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 2009

A Choice of First Novels
This year's summer flurry of debut novels appears to tick all the booksellers' boxes. There's the headline grabber, the European bestseller, the wartime melodrama and the quirky romancer. Publishers recognise a good thing when they see it. 60 Years...
Adult Viewing
On a train the other day I overheard a teenage schoolgirl tell her friends, 'I'm going to watch Channel 4 from eight to midnight!' When I got home I checked the Radio Times: she was looking forward to Embarrassing Teenage Bodies, Big Brother, Ugly Betty...
Ancient & Modern
The moon has been hitting the headlines briefly, for something that happened 40 years ago. It was in the ancients' minds (and sights) all the time. The ancients were farmers, and farming is season-dependent. So, determined to keep the gods smiling benevolently...
An Unlikely Hero
The Shooting Star by Geoffrey Elliott Methuen, £18.99, pp. 251, ISBN 9781413776846 This sparkling biography of a small-part actor who did two missions into Nazioccupied France as a radio operator for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) begins with...
Behind the Scenes
We heard not one but three renditions of the traditional chorus 'Heave ho' on Friday night at the opening of this year's Proms season. Impromptu, responsive and a bit disrespectful, it's the most British thing about this annual musical jamboree, much...
Be Selective
Corot to Monet National Gallery, until 20 September In the basement of the Sainsbury Wing is a free exhibition of paintings subtitled 'A Fresh Look at Landscape from the Collection'. I always enjoy the rehanging of old favourites in new combinations...
Challenging Perceptions
EDINBURGH: A HISTORY OF THE CITY by Michael Fry Pan Macmillan, £25, pp. 419 ISBN 9780230703865 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Edinburgh never tires of yielding its darker secrets, whether it is body-snatching, community lynching, or pacts with...
County Sounds
In Competition No. 2605 you were invited to compose an anthem for a county of your choice. Some competitors played it straight but many chose to subvert the anthem's traditional fawning tone. Northants, in particular, got it in the neck, with Greg Whitehead...
Dark Places
Antichrist 18, Nationwide As you probably already know, Antichrist has been called 'disgusting' and 'depraved' and 'the most offensive film ever made', although I don't personally get what all the fuss is about. Yes, there is extreme violence. Yes,...
Dear Mary
Q. My husband has started working from home. The invasion of my privacy and the disruption of my peace is driving me almost mad. Now he has developed a habit of standing at the bottom of a staircase to the room where I myself work and yelling questions...
Diary
Last Thursday evening saw me embraced by the ample bosom that is Yorkshire. I had an evening engagement in Sheffield, the oft-overlooked, Judas Priest-inspired steel town of the North. Every village, city and county has its rivalries. Dublin is divided...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Clearly we can't have people saying it's one rule for bed-blockers and another for Notting Hillers. We can't be accused of penalising backbenchers we don't like while turning a blind eye to expense abuses by Dave's inner circle. We need one deeply...
Eye Tests
After the Lord's Test you have to hand it to Ricky Ponting and the boys in the Baggy Greens - they have a sense of sportsmanship that is pretty much fair dinkum. As Adam Gilchrist explains in his brilliant autobiography, True Colours, the Aussie sporting...
Horror in the Arctic
Franklin by Andrew Lambert Faber and Faber,, £20, pp. 428 ISBN 9780571231607 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Around the middle of the 19th century a new image of horror appeared in Victorian art. In 1864 Edwin Landseer exhibited something the...
Letters
Wagner wallows Sir: Michael Henderson states (Arts, 18 July) that Wagner's music reveals the aspects of the human personality that we try hardest to suppress. Certainly many deep ideas and emotions are revealed. But instead of purging the emotions with...
Local Hero
On board S/Y Bushido While the eastern islands of Greece are being whipped daily by the meltemi, the hot, strong winds that can turn sailors into zombies, the western side, or the Ionian, remains soft, green and as feminine as ever. The sea off Cephalonia...
