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. 296, No. 9193, 2004

A Damned Fine Lunch at the Golden Bottle
'Have you ever been in a Bank?' wrote J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame. 'Bankers are of medium height, slightly hut firmly built, 40 or 41 years of age, with nothing about them to suggest their vocation save that they keep their hands in their trouser pockets....
A Handsome Home for Books
A handsome home for books THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BRITISH LIBRARY AT ST PANCRAS by Roger Stonehouse and Gerhard Stromberg Spon Press, £65, pp. 262, ISBN 0419251200The construction of the British Library, opened in April 1998, took the phenomenally long...
All the Fun of the Menagerie
All the fun of the menagerie WHERE THE CAMEL STRODE by Clinton Keeling Clam Publications, £10, pp. 97, ISBN 1874795258The secret world of the 1970s Rock Press nurtured writers who now are household names. Today the secret Captive Animal Press is nurturing...
Ancient & Modern
At the recent Tory party conference in Bournemouth, Michael Howard argued that words were not enough: what was required was action. The Greeks had words for both - logos ('word, speech'), ergon ('deed, action') - and were fascinated by the relationship...
Australian Odyssey
I must admit that the first arts event in which I participated on arriving in Australia was entirely by chance. Sitting in the sun on the restaurant terrace of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, looking at the ferries bustling in and out of Circular...
Bigley's Fate
The soccer international between England and Wales last Saturday managed to display in an instant two of the most unsavoury aspects of life in modern Britain. A request by the authorities for a minute's silence in memory of Mr Ken Bigley, the news of...
Bosnian Blessing
I spent last Tuesday afternoon sitting on the floor of a Franciscan church in Bosnia listening to a man many think is a saint.Father Jozo Zovko was the pastor of St James's, Medjugorje, in 1981, when the Virgin Mary appeared to six of the village children....
Burning Books for Putin
MoscowOutside the British embassy in Moscow, a crowd of Russian boys is protesting, demanding the extradition of Akhmed Zakayev, the Chechen rebel living in exile in London. 'Shame! Shame!' they chant. One waves a placard that says 'Tony Blair, are you...
Cod's Gift
For the first time since childhood, I am aking cod-liver oil again. In Iceland this summer (to fish for salmon) I was intrigued by the bottle of thick yellow liquid on the breakfast table, from which our Icelandic host and his wife took a dessert-spoonful...
Confessions of a Television Addict
Confessions of a television addict MURPHY'S FAVOURITE CHANNELS by John Murray Flambard, £8.99, pp. 319, ISBN 1873226683'Are you courting these days - are you getting plenty of egg?' Flogger, teenager-about-town up in Cumbria one day in 1966, asks his...
Cunningham's Challenge
DanceCunningham's challengeMerce Cunningham Dance CompanyBarbicanTo kick off a dance season with a big name creates great expectations. And that can be dangerous. Yet risk-taking has long been a feature of Dance Umbrella's artistic policies, and a very...
Diary
For my son's eighth birthday, I invited all 18 of his classmates (according to diktat) to his exciting climbing party at the Westway sports centre. I sent a round-robin email to the parents. I pointed out how very easy it was to reach the sports centre...
Don't Whinge If You Can't Hack It, Girls
At a recent Carlton political dinner - between Michael Howard's call to arms and Sir Christopher Gent's call for alms, as it were - I said hello to a senior financier seated at an adjacent table. I had only met him once before, but I thought it polite...
Enduring the Duration
Enduring the duration WARTIME: BRITAIN 1939-1945 by Juliet Gardiner Headline, £20, pp. 658, ISBN 0755310268 £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848On 1 September 1939, two days before Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war with Germany,...
Family Fortunes
TelevisionFamily fortunesI hate the modern world so much at the moment that all I want to do is retire to the Welsh Borders, listen to classical music and go on long walks. Unfortunately, as you may have inferred from my hysterical dirty bomb review...
