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. 9172, 2004

Ancient & Modern
Last week, we observed ancient attitudes to wanting to live for ever. Being against it, the ancients developed many ways of dealing with death.Since there were no scriptures or creeds in the pre-Christian world, there could have been as many beliefs...
Back to Nature
High lifeBack to natureTulum, MexicoThe Riviera Maya begins south of Cancun, a poor, honky-tonk Mexican resort on the eastern, or Caribbean part of the Gulf of Mexico. It is a coastal corridor threading its way for more than 60 miles of sandy beaches...
Beautiful but Staid
OperaBeautiful but staidIl TrovatoreRoyal Opera HouseMaria de Buenos AiresNorwichFrancesca da Rimini; I PagliacciOpera North, LeedsOf the six operas I have been to see this week, the least impressively performed was Il Trovatore at the Royal Opera; it...
Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, Clan Chiefs and Scottish Feudal Barons
The last of a noble line BURKE'S PEERAGE, BARONETAGE AND KNIGHTAGE, CLAN CHIEFS AND SCOTTISH FEUDAL BARONS edited by Charles Mosley Burke 's Peerage / Boy dell & Brewer, P.O. Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP 12 3 DF, Tel: 01394 610600, £399, pp. 4,500...
Bush to Howard: Hands off Tony
For months Westminster has been alive with talk about the potential damage that defeat for George Bush in this November's Presidential contest would inflict on Tony Blair's standing in the Labour party. This just goes to show how parochial Westminster...
C'mon, You Blues!
It is the weekend which once cheered winter's muddied oafs off on their summer hols. Some hope these days! Cup finals at soccer and rugby are now simply tasters for more of the same in the sun, ad infinitum and ad tedium. For barmy measure the Lord's...
Cursed Are the Peaceniks
Anyone who has ever smoked will be familiar with that awful sinking feeling you get when, one by one, your fellow nicotine-addict friends start to quit. United you feel strong, happy, immune to the finger-wagging of health fascists and probably even...
Desert Air
Garry Kasparov's publishing phenomenon My Great Predecessors (Everyman Chess) is revolutionising the way we think about world champions. According to the authority of Kasparov himself, he is the 13th champion in direct succession from the first incumbent,...
Diary
CannesA year ago this week I tried to sell my idea for a blockbuster movie to Sam Goldwyn Junior. It was 12 noon, at the Majestic Hotel. I picked up my briefcase and strode past the upturned packet of Paprika Pringles on the floor. You don't mess around...
Easing out the Impressionists
A $100 million Picasso casts a surprisingly long shadow. Before the sale of 'Garçon à la Pipe (le jeune apprenti)' at Sotheby's New York on 5 May for a record-breaking $104 million (£58 million), the sole subject of conversation of the entire art world...
Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens
A charming but alarming city EURYDICE STREET: A PLACE IN ATHENS by Sofka Zinovieff Cranta, £14.99, pp. 276, ISBN 13579108642In the summer of 2001 Sofka Zinovieff accompanied her husband, Vassilis - first met when he was press officer to the Greek embassy...
Fashion Victim
Singular lifeFashion victimPoor Marks & Spencer. It has found itself in the same position as our Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It can do nothing right. Everyone attacks it for slavishly following the wrong road, for losing the trust of its core dressers,...
Finding Your Marbles
A perfect market is a Utopian ideal of economists. In such a market, accurate information is instantly available to all, there are no barriers to trade, participants may be buyers or sellers, and there are no middlemen. But it is generally accepted that...
F. M. the Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander
The soapy-mouthed messiah F. M. THE LIFE OF FREDERICK MATTHIAS ALEXANDER by Michael Bloch Little, Brown, £12.99, pp. 276, ISBN 0316728640'Cornflakes!' my friend's grandmother used to bark at him when he slouched at the breakfast table. The idea was that...
Fountains of Roche
Exhibitions 1Fountains of RocheWilliam Pye at Roche CourtNew Art Centre Sculpture Park, East Winterslow, Nr Salisbury, until 5 SeptemberSculptors and plumbers make a good team, as the fountains of Rome and Versailles testify, but you need to live in...
Franklin Delano Roosevelt/that Man: An Insider's Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt
The big hand across the sea FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT by Roy Jenkins Macmillan, £15.99, pp. 176, ISBN 1405046325THAT MAN: AN INSIDER'S PORTRAIT OF FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT by Robert H. Jackson OUP, £20, pp. 320, ISBN 0195168267Not many men (and fewer women)...
From Babel to Dragomans
Different heavens, same hells FROM BABEL TO DRAGOMANS by Bernard Lewis Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 438, ISBN 0297848844Now in his late eighties, Bernard Lewis is one of the last representatives of a once venerable scholarly type, the Orientalist. Born and brought...
