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. 277, No. 8780, 1996

A Case Needing to Be Heard
I FIRST met Andre Hanscombe on a bright morning last June. As he talked about his frustration at the failure of the British courts to bring the killer of his partner, Rachel Nickell, on Wimbledon Common to justice, a dark cloud of anger gathered over...
A Happy Surprise
Tom Hiney ENGLISH WEATHER by Neil Ferguson Gollancz Originals, 9.99, pp. 319 Stranded at a railway station, few people in their right mind would head for the Contemporary British Fiction section (if there is one - there probably isn't) of W. H. Smith....
A Hard Act to Follow
CANAAN by Geoffrey Hill Penguin, L7.99, pp. 72 Slim volumes of contemporary verse are not normally honoured with notice in these pages. What is there in this new collection by Geoffrey Hill that appeals to us? To seasoned admirers of Hill's work George...
A Lady at the Uprising
SHORTLY after her 92nd birthday last year, Judith, Countess of Listowel, wrote to tell me: 'I am not in a "chair", nor in a home. I am going to Hungary for four weeks to have a look at what seems to be a worsening situation.' Before we met, I knew only...
A Long Way from Home
ALEC DOUGLAS HOME by D. R Thorpe Sinclair-Stevenson, 25, pp. 562 M r D. R. Thorpe has written a careless, repetitive, unstructured book littered with bad writing, often ignored by his editor. In chapter six, in two paragraphs he variously describes his...
Ancient & Modern
HOME Secretary Michael Howard's 'boot camps' for juvenile offenders seem to have turned into something more like holiday camps. Nothing necessarily wrong with that in principle or practice, Plato would have said. The Greek lawgiver Solon argued that...
A Poseur with a Purpose
HAZEL: A LIFE OF LADY LAVERY 1880-1935 by Sinead McCoole Lilliput, L25, L15, pp. 242 The Irish colleen depicted on the first Irish Free State banknotes was the daughter of a Chicago meat-trade tycoon. The artist was Sir John Lavery. His wife and model...
Artist of Power and Poetry
A little while ago I wrote about painters who don't travel well. There are also old masters who are universally acknowledged to be great, but somehow don't seem to suit contemporary taste. Peter Paul Rubens is a case in point, and it is fairly easy to...
As Good as It Gets
Dear, oh dear! Why can't the hacks ever get it right? Andrew Pierce in the Times breathlessly reported how Alan Clark was at Carla Powell's Referendum Party dinner last Friday night. He was definitely there - in spirit I imagine - but Alan is waiting...
As He Was Going to St Ives
If you have the energy and enthusiasm to travel down to Cornwall, you would be well advised to visit the charming town of St Ives before it is entirely overcome by gimcrack baubles to attract the grockels. I'm afraid it rather looks as if its eloquent...
A Shooting Star
Affixed to the inside of the front cover of the baritone Titta Ruffo's autobiography, originally published in Italian almost 60 years ago and now available in translation for the first time, is a CDproduced by Syd Gray containing 19 selections from his...
A Study in Spending
There used to be a time in the arts when actors acted, singers sang, dancers danced and administrators, well, administered. While the arts are no more immune to change than any other area of activity, actors, singers, dancers and all the other artists...
A Zany Look at Life
It occurred to me while I was watching, in a slightly detached way, the ENO's latest revival of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen that Janacek is the exact opposite of Brahms: while Brahms's music is characteristically sober with all regret, Janacek's...
Back and the Future
Bad backs are as common in Leicestershire as bad consciences in Westminster. Every town and village has an army of quacks to manipulate the spines and relax the muscle spasms of the hunting fraternity. Sitting on a horse may give you bandy legs, but...
Batting for Bruckner
When the impossible question `Who is your favourite composer?' comes up, my instant unthinking answer is 'Bruckner'. When compelled actually to think why, I'm at a loss for words. What can be said about music which in its every detail, whether normative...
Bigheads Beware
I hope to God that my worries about the future of Frankie Dettori are completely unfounded, as on too many occasions I have seen successful sportsmen ruined as human beings by a sudden and irreversible swelling of the head which is quite cringemaking...
