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. 285, No. 8981, 2000

A Joke Too Far
Few people have any difficulty recalling the most embarrassing moment of their lives. For me, it was giving the Best Man speech at my friend Sean Macaulay's wedding in Washington earlier this year. Standup comedians use the term `dying' to describe the...
Ancient & Modern
ABOUT this time of year it becomes necessary to think about tax returns and the Inland Revenue. The incompetence and bullying of this government-protected tyranny are a national disgrace (the same can be said of Customs and Excise, only more so). A modified...
A Popular Win as the City's Farmers and Truckers See off the McKinseyite Nannies
Grangemouth has come to the City, says the merchant banker happily. The farmers and truckers have won and the McKinseyite nannies have got their comeuppance. We know best, so they all tried to tell us, we have breakfast with Tony, so do as we say.......
A Romantic Utopian Looks Forward in Anger
THE EDGE OF NOW by David Howell Macmillan, L18.99, pp. 392 This is a young man's book, assertive, pugnacious, lashing out in all directions, decidedly fierce, and yet it is the work of an elder statesman, a veteran of both the Thatcher and the Heath...
'A Stupid War'
`IT IS like that,' says His Excellency Victor Ricardo, the Colombian Ambassador. He gestures with an elegantly flannelled arm at a plant on top of the television in my office. `Only larger.' I gaze at the plant, which looks particularly droopy and unthreatening,...
A Thorn in the Side of the Desert Enemy
JOCK LEWES: CO-FOUNDER OF THE SAS by John Lewes Leo Cooper, L19.95, pp. 266 In July 1941, when the Germans had occupied Europe from Scandinavia to Greece, Britain had a small army and air force in North Africa, hopefully protecting Egypt and the Middle...
Auto Thrills
Goodbye male swans, hello greased beefcakes! Once again, Matthew Bourne is the toast of the dance world, and deservedly so. This time he has turned Carmen, the quintessential seductress, into a hunky drifter who, not unlike the eponymous heroine of Bizet's...
Banned Wagon
WILLIAM Hague has been busily positioning himself this past week as the motorist's, and particularly the trucker's, friend. The Mr Toads of this world will not fear persecution by him. Or will they? The truckers baying for Mr Blair's blood last week...
Cerebral Surgery
Lt the Royal Court, David Hare's My Zinc Bed is thesis theatre at its strongest; as part of his ongoing chronicle of latter-day Britain, Hare's breadth ranges from the epic state-of-the-nation plays to the more intimate close-ups, and here we have one...
Cold Comfort on the Farm
At 11.30 on the night the fuel protest was to end I telephoned David Handley, chairman of Farmers for Action. I read him the headlines of the following day's newspapers. The Mail and the Mirror were supportive, but said `enough is enough'. There was...
Confessions of a Fellow-Traveller
THE reason so many people today can't remember where they were when Kennedy was shot is that they were not around at the time. To those of us entering advanced middle age, it is scarcely believable. David Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio, Boris Johnson, Benjamin...
Darkness at Noon
BAD BLOOD: A MEMOIR by Lorna Sage Fourth Estate, L15.99, pp. 281 Lorna Sage is a well-respected critic and professor of English literature at the University of East Anglia. Her academic cv is detailed in Who's Who, but Bad Blood tells a very different...
Dear Mary
Q. When giving a dinner party, how can one prevent greedy guests from helping themselves to too much of a shared dish? The other night I served blinis with sour cream and caviar. I watched in amazement as one of my fattest friends repeatedly spooned...
Diary
People have many different images of New York in their minds, but the one I like best - because it is so surprising - is that of the late Claud Cockburn, who was a correspondent there for the Times between the two world wars. In his 1957 autobiography,...
Drop the New from New Labour
CAST your mind back to before the mishandling of petrol prices, the latest Dome fiasco and the resignation of Mo Mowlam. Back in those halcyon days, you may remember, a series of leaked memos revealed that the Blairite high command believed they were...
From Gothic Gloom into Light
BAD BLOOD: A MEMOIR by Lorna Sage Fourth Estate, L15.99, pp. 281 Lorna Sage is a well-respected critic and professor of English literature at the University of East Anglia. Her academic cv is detailed in Who's Who, but Bad Blood tells a very different...
Gentleman and Players
Montreal To the Canadian capital for the `wedding of the year', as the nuptials of Andrew Lapham and Caroline Mulroney were dubbed by both the broadsheet and tabloid press. The bridegroom is the son of a very old friend of mine, Lewis Lapham, editor...
Groping and Growing
THE FLIGHT OF THE MAIDENS by Jane Gardam Chatto, L15.99, pp. 278 Three clever girls entering adulthood, emerging from the war, all learn that they have won state scholarships to university, two to Cambridge and one to London. It is the late summer of...
