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. 292, No. 9119, 2003

A Crossed Line in the Far East
Honor ClerkWATER LILY[Sidebar]Picador, L15.99, pp. 294, ISBN 0330485822In the 1980s when the yen and the museum world in Britain formed an unlikely alliance, I had the curious experience of escorting an exhibition on Lawrence of Arabia to a department...
A Fitting Entertainment
If you thought that wooden jigsaw puzzles were a quaint blast from the past, long consigned to the dustbin of recreational history, along with sticks, hoops, tops and diabolo, let me assure you that it ain't necessarily so.First thought up by Thomas...
A Hot Head and a Cool One
David CraneMARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS AND THE MURDER OF LORD DARNLEYELIZABETH IIn the early hours of 10 February, 1567, the city of Edinburgh was woken by the sound of a massive explosion 'that shook the whole town'. 'The King's lodging,' wrote George Buchanan,...
A Man Walks into a Bar
Robert EdricTHE NORTH OF ENGLAND HOME SERVICE[Sidebar]Faber, L16.99, pp. 221, ISBN 0571195458This is no place for another report on the life or death, the survival or decline, of the 'regional novel'. Suffice to say that these days the term is all too...
Ancient & Modern
The footballer David Beckham has had new tattoos imprinted on his arms, complete with Latin tags. One reads perfectio in spiritu, 'perfection in spirit', the other ut amem et foveam, 'to love and to cherish', translated into Latin from the Solemnisation...
Back to Childhood
The other day I was sitting with my tenyear-old son Edward while he had his bath when he raised a profound question. 'Dad,' he said thoughtfully, for he is a thoughtful child, 'who do you think is the best soul singer?'It is moments like this that makes...
Band of Brothers
Montagu CurzonFIGHTER BOYS: SAVING BRITAIN, 1940[Sidebar]HamperCollins, L20, pp. 406, ISBN 0002571692The same week the current Fighter Boys of the RAF sent smart bombs through Chemical Ali's front window and the author reported from the onslaught on...
Banned Wagon: Global
Investors stung by the endowment-policy and pension-plan mis-selling scandals, and in possession of poorly managed unit trusts that have failed miserably to outperform the FT-SE index, can hardly be blamed for coming to the conclusion that they might...
Birds of a Feather
Peregrine WorsthorneTHE QUEEN AND US[Sidebar]Weidenfeld, L14.99, pp. 149, ISBN 0297829408Do we really need yet another book commemorating - rather belatedly, in this instance - the 50th anniversary of the Queen's coronation? Other things being equal,...
Brighton Rocked
I was next door in the Brighton Metropole on the early morning of 12 October 1984 when the bomb exploded in the Grand Hotel. I was too tired and too drunk even to get off the bed and get ready for sleep, and I can still see the way that the TV - most...
Cold Comfort
The Trojans at CarthageColiseumIt is some kind of tribute to the integrity of Berlioz's masterpiece The Trojans that if it's performed in two parts, as at present by the English National Opera, the first act of the second part, The Trojans at Carthage,...
Consolations from Another Country
Salley VickersTHE STORY OF MY FATHER[Sidebar]Bloomsbury, L12.99, pp. 173, ISBN 0747565198Anyone who has Alzheimer's in their family will be familiar with the mixture of apprehension and fascination with which sufferers by proxy meet any new literature...
Diary
The trouble with holidays is that when you return there is the same work to do and that much less time in which to do it; as well as no time at all, in my case, to acquire a birthday present for my wife or take the limping, mewing cat to the vet. My...
Facile Histrionics
CaligulaDonmar WarehouseRichard IIShakespeare's GlobeThousands have been flocking to Caligula at the Donmar Warehouse. I had no idea Albert Camus was so unpopular: I can think of no reason to attend this lumbering folly other than to see his reputation...
Faith - Pure and Simple?
David Pryce-JonesAL-QAEDA AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE MODERN[Sidebar]Faber, L10.99, pp. 145, ISBN 0571219802September 11 certainly caught the world by surprise. Who were Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and what was their objective? By way of an immediate answer,...
Famous Person of Little Consequence
Rupert ChristiansenLAST OF THE DANDIES: THE SCANDALOUS LIFE AND ESCAPADES OF THE COUNT D'ORSAYIn the course of her superb monograph The Dandy - a book which surely ranks as one of the enduring masterpieces of modern literary criticism - Ellen Moers notes...
Flights to Fancy
I have always really, really hated flying. The first whiff of an airport and I'm scared out of my wits. But not only am I terrified; I also loathe and resent the contempt in which passengers are generally held by the airlines - the way we're herded like...
Food
Water. I have nothing against it personally. There are seas of it and lakes of it and it comes in rivers and streams and brooks and it falls from the sky and goes round your washing machine (splish-splosh) and splashes into your bath, so you can have...
