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. 288, No. 9062, 2002

Ancient & Modern
ONE of the Israeli soldiers surrounding the Palestinian gunmen claiming asylum in the (exquisite paradox) church of Christ's nativity in Bethlehem said that they would not 'attack' it `because it is a holy place'; and besides, it was only when the gunmen...
A Pantomime with Real Bombs
HATCHETT AND LYCETT by Nigel Williams Viking, L10.99, pp. 424, ISBN 0670912557 One of the problems all historical fiction confronts is usage. At its most parodic the genre has people thee-ing it and thouing it about the place, wearing lacy sleeves that...
At Home with the Forsytes
Television First things first, and so we must acknowledge that the new Granada production of The Forsyte Saga is very good indeed. I've watched nearly three hours now and, apart from some uneasy havering at the beginning when nobody seemed to want to...
Banned Wagon
WHY is violent crime increasing? Because there aren't enough laws? Or because existing laws are not properly enforced, the police do not secure enough convictions, and when criminals are convicted they are treated too softly? David Blunkett appears to...
Boy Racer
Formula One I WENT to Milton Abbey, a school that was attended by children who had come last in every exam they had ever taken. During rugby matches, pupils who were not playing were made to watch on the touchlines and shout out the letters that made...
Colonial Wars
`WHAT is needed is a new kind of imperialism, one compatible with human rights and cosmopolitan values: an imperialism which aims to bring order and organisation,' argues New Labour foreign-policy guru Robert Cooper in his recent pamphlet Re-ordering...
Conspiracies Galore
Thrillers No doubt the officers of Her Majesty's Secret Service would like to weave super-- subtle webs of deception and bluff to ensnare the opposition, if only for the fun of the thing, but still their plans cannot really be as complicated as all that....
Derserving a Small Place in History
PUBLIC SERVANT, SECRET AGENT by Paul Routledge Fourth Estate, L16.99, pp. 392, ISBN 1841152447 So who did murder Airey Neave, Margaret Thatcher's closest political companion, a former leader of MI9, and at the time of his death in 1979 a future Secretary...
Diary
New York Ever since I first came here in 1965, I have loved this city. On my first visit since last September, it now strikes me that what happened then explains obliquely just why I do. This isn't only a matchlessly open and free society, but also the...
Diaz, Drew and Me, Too
SPECTATOR SPORT BRENTFORD is one of those places that the press is fond of calling 'unglamorous'. Driving towards Heathrow, one can discern its presence by six grey-brown tower-blocks and a giant GlaxoSmithKlineBeecham building. It is a place most people...
Doesn't Suit You, Sir
SOME months ago, I made a decision to change the dress code in Annabel's. For almost 40 years, it had been dark suit and tie, and I suppose that I felt the moment had come to move with the times. Few restaurants seem to insist on a rigid code, and on...
Don't Privatise Justice
AT 3.10 p.m. on Saturday, 15 August 1998, a 500 lb car bomb exploded in a crowded shopping centre in Omagh, Northern Ireland. Twenty-nine people and a pair of unborn twins were killed, and some 400 were wounded. It was the greatest single loss of life...
Easy Tiger
Exotic pets THE relationship between Britain and the United States has been concisely expressed as this: anything we got, they got one bigger. And it doesn't just apply to buildings and missiles; it even applies to mad old ladies' pets. Take Joan Byron-Marasek....
Fearful Beauty and Danger
VOYAGES OF DELUSION: THE SEARCH FOR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE IN THE AGE OF REASON by Glyn Williams HarperCollins, (pound)15.99, pp. 467, ISBN 0002571811 Dr Johnson was sound on the sea: No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into...
Fighting Fanaticism
The world condemnation of Israel for its actions on the West Bank is both disproportionate and insincere. Many of the Arab states routinely indulge in far worse atrocities against their own populations than those alleged against Israel. Yasser Arafat's...
From Inverness-Shire to Kumbum
PAST FORGETTING by Veronica Maclean Review, 20, pp. 374, ISBN 0755310241 The title of Veronica Maclean's bracing, breezy and often moving memoir comes from a Noel Coward song ('I'll See You Again' in Bitter Sweet); I found myself fantasising that, in...
Growning Glories
Tiaras WHO would have thought that the glamorous accessory for women this year would be the same as that which adorned their great-grandmothers? In her Golden Jubilee year, the Queen has become a fashion icon because, a century after its heyday, the...