In Pursuit of the Unspeakable
IN THE SHAPE OF A BOAR by Lawrence Norfolk Weidenfel L16.99, pp. 322 The first and by far the most daunting section of Lawrence Norfolk's third novel is set in ancent Greece, where `the heroes' (or `competing plausibilities') are gathering for `the true...
Land of the Free, Home of the British
THE time will soon come when North America is more British than Britain, and the ideas, beliefs, customs and language of these islands will survive in the United States and Canada long after they have been forgotten in our Newlab archipelago. Those English...
Letters
Fawley some mistake From the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Court of St James's Sir: Having read Petronella Wyatt's column of 9 September, I thought it might be appropriate to draw your attention to the following facts. During the second...
Mind Your Language
ON the question of what we should call the years up to 2010, several readers have suggested `the noughties'. Mr George Rufford, on the hunch that zero is becoming a more common designation of the round non-number, wonders if `the twenty-zeros' will triumph....
Money-Speak Means That Bonking Can Lead to a Forecourt Mentality
The French-speaking Swiss, not to speak of the French authorities themselves, are furious with the decision by Zurich to replace French with English as the premier foreign language taught in its schools. About 65 per cent of the Swiss speak German, or...
Never in the Field of Human Conflict Has One Man Taken on So Many RAF Pilots
Peterborough, in the Daily Telegraph, reported this week that, as well as farmers, road hauliers and others, the Prime Minister had just upset RAF Battle of Britain veterans. He failed to join the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Westminster...
Nothing to Lose but Your Freedom
IF the UK were to decide to join the euro, I would be deeply disappointed and worried for our country. But my even stronger fear is that the British might make that decision while still complaining that they hadn't heard the arguments and didn't know...
Obsessive Passions
Opera Queen of Spades (Welsh National Opera) Tosca (Royal Opera) Welsh National Opera's new production of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades makes a trilling, chilling, moving and very occasionally an unintentionally comic evening. Although the producer,...
Over-Egging the Pudding
Television Hurrah, I have just had a baby girl and even though there's clearly not a shred of Delingpole in her - she looks all pretty and fawnish like her mother - I am rather looking forward to the day when she looks up at me with her as-yet-undecidedcoloured...
Planning Perfection
Garden designers are perfectionists, in my experience, so it must be painful for any who write or talk about garden design to the public. They cannot resist attempting the impossible, which is to teach a nation of practical gardeners to follow their...
Plight of the Under-Endowed
AGONISED conversations are taking place in semis and maisonettes all over the country. More than a million hapless individuals have been told that they face potential losses of thousands of pounds on endowment-backed mortgages and are trying to remember...
Poor Wandering Ones
IN THE EMPIRE OF GENGHIS KHAN: A JOURNEY AMONG NOMADS by Stanley Stewart HarperCollins, 17.99, pp. 266 Mongolia is becoming the new Vietnam for adventurous youth, but recently I couldn't find even the Lonely Planet Guide. Books since 1989 range from...
Portrait of the Week
The Home Secretary said that he was going to change the law to force oil companies to deliver oil in the event of any future protest against fuel duty. Twenty four hours later, after a meeting with the oil companies and with Bill Morris, general secretary...
Pretending Not to Pretend
ALL HAIL THE NEW PURITANS edited by Matt Thorne and Nicholas Blincoe Fourth Estate, 10, pp. 204 Here is an anthology of stories by young, or youngish, writers. One of them is 42, at which age, in most professions, one has generally to stop being promising,...
Proper Poems
This magazine likes to look on the bright side of life. We are not filled with a raging sense that things are going to the dogs. The people seem richer than ever before. Food is, on the whole, pretty good. Thanks to the weak euro, wine seems very cheap....
Raising Art's Profile
here is an impressively death-like waxwork and mixed-media self-portrait of Gavin Turk as Che Guevara in the Saatchi Gallery right now. Similarly, the original Damien Hirst death-consciousness is kept alive by the disgusting stench of countless fag-ends...
Restaurants
FIRST off, I think you should know that my preoccupation with Nigella Lawson has now shifted into full-blown obsessional mode. Isn't she beautiful? Isn't she sophisticated? Isn't she a total domestic goddess? Isn't she the new Marie Antoinette? What,...
Savagery and Snobbery
Radio Returning last weekend from a sublime break in Italy, it was comforting to find the class war in full swing, both on the radio and in the press. The irony was that on our departure we wondered if we would ever get through French blockades, whereas...
Show Me the Way to Go Home
THE ATLANTIC SOUND by Caryl Phillips Faber, L16.99, pp. 240 Some time ago, I entered a darkened New York jazz club at the same moment as a man whose face seemed welcomingly familiar in a strange town. `I know you!' I cried. `You're from England, aren't...
