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. 9200, 2004

Abramovich
How and why did he do it? ABRAMOVICH by Dominic Midgley and Chris Hutchins HarperCollins, £18.99, pp. 337, ISBN 0007189834 * £16.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848The true genius of the Russian businessman Roman Abramovich greater even than his ability...
Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network
Fighting the 'good' fight AL-QAIDA'S JIHAD IN EUROPE: THE AFGHAN-BOSNIAN NETWORK by Evan F. Kohlmann Berg, £15, pp. 239, ISBN 1859738079 * £12.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Millions, perhaps even billions of words have been written about al-Qaida...
Ancient & Modern
It has been reported that a cancer patient has had an ovary transplanted into her left arm, and that despite its unusual location it is said to be functioning normally. It is good to see today's doctors gradually catching up with the ancient Greeks,...
Backing the Bad Guy
DonetskThe sleeper train from Kiev to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine offers more than mere physical transport - it is a time machine. For £20, a cabin decorated like a little rolling dacha will take you from the relatively contemporary capital across frozen...
Behaving Badly
CinemaBehaving badlyThe Merchant of VenicePG, selected cinemasThere has never been a film of The Merchant of Venice before. This is not surprising. Different Shakespeare plays give trouble to different ages: we are not at ease with Measure for Measure,...
Beyond the Call of Duty
Fortunately, I have never fought in a war or served with the armed forces. I can't say I regret this as I am by no means certain I would have been any good at it. Nor do I know if I would have been capable of acts of courage. Reporting wars is safer,...
Blunkett's Kiss and Tell
There is no prize for predicting the two least exciting political events of 2005: the publication of Sir Alan Budd's inquiry into David Blunkett's alleged 'fast-tracking' of a visa application for his former lover's nanny, and the conclusion of Sir Philip...
Diary
A charming retired lady doctor of my acquaintance buttonholes me whenever I run into her in London. She knows I write for The Spectator and she is convinced that this Diary page is an irritating spoof. 'It's just not possible that those people, like...
Garry's Gold
Over the past two years Garry Kasparov appeared to have lost the plot. Younger opponents, such as Radjabov, were treating him with scant lack of respect and his habitual run of first prizes had been gradually drying up. Now, though, a splendidly resurgent...
Globophobia
A loftily named environmental pressure group called the Food Commission has been upset by the sale of bottled water from Fiji in Waitrose supermarkets. The water, it complains, has clocked up 10,000 'food miles' before it reaches Western consumers. 'Transporting...
Gordon's Swedish Model
After watching the Queen's Speech last week, I found it hard to agree with the commentators who were insisting that the government's intention was to scare us out of our wits. We have indeed been given reason to run screaming into our homes, but the...
Grubby but Great
There they were, two new books side by side, my welcoming presents. Paul Johnson's delightful childhood memoir next to Alistair Home's Friend or Foe, his Anglo-Saxon history of France, as good a reason to return to grubby old London as I can think of....
Heartbreaker
WHENEVER I'm about to give up on a 'double-dummy' bridge puzzle - i.e., one in which you are shown all four hands - I force myself to imagine that I'm locked in a cell and won't be released until I get the answer: surely if I think long and hard enough,...
Horses for Courses
I wonder how many people are in my position, wanting the BBC to be seen to represent their own special interest, quick to belabour the authorities with their righteous indignation when they feel left out. It is too easy to expect a service which is publicly...
Irish Tale
Theatre 1Irish taleIt must have been some time in 1967: I was fresh (well, freshish) out of Oxford and had, rather to my amazement, been invited by Sir Noël Coward to write his authorised biography. Early in my research, I had discovered that during...
Last Pearl
Exhibitions 2Last pearlJames Fitton RA: A Very English PainterCrane Kalman Gallery, until 15 JanuaryIn the official account of British 20th-century art, the big names belong to the international players whose universal vision won them a place in the...
Leonardo Da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind/leonardo
Renaissance man in all his richness LEONARDO DA VINCI: THE FLIGHTS OF THE MIND by Charles Nicholl Allen Lane, £25, pp. 502, ISBN 0713994932 * £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848LEONARDO by Martin Kemp OUP, £14.99, pp. 286, ISBN 0192805460 * £12.99...
Letters
A policeman's lotFrom Gareth LawrenceSir: As a police constable with 15 years of service I laughed aloud at Nicky Samengo-Turner's account of his ordeal at the hands of the Metropolitan Police ('New Labour's police state', 27 November). His reaction...
Lost for Words
Cleansing the stables of language LOST FOR WORDS by John Humphrys Hodder, £14.99, pp. 334, ISBN 034083658X * £12.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848During the mid-17th century the idea gained ground in various parts of Europe that the world was about...
