Rwanda Trip
Kigali Hewas damned because he did, but he would have been equally damned if he hadn't. David Cameron's decision to come to Rwanda this week -- which honours commitments he had made both to the country and members of his own party who are out here working...
If Not Dave, Then Who? the Parlour Game That Might Get Serious
Itis horrible to imagine. It would be a tragedy, for party and country. Even contemplating it seems lurid and, given recent events, deeply mischievous. It is certainly not something for loyal Tories to discuss in public. But, in their darker moments,...
Into the Norwegian Wood
OUT STEALING HORSES by Per Petterson translated by Anne Born Vintage, £7.99, pp. 264, ISBN 0099506130 £6.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Here is a remarkable novel, one which appears to be about nothing in particular, featuring barely half a dozen...
Is It, like, Such a Tough Ask to Speak Proper English?
We all know that correct English is no longer taught in most of our schools, but now at last the government seems to agree. A few weeks ago it announced the introduction of new A-level grades to make it more difficult to achieve the highest ranking....
Making Connections
In idle mood -- perhaps prompted by the news of terrible further flooding -- I've just listened for the first time in many years to Peter Grimes. Idleness scarcely survives the excitement that involves the listener from the opening bar. It's difficult...
No More School
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J. K. Rowling Bloomsbury, £17.99, pp. 608, ISBN 9780747591061 £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 When, ten years ago, you bought for Jack or Chloe a jollysounding novel about a schoolboy getting up to all...
On the Beach
A column's seasonal staple: what to read on the beach this summer? Usual form is a rave notice, in matey holiday spirit, for any new book by an old friend. I plead guilty as charged. But this one's still a terrific book. Be aware, mind you, as you loll...
Pied Piper of Bougainville
MISTER PIP by Lloyd Jones John Murray, £12.99, pp. 223, ISBN 9780719564567 £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 We won't know the Man Booker Prize longlist until 7 August, but Mister Pip had better be on it. It knocks the only New Zealand winner...
Pulling Power
On board S/Y Bushido My closest friend Yanni Zographos, who died 11 years ago, had a system for picking up women with young children in tow. As he passed a mother pushing a pram he would announce to no one in particular, 'Les jolies mamans font des...
Raid Rage
Northern Kenya I sat down to write this next to the skull of a Samburu cattle rustler who recently fell in battle. Nothing remains of him for us to bury today except his cranium, some healthy teeth and an anorak. Hyenas ate the rest. His last moments...
Rewriting History
Twenty minutes is reckoned by psychologists to be the most that any of us can concentrate without the mind wandering, the legs becoming restless, the eyes gently closing, the head dropping slightly towards the chest. It's also just about the time needed...
Scratching the Surface
Cosi fan tutte; Summer Concert Royal Opera House The Royal Opera, for its last revival of the season, got Jonathan Miller to make over his 1995 production of Così fan tutte, everyone's favourite Mozart opera these days, owing to its sceptical view of...
Tales of the Yangzi
GRAND CANAL, GREAT RIVER : THE TRAVEL DIARY OF A TWELFTH-CENTURY CHINESE POET translated with a commentary by Philip Watson Frances Lincoln, £20, pp. 255, ISBN 9780711227194 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In Grand Canal, Great River we enter...
The Floods That Really Matter Are Composed of Migrant Labour
Pangbourne England's habitually well-mannered and inoffensive chalk streams have been uncharacteristically full of themselves this last week or so -- as you may have gathered from your television evening news programmes or, if you're unlucky, your kitchen....
The SNP Is Playing a Deadly Game with Islam
Acivic reception will take place next month for the Glasgow airport workers and travellers whose courage on Saturday 30 June when bombers struck the terminal building may well have prevented horrific slaughter. John Smeaton, a 31-year-old baggage handler,...
The Spectator's Notes
David Cameron was in a tight spot because of the floods. He had arranged to address the Rwandan parliament, and this fitted with his wish to proclaim his welcome interest in development issues and his party's new document on the subject. He could not...
The Unromantic Approach
ROBERT SCHUMANN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A MUSICIAN by John Worthen Yale, £25, pp. 496, ISBN 9780300111606 John Worthen, a D. H. Lawrence specialist, approaches Robert Schumann's tormented life without any apparent musical or medical expertise. His aim is...
'Turkish Students Smell Less Than British Ones'
It's four in the afternoon in the Garrick Club and Norman Stone is steaming with rage. The steam is not alcohol-fuelled. Professor Stone -- historically no flincher from the glass -- is on the wagon at the moment but is feeling no undue withdrawal pangs....
When Edwina Met Nehru
INDIAN SUMMER : THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE END OF AN EMPIREby Alex von Tunzelmann Simon & Schuster, £20, pp. 464, ISBN 9780743285889 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This book falls into two parts. The first is a brisk account of Britain's...
Wish Fulfilment
Which super power would you choose? When I was young, the one I quite wanted was invisibility. I imagined myself sneaking into the bedrooms of all the girls I fancied and persuading them that I was an incubus come to satisfy their every desire. An ability...
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