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. 284, No. 8963, 2000

A Keen Wind from the North
A keen wind from the north Frank Kermode THE BOOK OF PREFACES by Alasdair Gray Bloomsbury, L35, pp. 639 This book is both weird and wonderful, as totally sui generis as The Anatomy of Melancholy, a work that naturally does not escape Alasdair Gray's...
A Lovely Pair of Bristols
A SMALL boy is examining a beautiful car in the driveway of his father's house in Somerset while a local grandees' lunch goes on inside. The car's owner, emerging full of post-prandial goodwill, asks him what he thinks of it. `It is the best car in the...
Ancient & Modern
HOW do we describe the universe and origins of life? Through images. Some theorists argue that particles are not point-like objects, but two-dimensional patterns of vibrations, like `strings'. Charles Darwin argued that life began in a sort of `soup',...
A New Look at Sartre
The Novice (Almeida) Mr Kolpert (Royal Court) A new look at Sartre Sheridan Morley Though an otherwise informative programme at the Almeida doesn't bother to mention it, Les Mains Sales by Jean-Paul Sartre, (which Richard Eyre as adapterdirector now...
Animal Magic
Since writing that depressing column about how deeply miserable I was I have had so much sympathy that I almost feel happy again. Also I have been watching a lot more TV, which must be a good sign. I'll start with Predators (BBC 1, Thursday) because...
Banking on Beef
The average annual bonus at Goldman Sachs is about L360,000. Some of you out there must be getting a great deal more than that, but I don't envy you. Actually that's a lie: I envy you your bonus, but the Leicestershire agricultural show helped me see...
Banned Wagon
NEW Labour has long exploited football to increase its own appeal among the masses, so it was perhaps only a matter of time before it started to poke its nose into the running of the game. The employment select committee (which consists of six Labour...
Blair Is the Better Baby-Sitter, but Do You Want a Baby-Sitter Running the Country?
Suddenly, electoral politics is more interesting; the result of the next election seems less of a foregone conclusion. This is partly due to the press. Political reporters had long since grown bored with writing up 20-point Labour leads month after month....
Brave New Art World
Exhibitions 1 Ant Noises (Saatchi Gallery, till 20 August) Brave new art world Martin Gayford Last Summer I was interrogated in front of a Rothko. We were in the Guggenheim, Bilbao, and my questioner asked me why I was looking at this picture of huge,...
Building on a Grand Scale
Berlin is, as everyone knows, the biggest building site in Europe, if not in the world. It will soon be so important and grand a place that its charmingly little and centrally located international airport, Tegel, is bound very shortly to be replaced...
Dear Mary
Q. My lover uses liberal quantities of talcum powder on his private (except to me) parts. He thinks I find this sexy. On the contrary it seriously diminishes my ardour. How can I persuade him that I much prefer him unpowdered without, as it were, putting...
Diary
The other day I felt someone kissing me on the top of the head as I sat at dinner. I looked up in surprise to find it was a chap doing the kissing; and not only that, but the chap in question was Michael Ashcroft, the Tory party treasurer who has been...
Dynastic Drama
Gladiator (15, selected cinemas) Dynastic drama Mark Step Germania, 180 AD. Rome is at war with the, er, Germaniacs, who stand around in the Black Forest grunting like Brits on the piss who've nutted themselves in one pub fight too many. You need a cool...
Ghosts Stirring among the Electronic Gear in the Cellar
You don't hear much of ghosts nowadays. Will our 21st century see the final end of haunting? I ask this because my grandchildren never mention ghosts. All sorts of other creatures cause them delight and terror, but ghouls, gibbering, graveyards and gibbets...
Go Home, Limely
FLEET STREET is all a-twitter. In a forthcoming movie Tom Cruise is slated to escape from Colditz, although that feat was never performed by an American POW. Moreover, the hit film U-571, which opens in London next month, credits an American submarine...
Hybrid Vigour and Beauty
Hybrid vigour and beauty Jane Lushington VISIONS OF AN ISLAND by Neville Weereratne HarperCollins, L60, pp. 223 This book, by the Sri Lankan painter and writer Neville Weereratne, is an unusual biography of Christopher Ondaatje, art patron and major...
I Am Not Ashamed
WHAT a place, I think to myself, as I arrive at Stormont. You drive up past the enormous lawns, and the great bronze statue of Carson, the Unionist leader, waving defiance, and everywhere you look there are signs of the British imperium: the vast ghostly...