Mandy: Wanted for Questioning
As political scandals go, it may be less immediately compelling than all this business about the Home Secretary's love life. But in terms of import and, I suspect, shelf life, the extent of British involvement in the attempted coup against the government...
Master of Invention
Exhibitions 1Master of inventionWilliam Nicholson (1872-1949): British Painter and PrintmakerRoyal Academy, until 23 January 2005The very fact that this exhibition's subtitle has to explain who Nicholson is stands as a blatant admission of his supposed...
Miles
The very model of a modern duke MILES by Gerard Noel Michael Russell, £15.95, pp.176, ISBN 0859552896Miles Fitzalan-Howard was one of eight children of a fairly distant cousin of the previous two Dukes of Norfolk, and so grew up in the give and take...
Moor Pride
The province of Extremadura is as different from the brochure-bright picture of tourist Spain as it is possible to be. Stretched along the Portuguese frontier, it has a sombre, restrained dignity, with mile upon mile of grassland like vast lawns studded...
Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma
A puzzle without a solution OPPENHEIMER: PORTRAIT OF AN ENIGMA by Jeremy Bernstein Duckworth, £16.99, pp. 223, ISBN 0715633309 * £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Jeremy Bernstein is extraordinarily, perhaps uniquely, well qualified to write a...
Politicians and Journalists Are in a Conspiracy against the Public
The universal predicament which confronts the western world at the start of the 21st century concerns the breakdown of boundaries. Philosophers blur the distinction between good and evil; society no longer protects family life; sociologists applaud the...
Pressure Points
Cricketer and racing fan Keith Miller, who died recently, had flown Mosquitoes over Germany during the war and it gave him a perspective. 'When athletes these days talk of pressure,' he declared, 'they only reveal what they don't know of life. They've...
Problem Piece
OperaProblem pieceLa RondineRoyal Opera HouseSemeleColiseumLike many artists, Puccini seems happiest when creating beings whom he can proceed to subject to torture, while encouraging compassion and grief on the part of spectators. In this respect he...
Raw Passion
One of the more infallible ways of annoying Mrs Spencer is to conduct a conversation about the pleasures of pop music in her presence. She refuses to see merit in any of it, and my custom, in my drinking days, of playing the Grateful Dead or Syd Barrett...
Reading the Runes on the Rouble's Rim - They Say 'In Gold We Trust'
For my birthday, I have been given a gold rouble. It's the thought that matters, of course - but which would you say was worth more: the rouble, or the gold? The promise to pay, or the precious metal? In the rouble's homeland this question has always...
Recent Gardening Books
Recent gardening booksThe late Paul Getty has left gardeners a surprising legacy. Gardens of the Roman World by Patrick Bowe was published in America last year by Getty publications and the copyright belongs to the J. Paul Getty Trust. Did our run-of-the-mill...
Restaurants
Off to Ubon, sister restaurant to the famed Japanese fusion establishment Nobu, which is Nobu spelled backwards. No one had to point that out to me, by the way. I spotted it all by myself, which I think proves what I have said all along: I'm a pretty...
Second Opinion
Occasionally I walk home from the prison. Usually I take a taxi. Very rarely indeed do I drive; I don't much care for parking within a mile radius of an establishment from which car thieves are released daily.I turned on the wireless and an unctuously...
See How They Fly . .
My Mum thinks nothing of poisoning animals. 'How can you, as a bornagain Christian, justify poisoning God's creatures?' I ask her, sanctimoniously, as she unpicks the braiding on another kilogram bag of rodent poison. But she just laughs gaily at me....
Sound Effects
There is a long tradition of music to accompany drama. Shakespeare's plays, for example, would not only have been accompanied by, and embroidered and studded with, different sorts of music, but almost all contain at least one song, and it is a subject...
Speed Eating
New YorkThanksgiving is a bigger marathon than Christmas. Maybe because the holiday lasts only four days instead of 12. Thus Americans feel obliged to cram as many lunches and dinners as possible into that shorter period. It's a form of speed eating.Meals...
Stalin
The nature of the beast STALIN by Robert Service Macmillan, £25, pp. 714, ISBN 0333726278 * £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Robert Service has set himself a formidable task. He has to explain how the son of a wife-beating, dirt-poor Georgian cobbler,...
Stormy Weather
In Competition No. 2369 you were invited to submit extracts from an imaginary diary during a period of civil convulsion and anarchy in this country.Though I was thinking of future disturbances, I was quite willing to accept historic diaries and was pleased...
The Alex-Arsène Show
I fancy football's most satisfying kick of the year has not been any particular jingo-jangle or hype-hype hooray on the pitch itself, but the cold-eyed gunslingers' rivalry between two middle-aged obsessives - Sir Alex Ferguson and Monsieur Arsène Wenger,...
