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. 9187, 2004

A Fusillade from the Last Ditch
A fusillade from the last ditch GOD HAS NOT CHANGED by Alice Thomas Ellis Burns & Gates, £9.99, pp. 180, ISBN 0860123596Here are 90 furious little spats about our extraordinary and inadequate attitudes to God. Alice Thomas Ellis has subtitled them...
A Labour Landslide Will Be Terrible for the Trusting Mr Brown
It was beyond a shadow of doubt an outstanding silly season, the best by far in recent years, with an excellent crop of stories. Leaving aside the daily tragedies in Iraq and Sudan, too heartbreaking to ponder for long without giving way to despair,...
Among the Pretenders
Among the pretenders MAGIC SEEDS by V.S. Naipaul Picador, £16.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0330485202 £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Mr Herbert Spencer was an angry man. When he was feeling irritable (which was often) he wore, according to Harold Nicolson,...
A Most Superior Street
A most superior street THE BOOKSHOP AT 10 CURZON STREET: LETTERS BETWEEN NANCY MITFORD AND HEYWOOD HILL, 1952-1973 edited by John Saumarez Smith Frances Lincoln, £12.99, pp. 192, ISBN 0711224528 £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Nancy Mitford...
An Innocent Abroad
You might think that there was little more to say about the life of P.G. Wodehouse; he has, after all, been extensively written about over the years, his revealing and delightful diaries have been broadcast, and there was even a play about his controversial...
Annus Mirabilis
The Scottish grandmaster Jonathan Rowson has so far enjoyed an extraordinary year of success. He commenced his triumphal tour by winning the Hastings Premier. This involved a nerve-wracking cliffhanger against Epishin in the final round, where Rowson...
Backstage Warfare
One of the subtler pleasures of summer festivalling is to experience the undertow of dislike, amounting to hatred sometimes, of presenters towards their artists. I do not necessarily mean from the artistic director of a festival himself, since disdain...
Bad and Bored
In 1850, the famous French alienist Brierre de Boismont began his disquisition on the medical consequences of boredom, The man who thinks, a famous philosopher once said, is an animal depraved; it had been better to say, an animal that is bored.'He went...
Brilliant and Unpredictable
Exhibitions 1Brilliant and unpredictableWalter Richard Sickert: The Human CanvasAbbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria, until 30 OctoberWalter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), known as Walter up to 1924 and Richard thereafter, was an artist of genius -...
Diary
Whenever I feel psychotically depressed about this country - which, as I contemplate another nine years of Labour rule, is more and more often - I find myself being thankful that I do not have as my head of state President Chirac. I have come to believe...
Feeling Sore
IF you're a true addict, bridge never really loses its grip. It can continue to obsess you in the most distracting situations. The other day, for instance, I called up my friend and fellow TGR regular Maurice Esterson, who was in hospital following an...
Floreat Etona
Exhibitions 2Floreat EtonaMusica Etonensis, Music and Musicians from Eton 1440-2004Brewhouse Gallery, Eton College, until 3 OctoberYou do not have to be an Etonian to gain pride and much entertainment from this exhibition in the shadow of College Chapel....
Globophobia
With the Athens games out of way, the Boycott Beijing campaign is now in full swing, arguing that China's lousy human rights record should disqualify it from holding the 2008 Olympics and imploring the West to repeat the snub which marred the Moscow...
Glory in East Grinstead
Glory in East Grinstead THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WARRIORS: ARCHIBALD MCINDOE, THE ROYAL AIR FORCE AND THE GUINEA PIG CLUB by E.R. Mayhew Greenhill Books, £18.99, pp. 256, ISBN 1853676101 £16.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848For most people, plastic...
Help Me, Wonga
This is a great story. It manages to encompass, somewhere along the line, all of the worst people in the world - or nearly all. There's a venal, vicious and incompetent African dictator, for a start. And then there's Mark Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer and...
In Flight from the Green Forest
In the green forest of PetropolisThe Great Lady of the MadrugadaWalked with me the boundaries of her fazenda.Toucans watched the paths that joined the valleys.Her great-grandfather freed the nation's slavesAnd it had come to this. Every man we metHad...
It Is Now Up to Lord Black to Prove His Innocence to the Rest of the World
The excesses of Lord Black, former proprietor of the Telegraph Group, which owns this magazine, are mind-boggling. Of course they have not yet been proven in a court of law, and Lord Black continues to deny the allegations in his characteristically orotund...
Jobs for Life
To the parents of Victoria Climbié, the eight-year-old girl who died in 2000 after being battered by her great-aunt and great-aunt's boyfriend in a seedy Haringey council flat, the disciplinary procedures employed by British local government must seem...
Journalese
In Competition No. 2356 you were asked to provide material for a Spectator Diary written by a second-rate person/journalist. Apart from an inability to avoid clichés, the defects of the second-rate journalist come mainly under two headings: (a) pseudo-vivacity...
Letters
Dare to impeachFrom Bruce ShaxsonSir: It is intolerable that a country so proud of its commitment to open democratic government has had to wait some 30 years after entering the bosom of the EU before a Welsh Nationalist found courage enough, with the...
Life and Letters
The publication this autumn of Fathers and Sons - Alexander Waugh's hugely entertaining book about his family - revives in fresh detail the story of one of the great literary revenges of all time: the case of Waugh vs Cruttwell. As an Oxford undergraduate,...