Fantasies and Dreams
Exhibitions 1Fantasies and dreamsBoucher: Seductive VisionsThe Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, W1, until 17 April 2005Sole Sponsor: British LandThat great pioneer of the rococo style, François Boucher (1703-70), master of the mythologie galante...
Filling in the Gaps
Not for the first time I found myself last week pondering the mystery surrounding the life of William Shakespeare and speculating that somewhere in England there might be an undiscovered pile of documents revealing details of his life. Perhaps they're...
Fulhamish Fancies
As one gets older, the blue-eyed hotshot heroes of your youth become, in recollection, vividly more bright. At the same time, mind you, nothing is more ageing than the certainty that those lusty luminaries of boyhood are themselves just as inescapably...
Globophobia
A weekly survey of world restrictions on freedom and free tradeThe Conservative leader Michael Howard says he owes everything to Britain for saving his family from persecution by the Nazis. It is just a good job for him that his own manifesto on asylum...
Gone to Pot
Last Wednesday morning I was sitting on the living-room floor of a very small flat in Torquay studying my toes. Our yoga teacher says we should love our toes. Too many people pay too little attention to their toes, she says. At the end of each yoga session...
Heartless but Not Artless
Heartless but not artless DIRK BOGARDE by John Coldstream Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 611, ISBN 0297607308 £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848With this superb biography John Coldstream has pulled off a remarkable feat. It is a big fat volume, and if it were...
Hedged about with Mystery
This has not been a vintage year for traditional forms of investment. Middle Eastern instability and a rising oil price have battered the stock markets. Rising interest rates have done for bonds. One sector has been sucking in assets at a record rate,...
Hold on to Your Wallet
Is it tax evasion that gets you sent to prison, and tax avoidance which makes you rich, or the other way round? I'm not sure, but I do know that tax is an ethical issue on which I'm clear where I stand: if a government can't get along without taking...
How Labour Is Turning Britain into a Land of Paupers
If there was one reason above any other for the British electorate's flight to socialism in 1945, it was surely the means test. In some ways the national government's grudging state charity of the Depression years was worse than nothing. For his ha'p'orth...
In Defence of Harlots
BostonThe Boston, Melbourne, Oxford Universities Conversazioni on Culture is a stimulating series of talks which takes place every year in one of the three venues. This year's topic was 'Power Without Responsibility: Was Kipling Right? The Press.' Yours...
In God He Trusts, but Not in Money
New YorkIt's quite possible that the great historical shift that the Clinton and Bush administrations will be remembered for is one in which the Democrats became the party of wealth and Wall Street, and the Republicans became non-players, even resisters,...
Insects with Hairy Eyes
Insects with hairy eyes SWEETNESS AND LIGHT: THE MYSTERIOUS HISTORY OF THE HONEYBEE by Hattie Ellis Sceptre, £16.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0340734515 £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848THE HIVE: THE STORY OF THE HONEYBEE AND Us by Bee Wilson John Murray,...
Is Derrida Really Dead?
Jacques Derrida, the famous French philosopher, is 'dead'. But as there is no straightforward, one-to-one relationship between the signifier ('dead') and the thing signified (the termination or otherwise of the actual person, M. Derrida), we cannot be...
Knock, Knock! Who's There? Adair! Adair Who? Adair Say They'll Fudge It, as Usual
Adair Turner, meet Frank Field. Seven years ago, when New Labour was new, Tony Blair told him to think the unthinkable: about pensions, that is. He duly thought it and was told that it was unthinkable, and it got him the sack - so let that be a warning....
Lady Killer
FOR a woman to be told that she plays bridge like a man is considered a great compliment (at least by the men who say it). What's meant is that she plays with a confidence and aggression supposedly more typical of a man. Women, according to the stereotypical...
Letters
Ukip voices people's angerFrom John HargreavesSir: Oh dear! Ukip has really disturbed Matthew Parris's normal affability and also, it would seem, his judgment (Another voice, 9 October). I usually enjoy his witty and intelligent comments, but in describing...
