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. 8959, 2000

Absolutely Potty
MEN for whom sexual awareness came via Scandinavian exercise videos might assume that life for the Swedish male is a satisfying, if tiring, routine: an endless grind of saunas, vodka on the state and, more exhausting still, beautiful women who share...
A Nation Mourns
HANSIE CRONJE's fall from grace is one of the most unpredictable sporting results in decades; nobody would ever have placed money on the South Africa cricket captain being charged with match-fixing in India - or anywhere else. In the new South Africa...
Ancient & Modern
Ancient & modern ONE of the few areas of modern life to which the ancient world cannot contribute its ha'porth is the flourishing race-relations industry. Greeks and Romans were not racist: they did not think that body type alone told one anything...
Be My Guest-Worker
If you want your prejudices about refugees confirmed, read Stephen Schwartz's account this week of Midhat, the man from Kosovo who wants to emigrate to Western Europe. The man is clearly an infernal pest. He is pushy and mendacious. He is relentless...
Call Be a Bovine Conservative
'ANCIENT writers sometimes meant what they said, and occasionally even knew what they were talking about.' Thus wrote the distinguished classical scholar of late antiquity, George Kennedy, mocking the perverse instinct of his academic colleagues to detect...
Conduct Unbecoming the Clergy
EASTER by Michael Arditti Arcadia, L11.99, pp. 391 Just as London Transport would grind to a halt if its black staff were to leave, if all the homosexual clergy were to sashay off to San Francisco, the Church of England would, in London at any rate,...
Dear Mary
Q. Apropos the power of nutmeg as a mood-altering substance (Your problems solved, 15 April), if I.H. wishes to further enhance his image as an expert on these matters, he may be interested to know that in Saudi Arabia, where I live, its use is banned...
Diary
If you want to get a film made in Hollywood, you have to be able to say what it's about in under ten seconds. `It's Apocalypse Now meets Forrest Gump,' Hollywood agents will say. Or `Time Regained meets Trainspotting.' Unfortunately, this habit of describing...
Easy Come, Easy Go-If the Trend Is Your Friend You Can Go Round the Bend
Bertie Wooster's Aunt Dahlia knew how to get her way: 'Good old blackmail. You can't beat it.' On the receiving end, she felt differently. All depended, she thought, on whether you met blackmail coming or going. That applies to the stock market, too,...
Fact and Fantasy
Are we an apathetic people on the whole? The way we allow ourselves, or our chosen rulers, to roll over and compromise. I'm not just thinking about our being dragged into an unworkable EU superstate by this and previous governments but of the period...
Fines Fiennes
North London's Gainsborough Studios (a difficult theatre to get into, harder still to get out of, given local Shoreditch transport arrangements) may have come back to performance-space life for only six months, but it is undoubtedly the star of the new...
Fleeting Happiness
For some time now, I have been feeling messed up and disillusioned about pretty much everything. My new house is an utter toilet and I now realise it will be years before it's properly inhabitable. I have Lyme disease and no one believes me. My shares...
Going, Going, Gone
Three months ago, when I moved back from New York to live with my girlfriend on a `trial basis', I deliberately didn't have a leaving party. It had taken me the best part of five years to ingratiate myself with the gatekeepers of New York society and...
Head in the Clouds
THE most important of all the Church's festivals, I was told as a child, is Ascension Day (which this year falls on Thursday 1 June). `He ascended into Heaven' as the Apostles' Creed - and the slightly later Nicene Creed - both require Christians to...
How Not to Do It
Back in the early 1980s, down from university and avid for pin-money, I used to read manuscripts off a literary agent's slushpile at L15 a time. It was irredeemably tedious work - slab after slab of fat white typescript with all the allure of lumps of...
Hunting at Easter
Our daffodils have been completely flattened by the dog. Every morning our labrador rushes straight through their proud stems, running from clump to clump, pausing only to pee over the few flowers that remain standing. It's just as well we are spending...
In Blook Stepp'd in So Far
KOSOVO: WAR AND REVENGE by Tim Judah Yale, L25, L12.50, pp. 348 NATO'S EMPTY VICTORY: A POST-MORTEM ON THE BALKAN WAR edited by T. G. Carpenter Cato Institute, Washington (distributed by National Book Network), $18.95, $9.95, pp. 194, ISBN 1-882577 86-8...
Intellectual Exercises
Boston This town got lucky back during the Fifties when the good old Irish boys who ran the city drove it to bankruptcy. Realestate sharks stay away from bankrupt towns and, as a result, the beautiful turnof-the-century brownstones that dot the city...
Killed for Being White
'AFRICA is a continent for black people.' The message was clear and crude, and the crowd at a rally of the ruling Zanu-PF adored it. By implication whites do not belong in Zimbabwe now, and never did. Speaker after speaker whipped the party loyalists...
Letters
Zimbabwe and democracy From Mr Robert Jackson, MP Sir: I thought Stephen Glover was one of the grown-up school of journalism until I read his piece last week on Zimbabwe (Media studies, 15 April), the burden of which was that since Mugabe is a `bad man'...
Mind Your Language
Mind your language IN an interesting and practical letter about pole-axes, a reader from Harrow, G.K. Connelly, asks in passing if I can recommend a good single-volume dictionary. That is difficult. It depends what you want. Most people, and I am one,...
