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. 279, No. 8825, 1997

A Contagious Case of HTB
`THE EVENTS of the past remarkable weeks', the preacher's voice trembled as he raised his arms heavenward, `herald the dawn of a new revival for Christians.' The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales was `the single largest prayer meeting in the world',...
Ancient & Modern
THE incoherent dirge which the crooner groaned at That Funeral and which now seems to be de rigueur on all popular occasions would have been shouted down by ancient Greeks, for whom only the highest levels of excellence were acceptable at public performances....
Andrew Neil and the Barclays Are after the Independent. to My Surprise, I Hope They Get It
Strong papers evolve, weak ones keep on relaunching themselves. On Tuesday the Independent received its fourth or fifth 'makeover' since 1990. Previous attempts did not succeed in reversing the decline in sales, which stood at 423,000 in March 1990 and...
Are You Ready for Marivaux?
6 Since this is supposed to be a working lunch,' said the cultural attache with a modest attempt at severity to remind himself as well as the rest of us, `we will be telling you about the French Theatre Season in London as we eat.' Keenly, we scribbled...
A Rude Shock
Handel's Giulio Cesare is the most popular of his opere serie, and usually it isn't difficult to tell why. With its opening production in exile at the Barbican, however, the Royal Opera has put a drastically new slant on the piece, or rather the director,...
Awaiting a New Princess of Sales
PRINCESS, saviour, saint and - ultimately - cover girl. In death, as in life, Diana, Princess of Wales is shifting pile after pile of glossy magazines. In the past week, Vogue has done a last-minute volte-face on its cover; so has Vanity Fair. Country...
Backstage Revolution
Playhouse Creatures is a wonderful idea gone sadly adrift. The creatures of the title are Nell Gwyn and the actresses who were for the very first time in 1660 allowed to take their place on the stage alongside the men who had been playing their roles...
Blair's Government Will Ultimately Fail Unless He Rescues the Family
The undermining of the institution of marriage and the weakening of the family system stand right at the heart of Britain's problems. These evils, and the failure of government to tackle them - its propensity, on the contrary, to aggravate them by foolish...
Carrying on Climbing
Gstaad The brilliant weather - cool, sunny and crystal clear - has helped lift everyone's depression. Last week, in neighbouring Lenk, I managed to lose four tie-breakers in a row, the first two in the singles semi-final, the next two in the doubles...
Compliments for Fishing
IZAAK WALTON: SELECTED WRITINGS edited by Jessica Martin Carcanet, L9.95, pp. 204 When he died in his 90th year Walton was known as the author of what we might call 'ur-biographies' -- those five Lives he published to acclaim during the long years of...
Dear Mary
Q. An architect friend is engaged upon the restoration of an old coach house for which he had occasion to meet a structural engineer on site in my absence. During that visit he was seen by a gardener to take some ripe figs, which I had been nurturing,...
Diana: The Other Nation
LIKE pro-democracy activists under communism or a persecuted religious sect in the Middle Ages, dissenters against Britain's new state religion are being driven underground. Those not prepared to share in the national mood of touchy-feely mourning for...
Diary
When Tony Blair spoke of socialism I never realised quite how social the new Labour life would be. All I seem to have done all week is go to parties, so apologies if this reads like an It-girl column. Of course, one reason why we have to have so many...
Feeling over Reason
The BBC, in its wisdom, has just sent me a marketed collection of broadcasts by one of its foreign correspondents, Fergal Keane, entitled Letter To Daniel, Despatches from the Heart. Most of them first appeared on Radio Four's From Our Own Correspondent,...
Fingers on the Button
ONE HELL OF A GAMBLE: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali John Murray, 25, pp. 420 The tale of the `eyeball to eyeball' confrontation between Kennedy and Khrushchev in October 1962 has often been told,...
Food: Game for a Laugh
SAINT JOSEPH of Copertino, 18 September, was such an extraordinary saint that his fellow Christians could scarcely cope with him (no pun intended). As a child he was clumsy and found it hard to learn; at 17 he wanted to become a monk or a friar but the...
Gordon Brown Heads out into Tiger Country with a Prescription for Image
This is the week when the world's finance ministers get the chance to meet Gordon Brown. They are falling over each other, or so they are polite enough to tell him. They can't wait to hear all about this Chancellor's reforms and his new policies, based,...
Great Expectations Disappointed
Jack Maggs is something of a disappointment, but the reader's disappointment is rather a compliment to Peter Carey than anything else. It contains so many excellent things; its constrained and stifling atmosphere is so distinctive that, in the end, it...
Holiday Talk
What a mean old bag I was, you must have all thought, writing about fishing the week Jeffrey Bernard died. The thing is I had sneaked off to Morocco, and, although I had heard that Jeff had refused to stay on dialysis, I didn't believe he was really...
How Fast a Life?
LAST Thursday's Times carried a long piece by Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of the James Bond film-maker, Cubby Broccoli, and close friend of Dodi Fayed, in which she spoke about him as an `absolute gentleman'. Among other things she said that Dodi...
Intruding into Paula's Tax Life
IT HAS been a quiet summer for President Clinton. In May, his lawyers' motion to delay Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit until the 21st century because of the burdens of his presidential duties was slung out by the Supreme Court in a vote of nine...
Jeff Remembered
The following is the address delivered at the funeral of Jeffrey Bernard. Alexander Chancellor was the editor under whom Jeff began his Low life' column. It was typical of Jeff's theatrical side that he should choose to die - and it was a choice, for...