Mummy Can't Buy You Love
The Adoption and Children Bill, to be implemented this month, will make it easier for mothers whose children were adopted to trace their sons and daughters. All blood relatives will have the same right. Until now, the initiative in tracing has been left...
Murder on Tape
Murder on tapeAttempting to solve a P.D. James mystery is rather like trying to find the winner of a fiendishly problematical horse race. In The Murder Room (Chivers Audio Books. 13 hours 46 mins. Cassette £18.99. CD £23.99. 0800 136919) we have to study...
New Life in a Land of Death
I had long wanted to return to Kushk-e-Serwan, a small Afghan village at the narrower end of the Hari Rud river oasis, between the Hindu Kush and Iran. The first time I went there, I was travelling with Ismael Khan, the leader of the Afghan resistance...
Ninety Not Out
A notable week for brand-new nonagenarians. The last firework had scarcely fizzled to earth at the Olympics' closing ceremony on Sunday when, nicely, it was Monday morning and Sydney Wooderson's 90th birthday. For Brits of a certain generation, Wooderson...
Regional Forecast
If John Prescott needed an easy-to-read précis of the Electoral Commission's findings on all-postal ballots, published last week, a brave civil servant could have given it to him in four words on a Post-it note: 'Whoops, not enough fraud.'The Commission...
Republicans Know How Dangerous It Is to Say What You Mean
One of the amusements which any Republican convention offers is the spectacle of a party, in the coveted prime time of the television evening, pretending to be what it is not. That is, in the Republicans' case, a party comprising normal people inhabiting...
Sea Weed
I had been on a health kick for three weeks, eating pumpkin seeds and other healthful foods, doing yoga, and going to bed early every night with an improving book. I hadn't smoked or drunk alcohol either for three weeks. I had even cut out tea and coffee.Then,...
Service with a Smile
Service with a smile THE PEOPLE'S CHEF: ALEXIS SOYER, A LIFE IN SEVEN COURSES by Ruth Brandon Wiley, £16.99, pp. 320, ISBN 0470869917 * £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Alexis Soyer was Britain's first celebrity chef, and the catalogue of his...
Shock Tactics in Love and Life
Shock tactics in love and life THE RARE AND THE BEAUTIFUL by Cressida Connolly Fourth Estate, £16.99, pp. 281, ISBN 1841156337 £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848In this enthusiastic study of the bohemian Garman family, Cressida Connolly has chosen...
The Gringo's Progress
The gringo's progress THE ZIGZAG WAY by Anita Desai Chatto, £12.99, pp. 192, ISBN 0701177438 £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848In his History of the Conquest of Mexico, Prescott described the bafflement of the Spanish arriving in a country where...
The Legacy of Where and When
The legacy of where and when SCRIBBLING THE CAT: TRAVELS WITH AN AFRICAN SOLDIER by Alexandra Fuller Picador, £16.99, pp. 269, ISBN 033043327X £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848A little over 20 years ago a brutal little war came to an end in Africa....
The Price Is Right - or Is It?
Why do auction prices upset people? Or, to put it another way, how much is too much to pay for a picture? What I mean is this. When a Rose Period Picasso entitled 'Boy with a Pipe' was sold at auction a few months ago for $104 million, John Richardson...
The Return of the Rotters
The return of the rotters THE CLOSED CIRCLE by Jonathan Coe Viking, £17.99, pp. 448, ISBN 0670892548 £15.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Finishing The Rotters' Club and finding 'there will be a sequel' posted at the back was a bit of good news....
The Spectator's Notes
It is terribly disheartening for those of us who want the Conservatives to be ready to govern again to see them stuck in a cul-de-sac of their own choosing about the Iraq war. The revelation that, because of this, George Bush refused to sec Michael Howard...
Three Murders and a Funeral
Three murders and a funeral CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson Doubleday, £17.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0385607997 £15.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Families and what time does to them are Kate Atkinson's obsessions. She won many admirers as well as the...
Time to Downsize
GstaadAthens is a city that thrives on rumours, and the latest is that the tae kwon do medals had been assigned to the various winners before the competition began. It is obviously just that, a rumour, and a false one at that, but among the martial arts...
Unforgettably Uplifting
OperaUnforgettably upliftingBy the end of the first week, the Edinburgh Festival needed an operatic triumph fairly badly. The Weber trilogy was nobly conceived and worthily performed, but the works themselves failed to give a sense of impressive growth,...
Waist Disposal
Where have all the waists gone? According to the National Sizing Survey (sounds titillating, doesn't it?), the first study of female body measurements since 1951, women are bigger and fatter in every department than they were 50 years ago.The average...
Way to Go, Dubya
New YorkCome off it, I am thinking to myself. The last time I saw Tuesday night's Republican keynote speaker was only a week ago. I was lying comatose on a motel bed in North Carolina, flipping from channel to channel, and he arrived, starkers, in a...
Why Europe Must Have the Bomb
America's decision to pull troops out of Europe and the Far East should not be seen as a retreat into isolationism. On the contrary: it is classic 'Rumsfeld-lite' - the downsizing of old-fashioned Cold War units (principally in Germany) and a new emphasis...
World of Hypocrisy
TelevisionWorld of hypocrisyWhen I first read that Ronan Bennett had co-written a screenplay depicting the run-up to 9/11 from the terrorist perspective, my reaction was just what you'd expect. I thought, 'Bloody hell. What a tosser. First he joins the...
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