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 August 2006

An Ogre, Nonetheless
It became apparent that the academic and journalist Christopher Hitchens was regretting having agreed to appear on Great Lives on Radio Four last week (Tuesday) with Leon Trotsky as his choice for Great Life status. He couldn't really explain why someone...
A Not So Cuddly Teddy Bear
JOHN BETJEMAN : T HE BIOGRAPHY by Bevis Hillier John Murray, £18.99, pp. 590, ISBN 0719564433 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 BETJEMAN by A. N. Wilson Hutchinson, £20, pp. 384, ISBN 0091797020 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Only...
Arabian Days
After 24 hours in Arabian sand, Jeddah feels refreshing. I am in the middle of a six-month land trip with my boyfriend through the Middle East. We've been warned that Saudi Arabia won't be a sightseeing stop, that the uniform might put me out, but it...
Are Biscuits a Terrorist Threat? It Depends Where You Check In
Aurora, Illinois I'm here to look at a particle accelerator. They've got a big one in Aurora, Illinois, all these neutrinos whizzing round and round, wishing they were anywhere but here -- and with some justification. Aurora is too distant to properly...
As an American Muslim, I Warn You: Britain Has a Unique Problem
With the foiling of the alleged conspiracy by radical Islamists to devastate transatlantic air travel -- at the height of the US-UK tourist season -- Britain has emerged, a little more than a year after the London Tube bombings, as the apparent main...
A Small Stir of Scots
LOVE OVER SCOTLAND by Alexander McCall Smith Polygon, £14.99, pp. 357, ISBN 1904598800 . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 I wonder how much my enthusiasm for Alexander McCall Smith's stories about Precious Ramotswe, the founder of The Ladies...
A Thousand Bottles of Mumm
SEIZE THE DAY by Ann Allestree Sinclair-Stevenson, £20, pp. 585, ISBN 0954352084 The front cover shows a mature English beauty in an Oriental doorway, elegant in a turban, with twinset and pearls. On the back is a Country Life portrait of a radiant...
At Least the British People Get It
In his book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki writes that 'under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them'. Our poll today shows that the response of the British people to...
Bowled Over
In 1891 the Maharajah of Patiala built a palace at Chail, a pretty spot in the Indian Himalayas that looks spookily like Switzerland. From there he could gaze down at night on the lights of Shimla, the summer capital of the Raj. A couple of years later...
Buying Power
Forgery in painting has enjoyed a long history of scandal and from time to time spills more ink than paint, in part because we all enjoy reading about an art expert or moneyed person getting taken in by a fake. Our pleasure derives from that cocky-smug...
Chirac's Internet Search - for a French Answer to Google
France's crusade against AngloSaxon incursions into its culture has entered cyberspace. To the list of alien influences the French establishment is determined to resist -- ranging from words such as 'weekend' and 'cheeseburger' to radio broadcasts of...
Cross-Dressing Soviets
The Bright Stream; Cinderella Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House Contrary to popular opinion, there is more to Soviet ballet than choreographic propaganda. There is humour, too. Obviously, it is an appropriately purged and carefully planned comedy, rich...
Dear Chancellor, Inflation Is More Your Fault Than Mine. Yours, Governor
More interesting than the Governor of the Bank of England's letter to the Chancellor explaining why inflation has exceeded the official target will be Gordon Brown's reply. Mervyn King has admitted there is an even chance he will have to write the letter,...
Devonshire Cream
Why does this cricket team select itself? In batting order: George Emmett (capt. ), Peter Bowler, Ian Ward, Roger Twose, David Shepherd, Roger Tolchard, Jeff Tolchard, Chris Read (w. k. ), John Childs, Jack Davey, Len Coldwell. Seven of them played...
Diary
Mexico City/Punta Ixtapa This summer my family have done a life-swap. Every day we eat a large breakfast prepared by the cook, Isabel, in our residence in Mexico City, while Gaby, the maid, tidies our bedrooms. A brace of gardeners in cowboy hats, José...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY I thought Hague was Dave's official deputy. But today DD phones Nigel to say not to panic, he's in charge and he's a got a battle plan to rival Austerlitz. Hour later he turns up and gives us all a pep talk (or was it a ticking off? ). 'Listen...
Doing the Devil's Work
TERRORIST by John Updike Penguin, £17.99, pp. 310, ISBN 0241143519 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the amazingly curious and apparently perpetual work of John Updike will of course be familiar...
Don't Forget Katrina: The Disaster That Happened
New Orleans Inlate July, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced the schedule for an official 'three days of reflection' that would mark the anniversary of Katrina. Some events seemed fitting enough: a prayer breakfast followed by the ringing of church...
Double Rescue from the Cold
THE LAND OF SPICES by Kate O'Brien Virago, £7.99 , pp. 320, ISBN 1844083160 . £6.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'I am entirely against the promotion of a sense of humour as a philosophy of life, ' wrote Kate O'Brien, with just that chilling aloofness...
Flowerpot Men
Lately I've been having recurring nightmares about my stint as a machine operator in a plastics factory. I used to perch on a stool beside a hissing, clanging, injection-moulding machine from eight in the morning to eight in the evening. Every 30 seconds...
