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. 295, No. 9184, 2004

A Fastidious Disdain of Poetry
A fastidious disdain of poetry WILLIAM COLDSTREAM by Bruce Laughton Yale, £30, pp. 355, ISBN 0300102437If William Coldstream (1909-87) was a dull painter, as he is sometimes thought to be, he was most certainly not a dull man. An artist who spent much...
Ancient & Modern
How Francis Crick, discoverer of the structure of DNA, must be enjoying himself in the Underworld! He had so much in common with the early Greek philosophers. These thinkers, who were natural scientists rather than philosophers, debated what the world...
Another Form of Racism
Last week an Afrikaans man with a plump face, large spectacles and the nickname of 'Kortbroek' (Short Pants) announced that he was joining the ANC. Thus ends the 90-year history of the most radical and notorious political party in the history of South...
A Selection of Recent Paperbacks
Non-fiction:Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Phoenix, £9.99)John Clare by Jonathan Bate (Picador, £9.99)The Affair of the Poisons by Anne Somerset (Phoenix, £8.99)The Diaries of A. L. Rowse edited by Richard Ollard (Penguin, £10.99)Nature Via Nurture...
Band Aid
I went to a five-band ska night with Sharon the other night. Ska is a sort of brassy reggae, popular with skinheads in the Sixties, that is virtually impossible not to dance to. Top of the bill was Bad Manners, fronted by Buster Bloodvessel. Buster's...
Ban This Evil Rag!
The last time I visited my cousins - three boys between the ages of eight and 13 - they were playing a new video game that their mother had bought for them. The eight-year-old had hooked the computer up to an overhead projector and was cruising city...
Basta Italia!
Forty years ago I left Italy to marry a Brit and adopt the British way of life, in so far as anyone who is not British can. I carried with me a romanticised image of my country of birth as a land not just of sunshine but of warm, generous and fundamentally...
Bernard Levin Remembered
I knew Bernard Levin when we both worked on The Spectator at the end of the Fifties, during its uncharacteristically radical period. He wrote a parliamentary sketch under the name of Taper, and was about the first to treat the political scene as theatre...
Blunt Edge
OperaBlunt edgeSweeney ToddTrafalgar Studios at the Whitehall TheatreWhat is the best environment for a production of Sweeney Todd? In the last year Londoners have had the opportunity to see it at the Royal Opera and now at the Trafalgar Studios at the...
Chinese Takeaway
Nigel Short seems to have an affinity with China. If his recollections of the Fidé Championship in Libya are for ever scarred by the terrible blunder (see Chess 17 July) which eliminated him from contention, his spirits will have been restored by his...
Delusions and Delights
Delusions and delights THE EYE OF LOVE by Margery Sharp Virago Modern Classics, £7.99, pp. 222, ISBN 1844080307Disney hijacked Margery Sharp. The novelist, who died in 1991, is remembered chiefly for her series of (now animated) children's books, The...
Diary
The Pope is going to Lourdes at the weekend. But he has made it clear in advance that he is not going for a cure, even though he has Parkinson's disease and for several years now has looked as if he might die at any moment. Rather, he is going to the...
Elephant in the Room
GstaadSorry to bore you, but more about Poles. In all the years I've been writing 'High life', no column of mine has had such a positive response as 'Pole position', of three weeks ago, which is a record for yours truly. Poles in general and Taki in...
False Dreams
For several decades I possessed only one firm article of faith. It was the conviction that whatever else one might achieve in life, nothing could ever offer adequate compensation for failing to become a rock star. As soon as I saw Mick Jagger on Top...
First Gold to Greece
Dick Pound, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, speaks for many when he says of the Greeks: 'They think things being ready at 11:59 is plenty of time. It drives the rest of the world nuts.' It has become commonplace over the past...
Grace and Favour
Pop musicGrace and favourEven the most diligent critic can miss something. As the world's least diligent, disinclined to listen to anything I don't already know I'm going to like, I can miss pretty much everything if I put my mind to it, although I often...
Great - but Uneven like the Andes
Great - but uneven like the Andes PABLO NERUDA: A PASSION FOR LIFE by Adam Feinstein Bloomsbury, £25, pp. 497, ISBN 0747571929Pablo Neruda had three houses in Chile, the most lovely of them at La Isla Negra, on the Pacific coast near Valparaiso. This...
Health Fascists
Scarcely a day passes without some bossy New Labour drone appearing on the radio either to announce yet another ban on something or to demand tougher regulations. Today on Radio Four is normally their preferred platform because of its higher audiences,...
How to Make Girls Cry
The term 'feelgood' generates a groan from most who hear it. Feelgood movies: corny old romances. Feelgood music: cheesy love songs. Sitting on a sofa with a packet of Maltesers and a box of Kleenex, bawling along to Celine Dion singing 'All By Myself'....
Human Zoo
TelevisionHuman zooI've given up loathing Big Brother (Channel 4). Life is too short to watch it, never mind hate it. I did catch some of the last pair of programmes, but in the end couldn't stand any more and went to bed. It's not for the likes of us....
Letters
Pole positionFrom Jan KowalskiSir: As Simon Heffer says ('It's time to move on', 7 August), there is no earthly reason why Britain should apologise to Poland for not doing more to help the Poles during the Warsaw uprising. Nor could Britain's ally the...
London Tips
I HAD great fun the other night at a new bridge club in Chelsea - 'London Bridge' - set up by Charlie Hunter, an ex-City man who has always had a passion for the game. The club has a pleasantly relaxed feel to it. There are none of the usual hard-boiled...