The Assassin
Changing history with a tenpenny knife THE ASSASSIN by Ronald Blythe Black Dog Books, Tel: 01603 623 771, £16.95, pp. 276, ISBN 0952883996This is a strange and wonderful novel that deserves the most serious attention. Whenever Ronald Blythe's name comes...
The Deceivers
Bamboozling the opposition THE DECEIVERS by Thaddeus Holt Weidenfeld, £30, pp. 1,148, ISBN 0297848046 * £26 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848This book, like so much of the modern western population, is obese. It weighs three pounds one and a half ounces...
The Hounds of Heaven
I took up beagling not as a political gesture but because my dog died. Having walked with him for 12 years, I found walking without him too sad, so I more or less stopped. Then I met a friend at a party - a state-school teacher who had once been a Marxist...
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
A man of many dressing-gowns THE NEW ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by Leslie S. Klinger Norton, 2 volumes, £35, pp. 1,280, ISBN 0393059162If you find yourself lingering on the pavement outside Baker Street tube station on an average morning, you are...
The Nightmare and the Noble Dream: A Life of H. L. A. Hart
Belonging and not belonging THE NIGHTMARE AND THE NOBLE DREAM: A LIFE OF H. L. A. HART by Nicola Lacey OUP, £25, pp. 422, ISBN 0199274975 * £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Nicola Lacey wanted to write an 'intellectual biography' of Herbert Hart,...
The Remarkable Baobab/the Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland
Goui and phooey THE REMARKABLE BAOBAB by Thomas Pakenham Weidenfeld, £12.99, pp. 144, ISBN 0297843737 * £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848THE HERITAGE TREES OF BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND by Ben Stokes and Donald Rodger, with a foreword by Thomas...
There's No Smoking Gun in This Case. It's Just One Damn Thing after Another
In scene 9 of William Congreve's The Way of the World, amid a fiendish tangle of desire, deception and general waywardness (Sir Wilfull Witwoud: 'Ahey! Wenches? Where are the wenches?'), Lady Wishfort speaks for many of us as she cuts the discussion...
The Shy Pornographer
Loser takes most THE SHY PORNOGRAPHER by Peter Kinsley Amherst, £16.99, pp. 192, ISBN 1903637236O frabjous day! Here is a comic novel that is really funny, with funny jokes about a funny hero. At the same time, Peter Kinsley wreaks a satisfactory vengeance...
The Spectator's Notes
On the whole, one sympathises with those sections of the media that do not rush to reveal the sex lives of public figures, rather than the tabloids which bellow about the public's 'right to know'. But there does come a point when those of us who say...
The Story of Film
Shot from an idealist's angle THE STORY OF FILM by Mark Cousins Pavilion, £25, pp. 512, ISBN1862055742 * £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848A question posed early on in Mark Cousins's book is bound to spur a reviewer's pride: 'Who are Griffith, Dovzhenko,...
The Who, What, Where, When of the Blunkett-Quinn Business
Who is more in the wrong, David Blunkett or Kimberly Quinn? Everyone has a view. Let me tell the story. I have deliberately chosen not to talk to Kimberly Quinn, who is publisher of The Spectator. Nor have I spoken to David Blunkett, or anyone who works...
Timothy the Tortoise: The Remarkable Story of the Nation's Oldest Pet
Seeing off six monarchs TIMOTHY THE TORTOISE: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF THE NATION'S OLDEST PET by Rory Knight Bruce Orion, £9.99, pp. 162, ISBN 0752868721This beguiling little book, nostalgically illustrated with faded family snapshots, describes the...
Ulster Is All Right
Sitting in a south Belfast restaurant on a crisp autumn afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I said to my wife, 'You know, I don't think I have tasted such a good risotto since we ate in that little café in Paris, just off the Champs-Elysées.' My wife nodded...
Virtuous Living
Exhibitions 3Virtuous livingA German Dream: Masterpieces of Romanticism from the Nationalgalerie BerlinNational Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, until 30 Januaiy 2005Penguin Classics uses details from the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich to illustrate...
What a Shower!
It was a perfect London autumn day. In Hyde Park the leaves were turning fiery gold, the tang of bonfire sharpened the air, and divorced fathers mooched along, occasionally pausing to pick up their bawling offspring when they crashed off their micro-scooters...
Who Dares Wins
TelevisionWho dares winsTwo programmes this week made the case that popular music has taken over the tradition of the great classical composers. In Howard Goodall's Twentieth Century Greats (Channel 4, Saturday) the composer told us that modern 'serious'...
Why the Nuns Sacked Me
Forty years on, I still can't decide whether Reverend Mother was right to expel me from my convent school at the age of 16. The shame, the mortification and the blazing sense of failure (and defiance) are still with me. I could argue - any chance of...
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