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. 298, No. 9229, 2005

A Hard Act Well Followed
A hard act well followed ADMIRAL COLLINGWOOD: NELSON'S OWN HERO by Max Adams Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 333, ISBN 029784640X £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848The names reverberate like a sustained drumroll - Victory, Royal Sovereign, Téméraire, Colossus,...
Alfresco
The word may have Italian origins but there is something very British about 'alfresco.' It encapsulates the frantic activity that is triggered when the rare summer sun requests the pleasure of our company outside. Once the year's first ripe native strawberry...
An Odd Couple
An odd couple FIRST BOREDOM, THEN FEAR: A LIFE OF PHILIP LARKIN by Richard Bradford Peter Owen, £19.95, pp. 272, ISBN 0720611474When the poems of Philip Larkin came to the fore in the late Fifties, I admired his graceful colloquialism but was dismayed...
A Peacock on the Peacock Throne
A peacock on the Peacock Throne AN ENDURING LOVE: MY LIFE WITH THE SHAH by Farah Pahlavi, translated from the French by Patricia Clancy Miramax, £9.99, pp. 465, ISBN 140135961It will remain an incontestable fact of history that modern Iran was the creation...
At the Shrine of Frida
Exhibitions 1At the shrine of FridaFrida KahloTate Modem, until 9 OctoberSponsored by HSBCFrida Kahlo (1907-54) is apparently the most famous female artist in history (who is the nearest competitor, I wonder Grandma Moses or Paula Rego? Probably not...
Before and after Babel
Before and after Babel THE UNFOLDING OF LANGUAGE by Guy Deutscher Heinemann, £20, pp. 360, ISBN 0434011355 £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848The origin of language is one of the riddles of mankind. History begins with languages already formed, the...
Bourgeois Complacency
Leaning against the hotel bar after dinner on the first evening of our residential erotic-writing course. On my right, John, a tall young energetic skinhead theatre director. On my left, Yannis, a short dignified old Greek intellectual who was kicked...
Captain Bligh's Bounty
Midsummer - Wimbledon at full-throttled grunt, England's cricketers in meaningful challenge with Australia at last, down by the river the bunting's gay and the hanging-baskets plump and plenteous for Henley's hearty annual heave-ho, and deep down in...
Channel Surfing
I answered the door the other day and a cheerful, rangy Afro-Caribbean youth stood on the step with a remote control. I suddenly recalled the appointment. 'You're the cable guy,' I said. He looked affronted. 'Cable guy, eh? No, I'm the television engineer!'Half...
Diary
Just as no man is a hero to his valet, no mother-in-law is a heroine to her son-in-law. Except mine, that is. Miloska Nott (bullet dodger, charity fundraiser, daffodil farmer) is a remarkable woman. In 1992 she started the Fund for Refugees in Slovenia...
Dirty Rotten Journalists
'I had a look at my 89-year-old mum's Sunday People,' a chap called Fred observed to me on Wednesday last week, 'and it's just soft porn. I asked her why she still bought it and she said because she'd always bought it, like she always buys the Mirror...
Do the White Thing
A month ago, I bought a white suit. Cheap it was: just over a hundred bucks at the downtown Brooklyn branch of Daffy's, the discount-clothing store, one of the best shops in New York City.Now a white suit - however inexpensive and however hot the weather...
Feeling at Home
LondonThis summer's big G8 Africa palaver has turned London, or at least the London I know, into a little African village. It makes it great fun for me, since even if I'm here for a few weeks usually I become homesick. I poke my lamb cutlets and dream...
Grande Horizontale et Verticale
Grande horizontale et verticale IMPERIAL DANCER: MATHILDE KSCHESSINSKA AND THE ROMANOVS by Coryne Hall Sutton, £20, pp. 326, ISBN 075093557X £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848One of those little footnotes to history that has always intrigued me is...