Mutiny over the Bounty
YOU hang mutineers from the yard-arm. The fate of captains mutinied against is more obscure, but equally devastating. They tend to get retired to, say, the barnacle-scraping concession at Southend. It takes two to make a mutiny. A mutineer won't mutiny...
Nothing to Lose but His Chains
This is a curious little book of 176 pages, including index. It appears to be an interview with Professor Hobsbawm, conducted by Antonio Polito for an Italian audience, which has now been retranslated back into English and, according to the blurb, will...
Oh, to Hold a Children's Egg-Hunt on Easter Island!
When Boswell went to see Dr Johnson at breakfast on Good Friday 1783, he found him `in his usual manner upon that day, drinking tea without milk, and eating a cross-bun to prevent faintness'. The doctor liked a hearty breakfast, so just nibbling a bun...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, flew in for tea at Windsor with the Queen and talks with Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. Mr Putin defended Russian attacks on Chechnya on the grounds that Islamic terrorism had to be resisted; 'We have seen,'...
Running on Empty
American Psycho (18, selected cinemas) American Psycho is being touted as an anti-adaptation: This is not your father's American Psycho. No, sir. Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 reviled bestseller about the murderous Patrick Bateman may have been a hymn to...
Sacred Planting
When listeners to Classic FM can request a piece of sacred choral music 'because it is so romantic' without exciting comment, you know that the pass has been sold. Insistent, sometimes wilful, secularism has made it difficult now to point out the religious...
Soaked Through
As the bard has him do, Antipholus was lamenting in the RSC's Stratford production of A Comedy of Errors last Saturday night, `I to the world am like a drop of water that in the ocean seeks another drop.' I could not help feeling he should have spent...
Spectator Wine Club
THE last offer from Heyman, Barwell Jones of Ipswich was in April 1999. It was composed entirely of French wines and very popular indeed they proved to be. This time, however, thanks to the amiable Richard Cobbold's advice and sound guidance, I have...
Suffolk's Feast of Spirituality
Suffolk is a county liberally gifted with churches. Now, to celebrate 2000 years of Christian worship, a dozen of them play host to specially commissioned works of art. Thirteen artists have each contributed a set of Stations of the Cross, re-interpreting...
Ta Dilina
EATING in London is such an extreme business. You can get good food, yes, but, goodness, how you have to pay for it. And I don't just mean the final bill. Actually, it's not even that I especially object to. It's all that silly, napkin-flapping nonsense....
The Government Was Right to Discard Its Ethical Foreign Policy
The press conference did not go according to the PM's plan. It was intended to be a triumph for Tony Blair: to enable him to show off his new best friend Vladimir, who could hardly wait to get elected before rushing to London to learn all about the Third...
Their Country Needs Them
FIRST, some disclaimers: I am a journalist, and have reported from the Balkans, but I do not pretend to be neutral. Objective, yes, meaning as fair and accurate as I can possibly be. But neutral, no. I believe Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian expansionism...
The New Saint Augustine
Fifty pages or so into this book, I suddenly found myself remembering Ellman's account of Joyce having written a review. The editor was irritated because he'd panned a book by an at that time very well thought of Irish writer. `I imagined what you wanted...
The Red Hand of Ulster
In October 1969 Andrei Sinyavsky, incarcerated as a political dissident in the Dubrovlag camp, came across Alexander Smirnow's commentary on the Ulster epic, The Tain. The gargoyle descriptions contained in the eighth-century saga came to him like a...
The Several Faces of Socialism
A CENTURY OF LABOUR by Keith Laybourn Sutton, L20, pp. 183 A STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY by Edmund Dell HarperCollins, L24.99, pp. 623 We have more centenaries on hand than we know what to do with. The centenary of Ruskin's death in January caused little...
They Did Not Grow Old
EIGHTY-FIVE years ago, my greatgrandfather, the fifth Earl of Longford, died at Gallipoli. His last words to his second-in-command, who was crouching down to avoid the shells flying overhead, were, `Please don't duck, Fred. It won't help you and it's...
Toujours la Politesse
A GESTURE LIFE by Chang-rae Lee Granta, L16.99, pp. 356 The hero of Chang-rae Lee's novel is a perfect Kazuo Ishiguro character. Indeed, Andrew Barrow, The Spectator's perceptive reviewer (25 March) of Ishiguro's latest book, When We Were Orphans, could...
Transplants That Failed to Flourish
LOST WHITE TRIBES by Riccardo Orizio Secker, L15.99, pp. 271 Several hundred German artisans from Hanover came to Jamaica in 1834, ostensibly to replace the slaves who were about to be freed. Most of them ended up cultivating 500 acres of poor, hilly,...
Triumph of Team-Work
Opera Ariadne auf Naxos (Barbican) Cecilia Bartoli (Barbican) To judge from the notices of the first night of the LSO's two performances of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, those of us who attended the second performance got a vastly better deal. It was...
When the Political Journalist Is a Danger to the Political Process
There is nothing wrong with political journalists being close to politicians; such relationships go back to the beginning of the press. The politician offers information which enables the journalist to steal a march on his rivals, and in return gets...
When Virtue Runs Amok
DELIVER US FROM EVIL by William Shawcross Bloomsbury, L20, pp. 404 Lost of us will remember the misplaced euphoria which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the hope that, with the end of superpower rivalry, the United Nations would be able to...
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