Haitink Triumph
Opera Tristan and Isolde (Royal Opera House) La Vestale (Coliseum) The Royal Opera's revival of its 2000 production of Tristan and Isolde is notable above all for the outstanding playing of the orchestra and the absolutely inspired conducting of Bernard...
How Does This Pension Scheme Defy Gravity? Because You and I Prop It Up
CITY AND SUBURBAN Here's something: a pension scheme which seems to be defying gravity. A final-- salary scheme, too, meaning that your pension is linked, not to what the contributions could buy, but to what you were being paid at the end of your service....
How Tony Blair Tried to Muscle in on the Mourning
Shortly after the death of the Queen Mother a call was made from Downing Street to an official at the Palace of Westminster about the lying-in-state. The Prime Minister, it was communicated, was unhappy. In particular, he felt that the arrangements did...
Ireland
HENRY O'DONNELL, champion swimmer of all Donegal, took four hours to swim the ten miles to Tory Island, and six to swim back again, a disparity due more to the prevailing winds and currents of Tory Sound than to any weariness on the part of the great...
Leaving His Heart with the Dead
WHO'S WHO IN HELL by Robert Chalmers Atlantic Books, L12, pp. 272, ISBN 1903809991 Newspaper obituary notices used to be paper gravestones until Hugh Massingberd, former obituaries editor of the Daily Telegraph, sat up and saw the funny side. A life...
Letters
Strange meeting From Mr Amos Oz Sir: Concerning Paul Gottfried's article ('Extremism in the defence of liberty', 6 April) about my 'interview with Ariel Sharon', I have one important thing to say to Mr Gottfried. I have never interviewed Ariel Sharon....
Live Compromise
Music When is a live recording not a live recording? And what is gained when it is live? The answer to the second question, if it were done as the words suggest it is, would be coughing, aeroplane noise, bum notes, bad tuning, grunting and, if the technicians...
Looking Different
Low life I cut my face shaving the other day, quite badly, up near the cheekbone. If I'm not more careful, I'm going to cut my head off one of these days. It looked impressive, the cut. The thin straight horizontal line about an inch long made it look...
Meat and Drink for the Imagination
THE CHILD THAT BOOKS BUILT by Francis Spufford Faber, L12.99, pp. 212, ISBN 0571191320 I sat on the second stair in our house in a Montreal suburb. The dog passed me from time to time and stopped to sniff, but no one else did, neither stopping nor sniffing....
Money for Nothing
Luxury online IMAGINE sitting down to breakfast tomorrow morning to find a cheque for (pound)3,000 in the post, with a note telling you to spend it all on yourself. Prudent folk would use it to pay off the overdraft, or a little more of the mortgage....
Natural Friendship
High life New York The first friend I made when I arrived in the then merry old England during the swinging Sixties was a cherubic, incredibly pink, forever laughing and joking Old Etonian called Charles Benson. Bendix, as we called him, after his nom...
Poseurs' Paradise
Holidays THE little harbour is crammed with unimaginably expensive yachts, the quayside is wall-to-wall Hermes and Versace boutiques, and the girls sipping Camparis in the waterside cafes look as if they have stepped straight from the cover of Vogue...
Quirky, Quicksilver Mind
John Biffen HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW by John Nott Politico's, L20, pp. 350, ISBN 1842750305 Aneurin Bevan dismissed political biography: 'I like my fiction straight.' He would have been disarmed by Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. It portrays all political...
Restaurants
AFTER all that grumbling about this job turning out to be rubbish and not being sufficiently appreciated and all those years of training at the LSC going to waste and never getting a single fan letter or anything, I suddenly received quite a few. Well,...
Second Opinion
ALL flesh is grass, of course - that goes without saying - but, round here, it is also batteries, coins, razor blades, bleach, 'wraps' of cocaine and heroin, and anything else that can pass down the human gullet. Some people come to the hospital, indeed,...
Sense of Purpose
The turf Stand on the top of Tom George's gallops and you can feel you own the world. You can experience, too, quite a nasty jab from the green-eyed god of jealousy. Hills fold away in front of you to the distant Severn and the two nearest valleys are...