Leave It Alone
Venerability does not always add charm and attraction. The American society hostess Alice Roosevelt Longworth in advanced old age used to sit on a sofa at parties with a cushion beside her embroidered with the invitation: `If you don't have anything...
Letters
Why apologise? Sir: Notwithstanding the famous crash of that Mercedes in a Paris underpass, I bought a Mercedes for my wife on the Friday of the following week. That evening I noticed with satisfaction the advertisement for Mercedes-Benz on your inside...
Major Impression
Martin Gayford talks to John Wonnacott about his portrait of the former prime minister There are problems about painting an official portrait today which Van Dyck and Reynolds never faced. Life has speeded up, and the more important the sitter is, the...
Millennial Madness: Jaspistos
IN COMPETITION NO. 2000 you were invited to report, as an eye-witness, three startling events or incidents which might suitably or unsuitably occur in the Year of the Millennium. `In Hyde Park I find combative groups of Seventh-day Adventists and Christadelphians,...
Mind Your Language
`THEY drove him around in a whiskum snivel,' Lord David Cecil recorded of Cowper. Mr Tom Hartman the publisher implored me to help in elucidating that compound noun. I was no help at all to him, but as usual I was humbled by your readers' ingenuity and...
More Reasonable with Age
To my amazement, I discovered that the last Spectator Wine Club offer from Berry Bros was nearly nine years ago, in 1988. It was all French, all from classic areas, all red, announcing itself as the last opportunity to buy mature claret at reasonable...
Mr Blair May Be about to Take a Vital Personnel Decision
Oh, a Queen may love her subjects in her heart, and yet be dog-wearied of 'em in body and mind.' Thus one of the characters in Kipling's Rewards and Fairies; it is hard to believe that Her Majesty has not had similar thoughts at certain recent moments,...
No Tears Here for Dodi
Los Angeles SHUFFLING out of the funeral here in 1994 of the highly regarded president of the Walt Disney Company, Frank Wells, killed in a helicopter crash, Hollywood's then Most Powerfulness the super-agent Mike Ovitz glanced around at the 5,000 mourners...
People Power
It's a bit of a clumsy title, The Nazis, A Warning From History (BBC 2, Wednesday), and at first I thought it was another example of the BBC being unduly squeamish. `Look, we know you're going to be enthralled by all this fabulous, rare colour footage...
Portrait of the Week: Saatchi's Life
The Scottish people voted by 74 per cent to 26 per cent in favour of a Scottish parliament, and by 63.5 per cent to 36.5 per cent in favour of that parliament having tax-raising powers. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, flew to Edinburgh to say `the era...
Resigned to Change
The future of Scottish Ballet is assured - for now - but at a cost. John Parry reports The Scottish Arts Council's threat to cancel the funding of Scottish Ballet (Arts, 2 August) has been withdrawn and a solution to its immediate future has been found....
Second Opinion
SOMETIMES, though not very often, I wish my patients were the upstanding, God-fearing, law-abiding, hard-working people I tell them they ought to be. I hold myself up as what they might have been if they'd tried a little harder, but I do so with a guilty...
Sending out Research Parties
THE professional body representing educational researchers, the British Educational Research Association (Bera), has been holding its annual conference in York. The programme for the event included such highlights as a lecture on `The Educational Researcher...
She Knows, You Know
THE MAGICIAN'S WIFE by Brian Moore Bloomsbury, 15.99, pp. 215 The country and date are specified: France, 1856. A young married woman lays down her sewing to watch from the window the departure of a mysterious colonel who has been closeted with her reclusive...
Some Are More Equal Than Others
LANGUAGE IS POWER: THE STORY OF STANDARD ENGLISH AND ITS ENEMIES by John Honey Faber, L8.99, pp. 298 A couple of years ago Sir Ron Dearing, the man in charge of the National Curriculum, was warned by the Council of University Teachers of English not...
The Second Coming
THE MIRACLE STRAIN by Michael Cordy Bantam, 9.99, pp. 364 Roald Dahl wrote a short story called `The Great Automatic Grammatizator' about an electronic machine guaranteed to compose bestselling fiction. It was just a matter of programming the Grammatizator...
Those Heroic, Farcical Scots
AS SCOTLAND merrily votes aye, aye, so news comes in from the football fields of Europe that they are on the point of qualifying for the World Cup finals which take place in France next summer. All they need to do now is to beat Latvia, a task surely...
Tory Sporran Needed
Does Scotland need the Tories? The general election left them without a single seat north of the border. The resounding `yes, yes' vote for a tax-raising parliament in Edinburgh has destroyed their remaining credibility. Many Scots, and some Conservatives,...
When Jonathan Won
I WANT to go back to a famous victory of four months ago. It was not that of Tony Blair at the polls but of Jonathan Aitken in the law courts. Eh? Surely it was the Guardian that won the victory? It found itself able to prove halfway through the trial...
Where's the Chemistry?
My Best Friend's Wedding (12, selected cinemas) In My Best Friend's Wedding, Julia Roberts looks fabulous in a big way - big hair, big eyes, big lips, big teeth, big nose, big everything, filling up the screen in close-up upon close-up. For fans who've...
Why I Would Have Supported Pinochet, but Still Think There's Something Wrong with His Country
Santiago de Chile The Plaza de Armas, Santiago's main square, is as pleasant a place to while away an afternoon as you can find in this strangely soulless city. A military band is playing in the bandstand, families are eating ice-cream, the palms barely...
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