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. 287, No. 9028, 2001

Ancient & Modern
THERE has been a recent debate about the funding of the royal family, especially in relation to the private activities of its offspring. Since Her Majesty does in fact own private property (e.g., Balmoral and Sandringham) and has an income of her own,...
A Question of Upbringing
THE FOX BOY: THE STORY OF AN ABDUCTED CHILD by Peter Walker Bloomsbury, 14.99, pp. 341 ISBN 0747553475 The picture on the cover is arresting. A little Maori boy, aged about seven, stares at the camera with a curious mixture of fear and anger. He doesn't...
A Sturdy Alienness
THE COLLECTED STORIES OF BENEDICT KIELY by Benedict Kiely Methuen, L19.99, pp. 773 ISBN 0413753409 Somewhere in one of her novels Elizabeth Bowen otters the shrewd observation that `the Irish always need someone to be Irish at'. The presence of an audience...
Banned Wagon
`WORK,' said Oscar Wilde, `is the curse of the drinking classes.' Not according to the nosy and interfering bosses whose attitudes to employment might have been stamped out by William Wilberforce. A survey by the magazine Personnel Today proves that...
Blessed with the Best
As much of Britain seems to be drifting deeper into public and social squalor every small reversal to this trend sends us into paroxysms of disproportionate elation. I refer to the revival of radio against what once seemed to be the all-pervasive dominance...
Bradman's First XI Is Enough to Make You Think ... about Plato and Aristotle and Even Kant
The Times has revealed posthumously the late Donald Bradman's ideal cricket XI of all time. Few political scoops have inspired so much conversation, and argument. Admittedly, mainly among males; more women seem to like cricket than any other important...
Decline but Not Death
LATIN OR THE EMPIRE OF A SIGN by Francoise Waquet Verso, L20.00, pp. 346 ISBN 1859846157 When the seven-year old Winston Churchill started Latin, he was told to learn a first-declension noun. Mensa, mensa ... a table, O table. Puzzled, Churchill asked...
Empire of the Slum
I AM standing on the sun-warm tarmac in a dead-end street in Shepperton, staring warily at a length of yellowing net curtain in the window of the most dilapidated house in the row. The garden is overgrown and weeds threaten to bind the tyres of a silver...
Enduring Charm
Old men in country houses hear clocks ticking/Over thick carpets with a deadened force.' These were the words of the young John Betjeman, describing the death of King George V in 1935 and the opening gulf between different worlds. The architect Francis...
Etiquette to the Nth Degree
SAINT-SIMON AND THE COURT OF LOUIS XIV by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie Chicago, 22.50, pp. 448 ISBN 0226473201 Philip Hensher If you wanted to sit down at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, you had to look to see who was in the room first. Duchesses could...
Fast Track to Oblivion
I WONDER how much longer track-andfield athletics can survive as a major professional sport. About a fortnight, if the world championships at Edmonton are anything to go by. Nobody watched the event, and the big story was a victory in the 3,000 metres...
Glimpse of the Eternal
We all have our own ideas about what constitutes a thing of beauty. It may be the opalescent lustre on a seashell, or the curve of a child's eyelash, or even the bowling action of Glenn McGrath. For me, it is the flower of the Shirley poppy. Recently,...
Happy Coincidences
The turf It doesn't always land buttered-side down in life. Obliged by social engagements to give Ascot's Shergar Cup a miss on Saturday and to do my racing in Leicester last Sunday instead, I went to bed on a rainy Saturday night in nearby Rutland and...
Hotel Du Vin, Birmingham
THE last time I appeared in this space I infuriated hordes of Americans by pointing out how poor is their country's restaurant cooking. I'm not going to return all their angry bouncers here, but there is one supposed yorker which just begs to be revealed...
If There Is One Thing Labour Does Not Fear, It Is Ken Clarke as Leader of the Opposition
POLITICS There are quite a few in the Conservative party who genuinely believe that its emergence from the present abyss would be best achieved by the elevation to its leadership of Mr Kenneth Clarke. I fear they either dupe themselves or permit themselves...
Irresistible Vision
Exhibitions Winifred Nicholson (Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, till 23 September) Martin Gayford We often say, rather loosely, that such and such an artist is 'visionary'. But Winifred Nicholson - unlike most of those - actually had visions. When she first...
Letters
Churchill's `Temple of Peace' From Mr Andrew Roberts Sir: I wonder how many more times it needs to be stated that Winston Churchill did not envisage Britain joining the United Europe of which he spoke in a series of speeches between 1946 and 1951 at...