Formidable Power
Saatchi GalleryCounty Hall, South Bank, SE1I admire Mr Saatchi. He seems to be a man who knows what he wants and how to get it. I may disagree with his choice, but the effect of his decisions is palpable. He has changed the face of contemporary British...
Going for Gold
Sebastian SmeeTHE COLOUR[Sidebar]Chatto, L16.99, pp. 368, ISBN 0701172967The most obvious reason historical fiction is often seen as a less than serious option, best left for beach holidays, is that, almost inherently, it lacks the urgency of fiction...
Goodies for the Soul
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the fullness of Time, even Rolexes rust. Fast cars, foxy clothes, fancy wines and fine jewellery are fun while you can enjoy them, but when you find yourself facing Eternity, you can't take those goodies along. When push...
Gothic Tales
Like most people, I first heard or rather read of the Gothic novel in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. The heroine and her friend are gabbing away about The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole - at least I think it was The Castle of Otranto.Years ago,...
If I Had L100,000, I Would Buy This Picture of Margaret Thatcher
Socrates was never wider of the mark than when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living. He brushes aside some of the best lives ever led - if, that is, by 'best' we mean productive and by 'unexamined' we mean unexamined by the individual...
It Ain't Necessarily So
Nicholas BarrowTHE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME[Sidebar]Cape, L10.99, pp. 271, ISBN 0224063782Even the title of this book put me right off. The idea of a poodle being stabbed by a fork in a suburban garden is totally unconvincing. Neither...
It Will Survive
New YorkThe Big Bagel is facing one of the worst financial crises since the city teetered on going broke during the Seventies, when it actually defaulted on its bonds, and President Ford famously told the place to 'drop dead'. I remember being in Elaine's...
Let's Not Mock Tony. after All, How Many Prime Ministers Have Been Sane?
Is our Prime Minister now as mad as a March hare? Has the undoubted pressure of high office driven him quite doolally, to the extent that powerful drugs or some form of therapy involving the use of electricity is regularly required to enable him to appear...
Letters
We're not scaredFrom Alexandra HendersonSir: Enjoyable as Rod Liddle's polemics are, I can't let him get away with some of his wilder conclusions about the BBC's local election programme ('Why is the BBC so scared of the truth?', 10 May).Liddle says...
Little Boy Lost
Patrick Skene CatlingNo TELLING[Sidebar]Cape, L16.99, pp. 360, ISBN 0224062344The early diaries of Adrian Mole were a witty caricature of pubescence, but pimples and sexual bewilderment are not always funny at the time. Adam Thorpe's wonderful new novel,...
Lying In
We were supposed to report to the Household Cavalry barracks in west London at 8.45 but didn't wake up, in south London, with a crucifying hangover, till nine. I'd been sick in the taxi on the way home, and when I went to put on my suit found that a...
Metal Most Attractive
Golden days, golden child, as good as gold, heart of gold, golden oldie - from the cradle on, gold plays an important part in our language and imagination. The word 'gold' is used in praise, celebration, congratulation and reward. Yet few of us have...
More Than Men with Bells
Those of us who worked at the Arts Council of Great Britain, some 40 years ago, were as often as not introduced, even by our own families, as being at or from 'the British Arts Council'. In vain did we explain that lumping these two institutions together...
Moving On
The sound of jazz is changing. Suddenly we're on the threshold of a new way of hearing the music. More and more albums have credits for mysterious tasks such as 'Sequencing', 'Programming', 'Sampling' or 'Electronics'. And without anyone really noticing,...
Musical Doctoring
Romeo and JulietRoyal Ballet of FlandersFew choreographers can resist the lure of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. It's a pity that what comes across as an accessible, richly tuneful and emotionally vibrant piece of music is not easy to deal with choreographically....
New Ways to Keep Old Masters
It seems that hardly a week goes by without the threat of another great work of art leaving these shores. Certainly Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota must think so. Just as he announces, with palpable relief, that a private benefactor has stepped forward...
One Long Crime against Humanity
Adam ZamoyskiGULAG: A HISTORY OF THE SOVIET CONCENTRATION CAMPSWith an Iron Fist We Will Lead Humanity to Happiness!' and 'Through Labour Freedom!' were among the slogans on view in Soviet prison camps a decade before the infamous 'Arbeit Macht Frei'...
Parting Shots on Target
P. J. KavanaghINJURY TIME: A MEMOIR[Sidebar]Pimlico, L12.50, pp. 183, ISBN 184413315XIt is difficult to guess to what extent D. J. Enright reached what he called, 'that real though elusive figure, the common or general reader'. Certainly a real category,...
Period Charm
The unexpected discovery of 2,670 episodes of The Archers made in the 1960s has inspired Radio Four to broadcast a two-part programme about the series as it was then. I heard the first one last Friday, Ambridge in the Decade of Love, the second is this...