If He Can't See What the Fuss Is about, He Should Look in the Mirror
The directors of Trinity Minor are duly embarrassed and Piers Morgan, their pet editor, has gone though the motions of contrition. The Press Complaints Commission found that he and his City Slickers had played fast and loose with its code of conduct,...
I'll Take a Back Seat
DOROTHY PARKER, who yearned her living, used to complain about what gifts love brought her: `Why is it no one ever sent me yet/One perfect limousine, do you suppose?/Ah no, it's always just my luck to get/ One perfect rose.' Spot on, Mrs Parker. Not...
John Bull, Mrs Grundy, Bug and Roast Beef
ENGLISHNESS IDENTIFIED: MANNERS AND CHARACTER 1650-1850 by Paul Langford OUP, L25, pp. 389 The debate about England continues. Some deny 'Englishness', or deplore it as a fabrication of nostalgia or fraud. Others are merely mystified. The word is apparently...
Justice in Jeopardy
Mr Hague's widely publicised suggestion that it is time to jettison the ancient principle of English law that no man should be tried twice for the same crime will no doubt gain him popularity and approval in some quarters. And, indeed, this suggestion...
Lessons in Etiquette
An acquaintance of mine, John Morgan, has just written The Times Book of Modern Manners. He had a party at the Royal Opera House to celebrate its publication. As I was leaving, the friend I was with was accosted by a beggar. (This was on the street,...
Letters
Proud to be Little From Mr Michael Wadman Sir: If one is going to use a book review as a vehicle to peddle one's extremist political views, one must expect to be shot down. So, for the benefit of Ian Gilmour (Books, 13 MaY): This government may claim...
Mind Your Language
VERONICA and I were well chuffed when we tricked my husband into taking the car on condition he picked up one or two things from Tesco. Such a use of well can be very annoying in others and I can't say I am much given to it myself, except with ironic...
Moscow-Advances and Retreat
Moscow advances and retreat Simon Sebag Montefiore TO THE HERMITAGE by Malcolm Bradbury Picador, L16, pp. 498 In October 1773, Denis Diderot, the philosophe and literary celebrity of his age second only to Voltaire, arrived in St Petersburg to enlighten...
Mr Marr Has Been a Pundit Too Long to Be Trusted as a Objective Reporter
Would Boris Johnson, editor of this magazine, be a suitable political editor of the BBC? I don't believe so. His reportorial skills are not in question. I am sure that he would make every possible effort to be impartial. In fact, I doubt you could ever...
New Labour's War against the Childless
LABOUR has become the party of the family. Not the traditional union with white weddings and ruby-wedding anniversaries, but the modern version where it doesn't matter with whom you have children, or by what method, as long as you have them. Going into...
Not One of Us
WHICHEVER way you look at it, it's an odd way to drop L2 million. If you're a billionaire philanthropist, of course, it's small change, hardly worth mentioning. But for Lady Thatcher - scourge of the public sector and a person of more modest means -...
Oiling the Wheels
THEY are still cluttering up the house, the gifts the motor industry gave me when I was a motoring writer - or `muttering rotter' as the in-joke has it: my superfluffy towelling dressing-gown, monogrammed, from Mitsubishi; my silver - monogrammed - Rolls-Royce...
Out with the Old
A new century, a new millennium, a new marquee at Chelsea Flower Show. Gone is the old sailcloth and timber pole structure, a village fete tent writ huge, with its throat-closing claustrophobia, its yellow light to bleed the colour out of the roses and...
Perfidious Albion
My last week in the Bagel. New York in May is as social as Gstaad in February, and the liver could do with a rest. There are four great parties coming up, culminating with a ball at the Botanical Gardens for the wedding of Liza McFadden to my countryman...
Perpetuating Impractical Jokes
CELIA'S SECRET, AN INVESTIGATION by Michael Frayn and David Burke faber and faber, 12.99, pp. 110 People who claim to have seen God whilst on hallucinogenic drugs sometimes tell of a common reaction to the circumstances. Our first impulse on the Day...
Pipped to the Post
Who invented radio? The usual answer is Guglielmo Marconi who later shared the 1909 Nobel prize for physics. Historically he was given all the credit, though it now seems that two British scientists were really responsible: the scientific polymath Sir...