Lucretius the Diver
Things worn out by the lapse of ages tend Toward the reef, that motley wrecking crew Of living polyps who, to get ahead, Climb ruthlessly all over their own dead, But facts like those Lucretius never knew: He merely meant we can't long buck the trend...
Mbeki's Great Betrayal
Old men, it is said, become more like themselves as they edge towards death. Their atavistic beliefs and mannerisms emerge, unrestrained by the need for social graces. It is not altogether surprising, then, that Robert Mugabe, well into his seventies...
Second Opinion
AS investors in the stock market know, timing is everything. This is also true of medical consultations. It so happens that everyone who consults me does so past the peak of his problems, at least with regard to smoking and drinking. `Do you smoke?'...
Shooting for One's Country
BRITISH WAR FILMS, 1939-1945 by S. P. MacKenzie Hambledon and London, L19.95, pp. 256 ISBN 1852852585 During the second world war the British cinema achieved for the first time a coherent identity in the cause of uniting the nation in the face of a common...
Simian Showdown
Cinema Planet of the Apes (PG, selected cinemas) The other week, Robert Fulford of the National Post, The Speccie's Canadian cousin, wrote a column about the original 1963 French novel of The Planet of the Apes and made it so appealing that your indolent...
The Facts Behind the Facts
THE HIDDEN HAND by Richard Aldrich John Murray, L25.00, pp. 733 ISBN 0719554233 Richard Aldrich is both a prolific author, and a sound one; this is his second big ground-breaking book in two years. He follows up his account of Anglo-American rivalries...
The Great Doctor Agonisters
ACCORDING TO QUEENEY by Beryl Bainbridge Little Brown, L16.99, pp.224 ISBN 0316858676 Beryl Bainbridge is a writer with a feeling for the eccentric and the factual. Her observation of human nature is that of the humane doctor, who not only perceives...
The Land of the Fat
Kinnelon, New Jersey WOULD you like me to supersize that? We're talking about America here, the greatest country in the world, in every sense. Where never is heard a discouraging word, especially when it's mealtime. The best estimate is that three out...
The Next Royal Wedding
ATTENTION at Buckingham Palace at present is centred on next year's jubilee: the 50th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne in February 1952. Over the past few weeks there have been a few attempts to downplay this astonishing and emotional...
The Proms Must Go On
To lose one conductor may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness; to lose three in a row plus a soprano soloist, a bedridden narrator and a mysteriously disappearing percussion duo may seem like plain bad management. Cancellations...
The Real Trouble with Enoch
THE trouble with your speech about Commonwealth immigrants, I told Enoch Powell over a friendly lunch we were taking together in the 1980s, is that from 1968 onwards it forced everyone in authority to make light of all the problems Commonwealth immigration...
The Sublime and Ridiculous
In a craven age of cultural relativism when our children spend more time learning about Ramadan (and Diwali and Yom Kippur and Beltane) than they do about Lent, it strikes me as pushing it to claim that Islam is a much-misunderstood religion which has...
'They Are Talking Bloody Nonsense'
`IT beats working for a living,' says the Mullah of Muck as his mobile and office telephones compete for attention five floors above New Bond Street. It's a steamy afternoon and Max Clifford is at the centre of another steamy story. He seems to be working...
Thumbs Pointing Up or Down
HELL AND BACK by Tim Parks Secker & Warburg, 16.99, pp. 340 ISBN 043627597X Tim Parks offers in these essays only a few reticent clues about himself. Since the age of 25, he has been living in Italy, teaching in the university of Verona, and moving...
Thwarted Pathos
Dance Giselle (La Scala Ballet Company) Giannandrea Poesio Giselle is arguably one of the most revisited classics of the 19th-century repertoire. The story of the peasant girl who becomes a vengeful spirit because of her compulsive passion for dancing,...
Turmoil on the Thames
Theatre Humble Boy (Cottesloe) Sheridan Morley Mixed noises off from the South Bank, where Trevor Nunn has just announced what may well be his valedictory year at the National Theatre. There's the radical transformation of the Lyttelton into two separate...
Vodka and Sympathy
Moscow MOSCOW is full of people who are selling and buying. On convenient pieces of waste ground, impromptu markets are springing up: the local equivalent of car boot sales. Pedestrian underpasses beneath main roads are full of kiosks. This informal...
What a Sorry Lot
I'm in London on my way to Cowes for the jubilee of the America's Cup. I shall be staying with my old friend Gianni Agnelli, that most charismatic of tycoons - in fact, the last tycoon. It is a funny thing, but modern-day CEOs leave a lot to be desired...
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