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 Vol. 294, No. 9155, 2004

A Fare Thing
Every experienced journalist knows that there are two sources of information about obscure and distant countries: the taxi-drivers who take him from the airport to the country's one luxury hotel, and the journalists who are already sitting at the bar...
A Job for Resting Rio
Rio Ferdinand, 'the world's most expensive defender', which does not of course make him the best, began his eight-month ban from football this week, though he hopes to have the sentence reduced during the course of it. Effectively he is playing to the...
Ancient & Modern
Boars, which became extinct in Britain in the 17th century, are on the come-back, and their number is estimated at about a thousand. They have very thick hides, can weigh up to 40 stone, are extremely quick, and their razor-sharp tusks rip open dogs...
Apocalyptic Vision
Apocalyptic visionAndrew Lambirth on the work of the largely self-taught artist Philip GustonThe Royal Academy's retrospective exhibition The Art of Philip Guston: 1913-1980 (until 12 April) comprises some 80 paintings and drawings dating from 1930 to...
A Prickly but Noble Nation
A prickly but noble nation MEDIEVAL VISION: VOLUME III OF THE VISUAL CULTURE OF WALES by Peter Lord University of Wales Press, £30, pp. 288, ISBN 0708318010To my mind one of the relatively few happy circumstances of our time, as we grope into the 21st...
Car Spotting
Me and the boy are regulars at the weekly car auction near us. We never bid for anything. We just like to go and sit and watch the cars coming and going and seeing what they fetch. We don't even comment on an excessively high or low price. We talk only...
Challenge Nigella
It is time for me to reveal myself in my true colours, as incognito heroines used to say in Georgette Heyer novels or secret agents in Cold War thrillers. Alas, Petronella Wyatt is not a pseudonym for Grace Jones, nor am I anything more than the common-or-garden...
Concentrating the Mind
TelevisionConcentrating the mindQuite the most boring treat I've ever been given was when TAG Heuer watches once sweetly invited me and Tiffany to see the British Grand Prix. The little extras were great, like the chopper that whizzed you to the racetrack...
Diary
New YorkIt's as easy as pie to get through Checkpoint Charlie. The very agreeable Hispanic immigration officer at Kennedy asked me to place my index fingers, one at a time, on a scanning machine. My prints were instantly checked against the dabs of (I...
Disabled by Silence
Radio Three went through one of its moments of dottiness last Friday when it broadcast John Cage's 1952 piece for orchestra, 4' 33", which consisted entirely of silence for four minutes 33 seconds. It was the closing item in the first of five concerts,...
Distance Learning
Chalbi desertI am in Kenya's Chalbi desert, where temperatures soar to 140 degrees. Out here east of Koobi Fora, the Cradle of Mankind, black volcanic rocks tumble down to badlands of cracked salt - so blinding white that on the flight in I had the impression...
Exposed
IF you want a quick course in self-knowledge, take up bridge. There's no shirking from your true nature at the card table. Over the years, I've been endlessly disappointed by what I've found out about myself.At a recent teams tournament, for instance,...
Fair as a Star, When Only One Is Shining in the Sky
Fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky ANNY: A LIFE OF ANNE THACKERAY RITCHIE by Henrietta Garnett Chatto, £18.99, pp. 322, ISBN 0701171294The engagement diary of Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919) reads like a Victorian Who's Who. Dickens,...
Fatter but Fitter
Like many who achieved emancipation (i.e. learned to drive) during the Sixties, I once owned a Mini. Not for long: I wearied of conking out in puddles as water splashed up on to the distributor and HT leads. Nor, despite the handling advantages of front-wheel...
Gifts Rapped
It's easy to tell when Christmas is over. Dead fir trees, dumped overnight, pile up in local parks and on common land. Huge hoardings go up advertising Creme Eggs. And all those toys, wrapped with such optimism and torn open with such fervour, are finally...
Globophobia
A weekly survey of world restrictions on freedom and free tradeThe assortment of Snodgrasses and Ponsonbys who make up the British Committee for the Restitution of the Elgin Marbles have launched yet another chapter of their long campaign to return the...
Helen Osborne Remembered
A slight, laconic person in a Lenin cap, Helen Osborne was a great lady of the Welsh Marches, the London theatre and the pages of The Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph. She died last week in Shrewsbury where nine years ago she took her husband, John...
How to Create Insurgents
Yes, we all know; comparisons between the British empire and contemporary American power are old hat. Nevertheless, certain aspects of the Boer War and the war in Iraq though fought in different centuries, hemispheres and circumstances - present food...
