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 November 2005

All Passion Still Not Spent
WHEN I GROW UPby Bernice Rubens Little, Brown, £17.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0316731277 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 From her earliest years, one attribute dominated Bernice Rubens's life: passion. It fuelled her impressive books, her personal...
Anything Goes
Concern for the English language is one thing but diehard pedantry is another. It seems that Stephen Fry has started shouting at the radio when Radio Four listeners write to or email Feedback to complain about grammatical errors and solecisms they've...
Asbo-Lutely Mad
One way to imprison a suspected terrorist for 90 days or even longer, without any bother from Parliament, would be to give him an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. The Asbo could be drawn up to include a number of hard-to-follow rules such as never to associate...
Bevis Hillier
A lot of people like cats, but 'feline' is a pejorative word when applied to humans. I hesitate to use it of James Lees-Milne, for, with all the blemishes classically sent up in a Craig Brown spoof, he was kind, generous and ethical. But listen to him...
Big Bang Is a Fact
From James O'Dwyer Sir: Paul Johnson ('And another thing, 12 November) betrays a certain naivety in his understanding of theoretical physics and the scientific method. He tells us that 'the Big Bang is only a theory' and that 'a hundred years ago nobody...
Brussels Bites Back
Brussels It was perhaps inevitable that the crash in central London of Banana Republic Airlines Flight 101, which killed 453 people and created a swath of destruction across Islington, provoked Britain's withdrawal from the EU. Few could understand...
Commando Courage
Patrick Hagen served as a wireless operator with 4 Commando Brigade signals troop. Here he describes the moment when, while guarding their exit route during a four-man hit-and-run raid on a radar site on the French coast, he and his friend Harry were...
Curiosity Killed the Cat
Some stocking-filler books are funny, or meant to be: those I shall cover at a later date. This week, I have been looking at an allied, but different group which might be classified as 'curious'. Some are curious in the best sense -- that in which antique...
Diary
An actor's life is either feast or famine. For 90 per cent of us too often it's famine, as our thespian business is vastly overpopulated and competition is fierce. In the past months I've had more than five jobs, including a two-week stint on Footballers'...
Don't Let the UN Run the Internet
The laptop on which I'm working tells me that it has sent 7,392 email messages to date, and if I knew how to reach its innermost parts it would probably provide a rather embarrassing list of every website it has ever visited on my behalf as well. Like...
Escapism at Its Best
Sylvia The Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House Rambert Dance Company Sadler's Wells Theatre More than a year since its re-emergence from oblivion, Frederick Ashton's Sylvia keeps eliciting thunderous ovations. Not surprisingly, one might add. The restored...
Exfactor
I've gone round to Sharon's and walked into a stand-up row between Sharon and her brother in their kitchen. They're yelling at each other and the dog's going barmy. She's a slut and he's a dick is the argument in a nutshell. The phone rings. I make...
Family Fortunes
Down in his canal field on a damp November morning, Paul Webber's horses were working in threes, hooves thudding into the resilient turf. This time it was Gift Voucher, Off Spin and Star Shot. 'It's such a lovely sound, horses galloping on good ground;...
From Horror to the Sublime
Paul McCarthy: LaLa Land Parody Paradise Whitechapel Art Gallery, until 8 January 2006 From Vulcan's Forge: Bronzes from the Rijksmuseum, 1450-1700 Daniel Katz Ltd, 13 Old Bond Street, W1, until 16 December It was towards 11 o'clock on the 11th that...
Jane Ridley
Kathryn Hughes's The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton (Fourth Estate, £20) turns all our preconceptions about Mrs Beeton and her cookery book upside down. Isabella Beeton wasn't interested in cooking at all, nor was she a middleaged matron. She...
Lyricists of the Links
A confrère faced a daunting task last week. As golfing correspondent of the Times, it fell to John Hopkins to do the honours with the speech of acclaim at the induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in Florida of his fabled predecessor Bernard Darwin...
Meet Me in St Louis
Last month I used the Boston Orchestra's new season as a yardstick with which to beat the London orchestras' effete and provincial programming. And Boston isn't unique in the so-called conservative US. The San Francisco Symphony would make the point...
Meet the Brownies
One afternoon in the late summer of 1997, I was called to the Treasury for an audience with Gordon Brown. It was not the first time I had been in the Chancellor's private office, with its Scottish landscapes, deep armchairs and heavy drapes. But this...
Menace and Danger
New York Aletter to the mother of my children from the greatest living French writer, Michel Déon, one of the 40 immortals of the French Academy, shows me to be a philistine. Michel kindly points out that Mozart's Don Juan was inspired by a Molière...
Nicholas Haslam
I believe that Sybille Bedford is, quite simply, the greatest writer of our time. I first encountered her honed, crystalline prose and breadth of knowledge in her 1953 Mexican masterpiece, A Visit to Don Otavio, during an anxious night in a prison cell...
Now Cameron Is Positioning Himself as the Heir to George W. Bush
At the heart of David Cameron's project for the Tory party is admiration for Tony Blair: his techniques, style, language and personality cult. This reverence for the Prime Minister extends far beyond mere form to embrace substantial policy issues. It...