Portrait of the Week
The two men appointed to inspect the contents of IRA arms dumps, Mr Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland, and Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, a former high official of the African National Congress, met Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and then flew...
Racing Pulse
PITY David Coulthard. For the last five years he's been hurtling round racetracks at breakneck speed being courageous and sportsmanlike (letting his team mate win a race because of a gentleman's agreement about strategy). He's endured hair-raising collisions,...
Rising above It All
We have grown accustomed to the rituals of early summer: pretended surprise over the usual blossom-dashing monsoon, the recall of Graeme Hick to the England Test side and the search at the back of the garage for a rusting barbecue and last year's half-used...
Rumbling the Mysterious East
Rumbling the mysterious East John Colvin INTELLIGENCE AND THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN by Richard J. Aldrich CUP, L22.95, pp. 524 At Shanghai in the Thirties, the representative of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) - one of only two in the entire Far East...
Seat of Yearning
DRIVING gloves, tweed cap, goggles: allow me, squire, to introduce you to MG Man. And now that the MG marque could become the last remaining player with any oomph in the once-triumphant British car industry, he is the embodiment of Anglo automotive endeavour....
Several Bowls of Cherries
Several bowls of cherries TELLING LIVES: FROM W.B YEATS TO BRUCE CHATWIN edited by Alistair Horne Macmillan, L20, pp. 390 Even after the Vatican pruned the official calendar of saints on grounds of wimpish ecclesiastical correctness, removing sundry...
Shakespeare the Cowboy Builder?
Shakespeare the cowboy builder? Felix Pryor HENRY V, WAR CRIMINAL? AND OTHER SHAKESPEARE PUZZLES by John Sutherland and Cedric Watts OUP, L4.99, pp. 222 I remember the late Derek Shrub of the Sotheby's Training Scheme pointing out the difference between...
Smaller, Safer, Slower
Al, the first car-registration number in Britain, was issued to Frank Russell, Bertrand's elder brother, who had stayed up all night to get it. He was regarded by his parents as `a limb of Satan'; his colourful career included being sent dawn from Oxford...
Spectator Wine Club
IT has always seemed to me to be the chief strength of the Spectator Wine Club that, thanks to our excellent wine merchants, punters have been able to seek out good wines at reasonable cost without having to stir themselves. Dick Burge of Nethergate...
Standing Room Only Soon?
We have had spates of books about the terrifying demographic prospects facing humanity, starting from Thomas Malthus two centuries ago. In the 1970s World Bank President Robert McNamara compared the continuing increase in the world's population to the...
The Constable of Clydesdale
Duncan Shanks (Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, till 31 May) The Constable of Clydesdale Laura Gascoigne Watching the Nine O'Clock News on my return from Scotland, where I'd been interviewing the painter Duncan Shanks, I was amazed to hear the name of Aberdeen...
The Green-Eyed Monster
One of the shortcomings of making a living from writing about failure is that whenever things start to look up I worry that I'll have to find a new subject. For instance, now that my girlfriend has agreed to marry me, can I continue to write a column...
The Mirabelle
HOW is the not smoking going? Fine, thanks. Marvellous, even. Except that I'm very depressed and cry a lot and hate everything and everybody and suffer from these incredibly strong urges to run over pedestrians (particularly elderly ones, on zebra crossings)...
The Shortest Person in NATO
IN the stoical north of England when I was a child, tears were permitted only when peeling onions or, if you really had to, at funerals, but when I saw Queen Noor of Jordan dabbing at her eyes just a few yards away, I broke the habit of a lifetime and...
The Singers Not the Song
I wonder how many readers of this journal sing in an amateur choir. I am informed that half the population of Sweden indulges in this activity at some level or other; if this striking-rate seems unlikely in Britain through sheer force of numbers, it...
United Will Fall
AS the Manchester United season (formerly known as the football season) moves into its brief aestivation, the thinking football person (not necessarily a contradiction) ponders on the distance by which Manchester United will win the Premiership next...
Watch Your Back, Mr Dyke: The PM Has to Keep His Middle-Class Tory Constituency Happy
By the time this appears, Mr Blair may already have done it, but at the time of writing he has not. That is, let down Mr Dyke, his former financial benefactor, now BBC director-general. Any minute soon we can expect the Prime Minister to tell some interviewer...
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