Letters
Respect for RabFrom Dr Bleddyn JonesSir: Geoffrey Wheatcroft's stimulating article ('The end of the Etonians', 17 January), which commemorated Iain Macleod's Spectator account of the intriguing Home succession following Harold Macmillan's resignation,...
Looking for Snow
GstaadSnow was Napoleon's enemy, and it also did Hitler in. It has been the enemy of Gstaad's jet-set as long as I can remember. My best friend, Yanni Zographos, used to get very depressed the moment he saw snowflakes. It meant he'd have to go to bed...
Lucky to Be Alive?
Lucky to be alive? ORACLE NIGHT by Paul Auster Faber, £15.99, pp. 243, ISBN 0571216986Oracle Night describes a nine-day episode in the life of a writer, Sidney Orr. Orr is recovering from a long illness after a sudden collapse resulted in critical head...
Media Studies
The Barclay Brothers, it seems, have acquired the Daily Telegraph. And also, it should be said, The Spectator. What an incredible thing. Whatever their shortcomings as newspapermen - I shall be coming on to that - no one could deny the brilliance of...
Mind over Matter
Chess at its highest level is undoubtedly a sport. Players compete for huge prizes and important titles, and though there is very little physical movement during combat, woe betide the player who is physically under par, a fortiori now that games are...
Mother of All Inventions
I am sometimes asked how on earth women can manage to avoid Alastair Campbell-style feelings of pointlessness after they've sprogged, i.e., how can they continue to earn money and achieve what shrinks call 'self-actualisation', when they've chucked in...
Parents Make the Best Parents
Two developments this week demonstrate the absurdity, not to mention the inhumanity, of the government's policy towards child-rearing. Firstly, sperm donors were informed that children conceived with the aid of their donations will be given the right...
Pleasure in Smoking
Haddock is fished from the north Atlantic, the Irish Sea, the seas around the Faroes and Iceland, but I always associate it with the North Sea, and more particularly with the east coast of Scotland which has given us Finnan haddies and Arbroath smokies....
See How Good Money Drives out Bad - All Hail, the Swiss Dinar!
The world's most successful currency, this last decade, has been - the dollar? You're not trying. The pound, the yen, the euro? Forget them. The Swiss franc? Closer. The Swiss dinar? Hang on a moment. Dinars (from the Latin denarii) are a legacy of the...
The Ballad of Connie and Babs
A few weeks ago executives were endeavouring to bring home to Conrad Black the full horror of his personal and corporate predicament, when a sight met their eyes. His wife Barbara, clad only in a leotard and shades, had swept into the room. For a moment...
The Black Party Added to the Gaiety of Nations
The Barclay brothers - presumably the new owners of the two Telegraphs, as well as The Spectator, though we also read that it is not yet as simple as that - are constantly written about as 'secretive'. How so? They have knighthoods and own several store...
The Spectator's Notes
The former culture secretary Chris Smith should surely be applauded for agreeing to chair the Man Booker judges this year, considering the brickbats with which most of his qualitative pronouncements about the arts have tended to be greeted in the past....
The Winner Who Quit
The winner who quit BOBBY FISCHER GOES TO WAR: THE TRUE STORY OF HOW THE SOVIETS LOST THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY CHESS MATCH OF ALL TIME by David Edmonds and John Eidinow Faber, £14.99, pp. 240, ISBN 0571214118'Russian chess is an instrument of national...
The Woman in Black
The woman in black CATHERINE DE MEDICI by Leonie Frieda Weidenfeld, £20, pp.440, ISBN 184212725XCatherine de Medici was, quite literally, the original black widow. After her husband, King Henri II of France, was accidentally killed in a jousting contest...
We Are All 'Citizen-Consumers' Now, and We Have No One to Blame but Ourselves
Look, I know Christmas is long past. But I was away for most of the time and didn't get a chance to do what every other journalist does at that benighted time of the year and set you a fatuous quiz.So here, instead, is your late January quiz. It shouldn't...
Welcome Return
DanceWelcome returnGiselleRoyal Opera HouseOn 13 January, Sadler's Wells Theatre hosted the annual Critic's Circle National Dance Awards. The number of prestigious dance-related accolades in this country is practically nil, unlike that of other performing...
William Dobell's Cypriot
The Cypriot brought his wine-dark eyes with himAlong with his skin and hair. He also broughtThat shirt. Swathes of fine fabric clothe a slimFrame with a grace bespeaking taste and thought.Australia, 1940. There were fewMen native-born who had that kind...
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