Philip Hensher
Book of the year has to be Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's Mao (Cape, £25), a book of quite extraordinary importance, as well as excellence. Some people found it relentless in its arraignment; in my view, they were following a moral imperative of the...
Politics of Patronage
China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795 Royal Academy, London, until 17 April 2006 'The state is ruined, but mountains and rivers remain, ' wrote the Chinese poet Du Fu in the 8th century AD during a rebellion that temporarily overthrew the Tang Emperor....
Portrait of the Week
Downing Street let it be known that Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, was sympathetic to plans to build new nuclear power stations; but then government ministers announced he had not made up his mind after all. The wholesale price of gas reached five...
Produce the Memo
A front-page exclusive in the Daily Mirror is normally something to be treated with great scepticism. Until, that is, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, offers his full stamp of approval by invoking the Official Secrets Act. Fantasies and hoaxes...
Recent Crime Novels
The Stranger House by Reginald Hill (HarperCollins, £12.99) is not a Dalziel and Pascoe detective novel but a highly enjoyable gothic confection. Two strangers are brought reluctantly together in the village of Illthwaite in Cumbria. Sam Flood, a small,...
Recent Gardening Books
Twenty years ago, gardening books never made it to the coffee table. The reader had to supply the glamorous illustrations. It was a bit like the difference between listening to the wireless and watching telly. I remember Mark Boxer, who was a publisher...
Regency Revival?
W.S. Gilbert's parody of Oscar Wilde, Reginald Bunthorne, wanted to make a minor scandal with his belief that 'art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine'. In 1881 he was prophetic, although taste took at least 50 years to catch...
Restaurants
It's a Sunday and as our son doesn't have any sporting engagements for the first time in 657 years my partner proposes a Family Day Out, a simple enough phrase always promoted in newspapers -- The Best Family Days Out; Great Days Out For The Family...
Scarcely a Matter of Honour
DUEL by James Landale Canongate, £14.99, pp. 304 ISBN 1841956473 . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Early one morning in August 1826 two men stood facing each other 12 paces apart in a sodden field a few miles outside Kirkcaldy in Fife. One...
Screen Savers
One of the most annoying lines you can hear is, 'I don't watch television myself.' It's usually said with a small, indulgent smile, as if to imply that, unlike you, the speaker spends the time saved working for charity, or growing organic parsnips,...
Sometimes Women Share the Blame
There was a clever little opinion poll in your morning newspapers this week, courtesy of Amnesty International UK. The headline story from the poll was that about one third of British people thought that women were 'partially or totally responsible'...
Spectator Christmas Wine Club
This is our second Christmas offer, and it is something of an experiment. Occasionally Spectator readers ask me to offer less expensive wines; others, by contrast, want costlier bottles, arguing that if they wanted cheap stuff they could go to a supermarket....
Take a Tip from the Shrieking Barnacle-Geese
It's hard to shake off a guilty feeling that this is cheating. I'm about to tell you about my five sublime days in the Western Isles in late November -- about to recommend implicitly the idea of such a trip -- while knowing full well that what made...
The American Way of Torture
America is starting to get anxious again about its use of 'aggressive interrogation'. The more usual name for what the Americans have been doing to some of the people they think are terrorists is 'torture'. When the pictures from Abu Ghraib first became...
The Shadowy Bounds of Discretion
DC CONFIDENTIAL by Christopher Meyer Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 301, ISBN 0297851144 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The first sentence of Christoper Meyer's book -- 'we want you to get up the arse of the White House and stay there' -- sets the tenor...
The Spectator's Notes
It is generally agreed that David Cameron, this magazine's candidate for the Conservative leadership, did a good job against Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last week. His skill was to bring out something which is more and more striking about national television...
Three Star Cooks
JAMIE'S ITALY by Jamie Oliver Penguin, £20, pp. 336, ISBN 0718147707 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 ARABESQUE by Claudia Roden Penguin/Michael Joseph, £25, pp. 352, ISBN 071814581X . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 THE KITCHEN DIARIES...
Two out of Three
Tangier Tattoo; La Cenerentola Glyndebourne on Tour Glyndebourne on Tour has discovered outreach and access, etc. In an attempt, which I desperately hope will be vain, to ingratiate themselves with young audiences, they have conceded, in their mendacious...
Two Sorts of Ending Up
BLIND RIDER by Juan Goytisolo Serpent's Tail, £8.99, pp. 112, ISBN 1852428635 . £7.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 MEMORIES OF MYMELANCHOLY WHORES by Gabriel García Márquez, Cape, £10, pp. 128, ISBN 0224077643 . £8 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429...
Underneath the Arches
Adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank under Hungerford Bridge are some Victorian railway arches which house one of the strangest, largest, most dramatic and most moving works of art in London, a painting that is moreover in immediate...
What Goes Up but Won't Come Raining down?The Price of Gold, and Gold Ingots
New York Nohelicopters are flying in the cold clear skies above Liberty Street, home of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, from which I assume that monetary policy is in neutral. If money were running short, Ben Bernanke, successor-designate to Alan...
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