Shrouds Have No Pockets
HEAVEN Peter Stanford HarperCollins, L17.99, pp. 374, ISBN 00025 71013 This interesting book gives an odd impression of having been written by two people, and breezy Writer One might drive away readers before they reach thoughtful Writer Two. Maybe the...
Soaring Close to the Sun
FLIGHT by Victoria Glendinning Scribner, L16.99, pp. 260, ISBN 0743220285 The title of Glendinning's novel has less to do with the fact that its hero, Martagon, is an artist-engineer, working in glass and masterminding the construction of an airport...
Stop Being So Tight-Fisted
Many years ago, some people I know took a long walk in Suffolk to the site of Sutton Hoo. At the end of their journey they hoped to find the celebrated Dark Age treasure once buried in that spot. Instead, they met a local who tersely informed them that...
Stop - in the Name of Decency
Jerusalem A FEW weeks ago an Israeli cabinet minister called on his country to `do to the Palestinians what Iraq did to the Kurds'. Assuming he was not referring to Saddam Hussein's gassing of civilians at Halabja, it looks as if Israel is heeding his...
Swing out, Sister
Health spas `ARE you here to check in, ladies?' The strict, shrill voice rang out around the reception area of The Sanctuary day spa in London's Covent Garden. My hardworking friend, Nicola, and I were there to spend an evening being tended to in tranquil...
The Cowardly Whites Who Help Mugabe
Masowe, Zimbabwe FRANKLY, I am a bit nervous. Someone has said I'll get killed, looking all white and foolish out here in Mashonaland, and I am beginning to see why. We're only a couple of hundred yards away from the thugs wielding pipes, swords and...
The Curse of Unresisting Adoration
THE LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS, VOLUME XII, 1868-1870 edited by Graham Storey, Margaret Brown and Kathleen Tillotson Oxford University Press, 80, pp. 856, ISBN 0199245967 After Our Mutual Friend, his last completed novel, there is every reason to suppose...
The Dextrous and the Gibble-Fisted
RIGHT HAND, LEFT HAND: THE ORIGINS OF ASYMMETRY IN BRAINS, BODIES, ATOMS AND CULTURES by Chris McManus Weidenfeld, L20, pp. 412, ISBN 0297645978 In the 1950s a survey was conducted into English dialect terms used to describe lefthandedness. The survey...
The Eye of the Beholder
THE most distinguished moments in the annual fashion calendar - that frenetic scramble across the year which has journalists, buyers and commentators dashing around the globe in search of the word on what is new - are the couture collections which take...
The Jealousy of God
TEN years ago, Soviet communism collapsed. The familiar Cold War came to an end. The West might have hoped that the world would no longer contain a powerful and implacable enemy. But Nature, once again, showed that she abhors a vacuum; and into the gap...
The Only Tone I Am Able to Adopt These Days Is Victor Meldrew's
ANOTHER VOICE Victor Meldrew's, apparently, is the tone the Tories want to avoid. But, even as they move in a more receptive direction, this Tory finds himself increasingly prey to Meldrewitis. The condition may be chronic. I have started railing at...
Trouble in Marrakesh
The donkey and its car-load full of wood was barring the way down the narrow dust-strewn Moroccan street. We were late. Our table at Topsil was waiting. Topsil was alleged to be one of Marrakesh's top restaurants. But there was the donkey, braying truculently,...
Victory against the Odds
Radio Broadcast at last, The Falklands Play on Radio Four last Saturday did not disappoint and was really quite gripping. The play was originally commissioned from Ian Curteis by BBC television in 1986 but was then dropped, amid great controversy, before...
Voices for Freedom
Jazz Soul of Things, a new album from the Munich-based ECM label, provides an answer to a question jazz fans have been debating since 1959. The question is simple - what album do you play after Miles Davis's Kind of Blue? - the answer less so. Davis's...
What a Lot of Sparklers
Exhibitions Tiaras (Victoria & Albert Museum, till 14 July) Edward Burne Jones once said that, if you didn't want to swallow a jewel when you saw it, it probably wasn't a very good jewel. The current exhibition Tiaras at the V&A, showing over...
Whistling in the Dark
WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN? by Studs Terkel Granta, (pound)15, pp. 407 ISBN 1862075115 Ten years ago I approached a literary agent with an idea for a book; an anthology about death, to comprise interviews with people who confront it daily: doctors,...
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