In Peru Llama Incest Is Common, but This Is Britain and We Impose Higher Standards
Last Sunday I collected a waist-coat made from my own pet. From the same source came a hat, gloves, scarf, and a teddy bear wearing a little waistcoat of its own, though (saucily) no trousers.A lady called Chan Brown, from Chesterfield, has organised...
Keeping Her Cool
The turfKeeping her cool'She is not,' says the man who has most to do with her, 'a difficult woman.' She will before long be a millionairess many times over. She is about as near physical perfection as you can expect a female to be. As I headed for my...
King Zog, Self-Made Monarch of Albania
A short-lived royal adventure KING ZOG, SELF-MADE MONARCH OF ALBANIA by Jason Tomes Sutton, £20, pp. 312, ISBN 0750930772Jason Tomes' excellent book charts the rise and fall of Albania's only king. Of perhaps greater interest is the story it tells of...
Lesser and Greater Worlds
When out of a job with a title, and freelancing as exhibition organiser, lecturer, writer and painter, I was introduced at a London party some 30 years ago as follows: 'This is Mark Glazebrook. He's in the art world!'Having been brought up in the mountain...
Letters
A fence against terrorFrom Nikki GinsbergSir: Following Emma Williams's article on the Israeli 'wall' (Trapped behind the wall', 15 May), it's time to talk facts, not fiction. The security fence is a temporary measure. It did not exist before the onslaught...
Let the Poor Feed Us
Amid the mayhem in Baghdad this week, it would be easy to overlook a significant development towards international peace and security. It came in a letter from Pascal Lamy, EU trade commissioner, and Franz Fischler, agriculture commissioner, to the trade...
Met's Maestro
New York musicMet's maestroAs the Metropolitan Opera season wound down with a series of performances of the Wagner Ring cycle in its celebrated 'traditional' setting - which will definitely be seen again in a later season, gratifying lovers of authenticity...
Not Nice
Exhibitions 2Not niceShani Rhys James: The Black CotAberystwyth Arts Centre, until 22 MayLast year, after Shani Rhys James won the Jerwood Painting Prize, I showed examples of her work to a friend. Oh!' she said, taken aback. 'They're not nice.' Fifty...
Pembrokeshire
The local knowledge in spades PEMBROKESHIRE by Thomas Lloyd, Julian Orbach and Robert Scourfield Yale, £29.95,pp. 549, ISBN 0300101783For snoopers who like doing 'sweepers' - walking uninvited up the drive to grand houses to give them the once-over Pevsner...
Piers Morgan May Be a Charming and Lovable Rogue, but He Was Not a Great Editor
The sacking of Piers Morgan as editor of the Daily Minor has been greeted with ululation from media commentators, former and existing editors and several newspapers. Piers, we are told by no less an authority than the legendary Harry Evans, was a great...
Restaurants
This is a sorry tale that happily ends rather well. It starts on Saturday evening, when we try to eat at The House in Islington, a gastropub which won Time Out Gastropub of the year last year and which I fancy because I pass it quite often and it looks...
Scooping £40 Billion out of the Pool - Is That Clever of Gordon? Not Very
I never understood why Robert Maxwell bothered to steal from his pension funds. There were so many perfectly legal ways to extract money from them, and since they were thought to be bottomless reservoirs, no one else would have noticed the difference....
Shade
A thick Celtic mist SHADE by Neil Jordan John Murray, £16.99, pp. 317, ISBN 0179561868A review copy of Shade comes with two pages of admonitory blurb about what an important film-maker Neil Jordan is. This information might be useful for those with gossip...
Something for Everyone
Over in Notting Hill, at England & Co., 216 Westbourne Grove, W11 (until 12 June), is a fascinating retrospective of that underrated painter Albert Herbert (born 1925). Herbert studied at the Royal College of Art with the Kitchen Sink painters, Bratby,...
Spectator Wine Club
It's always a joy to present an offer from Corney & Barrow, an absolutely first-rate wine merchants and home of the Brett-Smith Indulgence, an ancient tradition dating back to roughly Queen Anne's day, by which Adam Brett-Smith reduces every case...
Statement from the Secretary of Defense
This one we didn't know we didn't know:At least, I didn't. You, you might have knownYou didn't know. Let's say that might be so.You knew, with wisdom granted you alone,You didn't know. You say, but don't say how,You knew we didn't know about abuseOr...
Stephen Potter at the BBC
When Auntie was young and carefree STEPHEN POTTER AT THE BBC by Julian Potter Orford Books, Orford, Suffolk IP 12 2 NR, Tel: 01394 450392, £20, pp.221, ISBN 0954665309Stephen Potter, author, radio writer and producer (1900-69, floruit 1940s and 1950s),...
Team Spirit
BridgeTeam spiritSOME people may think bridge is just a game, but anyone who falls under its spell knows that it's also - to use a piece of modern jargon - a bonding experience. There are few other intellectual pursuits where you find yourself sitting...
