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 April 2007

A Celebration of 'Porgy and Bess'
Gershwin's Porgy and Bess is a masterpiece, whatever other category one finds for it. It is bursting with vitality, it has a larger number of memorable, indeed unforgettable tunes than any work of comparable length in the 20th century, whether opera...
Aged-Related Patterns
For many of us, the music that touches us most deeply remains the stuff we first heard between the ages of (give or take a couple of years) 14 and 22. During those all-important hormonal-explosion years, everything sounds more vivid, better played,...
A Nation Transformed in Two Generations
THE NEW SPANIARDS by John Hooper Penguin, £10.99, pp. 480, ISBN 9780141016092 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 When in November 1975 Franco died, he still possessed the powers granted him by his fellow generals after the outbreak of the Civil...
A Way out of This Kafkaesque World
The regulator of premium-rate telephone services, ICSTIC, is investigating television companies which dangle prizes before viewers' eyes and then make it extremely difficult to claim them. When it has finished with that, perhaps the watchdog might turn...
Brits in Denial
Sir: James Forsyth ('Where is the outrage at the kidnapping of our Marines?', 31 March) points out that the indifference the public is showing towards the seizure and humiliation of 15 British service personnel by Iran demonstrates a country deeply...
Championship Fever
Eight teams, and scarcely 10 points between them for months. While the Premiership title has long been an unchallenging two-horse race between Manchester United and Chelsea, the top of English league football's second tier, the Championship, remains...
Cultural Bedlam
By the time you read this the first episode of The Tudors will have been screened in the US on the cable channel Showtime. In fact, it will have appeared nine times on Showtime before episode two makes its debut this Sunday, though like the Sopranos,...
Diary
This afternoon we are saying farewell to the 11-year-old daughter of a close and muchloved colleague, Robin McKie, the revered and veteran science editor of the Observer. Olivia was killed in a road accident one Friday lunchtime. What the family has...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Feel dreadful. Had horrendous nightmare last night. Was sleeping fitfully when a ghostly form appeared above my bed. He was tieless, wearing a white, open-necked shirt (possibly Paul Smith), the sleeves billowing as he held out his arms in a...
French Trains: Faster, Cheaper, Greener, Sexier
Guillaume Pepy doesn't look like a man in a hurry. An elegant 47-year-old Frenchman with impeccable manners, he doesn't look like an archetypal railwayman either, which may be because he isn't. It's true that he's an énarque, a graduate of France's...
From Hero to Villain
BOMBER BOYS : FIGHTING BACK , 1940-45 by Patrick Bishop Harper Press, £20, pp. 395, ISBN 9780007189861 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Patrick Bishop's much praised Fighter Boys brought new life to the story of the Battle of Britain; by analysing...
Green Is the New Black
Working at Vogue magazine in the middle Nineties was a glorious exercise in indulgence. I well remember the first pot of Crème de la Mer to arrive in the beauty department, hot from New York. It cost £115. For a face cream! At that price, it simply...
In Business since 1537, the City Company That's Acquiring Targets in Basra
To Armoury House, headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company, for lunch with the recruiting officer -- not with a view to joining up, though the PT would do me good, but to inspect the morale of this ancient City institution and inquire how it...
Lonely Planets
We love this old house and can't imagine living anywhere else. But needs must and we've finally bitten the bullet -- the house is on the market from today. Twenty years we've been here. For 15 of these it was a home for nine elderly residents run by...
Market-Leading Eco-Warriors
It's bleak, cold and nearly dusk at Kingspan's industrial estate at Holywell in north Wales. Gene Murtagh runs up a ladder to show off a roof garden made with Kingspan's insulated panels, which are being tested to see how much soil they can take. Roof...
National Symbols
Santa Cruz, Bolivia Bolivia's ruling party is demanding that Coca-Cola drops the 'coca' from its name to 'dignify' the 'bioenergetic' leaf that provides the main ingredient in cocaine. Before any cokeheads get the wrong idea, this is no laughing matter....
Needy Children
Sir: I read Ross Clark's mean-spirited article about Red Nose Day ('Read the small print before you donate', 24 March) with great concern. As the director of the Children's Legal Centre I would like to make it clear that at no time was any charitable...
Our Women at the Front
HIGH TEA IN MOSUL : THE TRUE STORY OF TWO ENGLISHWOMEN IN WAR -T ORN IRAQ by Lynne O'Donnell Cyan, £9.99, pp. 213, ISBN 9781905736096 . £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In the horror that is the Iraq war reporters usually broadcast from the...
Repetitive Strain Injury
What is it like for an actor, after the stimulating exploratory process of rehearsal, followed by the high-voltage excitement of opening night, to go on performing the same piece over and over again, night after night? A long run of a show makes it...
Revealed: How the Conservative Party Is Planning to Split
For the son of an Aberdonian stockbroker, David Cameron has had an uneasy relationship with Scotland. It is a land of massacred Conservatives, even less hospitable to his party today than it was during the great Tory wipe-out ten years ago. In his visits...
Senator Duke?
How disappointing it is that our legislators spend so much of their time arguing about reform of the House of Lords when the whole of Parliament is crying out for reform. The House of Commons just carries on as though nothing has happened in the way...
