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 February 2009

Best Laid Plans
Apart from going to the nearest town one afternoon to have teeth out, I hadn't been out of the village for six weeks. I might have been depressed about this normally, but a jolly outing I had entered and underlined in my diary for the end of January...
City of Dreams
Die tote Stadt Royal Opera House The Queen of Spades Barbican At last, after 88 years, Erich Korngold's almost impressive opera Die tote Stadt has reached the UK in a handsome production, and in every respect the Royal Opera does it proud. If it isn't...
Diary
I saw Henry VIII last Monday. He looked exceptionally thin and fit. No wonder, as he was played by the young and six-packed Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the BBC series The Tudors. As it was the Chinese New Year, with the usual three-day holidays, I sat through,...
Ending the Vile Traffic
SWEET WATER AND BITTER: THE SHIPS THAT STOPPED THE SLAVE TRADEChatto & Windus, £20, pp. 352, ISBN 9780701181598 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The narratives of slavery have, it's safe to say, replaced the narratives of imperial adventure...
Fit for Purpose
I wonder how much of what we think we love and need is merely habit. It's only ten weeks since I stopped smoking 100 a day and now I hardly think about it. For sure, I fancy one occasionally, but I suppose I could say the same thing about women, and...
Front Man
At the cinema the other night to see Frost/Nixon, at least five minutes of the commercial break were devoted to selling Radio Four. It was such an odd experience. Nothing to watch, just a blank screen, with Paul Merton and co. telling a few jokes in...
Get Things Moving
With Ford posting losses of over $10 billion, Honda shutting its Swindon factory until June and fields full of unsold cars, we might be excused for thinking that doom and gloom is here to stay. But we shouldn't, and we can start changing it now. Probably...
I'm a Convert to Shoe-Throwing, and Its Power. but I Bet They Ban Shoes in Public Pretty Soon
Where do we stand, then, on shoe-throwing? Me, I'm in two minds. Muntadhar al-Zaidi, I dunno, I think he carried it off. At least he threw both, and at least he was in the Middle East. Whatever happened next, is my point, at least he didn't have to...
Iran Will Not Unclench Its Fist, Mr President
The heirs to Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution have much to celebrate as they prepare to mark next week's 30th anniversary of the fall of the Shah of Iran's detested regime. The last nails were hammered into the Pahlavi dynasty's coffin on the...
Isherwood's Fine Memorial
In an admiring review (Spectator, 15 May, 2004) of Peter Parker's biography of Christopher Isherwood, Philip Hensher conceded, perhaps reluctantly, that 'Isherwood was not, in the end, a writer of the first rank'. This is probably true. The second half...
Keep It Cool
Triple Bill Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House 'Saucy' and 'funky' are not terms one would normally expect to hear in relation to a ballet performance. Nor is the irritatingly ubiquitous 'cool', which is what my young(er) date uttered last Saturday at...
Marked Men
Gstaad Last week I ventured down to Geneva for a meeting with my banker, a gentleman of the old school who did not get carried away by Bernie Madoff's siren songs. To the contrary, he went as far as Odysseus, tied himself to his desk and plugged up...
My Ancestor's Private Memories of Darwin
'I came to like Charles Darwin very much, ' recalled my great-grandfather, Sir Norman Moore, in old age; 'he was so thoroughly kindly and so cheery and ready to laugh at what was worth a laugh.' I'd always known that my great-grandfather knew Darwin...
Open Your Eyes
Palladio: His life and Legacy Royal Academy, until 13 April In a truly civilised society, a basic understanding and appreciation of architecture would be taught in schools. After all, most of us spend a large portion of our lives in buildings. Yet you...
Setting the Tone
Nationwide began 40 years ago, and on Thursday BBC4 showed a tribute. The show ran nightly up to 1983, and was always the cheekie chappie of BBC programming. In the early 1980s I did a series of jokey sketches for them from the party conferences, and...
Six of the Best
What treats await this weekend. An England Test match in the Caribbean; a north London derby in the increasingly fractious Premier League; and, joy of joys, at long last the Six Nations is back with three succulent games. There's always an extra tang...
Snowbama
As Britain awoke to the stunning snowscapes of Monday morning, the nation could not make its mind up whether it was on the set of a huge Richard Curtis film, congratulating itself on its social cohesion and snowballthrowing geniality -- or whether we...
Standing Room
I've recently developed a callous indifference towards the torrent of amateur self-analysis that's infiltrating our everyday pattern of speech. I'm over 'issues'. Way too many people have way too many issues for my liking. And too many people I don't...
Still Stood Time
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 12A, Nationwide The most curious thing about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is that it could receive 13 Oscar nominations when it is such tedious schmaltz, and not just any tedious schmaltz. This is the worst...
The Scottish Parliament Has Declared War on Me for Speaking the Truth about Poverty
It takes more than an inch of snow to stop the wheels of Scottish democracy. The devolved parliament was hard at work on Monday morning, eight of its members engaged on a most sombre business: a motion formally denouncing a rogue political columnist....
The Spectator's Notes
Watching white workers protesting in the snow, I cast my mind back 30 years to the Winter of Discontent. The year 1978/79 is the last time I remember being so cold, and taking such keen pleasure in 'bad' weather. It is also the last time that one had...
The True Stoic
STOWE: THE HISTORY OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL, 1923-1989 by Brian Rees Stamp Publishing, 101 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5QP, £20 (+ £2.75 p+p), pp. 361, ISBN 9780954487928, Tel: 07720 040435 www. stamppublishing. com An early memory from the years we lived...
Time out in Tuscany
THE LAST SUPPER: A SUMMER IN ITALY by Rachael Cusk Faber, £16.99, pp. 219, ISBN 9780571242566 £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In the spring of 2006, Rachel Cusk and her husband decided to take their two small daughters out of school and spend...
Travails with an Aunt
THE FLYING TROUTMANS by Miriam Toews Faber, £16.99, pp. 219, ISBN 9780571224012 £10.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Suicidal single mothers, delinquent teenagers and unwashed children sound like the ingredients for a standard-issue misery memoir...
Turning 40 Is a Monsoon of My Mortality
By the time you read this I will have turned 40. Forty. Up until a few days ago, 40 was just a number, plain and simple -- the sort of number that followed 39 and preceded 41; the sort of number that bands from Birmingham placed after the letters 'UB'...
We Don't Need This Annual Outburst of Pipeline Politics
The annual New Year gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine assumed particularly menacing proportions this year, being longer than usual and coming in a bitterly cold, recession-bound winter. With a number of countries in central Europe dependent on...
We Treat Our Pupils like Aldous Huxley's Gammas
Like any self-respecting adolescent, I spent most of my teenage years referring to my parents as fascists. What exactly that meant I had little idea, thanks to a state education in which world history consisted of Romans, mediaeval monasteries, the...
Why Would the English Working Class Consider Voting Labour Again?
It's lovely to see the former geographical entity Lindsey back in the headlines, a fleeting visit from a ghost from the past. Lindsey was one of the three subdivisions of the great county of Lincolnshire, if you remember, along with landlocked Kesteven...
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