Hell Is Other People
Hell is other people THE DONE THING by Simon Fanshawe Random House, £9.99, pp. 328, ISBN 1841138739A couple of weekends ago I travelled up to Liverpool on a rubbish Virgin train where there weren't enough toilets and there was a horrible smell at the...
How African Leaders Spend Our Money
'Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz,' prayed Janis Joplin, and the Lord obliged. With or without divine intervention, the late Pope had one. So does the Queen. Erich Honecker hunted at night by dazzling the deer in his Mercedes jeep's headlights...
If You Are Sick and Tired of Pasta, Here Is a Modest Proposal
Few things are more awkward than confronting, well past middle age, a truth whose name one has never dared speak. It looks cowardly to have lived a lie for so long. Why, friends ask, did you not tell us earlier?Fair enough, but if one has said nothing...
Is He Worth It?
I have a good Danish friend in France, as well read as anyone I know. On the door to her downstairs loo is fixed a spoof road sign. It depicts within a red circle and in instantly recognisable profiled caricature her country's greatest national hero....
Keep It Simple
The picnic knife I carry in my hand-hag came from Seville. It has a smooth, polished olive-wood handle, a built-in corkscrew and the kind of blade that would give airport security something to get truly alarmed about: a curving, rock-steady lump of steel...
Letters
Sixth senseFrom Andrew ReekesSir: Anthony Seldon is quite right about exams ('More exams, less education', 18 June). A-levels since 2000 have encouraged hoop-jumping, no more so than in his own subject, history. But he is wrong to be so resigned about...
Low-Level Challenge and Response
Low-level challenge and response EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU: HOW POPULAR CULTURE IS MAKING US SMARTER by Steven Johnson Penguin, £10, pp. 238, ISBN 0713998024Steven Johnson has written a bold little book that very nearly undermines the only moral...
Mustard
Miguel Najdorf bore more than a passing resemblance to Mr Magoo of cartoon fame. He was short of stature with a commanding personality, and if not physically myopic, then he was certainly more or less impervious to the sensitivities of more shrinking...
My Right to Cough Up Blood
Did you know that smoking stops you getting cancer of the endometrium? Well, apparently it does. I was alerted to this fact not through some shady tobacco-industry sponsored website, but from those depraved, humourless, crypto-fascists at Ash, the people...
Naming Names
THE Australian player Michael Courtney once chastised me for not naming names when describing players' mistakes in my column. Bridge journalism, he argued, should grow up and take off the kid gloves, like any other sports journalism. I half agreed -...
Now Blair Silences the Tories with His Euroscepticism. What a Genius!
The recent death of Hugo Young, while still at the peak of his powers, has left an unfilled hole in British political discourse. Nobody has since emerged to match Young's combination of soaring ideals, substantial argument and Olympian grandeur. But...
On the Waterfront
So much for equality! More subtly than in mediaeval, Tudor, baroque times, the musician is placed below the salt if not literally below stairs. (I mean the composer, of course; not the diva, the glitzy pianist, the star conductor.) You'd imagine the...
Orchestral Mastery
OperaOrchestral masteryDuke Bluebeard's CastleOpera North, BirminghamArabellaGarsingtonWhile the Grand Theatre in Leeds is being refurbished, Opera North is doing concert performances of operas, though in the case of Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle...
Picnics by Post
Cured meat and charcuterieSillfield Farms, tel: 01539 567609. Salamis and hams made in Cumbria from rare-breed pork and wild boar. Piperfield Pork, tel: 01289 388543. Northumbrian-made sausages, chorizo and air-dried hams made with pork from a small...
Sailing into the Sunset
To the Royal Hellenic Yacht Club, high above the tiny gem of a marina once upon a time known as Turkolimano, its name changed to Mikrolimano after the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The yacht club also dropped the Royal, which is par for the course....
Sombre Journey
DanceSombre journeyOne of a KindNederlands Dans Theater 1, Sadler's Wells TheatreInspired by AshtonRoyal Ballet, Linbury Studio TheatrePerformance-makers like to experiment with creative modes and ideas. It is a natural urge in a world in which 'new'...
