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 2006

All Go in the Name of God
RUN O ' THE MILL BISHOP by John Bickersteth Cappella Archives, £24.50, pp. 345, ISBN 1902918215 The Bickersteth family has performed its Levi-like role in the Church of England for several generations, providing it with some of its best traditional...
A Magnificent Seven
7 STORIES by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, edited and translated by Joanne Turnbull Glas, £9, pp. 208, ISBN 5717200730 Being a creative fantasist is not a simple matter, although a grudging and no doubt envious Dr Johnson maintained about Gulliver's Travels...
A Talent for Losing
WAVELL : SOLDIER AND STATESMAN by Victoria Schofield John Murray, £30, pp. 512, ISBN 0719563208 . £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Wavell was a great soldier and a great man: wise, courageous, clear-headed, an inspired and inspiring leader, a...
A Toddle along the Gibbon Trail
THE DREAM OF ROME by Boris Johnson HarperCollins, £18.99, pp. 210, ISBN 9780007224418 What is likely to be the future of Europe? Is some kind of unity really on the cards? Boris Johnson, in his formative period a student of the classical world, finds...
Cameron's Meeting with Blair Was a Deplorable Stitch-Up
In 15 years of covering domestic politics I have never reported on anything half as sordid as Tuesday's meeting between Tony Blair and David Cameron in the Prime Minister's L-shaped Commons office. Afterwards David Cameron took it upon himself to issue...
Captivated by Weir
A Night at the Chinese Opera Royal Academy of Music La Rondine; Arms and the Cow Alhambra, Bradford A Night at the Chinese Opera is the first stage work of Judith Weir's that I have seen. It was put on quite brilliantly, and to packed houses, by the...
Diary
The most satisfying night of recent weeks had to be the poetry reading in the British Library organised by Josephine Hart, a woman born to fill us with her infectious love of poetry. It was standing room only, as Evelyn and Lynn Rothschild discovered,...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Another day, another chance to demonstrate our values. We are launching our spring forum in Manchester with an initiative: 'focusing on the transformational impact of trusting people'. DD was meant to be in charge but Dave stepped in at the last...
Family at War
The Squid and the Whale 15, selected cinemas In a dark corner of the Museum of Natural History in New York there is a diorama of a giant squid caught between the jaws of a whale. It is huge, vivid and quite alarming -- two mighty beasts tussling, and...
Fight to Unite
I was in the gents at the Black Lion in Plaistow, east London, standing at one of the two urinals, when it hit me. I was thinking about my Mum. She hasn't been well. First it was a chest infection, then the violence of the coughing fits put her back...
Hail Quinlan Terry: Our Greatest Living Architect
Since the early 20th century, Western society has been in the grip of a culture of repudiation -- rejecting one by one the institutions, offices, traditions and achievements of the past, while having often little but sentimental emptiness with which...
Harnessing the Horses of Apollo
SUNDIALS : HISTORY, ART, PEOPLE, SCIENCE by Mark Lennox-Boyd Frances Lincoln, £30, pp. 144, ISBN 0711224940 . £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In my ignorance, before reading this most instructive, entertaining and beautifully produced book, I...
Homage to a Bygone Era
English National Ballet Richmond Theatre Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo Peacock Theatre Last week I briefly lamented the lack of stylistic and historical awareness that informs most contemporary productions of the classics. I had not yet seen...
How about Asking Us?
In his 1997 manifesto Tony Blair described New Labour as 'the political arm of none other than the British people as a whole'. Nine years on, it more closely resembles the 'political arm' of an Asbo family, at war with itself and indifferent to the...
Knock, Knock! A Toast to the City's Peerless Chronicler and Jokesmith
Christopher Fildes's City and Suburban column first appeared in June 1984 and notched up over a thousand appearances; before that, he served as business editor under Nigel Lawson in the late 1960s. As a chronicle of modern City life, the Fildes oeuvre...
Lady in Waiting
PART OF THE PATTERN by Edna Healey Review, £25, pp.306, ISBN 0747275807 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Edna Healey recalls her life as 'a Wife at Westminster'. For 40 years her husband, Denis, was a Labour Member of Parliament, for 12 a cabinet...
Let's Hear It for the Family from Hell
At last there's the sound of an upstairs window opening, and a woman's tousled head reveals itself. 'Stand back, where I can see you!' it shouts down to me. I pad around for a moment or two on the nicely trimmed front lawn. And then, remarkably, the...
Mad about the Bard
WILL AND ME: HOW SHAKESPEARE TOOK OVER MY LIFE by Dominic Dromgoole Penguin/Allen Lane, £16.99, pp. 291, ISBN 0713998318 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 At school there was a group of us who thought that Samuel Beckett was the coolest person...
Medicine and Letters
The most beautiful book to come out of South Africa, at least that is known to me, is Pauline Smith's The Little Karoo. It was published in 1925, when the racial question (as it was then called) concerned the relations of Boer to Briton. The blacks...
Meet the Real Sarkozy: The Man Who Could Save France
Paris It was the ideal vantage point, a large room overlooking the magnificent Place de la République, the starting point of the rally. I sat watching all afternoon as hundreds of thousands of self-righteous students began their long march across Paris,...
Mystery of the Silver Chair
As if God's glory, with just one sun-ray, Could not burn craters in a chromosome, We call it kindly when it works our way, And, some of us with tact, some with display, Arrange the house to make it feel at home. With votive tokens we propitiate Almighty...