Life and Letters
Hooray for the new, caring, healing Conservative party. Hooray for the spirit of inclusiveness. Hooray for clear blue water and hooray for the big blue tent. At last the time for healing has come. It is in such a spirit, at least, that I turn to the...
Lost in Translation No More
When I lived in Japan in the 1990s, almost no one came to visit me. My two closest friends were persuaded to come for a week's holiday and my father passed by once on business. That was it, in six years. When my father did come he refused to leave the...
Making the Dead Live
Making the dead live WELL-REMEMBERED FRIENDS: EULOGIES ON CELEBRATED LIVES collected by Angela Huth John Murray, £14.99, pp. 459, ISBN 0719564875 £12.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848An obituary can be put together by anyone with time and talent...
Marshall Plan
As I write, challenger Peter Leko enjoys a one-point advantage over defending champion Vladimir Kramnik in their world title clash in Brissago, Switzerland. The most sensational game so far was game eight, where Kramnik had clearly prepared a clever...
Master of Jokes
ArchitectureMaster of jokesRaymond Erith: Progressive Classicist 1904-1973Sir John Soane's Museum, until 31 DecemberThere are different ways in architecture to be both playful and serious at the same time. Raymond Erith was an architect fond of jokes,...
Mission Highly Improbable
Mission highly improbable MIMI AND TOUTOU Go FORTH: THE BIZARRE BATTLE OF LAKE TANGANYIKA by Giles Foden Michael Joseph, £16.99, pp. 319, ISBN 07718145550 £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848In June 1915, an ill-assorted group of 28 naval officers...
Mr Facing-Both-Ways
Mr Facing-Both-Ways SINGING THE BLUES by John Redwood Politico's, £18.99, pp. 310, ISBN 1842750763 £16.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Lord Fraser of Kilmarnock was one of the greatest postwar Tory apparatchiks. He held that we should 'keep the...
Never Short of an Answer
Never short of an answer KITAJ by Andrew Lambirth Philip Wilson, £25, pp. 144, ISBN 0856675717 £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848People, that's to say some critics, just don't get it about R. B. Kitaj. They dislike the way he paints, running things...
Protecting the Flame of Genius
Protecting the flame of genius LETTERS FROM A LIFE: SELECTED LETTERS OF BENJAMIN BRITTEN, VOLUME III, 1946-51 edited by Donald Mitchell, Philip Reed and Mervyn Cooke Faber, £25, pp. 784, ISBN 057122282X £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848It's been...
Sending Up the Sporran
Sending up the sporran SCONE: A LIKELY TALE by Adam Fergusson Sinclair-Stevenson, £14.99, pp. 252, ISBN 1842750763 £12.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Here is a first - the first postdevolution novel, possibly, even, the first novel to be inspired...
Survival Strategy
I'm still worrying about MG Rover's falling sales and mistaken strategy. It's getting worse. During August they sold just over 30 Rovers a day and 764 MG sports cars. August is a bad month, but nevertheless these were their worst figures for six years...
Thanks for the Memory
Many of us have experienced the feeling of vicarious dread, at a funeral or memorial service, as the eulogist makes his way to the podium. Is the tribute to the departed friend or relation going to make us laugh or cry or both? Will it reacquaint us...
The Awkward Squad
The awkward squad ALONE! ALONE! LIVES OF SOME OUTSIDER WOMEN by Rosemary Dinnage New York Review of Books, £16.99, pp. 296, ISBN 1590170695 £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848The introduction to Alone! Alone! is very good. It's modest and candid,...
The Power of Total Contempt
The power of total contempt ONE FOURTEENTH OF AN ELEPHANT: A MEMOIR OF LIFE AND DEATH ON THE BURMATHAILAND RAILWAY by Ian Denys Peek Doubleday, £18.99, pp. 522, ISBN 0385607407 £16.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848As plans gather pace to commemorate...