Small Is Beautiful
ZEN GARDENING by Sunniva Harte Pavilion, L19.99, pp. 160 Zen originally meant 'meditation', from the Sanskrit dyana, then the Chinese ch'an. Meditation in turn bred enlightenment, achieved with the help of Buddhist monks and Zen Buddhism arrived in Japan...
Spare Me the Chippy Anti-Americans
WHAT on earth has got into the British? I returned to London this spring, having spent much of the 1990s in the United States, and the place sometimes seems like Havana. In the 1980s, anti-Americanism in Britain was largely the preserve of the more tedious...
Speaking Out
Singular life The bods from the Mencken Society were looking at me with suspicion. I had arrived in Baltimore half an hour before and had been asked by Arthur Gutman, the former president of the society, and his wife Wheezie, to dine at his house on...
Stroke of Genius
HE IS that rarest of phenomena, a person whose shoe size is the same as his age that is to say, 17. He speaks with the strange other-worldly blandness you find in a few rare, high talents: behind the polite, colourless, unrevealing answers is a remote...
The Anatomy of an Obsession
THE LONGEST SILENCE: A LIFE IN FISHING by Thomas McGuane Yellow Jersey Press, L17, pp. 280 When the late Norman Maclean was trying to get his first work of fiction published, it was rejected by one New York editor because the stories had trees in them;...
The Greatest Show on Earth
THERE is no country on the face of the earth wherein a man roughly constituted as I am - a man of my general weaknesses, vanities, appetites, prejudices, and aversions - can be so happy, or even one-half so happy, as he can be in the United States. There...
The Least Worst Hope
Yes, yes, says Mark Steyn, Americans are fat and ugly, but they live in a dynamic society that knows when not to change New Hampshire A YEAR or two back, the esteemed editor of the Literary Review, Auberon Waugh, called up to talk me into reviewing a...
The Man of the Moment
Tarbes, South West France PIERRE Poujade, the man whose name is a synonym for right-wing popular disruption and revolt in France, is mildly surprised to learn that it is suddenly on everyone's lips in Britain. But whatever our chattering classes may...
The New Curiosity Shop
In November 1936 George Orwell published an essay entitled `Bookshop Memories' based on his experience of working in a second-hand bookshop which `stood exactly on the frontier between Hampstead and Camden Town'. I work part-time in a markedly different...
The Problem Is Simple: Tony's a Pretty Straightforwardly Devious Sort of Guy
It is rare for a government's reputation to fall as fast and as far as Tony Blair's New Labour over the past two weeks. Only three comparable cases spring to mind: Harold Wilson and the sterling devaluation of 1967; Jim Callaghan and the winter of discontent...
The South Is Another Country
New Orleans MY favourite American newspaper page is the daily wire-service round-up in USA Today called `Across the USA: news from every state'. It provides a steady stream of evidence that there is still a South, despite the tedious efforts of underemployed,...
The Thing Itself
Tai-Shan Schierenberg (Flowers East, 199/205 Richmond Road, London E8, till 14 October) At the London Contemporary Art Fair three years ago, a friend and I were trailing through the crowds and fighting off the onset of aesthetic fatigue when we found...
The Woof and Warp of Wantage
SECRETS AND LIVES by Mary Loudon Macmillan, L16.99, pp.392 Other people's lives are all that rivet us. In this extraordinary social document, Mary Loudon has satisfied a little of her passionate curiosity, and mine, about how a random anybody copes with...
Traffic Problems
Cabinets have their ups and downs, but the most dangerous stage is when they start becoming a joke. `What's the difference under this government between paraffin and petrol?', a teacher friend was asked last week. `You tell me, Jimmy.' `Easy,' the infant...
United They Fall
IF the recent internecine feuding on the Shankill Road between the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force confirms anything, it is that tendency among groups ostensibly bound by similar purpose to hate each other more than the common...
Water Down the Whine
IT'S been everywhere in the last ten days; we have heard it with every hyperbolical news bulletin about the consequences of the petrol strike; we have endured it from the lips of every whey-faced TV reporter spouting government propaganda about cancelled...
Why the Financial Times Couldn't Give a Brass Farthing for Small Businessmen
The attitude of some broadsheet papers towards last week's protests was not excessively sympathetic. Over at the Guardian, Polly Toynbee went off like a firecracker. The Independent took a notably superior line, implying that if there were to be any...
You've Got to Be a Nomad to Live There
New York AS is customary in a presidential election year, the upscale media in New York and Washington take inventory of the civic virtue on the drugstore shelves of the American dream and, because they invariably find the commodity in very short supply,...
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