Spiritual Dimension
Exhibitions 2Spiritual dimensionPaul Feiler: The Near and The FarTate St Ives, until 25 SeptemberThe human eye is an amazing mechanism, but its vision is limited. We can't see behind us, we can't see much to the side, and in front - unless we're desert...
Sweet Lady of Misrule
Sweet Lady of Misrule NELL GWYN by Charles Beauclerk Macmillan, £20, pp. 432, ISBN 0333904710 £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848To my shame, back in the 1980s, I wrote a less than charitable obituary for the Daily Telegraph of the 13th Duke of St...
The Doctor's Dilemma
The Doctor's dilemma MARY ARCHER: FOR RICHER, FOR POORER by Margaret Crick Simon & Schuster, £17.99, pp. 352, ISBN 0743259629 £15.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848With this book, character assassination reaches a level not known since William...
The Power of Negative Thinking
Jean-Paul Sartre, born 100 years ago on 21 June 1905, was the most striking presence in French postwar literature, and the originating cause of the left-bank culture of the Sixties. His prodigious literary gifts found expression in seminal works of philosophy,...
The Queen and I
A stranger to this country curious to know what summer means for the English, and to see for himself the rituals involved, should take himself to St John's Wood during a Test match. There, at Lord's cricket ground, which for many Englishmen is a sequestered...
The Spectator's Notes
Last week I went to hear Jung Chang and Jon Halliday talk about their new biography of Mao Tse-tung at a lecture in memory of the Great Helmsman of Moderation, Roy Jenkins. Almost every claim made in favour of Mao, they argued, is untrue - that peasant...
The Unacceptable Face of Capitalism
The unacceptable face of capitalism THE GREED MERCHANTS by Philip Augar Penguin/Allen Lane, £20, pp. 240, ISBN 0713997850 £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Philip Augar has found a snappy title for this forensic examination of the sins of the investment...
Tricks Played by Memory
Tricks played by memory THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA: AN ILLUSTRATED NOVEL by Umberto Eco, translated by Geoffrey Brock Secker & Warburg, £17.99, pp. 458, ISBN 0436205637 £15.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848In a learned essay on semiotics...
Veterans on Top
The absence of the social butterflies who attend Royal Ascot at its normal Berkshire venue, and of the women who accompany them, ensured the success of Royal Ascot at York. This time people really could, and did, concentrate on the horses, and the only...
Viragos on the March
Viragos on the march RENAISSANCE WOMAN by Gaia Servadio I. B. Tauris, £19.95, pp. 274, ISBN 1850434212 £17.95 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Lucrezia Borgia was not the fiend history made her out to be. According to Gaia Servadio, she was a radiant...
What Is Hate?
If this Labour government deserves to be remembered for anything at all, it will be for the systematic stamping out of freedoms that have been enjoyed in this country for centuries. Smoking in public is now all but certain to be banned. Habeas corpus...
What Tosh
Occasionally, the Radio Times reaches heights of absurdity in its gushing praise of broadcasters, but it excelled itself last week with its report on the 40 most 'powerful' people on the radio. In what was really a brazen puff for the BBC, a PR job,...
When the State Takes Your Child
'There is no worse experience for a mother than to lose her child,' says Rachel Drew softly. 'I think about her all the time. I keep photographs of her with me. . . . ' She pulls four pictures of a smiling six-year-old child from her wallet. 'These pictures...
Wild Card
Alan Duncan, the dapper shadow transport spokesman, is indisputably the most eyecatching of the Tory leadership contenders. Aside from being openly gay, he has a habit of saying and doing unusual things. Earlier in the year he posed for a charity calendar...
Your Party Needs You, William
Last Monday Lord Saatchi, who until a month ago was joint chairman of the Tory party, published a pamphlet in which he advised his fellow Conservatives on how to choose their new leader. Remembering how well-deserved is Disraeli's sobriquet of 'the stupid...
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