The Price of the Last Push
The price of the last push ARMAGEDDON: THE BATTLE FOR GERMANY, 1944-45 by Max Hastings Macmillan, £25, pp. 592, ISBN 0333908368 £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848This lucid account by a practised hand of what went on in Europe during that final year...
The Prime Minister Has Become the Main International Prop for George Bush
Two weeks ago, in the course of an interview with the Observer, Tony Blair claimed that he had already said sorry for issuing false information about Iraq. This is what he said: 'We've apologised for the information that was given being wrong.'I have...
The Sorrow and the Pity
The sorrow and the pity POL POT: THE HISTORY OF A NIGHTMARE by Philip Short John Murray, £25, pp. 656, ISBN 0719565685 £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848On 17 April 1975, 'two thousand years of Cambodian history ended'. The Khmers Rouges captured...
The Spectator's Notes
Twenty-five years ago this week, I joined Fleet Street. And it actually was Fleet Street, no. 135, the offices of the Daily Telegraph, with its frieze of naked Mercuries rushing, presumably on expenses, to the four corners of the earth. I had seen Colin...
The State Can't Set You Free
The Human Rights Act has seemed to many to be an innocent adaptation of principles already contained within our common law, and indeed affirmed by statute once before, in the Bill of Rights of 1689. Seen in this way, the Act is no more than an affirmation...
The Tories' Sub-Marxist Economic Determinism Won't Win Them Office
Concerning the state of the Conservatives, a few remarks. First, their 'analysis' is probably wrong. 'Analysis' does not here mean the Conservatives' diverse and contradictory public pronouncements suggesting that, say, Mr Redwood had to be brought back...
Tough Work Experience
Tough work experience THE FLAYED DOG by Christo Saprjanov Chanadon, £12.99, pp. 115, ISBN 095419733X £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Vasil works as a concrete-spreader, part of a gang of workers imported to build a road 'a thousand kilometres...
Unlocking a Mystery
Exhibitions 2Unlocking a mysteryDie Familie SchneiderWhitechapel, until DecemberWhen I first heard the name 'Artangel' some two decades ago, it sent a shiver of pleasurable anticipation down my spine, with its hint of divine intervention in the arts...
Utterly Outrageous
Following Batman on Buckingham Palace and intruders into the House of Commons, in Competition 2362 you were invited to provide a newspaper report of the next grotesque outrage.'Yesterday the Old Etonian Society demo against everything modern went off...
Watching the Waterfall
Exhibitions 3Watching the waterfallFu Baoshi and his contemporariesAshmolean Museum, Oxford, until 31 OctoberChinese calligraphy is an art form as well as a written language. Just as Chinese landscape painting is a language as well as an art form. Practised...
What It Was Really Like
What it was really likeWITNESS TO WAR by Richard J. Aldrich Doubleday, £18.99, pp. 718, ISBN 0385606788 £16.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848FORGOTTEN VOICES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Max Arthur Ebury, £19.99, pp. 486, ISBN 0091897343 £17.99 (plus...
Why Ankara Should Be Wary of Brussels
Earlier this month Turkey's hid to join the European Union crept past the tipping point from possibility to probability. The European Commission recommended that accession negotiations be opened with Ankara, and the outgoing enlargement commissioner...
Why Might Dr O'Reilly Want to Sell 30 per Cent of the Independent?
The news that Tony O'Reilly may be willing to sell 30 per cent of the Independent newspaper seems utterly astounding. It has enjoyed a considerable succès d'estime by going tabloid. From being a catch-up sort of newspaper which did not excel in any particular...
Won over by Gluck
OperaWon over by GluckIphigénie en TaurideWelsh National OperaFaustRoyal OperaWho is the most neglected great composer of operas? Unquestionably Gluck. We are fairly regularly treated - if that's the word - to performances of Orfeo in which dance and...
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