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. 294, No. 9165, 2004

A Leading Light Amidst the Gloom
A leading light amidst the gloom FLOURISHING: LETTERS 1928-1946 by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy Chatto, £30, pp. 755, ISBN 070117420XIsaiah Berlin was a much-loved friend and a dominant influence on my thinking as an historian. His death in 1997...
All His World a Stage
All his world a stage GIELGUD'S LETTERS edited by Richard Mangan Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, pp. 564, ISBN 0297829890As in the theatre, so in his letters: John Gielgud was a man of many parts, and acutely aware of his audience for all of them. In...
All Levelled like a Desert
More than any other English poet, John Clare's sense of himself depended on an unchanging countryside and on the familiar customs that belonged there. Enclosure, in all its hard-headed re-ordering, disregarded the intimate connection between people and...
Ancient & Modern
Philip Pullman, author of the apparently anti-Christian His Dark Materials, and the Archbishop of Canterbury debated the significance of religion, and both enthusiastically agreed that 'myth' was an important feature of it. But why?The Greek word muthos...
A New Infatuation
Have you ever rubbed shoulders with musicians and thought them dull - because they are obsessed with one thing, which doesn't include you and which is all they think about? Ever noticed how musicians don't really talk to each other in a properly communicative...
An Unanswered SOS from the SAS
An unanswered SOS from the SAS SOLDIER FIVE by Mike Coburn Mainstream, £17.99, pp. 316, ISBN 1840188669The epic survival story of the SAS patrol known as Bravo Two Zero during the first Gulf war until now, has largely overshadowed a darker story of incompetence...
Baffling Conundrum
More than a year after the war against Iraq was launched, the World Service and Radio Four have been broadcasting programmes about the extraordinary diplomacy engaged in by the United States and Britain to gain United Nations approval. On the World Service...
Bargain Basements
The most alarming aspect of living in London, for many people, is the extortionate cost of renting or buying somewhere to live. On the open market, it is difficult to rent a room anywhere for less than £70 a week, or to buy a modest family house for...
Chunnel Vision
The other day, a good friend asked me where he should look for a property investment. He has a gain that must be rolled back into property within the coming year to escape demands from the Inland Revenue, but nothing so far had seemed quite right to...
Compromise County
Until 1994 we lived in Surrey. 'Surrey's not a county,' an Eton beak pointed out to my son. 'It's a suburb!' So, a writer-wife with no ties to London and a house-husband (me) and two prep-school-age children moved away from Dorking (30 minutes from London)...
Diary
Has any prime minister been quite so insulated from Parliament and Cabinet? Blair's solo performance last week, as he flew from Madrid to Libya to Brussels with his plane-load of captive journalists, was another reminder of how far Britain's foreign...
Don't Reason with This Mule, Governor - Just Hit It over the Head
I have a question for the Bank of England's monetary policy committee: how do you attract a Missouri mule's attention? When the economists have quite worked out their answers, I can tell them: you hit it over the head with a length of four-by-two planking....
Drivel and Bilge
New YorkMy house is being renovated by a team of Chinese men who speak no English and who smoke non-stop. I suppose people do not say good morning in China, or perhaps it's just me they've not taken a shine to. It's a creepy feeling. I walk into my house,...
Fighting Shy
Shy people are evil. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of shy people I actually like. Mostly I agree with my (shy) friend Hugh Massingberd's housemaster who once told him that 'shyness is just a form of rudeness'.It's not the bad manners...
Grand Designs
Unless you want to break the law, incur a substantial fine or, even worse, a prison sentence, you must be very cautious about trying to improve your home. Property development is big business, but even if planning permission has been granted it is worth...
Handel and Drama
OperaHandel and dramaSosarmeRoyal College of MusicVandaBloomsbury TheatreFor four out of every five Handel operas I see I do my best to persuade myself of and report on their dramatic cogency, however unapparent; their ceaseless flow of melody, even...
Heirs and Graces
Heirs and graces SNOBS by Julian Fellowes Weidenfeld, £12.99, pp. 265, ISBN 0297848763This provocative, titillating and seductive novel is about upper-class affectations and 'the mystery of unearned greatness'. It focuses on a network of rich, blue-blooded...
Highbury High
It is a relief, I suppose, that the most momentous English football fixture so far this year does not feature Manchester United. Next Tuesday at Highbury, Arsenal and Chelsea play the second leg of the European Champions Cup quarter-final. It stands...
It Is Hard to Exaggerate the Scale of the Immigration Crisis That Now Faces Tony Blair
After the 2001 general election massacre, a consensus swiftly established itself in the Conservative party. William Hague had fought on the wrong issues. Instead of Europe and asylum, his chosen battlegrounds, he should have championed health and education....
Keeping Fit
Both of our upright vacuum cleaners broke down last week. I found a repair shop in Yellow Pages and took them along, and who should be behind the counter but Barry, my karate sensei. As well as being a friend, as my karate sensei Barry is also a sort...
Kosovo Goes to Hell
From the kitchen balcony of our old flat in Pristina, we used to look out on a rubbish dump in the foreground, then the precipitous and rutted Plevljanska Street, and across that to the old Orthodox church of St Nikola. To the right of our flat were...
Letters
The lone defenderFrom Stuart MillsonSir: I was disappointed to read that the government's programme of creeping republicanism - the removal of the Crown from Treasury notepapcr, the police force dropping its oath of allegiance to the Queen etc. - is...
Listed Runways
I have never had much confidence in heritage legislation since I discovered that I would need to seek permission to have a row of leylandii trees in my garden felled. This, not long after the Highways Agency's bulldozers had torn their way through Twyford...
