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 October 2006

Adjustment and Reappraisal
HAVING IT SO GOOD : BRITAIN IN THE FIFTIES by Peter Hennessy Penguin, £30, pp. 717, ISBN 0713995718 . £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Having It So Good follows hard on the heels of Dominic Sandbrook's Never Had It So Good, which appeared last...
Altered Images
At the Cheltenham Festival last week, Professor John Sutherland was on a panel discussing Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea -- which on this occasion won the mock-Booker prize for 1966, defeating The Jewel in the Crown, The Comedians and The Magus. Prof....
A Master Carpenter
Who did Evelyn Waugh call 'the only living studio-master under whom one can study with profit'? Answer: Somerset Maugham. Surprising answer? Perhaps. Others judged him more harshly; Edmund Wilson dismissed him as 'a halftrashy novelist who writes badly,...
A Place to Plot
Some people dream of Palladian mansions in Wiltshire, of third homes in undiscovered parts of Puglia, of ozone pools in the basement. Others dream less majestically of mansards and conservatories and allotments. I, however, have a more modest fantasy....
Armchair Travels
It was a clever ruse by John Dryden, the director of Sunday's Classic Serial (Radio Four), to record The Cairo Trilogy on location in Egypt with an Egyptian cast. And a brilliant bit of casting to tempt Omar Sharif, the charismatic film actor, to make...
Before and after the Bang
25 October 1986 My friend the stockjobber closed his book, turned his back on his pitch, and walked with me off the Stock Exchange floor, down Throgmorton Street and into Bill Bentley's fish house. We raised our glasses of Montrachet to the last of...
Cameron Is the Heir to Heath
As David Cameron enjoys his Oedipal role in killing off any remnant of Thatcherism in today's Conservative party, is he slowly revealing himself as the grandson Ted Heath never had? Mr Cameron seems happy with 1970s levels of taxation. He calls American...
Common Touch
David Hockney Portraits National Portrait Gallery, until 21 January 2007 Sponsored by Burberry David Hockney: A Year in Yorkshire Annely Juda Fine Art, 23 Dering Street, W1, until 28 October It's difficult to believe that the golden boy of British art...
Day to Savour
Required by the day job to be in St Andrews on Friday night, reporting the latest example of governmental hope over experience in the Northern Ireland power-sharing talks, I was determined still to make it to Champions' Day at Newmarket. Sir Percy's...
Demolition Crazy
While Tony Blair was making his valedictory speech to the Labour party conference in Manchester on 27 September, 60-year-old Elizabeth Pascoe was ecstatic. Not because she was impressed by the Prime Minister's self-composed list of glorious achievements,...
Diary
Finally the big week begins. In four days we open our new Institute -- a 35,000 sq. ft former coachworks in Olaf Street, W11 -- the home of our foundation. For the opening we have planned an exhibition of the extraordinary light artist James Turrell,...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY DD is on a major 'guns 'n' ammo' high. It was manageable while it was just General Dannatt stuff, but now it's spread -- badly. No one could make sense of his rant about veiled Muslims being the 'unexploded bombs of modern politics' until Poppy...
Dutch Treats
It is sad for Amsterdam that it should have acquired a reputation first and foremost for the sort of tourism that revolves around drugs and prostitutes. Such an image obscures the charm and beauty of this sophisticated, handsome city, which is now well...
Fighting Free of Father
TIME AT WAR by Nicholas Mosley Weidenfeld, £14.99, pp. 180, ISBN 10029785240X . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 When the second world war began, Nicholas Mosley, the distinguished novelist son of the fascist leader Sir Oswald, who thought...
Finding an Exceptional Voice
AUSCHWITZ REPORT by Primo Levi, with Leonardo De Benedetti, edited by Robert S.C. Gordon, translated by Judith Woolf Verso, £9.99, pp. 97, ISBN 1844670929 . £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 At the end of his excellent introduction to Auschwitz...
From West Dorset to Westminster
THOMAS HARDY , THE TIME -TORN MAN by Claire Tomalin Viking, £25, pp. 544, ISBN 0670916242 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Claire Tomalin is an accomplished biographer. While she recognises Hardy's genius, this book is not an essay in literary...
Getting to Know the General
IN THE LINE OF FIRE by Pervez Musharraf Simon & Schuster, £18.99, pp. 335, ISBN 074329582X . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It is a tribute to Pervez Musharraf's powers of persuasion that after reading this book you're not entirely sure...