Getting the Maximum Pleasure
HOW TO READ A NOVEL by John Sutherland Profile, £9.99, pp. 263, ISBN 1861979460 . £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The premise of John Sutherland's new book is that many people wrongly think of reading as an allor-nothing ability, like, say,...
Grinding the DC Rumour Mill
I have received some very complimentary letters about my 22 July column, the one dealing with the plight of a Palestinian female doctor in Gaza. I will not mention the names because they were, after all, private messages. You know who you are and I...
Hoping against Hope
THE PARLIAMENT OF MAN : THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE QUEST FOR WORLD GOVERNMENT by Paul Kennedy Allen Lane, £25, pp. 361, ISBN 0713993758 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Professor Kennedy is a decent liberal who hopes for the victory of the brotherhood...
If John Reid Does Well against Cameron, He'll Be a Serious Contender to Succeed Blair
Last weekend I was sternly assured by a shadow Cabinet member that the Conservatives would resist the temptation to attack the government over the terrorism arrests. 'The only people who benefit when an opposition starts playing politics with the issue...
In Spite of the Truce, the Cycle of Violence between Prescott and Reid Has Not Ended
At the time of writing, the UN seems to have brokered a fragile ceasefire between John Prescott and John Reid. But that does not mean that either will give up his historic claim to Whitehall in August. Each accuses the other of provoking this summer's...
Let's Abolish 'Work Experience'
At this time of year, it's impossible to avoid them. They sit in the corner, their expressions switching from the shellshocked to the bored. Every so often they trudge towards the photocopier, retreating again in panic after their first encounter with...
Magical Theatre Box
Henry VI, Parts I, II and III Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon The Tempest Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon The story so far of the RSC's Complete Works marathon has been largely that of performances, some wonderfully rich and strange,...
Mean Streets
Harsh Times 15, nationwide It is a curious thing to watch Christian Bale now, having seen him all those years ago in Empire of the Sun play that fierce, hurt boy Jim Graham, whom no amount of deprivation seemed outwardly to wound, but who bled on the...
New Ways of Looking
Passion for Paint National Gallery, until 17 September Since 2003, the National Gallery has been organising a series of annual exhibitions in partnership with Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. (Readers will...
Papa on the Warpath
THE BREAKING POINT : HEMINGWAY , D OS PASSOS AND THE MURDER OF JOSÉ ROBLES by Stephen Koch Robson, £14.99, pp. 308, ISBN 186105954X . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 HEMINGWAY ON THE CHINA FRONT : H IS WWII S PY MISSION WITH MARTHA GELLHORN...
Raising the Roof
Laikipia What a privilege it was to have Bashora Baloni Dadi thatch our house on the farm with traditional coconut makuti. The first day we met on Kenya's coast Bashora said with sympathy, 'Building your house is like fighting a war.' He is a tiny man...
Spectator Wine Club
How should wines be sealed? This issue continues to fret the trade. Those who believe in screwcaps correctly argue that they make it far less likely that wine will go off. Up to 5 per cent of all bottles are 'corked', as oxidation and sourness result...
Spectator/YouGov Poll
%Should Britain change its foreign policy in response to the terrorist threat? Yes, it should be softer/ more conciliatory 12 Yes, it should be tougher/ more aggressive 53 No, it should not change 24 Does stricter airport security make you feel safer...
Testing the Waters
It's not always easy being a 'live-aboard'. This is the name given by the Residential Boat Owners Association to the 20,000 or so people in the UK who choose to live on a boat. Urban houseboat dwelling can be notoriously cramped, chilly and damp. There...
The Future Face of Labour
The last week has given us our first, unexpected glimpse of the post-Blair era. There has been a crisis at the airports, a massive terrorist plot averted. Yet the only sign of the Prime Minister has been blurry pictures of a pair of floral swimming...
The Master Left without Masterpieces
SIR JOHN SOANE AND LONDON by Ptolemy Dean Lund Humphries, £40, pp. 248, ISBN 0754639266 . £32 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Sir John Soane is London's lost architect. You can visit his museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the picture gallery he...
This Is Only Time out in the Lebanon War
During the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, Jews were enjoined to recite Psalm 83. 'Your foes are in uproar, and those who hate you have raised their head. They say, "Come let us cut them off from nationhood so Israel's name will not be...
Too Many or Too Few?
From K.R. Houston Sir: Rod Liddle's assertion ('Our overpopulation is a catastrophe', 12 August) that an ever-growing population fuelled by mass immigration is seriously debilitating our quality of life was spot on. But it also highlights the question...
We Muslim Converts Are Not Traitors in Your Midst
Converts to Islam are now under the microscope. Middle England is in a moral panic at the news that a white middleclass boy from High Wycombe, the son of a Conservative party constituency worker, has been arrested in connection with what might have...
Yes, We Are at War - but We Are Losing
When it came to fighting terrorists, Count Alexandre de Marenches, the legendary former head of France's intelligence services, knew what he was talking about. In a prescient book published just after the end of the Cold War, he was the first to warn...
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