Shafts of Light
Tough stuff on Radio Three on Good Friday, and an uncompromising bit of programming. W.H. Auden's Horae Canonicae, his seven-part meditation on the Crucifixion of Christ, was read throughout the day in its seven sections at approximately the proper...
Sheer Perfection
L'Heure espagnole; Gianni Schicchi Royal Opera House Ariodante Barbican The trouble with perfection, on the extremely rare occasions one encounters it, is that it leaves one discontented with anything less. Now that I have seen Ravel's L'Heure espagnole...
Singular Sensation
Prunella Clough Tate Britain, until 27 August Harry Thubron: Collages and Constructions 1972-1984 Austin/Desmond Fine Art, Pied Bull Yard, 68-69 Great Russell Street, WC1, until 27 April It was a privilege to be a member of the jury that gave Prunella...
Sloane Rangers! Unite to Save Your Square
Sloane Square is an easy target. It's been the butt of jokes for years as vast swaths of motherhood look to Peter Jones and its immediate environs as reassurance that all is well in the garden of Middle England. Generations come and go -- and Princess...
Spectator Mini-Baroffer
Prestige Agencies is part of the admirable Playford Ros company in North Yorkshire. They sell some wonderful wines from the world's boutique vineyards, often made in tiny quantities, all created with the kind of loving attention you just don't get in...
Star Quality
Sunshine 15, selected cinemas The plot of Sunshine does not inspire confidence. A band of eight astronauts aboard the Icarus II must deliver a bomb to the centre of the dying Sun to reignite it. They come across the ship belonging to an earlier, abortive...
Starting out on the Wrong Foot
JACKIE DAYDREAM by Jacqueline Wilson Doubleday, £12.99, pp. 343, ISBN 9780385610155 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 E. Nesbit once pointed out that, in order to write good books for the young, it is not necessary to enjoy a close relationship...
Tales of 'Stuffing It' Austen, 'Eye-Opener' Dickens and 'Banana' Waugh
Isuspect gluttony, the excessive consumption of food and drink, was the first of the deadly sins to be committed. The least glamorous of them too. It is universal today, to judge by the number of fatties and the stomach-heaving coverage of food, restaurants,...
The Great Novelist as Generous Critic
TOUCHSTONES : ESSAYS ON LITERATURE , ART AND POLITICS by Mario Vargas Llosa, selected, edited and translated by John King Faber, £25, pp. 353, ISBN 9780571214990 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 What sort of a critic and essayist is the extraordinarily...
The Magus of Fitzrovia in His Prime
I meet Ian McEwan for lunch at Elena's L'Etoile near his Fitzrovia home. He is greeted like a member of the family, and he tells me with relish that the restaurant features in The Dean's December by one of his literary heroes, Saul Bellow. McEwan's...
The Spectator's Notes
Friends with military experience ponder two questions about the Iranian kidnap of the 15 British sailors. The first is, 'Why didn't they put up a fight?' The answer seems to lie with the rules of engagement. This was effectively confirmed by Sir Alan...
The Squalor of the Past
HUBBUB : FILTH, NOISE AND STENCH IN ENGLAND , 1600-1770 by Emily Cockayne Yale, £25, pp. 335, ISBN 0300112149 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The ability to manufacture discontent from whatever materials are to hand is one of the most consistent...
The Wages of Stealth
A stealth tax, by definition, is one in which political pain is deferred in return for immediate gain. The Chancellor who imposes such a tax effectively mortgages his credibility and the public's trust in him. But, sooner or later, as Gordon Brown is...
Treasure Island
It was Ian Fleming's anxiety about impending fatherhood that brought about the birth of James Bond. When his longtime lover, Lady Rothermere (formerly Lady O'Neill, née Ann Charteris), fell accidentally pregnant in 1952, the panicked 43-year-old bachelor...
Vicious Propaganda
The thing I really don't get at all about The Mark of Cain (Channel 4, Thursday) is how the people involved could bring themselves to do it. I mean, I'm quite skint at the moment and in need of attention and acclaim and a better career. But I promise...
Water Features
Laikipia A bit like my bowel movements after a fortnight in Katanga, the seasons in upcountry have lost their cyclical regularity. My father used to time the onset of the rains almost by his watch. Today, people blame global warming for messed-up weather...
'We Christians Need More Persecution'
InWestminster Cathedral a dozen or so deaf mutes are doing the Stations of the Cross. They have reached the 14th station, 'Jesus is laid in the tomb'. A priest leads the prayers in sign language. 'We, too, O God, will descend into the grave whenever...
Wonders Never Cease
SEIZURE by Erica Wagner Faber, £10.99, pp. 232, ISBN 9780571227594 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Janet seems to have her life neatly organised. She's hardworking, she has a nice boyfriend, she lives in a comfortable house and she drives...
'You Get Your Film, ' the Israeli Soldier Said, 'And Go Home'
Hebron 'S o, are you happy now?' the young Israeli soldier with the machinegun and the sneer asked me, as the Palestinian kid was bundled into the back of a police paddy wagon and conveyed to who-knows-where for a spot of rigorous who-knows-what. As...
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