Misha V. Bobby
My occasional series on matches that never took place continues to arouse interest. A fabulous clash would have been that between those two uncompromising warriors of the chessboard, Misha Tal and Bobby Fischer. Both of them were renowned for throwing...
Mixed Fortunes
THE brilliant and caustic bridge player Brian Senior confessed to me recently that he finds Mixed Pairs tournaments the easiest to win because there's such an atmosphere of mistrust between partners. When I asked why this should be, he replied that,...
More Destructive Than the Luftwaffe
According to our government, there is a shortage of affordable housing in this country, and particularly in the south of England. As a result the government, in the redoubtable, if humorous, figure of John Prescott, intends to build hundreds of thousands...
Multi Tasker
Exhibitions 2Multi taskerJean Arp: L'invention de la formePalais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, until 6 JuneBrussels, with its faintly schizophrenic bilingual culture, seems the perfect location for a major Arp retrospective. Ham (Jean) Arp was born in 1886...
Music Has Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast
Music has charms to soothe a savage breast SHOSTAKOVICH AND STALIN: THE EXTRAORDINARY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE GREAT COMPOSER AND THE BRUTAL DICTATOR by Solomon Volkov Little, Brown, £14.99, pp. 370, ISBN 0316861413COLD PEACE: STALIN AND THE SOVIET RULING...
Old Baghdad in Hertfordshire
Old Baghdad in Hertfordshire THE CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH PLACE NAMES edited by Victor Watts CUP, £175, pp. 713, ISBN 0521362091Who would have thought of Harrow as 'the heathen temple' or suburban Penge as Celtic pen ced, 'head of the wood"? This...
Prepare for an October Surprise
For nearly seven years, Tony Blair's caution was the Europhiles' despair. They wanted him to make the case for Europe and exploit his hold over public opinion. Their confidence exceeded his. Mr Blair was not prepared to take electoral risks for Europe....
Return of the Dark Ages
Whatever you might think of The Passion of The Christ, at least Mel Gibson tried with the Latin. There aren't many films with a credit for Theological Consulting and Aramaic/Latin Translation', and Dr William J. Fulco, the Jesuit priest brought in to...
Shock Horror!
In Competition No. 2334 you were invited to provide a rhyming poem consisting of imaginary newspaper headlines.Beachcomber was a master of the imaginary headline. Two have stuck in my mind: 'CABHORSE STUCK IN CHIMNEY' and 'CHEMIST SHOOTS FUNGUS OFF NOSE'....
Sixth Son of Himself
Sixth son of Himself RATHCORMICK: A CHILDHOOD RECALLED by Homan Potterton Vintage, £7.99, pp. 303, ISBN 009946179XHave we had enough Irish childhoods, lackadaisical days remote from English stresses, charming eccentrics, amusing turns of speech, rain,...
Some Luvvies Will Believe Anything
None of us knows for certain what goes on inside the cages of Camp X-Ray and the metal cellblocks of Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, where 600 suspected al-Qa'eda and Taleban fighters lifted from Afghanistan have spent the past two years. The five released...
Some Moaning at the Bar
Some moaning at the Bar MY BRIEF CAREER: THE TRIALS OF A YOUNG LAWYER by Harry Mount Short Books, £9.99, pp. 170, ISBN 1904095690This is a sad little story of the author's annus horribilis as a pupil barrister in the late Nineties. Today the Bar bends...
Swedish Exercises in Crime
Swedish exercises in crime FIREWALL by Henning Mankell Harvill, £14.99, pp. 422, ISBN 1843431122Henning Mankell, the Swedish crimewriter who is the creator of Inspector Kurt Wallender, is being taken increasingly seriously: an international bestseller...
Taste and Passion - with a Dash of Luck
Taste and passion - with a dash of luck THE DEVONSHIRE INHERITANCE: FIVE CENTURIES OF COLLECTING AT CHATSWORTH by Nicolas Barker Art Services International £40, pp. 431, ISBN 0883971380, available from Heywood Hill, 10 Curzon Street, London W1J 5HHProducers...
The Hard School of Education
The hard school of education I'M A TEACHER, GET ME OUT OF HERE by Francis Gilbert Short Books, £9.99, pp. 207, ISBN 1904095682My only experience of a tough inner-city school was on teaching practice in 1959. With three or four other students I was sent...
The Neocons Have Been Making Mischief for More Than 100 Years
What books, if any, important politicians read, as well as being of itself interesting, could also influence how they rule. In the late 1940s, it became known that both the prime minister, Attlee, and the opposition leader, Churchill, had chosen the...
This Is Not the Time to Knock the BBC, but It Should Carry More News from Europe
After the Hutton inquiry all fair-minded people should rally to the BBC. It is true that over the years the Corporation has sometimes displayed a bias in favour of New Labour. I remember, for example, how after Peter Mandelson was ejected from the Cabinet...
Tipping Dilemma
Why do we tip taxi-drivers'? I mean why do we really? We don't tip train-drivers, or bus-drivers, or minicab-drivers or airline pilots. So why do we always fumble in our bags, as the fat man in the front seat looks threatening, to give him some whopping...
Visual Edification
Exhibitions 1Visual edificationHeaven on Earth: Art from Islamic LandsThe Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House, Courtauld Institute of Art, until 22 AugustA nother successful exhibition at the Hermitage Rooms. Hot on the heels of Caspar David Friedrich and...
We Are Not at War
As day broke on 11 May 1941, Londoners could survey the devastation wrought by 100,000 incendiary bombs. Whole streets had been razed. More than 1,400 Londoners had been killed; many thousands more were lying terribly injured beneath the rubble.The difference...
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