Blue Misremembered Hills
The Irish poet and novelist Dermot Healy has written his memoir. As we approach the end of the 20th century, this is beginning to look like a very ambitious and a very tricky thing to do. Not only have so many illustrious forebears gone down this path...
Breaking out in Spots
She had always kept her own company and her thoughts and feelings turned inwards. To tell things would be to her like undressing.' 'She' is the nameless young woman in the title story of Listening to the Orchestra; with the utmost delicacy and care her...
Brighton's Multi-Party System
SIR JAMES Goldsmith emerged from the Grand Hotel pursued by cameramen and flunkeys. The porters stood to attention, the doors of several large cars were flung open in theatrical readiness. `We have the Leader coming through,' barked a young man with...
But Is It Art?
The snob hit of this autumn in the West End is undoubtedly Yasmina Reza's Art (Wyndham's) and it is indeed great to have Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay reunited on stage after almost 20 years. It would have been even greater to have them back in a play...
Class Apart
SATURDAY'S superb BBC 2 dramatisation of Henry Green's novel, Loving, took me back to my brief friendship with this melancholy and witty author shortly before his death. I first met him when I wrote a profile of him for the Guardian. But by then Henry...
Danger! New Myth Ahead
BRITISH reviews of a new book about the German resistance serve as a warning that a new second world war myth is about to enter our liberal canon. For as well as being responsible for concentration camps (started in the Boer War), the outbreak of the...
Dear Mary
Q. Every time I come to London I find other pedestrians bump into me in the street rather a lot. How can I go about preventing this annoyance from happening? C.B., address withheld A. Simply buy ten copies of the Big Issue as soon as you arrive in the...
Diary
I ran to work this morning; work is at Christie's in St James's. I am not sure it did me much good, as London is now more polluted than New York. This is sad, but no one seems to care. A new traffic system has just been introduced in Hyde Park which...
Dole Gets Tough-Too Late
Washington IT IS easy to be influenced by the media's portrayal of a public figure. `What a jerk - the guy can't spell potato,' a colleague said. I laughed and thought, how dreadful. Despite an inbuilt scepticism about the American television networks...
Exuberant Trend-Setter
Victor Horta, the architect of swirling lines, is being honoured with an exhibition in Brussels, the city where he built his finest projects. His Tassel House, designed for a friend and completed in 1893, is now celebrated as the earliest Art Nouveau...
Find the Lady
THE stakes were high and South was playing a vulnerable grand slam. He reached the crucial decision point and did the wrong thing. He had overlooked a small but significant clue. Cover up the EastWest cards and see if you can succeed. South leapt to...
He Can Take It
What veteran wordsmith has been kept busy recently turning out screenplays for such mainstream motion picture talents as Al Pacino, Billy Crystal, Winona Ryder, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson and Robin Williams? Answer: William Shakespeare. Jane...
If Mr Blair's Lead in the Polls Continues to Fall, What Will Become of All His Supporters a la Mode?
The other day I was sitting in a cafe with a friend who sometimes does publicity work for, and is acquainted with, such supporters of Tony Blair as Jeremy Irons, Stephen Fry, Sir Terence Conran, Anita Roddick and Richard Branson - the last three of whom...
I Think I'll Be Clever for Ever and Ever
THE AGE OF HERESY: YOU CAN ACHIEVE MORE, NOT LESS, AS YOU GET OLDER by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene Ebury Press, 12.99, pp. 184 In the 1940s, educational psychologists told us that optimum performance in intelligence tests occurred at about the age of...
Jimmy Restores a Bit of Life to a Moribund Conference Season
Last week I broke my new rule and went briefly to Jimmy Goldsmith's Referendum Party conference. My rule is not to attend these conferences at all, and for three reasons. First, I went to my first lot in 1955 and for nearly 40 years covered four annually,...