Telling Tales
CinemaTelling talesBad Education15, selected cinemasThere are several unpromising factors in the making of Bad Education. The director has described it as autobiographical, and it concerns boys in a Spanish Roman Catholic school being sexually molested...
Thatcher Bashers
RadioThatcher bashersTo mark the 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's first election victory in 1979, Radio Two broadcast the start of a series of three programmes, Maggie's Cultural Revolution, on Radio Two last week (Tuesday). Although there was...
The Anatomy of Fascism
The five stages of a downhill descent THE ANATOMY OF FASCISM by Robert O. Paxton Allen Lane, £20, pp. 321, ISBN 0713997206After defeating two fascist powers in a world war, the citizens of the democratic West have gradually come to throw the label 'fascist'...
The First Winner of the Spectator Classics Prize
P. and B. Johnson were your favourite choices of author to translate, with P. Wyatt pressing them hard. The verse offerings were of a uniformly superb standard and one of them wins this time. Of the prose offerings, Jessop C., Kaye E. and King G. were...
The Guardsmen
The race of the thoroughbreds THE GUARDSMEN by Simon Ball HarperCollins, £25, pp. 456, ISBN 0224071769I read every page, every line of this very long book with sustained interest and pleasure. It is a collective biography of four Grenadier Guards officers...
The Little Field-Marshal: The Life of Sir John French
Both lion and donkey THE LITTLE FIELD-MARSHAL: THE LIFE OF SIR JOHN FRENCH by Richard Holmes Weidenfeld, £18.99, pp. 427, ISBN 0297846140Richard Holmes wrote this book 20 years ago when he was a humble lecturer at Sandhurst, long before his splendid...
The Love Bug
WOMANSeeking MenATTRACTIVE WRITER, Oxford graduate, 39, seeks gentleman of intellect, culture and traditional values, must he kind, interested in politics and soundly right wing. London and SE. Call me now on 0906 644 6844 Voicehox 63672GENUINE, warm,...
The Prospect of Gordon Brown Becoming PM Should Fill All Sane People with Dread
The last time I wrote about the deranged, unEnglish and presbyterian socialism which Gordon Brown longs to inflict upon us, I had a letter from a doctor. He said my piece was basically worthless because it had missed the fundamental point. 'Mr Brown,'...
The Rights and Wrongs of Conquest
'Give us back our marbles' is the cry. Passionate demands are made for the return of famous works of ancient sculpture. In response, there is equally heated resistance. Sending them back would be an offence against civilisation, it would break up a great...
The Spectator's Notes
Tony Blair would have been better advised to attend the service for the tenth anniversary of John Smith's death in Iona. Not only could he have tagged along with John Prescott and Gordon Brown to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, thus steering the conversation...
The Stink from Lambeth Palace
The following people could be found hovering over the lunchtime buffet at a seminar I attended last Saturday: Mormons, Scientologists, Islamists, pagans, Methodists and members of the Family (a Christian sect that practises group sex). The seminar was...
The Tories Are Not Jingoes
A lively conference, a stately home looking out on acres of daffodils tossed by an Atlantic gale - from Knowsley the Earls of Derby dominated Lancashire. It was to Knowsley that the Conservative History Society and the University of East Anglia summoned...
'The West Is like the Great Satan'
I'm on the telephone, talking to the editor of this magazine, trawling for last-minute background information, when Sir Crispin Tickell, GCMG, KCVO, our former ambassador to the UN, appears in the doorway. He looks alert, beaky, sleek, like a smallish,...
Thomas More's Magician
One man's Mexican dream THOMAS MORE'S MAGICIAN by Toby Green Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 340, ISBN 0297829882The author of a weighty tome on a 16th-century attempt to create a Utopia in Mexico might well expect to be exempt from Elmore Leonard's advice to 'leave...
Upside, Downside
In Competition No. 2341 you were invited to provide words of advice from an optimist and a pessimist (six from each).I was told when young that a pessimist is a man who wears both belt and braces and an optimist one who sees a glass as half-full rather...
Wales Is Enough to Make You Cry
From Moses to Hywel, and beyond, legal codes have defined nations. Next to language, law is the most important source of national identity - that web of custom and collective memory which distinguishes one country from another and separates right from...
Wheeler Dealer
Low lifeWheeler dealerSunday afternoon and my 14-year-old boy is over for the day. He's indoors on my computer, surfing the Net. Currently his favourite site is eBay, the Internet auction site. I'm in the garden, transplanting ancient blackcurrant bushes....
You Cannot Be Serious . .
TelevisionYou cannot be serious . . .I hadn't watched the Eurovision Song Contest (BBC1) since that unforgettable night of 3 May 1997, when Katrina and the Waves's landslide victory with 'Love Shine A Light' seemed to mirror, like the comedy in a Shakespearean...
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