More Head Than Heart
TheatreMore head than heartSweeney ToddTrafalgar Studios at the Whitehall TheatreThe Night SeasonCottesloeThe taste of the public and the critics rarely coincides, particularly when it comes to musical theatre. The loathed and detested Andrew Lloyd Webber...
No One Wronged Faria
And so, the regiment of horribly wronged women marches ever onward and has, in the last week or so, claimed another male scalp. Mark Palios, the chief executive of the Football Association, has resigned over his affair with Faria Alam, a personal assistant...
O My Annie Long Ago!
Forget for the nonce the neighbouring soccer shrine; cricket's Old Trafford in (one must stress) the sun always takes some beating. Hoary Yorkie scribe J.M. Kilburn generously called it 'a green-grassed palace, a ground of delight enshrined by tradition'....
Postcards from the South Seas
Postcards from the South SeasAndrew Lambirth on an exhibition by the gifted but underrated landscape painter William HodgesIf you consult The Yale Dictionary of Art & Artists on the subject of William Hodges, the brief entry will inform you that...
Russians on the Nile
DanceRussians on the NileSpartacus, The Daughter of Pharaoh Bolshoi BalletRoyal Opera House, Covent GardenBoth the last ballets of the Bolshoi Ballet's London season were set in the ancient world - The Daughter of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, Spartacus...
Short on Names, Tall on Tales
Short on names, tall on tales THE BIG HOUSE by Christopher Simon Sykes HarperCollins, £20, pp. 420, ISBN 0007107099Two or three years ago, I was invited with my rather posh then girlfriend to a grand party up in Yorkshire somewhere, and we were billeted...
Some like It Hot
There were even more panamas than you would expect to see at Goodwood. The ladies were, more or less, in flimsy pastels, although some of them overflowed a little. At 30°C on Saturday, Newmarket was sweltering. Watching the buckets of water being thrown...
Spectator Wine Club
Picpoul is French for 'lip-stinger', which is not perhaps the perfect name for a grape, though better, say, than 'throat-shredder' or 'ulcer-maker' might be. Anyhow, the word means little more than that the grape is slightly more acidic than most, quite...
The Bank Cashiers the Grand Old Duke, and Plays Footsteps with Granny Gordon
The Bank of England has sacked the grand old Duke of York. New wars bring new methods, and it now bases its tactics on Grandmother's Footsteps. The Duke gave his name to the Bank's standard manoeuvre for setting interest rates. With a brisk cry of 'Charge!'...
The Best News for Michael Howard Is That Blair Has Decided to Fight the Next Election
On Monday, just as people set-tled down for the summer holidays, Michael Howard returned from his. He slipped back into Britain and at once set to work. He is already two thirds of the way through the probable term of his leadership. Just eight months...
The Dark Side of Laughter
The dark side of laughter THE SECRET PURPOSES by David Baddiel Little, Brown, £16.99, pp. 320, ISBN 0316859311As a rule, I disapprove of reviews which review the author and not the book, but some occasions demand it. The British, I don't know why, are...
The Pros and Cons of Euromarriage
The pros and cons of Euromarriage FREE WORLD: WHY A CRISIS OF THE WEST REVEALS THE OPPORTUNITY OF OUR TIME by Timothy Garton Ash Penguin/Allen Lane, £17.99, pp. 320, ISBN 0712997648Timothy Garton Ash has become a bishop. In Free World, he has written...
The Return of the Native
The return of the native THE PROMISE OF HAPPINESS by Justin Cartwright Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp. 307, ISBN 0747570345'When you look at families, there is no such thing as normal.' Indeed not. Justin Cartwright gives us the Judds, an apparently ordinary...
The Spectator's Notes
Thinking about the outbreak of the first world war 90 years ago this month, I returned to Hardy's famous short poem 'In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"', which he wrote in 1915. It is about how some things never change, outlasting war: Only a man harrowing...
The Truth about Journalism Is That Almost None of It Keeps
Unless I am much mistaken, obituarists and tribute-writers have this week been poring over the Fleet Street archives, beset by a difficulty as unexpected as it has been puzzling. We have been looking for brilliant, extended passages of the late Bernard...
'Thou, Silent Form, Doth Tease Us out of Thought'
'Thou, silent form, doth tease us out of thought' THE MYSTERY OF THE PORTLAND VASE by Robin Brooks Duckworth, £14.99, pp. 234, ISBN 0715632116One February day in 1845 a well-dressed young man walked into Gallery Nine of the British Museum and hurled...
Vanity Fair and Foul
Vanity fair and foul ROUGH COPY: PERSONAL TERMS 2 by Frederic Raphael Carcanet, £14.95, pp. 213, ISBN 1857546571The plumber came this morning - £75 including VAT. He was still expensively engaged when a bike brought Frederic Raphael's Rough Copy in a...
Vox Pop
Porto ErcoleI was sitting having lunch the other day in my hotel in Italy. We were on the terrace looking out at the sea. The sirocco was blowing, creating a hazy veil of clouds. Idly, I watched the sky, taking a sip of my Pinot Grigio. Then suddenly...
While England Sleeps
This week an unusual piece of junk mail joined the forest of pizza delivery leaflets and minicab cards on my doormat. It was a white envelope marked with six chunky coloured circles under which was written: 'Inside: Important Information from HM Government'....
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