New World Orders
Christopher P. Wood: New Worlds Long & Ryle, until 22 April Nigel Cooke: A Portrait of Everything South London Gallery, until 14 May This year's Tate Triennial has been so universally panned it seems cruel to add to the chorus of criticism. Still,...
Osborne Tirade
BBC Radio marked the 50th anniversary of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court with a production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger on Radio Four last week (Saturday), and it was something of a jolt to hear once again Jimmy Porter's invigorating...
People-Traffickers Are Not the Problem: People Are
Brussels Right now, somewhere in the Atlantic, off the western shores of Morocco, ragged convoys of African migrants are heading for Europe. Their craft are long, low fishing boats, like giant canoes, crammed perilously full. Their destination is the...
Rattling Good À la Russe
WHITE BLOOD by James Fleming Cape, £12.99, pp. 361, ISBN 0224077996 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Tolstoy has always been so much a part of English literature as well as Russian that it comes as no surprise that behind James Fleming's...
Real Life
Like everyone else I loved Planet Earth (BBC1, Sunday), which came to only a temporary end this week. The images are fabulous. If the global-warming doomsayers are right, and if in 50 years' time what's left of us are living on mountain tops, chewing...
Relentless Morbidity
As T.S. Eliot almost wrote, this column has become much obsessed with death and sees the skull beneath the skin. Going to a moving memorial service for a departed colleague the other week, and watching his wife leave at the end with her three beautiful...
Relocation with a Vengeance
TWICE A STRANGER : GREECE, TURKEY AND THE MINORITIES THEY EXPELLED by Bruce Clark Granta, £20, pp.267, ISBN 0199291055 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In 1975, a few months after the two Turkish invasions of Cyprus that had stormed across the...
Riotous Times
Unless one's in the middle of it -- and even then -- Paris and a riot go together like a horse and carriage, which was the way one travelled when rioting became chic, après tout. The irony is that countries like France and Germany, which have laws that...
Snakes and Ladders
You will know by now whether Arsenal in Italy on Wednesday carried on from their racily appealing first-leg home victory over Juventus and are now in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup. Whatever, last week's emphatic, even euphoric, Highbury...
Soldier of Good Fortune
A CONVERSATION ON THE QUAI VOLTAIRE by Lee Langley Chatto, £15.99, pp. 376, ISBN 0701179120 . £12.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Fans of Lee Langley's novels (A House in Pondicherry, Persistent Rumours, Distant Music) will know and appreciate...
Spring Forward, Fall Back
THE LONG MARCH by Sun Shuyun HarperCollins, £20, pp. 302, ISBN 000719479X Republics, as much as monarchies, need founding myths in order to legitimise themselves in the eyes of their subjects. For a long time, the image of Chairman Mao leading his ragtag...
Taking Shape
Ellsworth Kelly Serpentine Gallery, until 21 May The Serpentine Gallery is a pleasure to visit, which makes it all the more frustrating that its exhibition programme in recent years has been so dominated by the modish and ephemeral. Thankfully, from...
The Catastrophe of Success
THE SELECTED LETTERS OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS , 1945-57 edited by Albert J. Devlin with Nancy M. Tischler Oberon Books, 521 Caledonian Road, London N7 9 RH, Tel: 020 7607 3637, £25, pp. 662, ISBN 1840022272 The trouble with the theatre is that there aren't...
The Queen Has Succeeded Simply by Being Herself
The Queen will be 80 on 21 April, an appropriate time to reflect on the changes which have taken place during her 54-year reign. She was born in the difficult aftermath of the first world war, 12 days before the General Strike of 1926, when the more...
The Spectator's Notes
When Bill Clinton was threatened with impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky affair, I was keen that the Daily Telegraph, which I was editing at the time, should add fuel to the flames. A little earlier, I had edited the Sunday Telegraph and our Washington...
The Way We Were the Week the Queen Was Born
It was press day at The Spectator when Queen Elizabeth II was born. The printers had set the lines of type for the edition of 24 April 1926, and were waiting for the extra paragraph about the new royal baby. Did their hearts swell with pride when it...
Voices of a Lost East End That Reach Us through the Smog of Time
Despite or perhaps because of the great smog of 1962, the worst for a decade, the Alma at Limehouse was crowded. Among the drinkers were 'an inaudible Chinese elder nicknamed "pukkapoo", Scotch Lilly, a skinny local prostitute with the most saddest...
Whatever the Weather
Am I alone, I wonder, in despairing of the human condition every time I encounter the manacled, immovable coathangers in the wardrobes of expensive hotel bedrooms? Are there really so many guests who can afford to stay in such places who would otherwise...
What Next -- after the End of History?
AFTER THE NEOCONS by Francis Fukuyama Profile, £12.99, pp. 226, ISBN 1861979223 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Professor Fukuyama is famous for having told us at the end of the Cold War that history was at an end. By this he meant that...
What's One Less IRA Grass to the Government?
The final miserable weeks of Denis Donaldson -- the former IRA man, Sinn Fein official and selfconfessed British agent -- were spent in dramatically abject surroundings, huddling alone in a freezing cottage built before the Irish famine and bereft of...
Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear?
Some years ago I bought a little book by Arnold Bennett from a stall at a church fete. It cost only a few pence, a real bargain, for this collection of pieces written for The New Age magazine between 1908 and 1911 is full of interest and good sense....
Without Fear
Mickie O'Brien's father served with the Royal Marines at Gallipoli. Mickie himself was commissioned in the Royal Marines in 1940 and, after two years in ships (seeing action in Norway), he transferred to 47 RM Commando with whom he landed on DDay. Later,...
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