Pole Position
Anyone inclined to despair at the European Union's head-long rush towards statehood should visit Poland. It is impossible, when one talks to the Poles, to imagine that having survived Hitler's and Stalin's attempts to destroy them, they will allow their...
Referendum Est
It is hard to decide which is the most ludicrous of the articles of the forthcoming EU constitution, but article 14 must be a contender. Back in October last year, the Praesidium of the European Convention produced its opening draft. The Praesidium is...
Road-Map to Hell
Colin Powell has said that he can see signs of progress over the Middle East road-map. Israel, he noted, had taken measures which 'constitute the beginning of the road-map process'. Well, that's just terrific, Mr US Secretary of State, because we all...
Second Opinion
Anthropologists and archaeologists, I believe, are in the habit of naming defunct societies and cultures according to a characteristic artefact that they leave behind them. For example, there was once a Beaker Culture (I seem dimly to recall), though...
Sight of Fashion
I have been toying with the idea of founding a Cyclops Club, drawing its membership from the dwindling band of individualists who persist in defying the zeitgeist of Cool Britannia by wearing a single eyeglass, commonly known as a monocle. We are a species...
Sly Move: How Poor Young Piers Morgan Is Losing His Grip on the Mirror
Is the eight-year reign of Piers Morgan at the Daily Mirror drawing to a gentle close? Last October I wrote, 'My bet is that in six months' time the Mirror will not belong to Trinity.' Mmm. More than six months have passed and the newspaper has not been...
Sole Searching
Sole Bay, I had always assumed, was where the Dover soles came from which I have often bought on the Suffolk coast at Aldeburgh. This may well be so, but I have only recently learnt that the name Sole Bay has nothing to do with the fish. It is in fact...
Something Fishy for Captain Haddock
If there is any justice in the world, Captain Duane Haddock of US special forces is due a medal. He was, we can reveal, the first coalition soldier to find something approaching concrete evidence of Saddam's evil arsenal of weapons of mass destruction;...
Spectator Wine Club
What a pleasure it is to return to Avery's of Bristol, one of our oldest and finest wine merchants. Not only are they offering an eclectic assortment of old and new fine wines, but selling them to us at startling discounts. This is not as mad as it sounds....
The Bulls Have It
A good bullfight, or corrida, requires three ingredients. First, you need brave matadors. They must be willing to work next to the bull's horns, calculatedly drawing the animal as near to them as they can. They should eschew the various cheap tricks...
The Game of the Name
Christopher HowseVERBATIM[Sidebar]Pimlico, L12.50, pp. 353, ISBN 0712645977Consider these American placenames: Cheesequake, New Jersey; Jot 'Em Down, Texas; Knockemstiff, Ohio; Toadsuck, Arkansas; Idiotville, Oregon; Zzyzx, California; Sugartit, Kentucky;...
The New Labour Party Is Over
A photograph was taken of the Blair Cabinet immediately after the 1997 general election. There is a bemused, nervous air about the Prime Minister and his colleagues, as if they had just won the National Lottery but weren't quite sure whether the cheque...
The Reek of Injustice
Living in Jerusalem for the past two and a half years has meant living Israeli fear: the fear of taking children to school and hearing a suicide bomber detonate himself outside the school gates; of not wanting to go to a restaurant or bar or coffee shop...
The Spectator's Notes
In addition to being the first Briton since Churchill to get the Congressional Medal of Honour, the Prime Minister will be the first Briton ever to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honour for International Leadership. The medals are given to 'outstanding...
Thrill of the Chasse
Don't worry,' said our guide, Niels Bryan-Low, his eyes bright with malice, 'the only time a wild boar is really dangerous is if you get between a mother and her baby.' A few minutes later, crunching across a patch of orange ferns, there was blur of...
Wandering Star
Never meet your hem, it is often said. You will only be disappointed. Well, I met mine last week, and I couldn't have felt much better. Francis Lee was a footballer who played for Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City and Derby County, retiring in 1976 at...
'We Don't Do Burglary'
I like my Vespa. In fact, I can't think of anything that has improved the quality of my life in London more in the last couple of years than my slightly retro 49cc 'Chelsea blue' Piaggio ET2. Getting around town takes half as long as it once did by bus,...
Why the Tories Backed the War
Tories are used to getting blamed for many things, but to be blamed for a Labour Cabinet minister's lack of principles is surely a first. That was their fate at the hands of Clare Short. For weeks, people have struggled to understand the former International...
Women Power
Suitably lubricated at karaoke parties, I can still perform a spirited rendition of 'Rock Island Line'. (OK, so the audience leaves. It isn't a perfect world.) But a Times report this week of Lonnie Donegan's memorial service reminded me what a totemic...
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