Girls Behaving Badly
Ihate to ask such a question of Spectator readers, but we must all move with the times. What, I ask, does a girl do if she's been dumped after a one-night stand? To whom does she turn for sound advice and shining example? Luckily, Debrett's, the publisher...
Golden Gilda
Rigoletto Opera North Simon Boccanegra; Merry Widow Opera UK Opera North's home at the Grand Theatre Leeds now boasts a resplendent auditorium, with lacquered walls and raked stalls, so that I have now finally seen the stage; and above all greatly improved...
Great Headline, Gordon, but No Way to Make Policy
Denis Healey was the last Labour chancellor to find that two Budgets a year weren't enough. He was forced into cobbling policy together every four months or so because some of his proposals barely outlasted the speech that produced them. Now Gordon...
Honest Sweat
We celebrated harvest home last Sunday -- late in the season by conventional standards, but postponed from the early days of autumn for the best of reasons. In our village, church and school are indivisible and it was agreed that the pupils should not...
How the London Stock Exchange Was Saved
If it had not been for Big Bang, there would almost certainly not be a London Stock Exchange worth fighting over today. But so much changed in the securities market in 1986 that it is difficult now to separate the essential reform described here by...
How Would You Have Felt, Madonna?
Imagine the scene. Florence Okosieme, wife of a wealthy tribal leader from Nigeria, touches down at Wayne County Airport, Detroit. A limousine awaits to whisk her through the grimy streets of 'Murder City' to the suburb of Pontiac, where a poor family...
Ignoring Fossil Fuels
Earlier this year, a book appeared celebrating the first ten years of the Stirling Prize for architecture. Back in 1996, recession was only just ending and the National Lottery just beginning. It was the end of a bleak time for architects, doubly afflicted...
I'm Sorry, but the Tory Party Policy on Iraq Is Too Clever by Half
Hoo-ha was the term used by General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, to describe the furore provoked by his recent public dissent from the government's defence and foreign policy strategy in the Middle East. It remains a constitutional...
Is the Horse Weak or Strong?
It is now all but orthodox to say that Britain must get out of Iraq sooner rather than later. Irrespective of its constitutional propriety, the declaration by General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, that we should withdraw 'some time...
John Betjeman: A Centenary Tribute
He was the People's Laureate, of course, Observing things that others disregard: Post-Toasties, Craven A and HP sauce -- Unworthy subjects for a royal bard? He wrote of tea-shops and the electric train; Of things familiar to the common man, Things which...
Keep out of Politics
'Museums are the new United Nations.' So says Jack Loman, the director of the Museum of London. He is one of many professionals, and increasingly policymakers, calling on cultural institutions to act as instruments of foreign policy. Tessa Jowell, Secretary...
Little and Large
TOM CRUISE : ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE by Iain Johnstone Hodder, £18.99, pp. 344, ISBN 0340899204 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 NICOLE KIDMAN by David Thomson Bloomsbury, £18.99, pp. 312, ISBN 0747577102 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870...
Masters of Defence
New York Sometimes I wonder about Americans in general and Noo Yawkers in particular. Especially while watching war films. In Saving Private Ryan, GIs seem as cool under fire as the Wehrmacht troops look cowardly and ready to throw their hands up. In...
Monetary Genius? I Beg to Differ
Amid the growing mutterings over his suitability to be prime minister, Gordon Brown has managed to preserve his reputation in at least one quarter. It has become received wisdom that the Chancellor played a blinder on his first day in the job in 1997...
Munstrous Carnival
No end of hot air already surrounds next month's rugby internationals in which each of the 'home' countries look to repel boarders from the southern hemisphere. Those contests round off a long tough season for all the visiting teams; for us in the north...
Nevertheless, the Real Thing
TRACEY EMIN : WORKS , 1963-2006 by Carl Freedman Rizzoli, £40, pp. 413, ISBN 0847828778 . £32 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It's difficult not to warm to Mad Tracey from Margate ('I like Tracey . . . I landed on my feet with that name'), the inventor...
New Labour's Greatest U-Turn of All Is Its Sudden Attack on Multiculturalism
The idea of cultural wars is as alien to the British nation as the word Kulturkampf is to the English language. In America, of course, such conflict is routine, as parties clash over issues like gay marriage, abortion and affirmative action. But Britain...
Over the Top
Marie Antoinette 12a, nationwide From its very opening scene this film is exquisitely, lavishly gorgeous and on and on it goes, being exquisitely and lavishly gorgeous -- oh, the frocks, the shoes, the petit fours, the piled-high candies! -- until you...