Mischief and Mayhem
Bite the Hand That Feeds You: Essays and Provocations by Henry Fairlie, edited by Jeremy McCarter Yale, £22.50, pp. 348, ISBN 9780300123838 ? £18 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Henry Fairlie was the journalistic idol of my youth. I met him, I think,...
Mocking the Welsh Is the Last Permitted Bigotry
On the eve of the Eisteddfod, Jan Morris says that, much as the English might enjoy their personal experiences of Wales, ancient suspicion of their neighbours always kicks in 'Don't let's be beastly to the Germans' went a sarcastic lyric of Noel Coward's...
Old Haunts
'Busy in here tonight, ' I observed. 'Hello, stranger!' she said. 'We've got a band on later. Didn't you know?' I didn't. Eight pints of Foster's, ten Silk Cut, and a game of pool had been the upper limit of my ambition for the evening when I looked...
Onwards and Upwards
Having your prospects in life determined at birth is the most pernicious and fundamental form of inequality. So the present political focus on improving social mobility is to be welcomed on principle. To think that all the advantages and disadvantages...
Oxford Movement
First day of the holidays and I'd promised the kids I'd take them to Oxford. As I reflect on this fatherly gesture of kindness, I realise it was for my benefit more than theirs. Specifically, they wanted to go to the toyshop on the ring road. That was...
Programming the Proms
Critics of this year's festival have missed the point, Roger Wright tells Kate Chisholm Where's the meat, the main course, the epic single masterwork? asked some of the music critics after the First Night of the Proms. They've missed the point, says...
Quintessentially French
Felicity, pleasure, happiness, luxe, calme et volupte. Perfection: the blissful rightness of every note; a peach, or a rose, caught at the exact moment of poise between not-quite and slightly-past. Such thoughts are set off by a recent chance re-encounter...
The Nuclear Power-Dresser
Elliot Wilson meets Barbara Judge, the American-born doyenne of British boardrooms, who believes we should strive to regain our lost leadership of the global nuclear industry Barbara Judge is an extraordinary human being, particularly for those of us...
The Officers Who Played Fireball Hockey with Me Have Been Scandalously Betrayed
Have you ever played fireball hockey? God, what a fantastic game! You wrap a bog roll in chicken wire, douse it in paraffin, set fire to it and then play hockey with it - preferably while drunk and wearing black tie, as I was lucky enough to do myself...
There Are Lies, Damned Lies - and Statistics about the Housing Queue
Rod Liddle says that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has been well led by Trevor Phillips - all the more reason to play straight with figures about the treatment of immigrant applicants for housing There was a report out recently which said...
The Spectator's Notes
No one seems to have noticed, but next week the House of Lords will be abolished. I don't mean the entire chamber, but the highest court of appeal in the land. Until now, this body has been a committee of the House of Lords, and has met in committee...
The Swine Flu Panic Will Turn into a National Sickie
Sarah Standing says that the outbreak has brought out the worst in the governing class and public alike. Ministers and experts feed us with contradictory information, breeding alarmism without dealing with it. Stand by for a civil war between hypochondria...
This Shotgun Marriage of Minds between Labour and the Tories Won't Last
It just might be that out of the shouting at Prime Minister's Questions, the sallies and charges, a set of sensible fiscal and financial policies is emerging. The leader of the opposition is right: Labour is planning to cut capital spending in half...
Wave Power
Indian Ocean Coast I am woken at dawn by bastardised Australian and Swahili. 'Wakey wakey hands off snakey, ' says Abo. 'Comin' out, malango?' These are my surfing buddies: Daudi, Tony, James, Bumblebee, Mud Prawn. Surfing should be cool and fashionable....
Will the Tories Attack the 'Bloated' BBC?
Does Cameron think the Beeb impedes fair competition? Will he cut the DG's salary? The closer Cameron comes to power, the more the Corporation panics, says Anne McElvoy What does David Cameron really think of the BBC? A spectre (or several, perhaps)...
Youthful Opportunities
Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera Partenope The Proms The Royal Opera ended its season looking to the future, with its Young Artists Summer Concert on Sunday afternoon. Part I was most of Act I of Don Giovanni, and Part II two lengthy excerpts...
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