Punching Pink
My boy has got this extraordinary idea into his head that if a man wears something pink he must be gay. He voiced this strange prejudice again the other day, in a shop, as I was trying on a pair of pink boxing gloves. My trying on a pair of pink boxing...
Radium and the Nature of Love
THE STORY OF BLANCHE AND MARIE by Per Olov Enquist Harvill Secker, £16.99, pp. 218, ISBN 1843432331 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 For 16 years, from 1878, Blanche Wittman was a patient in the infamous Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, diagnosed...
Restaurants
My son and I are out for a night in the West End. This is unusual as he is a teenager and, usually, he wouldn't be seen dead with me, not even after I've given him my word not to do funny dances in front of his friends or kiss him just as we're passing...
The Day the City Entered the Modern World
It was a day to remember: 20 years ago, on 27 October 1986, Big Bang caused a revolution in the securities market which turned the whole financial sector upside down. The early 1980s was a time of change. The Thatcher government's thirst for deregulation...
The Gateway to African Economic Revival in a Place Once Famous Only for a Hijacking
'We men don't want to wear condoms, we want the West to find a cure.' This dilemma, faced by HIV counsellors at the Mildmay Centre near Entebbe, mirrors that experienced by those hoping to help Uganda financially. Mukasa, a handler at the chimpanzee...
The Hungarian Who Could Have Started World War III
Budapest Half a century ago Bela Kiraly was invited to start World War III. He said no, though the price was the enslavement of his native Hungary by Soviet invaders. Kiraly was military chief of the Hungarian revolution at the time. The invitation...
The Issue That Could Tear the Tories to Pieces Is Iran
Washington All you need to know about the effectiveness of Labour's official attacks on David Cameron is that Siôn Simon's toe-curling spoof video doesn't look so bad in comparison. Labour has so far failed to land a killer blow on Cameron, suggesting...
The Meeting of the Twain
SEIZE THE HOUR by Margaret MacMillan John Murray, £25, pp. 400, ISBN 0719562227 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Seize the Hour is an admirable example of the storyteller's power. From Homer to the great playwrights and novelists whose works...
'There Are No Barriers'
There are many who might consider it an absolute crime that someone who would look so entirely delectable in a dirndl is instead about to hit the stage of the London Palladium draped from head to toe in a habit and wimple. Lesley Garrett, however, is...
The Renting Makeover
'Policy without principle is like a house without foundations', David Cameron said in his 'Bring me sunshine' conference speech in Bournemouth. Well, he should know. The young Tory leader's own recently acquired £1.1 million home in Kensington is literally...
There's No Place like Home
When we said we were thinking of moving to Urbino, our friends ooh-ed and aah-ed with envy. Urbino is a perfectly preserved mediaeval and Renaissance fortified town which sits on a hill in the Italian Marches commanding spectacular views over the surrounding...
The Spectator's Notes
These notes are being written on 17 October, the day when, at the invitation of the History Matters campaign, we are all supposed to keep a diary for a day. Like Tom Lehrer on National Brotherhood Week, 'Be grateful that it doesn't last all year.' We...
The Witching Hour
Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour V&A, to 17 December Twilight, the witching hour -- that tantalising moment on the cusp of day and night when everything seems strange, poignant and full of possibilities. It is a gift to the photographer,...
Under the Hammer
Had I a mistress she would be Dorsetshire, that lush, chalkstreamed, motorway-free county. Childhood holidays with an aunt near the Frome in Dorchester eventually yielded my first (and, alas, only) trout. At nearby Bockhampton, Thomas Hardy's birthplace,...
What Not to Wear
It was April 1994, my first proper date with the woman who later would become my wife and, judging by the number of times she tells this story, I'm not sure she has ever really forgiven me. Obviously, seeing that she was several meals above me in the...
Why Are We Frightened to Fund English Music?
The English Music Festival kicks off this Friday in Dorchesterupon-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a vast splurge of Holst, Vaughan Williams and Sir Arthur Sullivan's Irish Symphony. The whole thing takes up what used to be called a long weekend, much as...
Why Would a Priest Want to Read about Murder?
AMS: Let's talk about Edinburgh first of all. We both write about the same place, but in different ways. John Rebus's Edinburgh is a relatively bleak, dark place. Why do you focus on that side to the city? IR: I think of Edinburgh being a Jekylland-Hyde...
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