Letters
Truth is on the march Sir: Stewart Steven certainly hit the bull'seye, judging by the reaction of Neil Hamilton and Tiny Rowland to his article `The case for Mohamed' (12 October). As Stewart is in hospital with other things on his mind, I must try to...
Life and Works
LET us call it Biographer's Error. It begins with love which springs from a profound admiration for the works of some exceptional person. Say, for example, C.S. Lewis who, because of his writing, excites admiration as a kind of 20th-century sage and...
Mean Streets
I used to live in Manchester, in Burnage actually, which I believe is where the Gallagher brothers from Oasis were raised. The old place doesn't seem to have improved much, if Prime Suspect is anything to go by. The inhabitants appear to be criminals,...
Mind Your Language
WE ARE making some progress, if only speculative, on the origin of the phrase spending a penny. For those of you who missed the story so far, it certainly predates coin-in-the-slot lavatories, and seems to be connected to physicking. The helpful and...
Mothers and Lovers
THE DAY WE CUT THE LAVENDER by Jill Neville Penguin, 6.99, pp. 203 In fiction as in life, many brave colonial boys and girls have made the journey from Australia to the mother country in search of fame, fortune, reputation or love. Some of them then...
(Nearly) Heaven on Earth
There is nothing quite like that tingle of anticipation as you slalom (slowly, of course, officer) through Six Mile Bottom and catch your first glimpse of Newmarket's high hedges on a racing morning. When the October sun reflects brightly off well-burnished...
No Hitting, Please. We're NAS
IT IS 1979, and the National Association of Schoolmasters is gathered in Harrogate for its annual conference. An earnest young man rises to address fellow teachers on the subject of the school-leaving age, which has been raised to 16. The change in the...
Old Kid on the Block
FULL DISCLOSURE by Andrew Neil Macmillan, 20, pp. 481 Why should I give my energy, my ability and my experience and one more minute of my time to this man Murdoch? I had done what I could to establish the principle that an editor ... should not be shoved...
Politicians Are Trimmers
SIR James Goldsmith used to have consistent views on Europe. They are to be found in his book Le Piege (The Trap). That is a valuable work, for it provides one of the best available insights into the thinking of the French political class. Its intellectual...
Portrait of the Week
The Catholic bishops of England and Wales circulated a pre-election booklet called The Common Good, which Labour supporters claimed recommended the social policies of Mr Tony Blair, the leader of the Labour Party. Mr John Major, the Prime Minister, was...
Restaurant: La Porte Des Indes, Ragam and Deedar
ACCORDING to Peter Harden, whose invaluable guide, London Restaurants 1997, has just appeared, there are some 3,000 Indian restaurants in Greater London. This makes the subcontinent the leading category of London restaurant. Until recently there was...
Second Opinion
FROM TIME to time I am asked by a newspaper to express my outrage at some more or less disgusting aspect of modern life, and usually I am only too happy to oblige. Indeed, I find there is no more powerful stimulus to moral indignation than the prospect...
Sir Alastair Gets Himself out of a Hole-It Wouldn't Have Happened without Him
His last week at Eurotunnel finds Sir Alastair Morton in Tokyo. He is saying sayonara to the bankers who poured so many trillions of yen into the hole he dug, and is cheering them up with a progress report. `The thing is on a roll now,' he says. He has...
Sublime Elegance
Giannandrea Poesio The relentless, yet fatuous search for new choreographic geniuses that characterises the world of contemporary ballet tells a great deal about the current precarious state of the art. The problem is that, despite some outstanding exceptions,...
Tangles with the Taste Police
Charles Wingfield, the elderly owner of Grade 1 listed Barrington Park in Gloucestershire, wants to slice off the two Victorian wings of his 18th-century home to help make the place more manageable and less expensive to run. His ancestor, Lord Talbot,...
The Boys' Own Papers
THE BOYS: TRIUMPH THROUGH ADVERSITY by Martin Gilbert Weidenfeld, f20, pp. 511 This is an important book. There was a Holocaust. Fewer than 100,000 Jews survived the ghettos, death camps, slave labour camps and death marches of Hitler's Reich. At the...
The Economics of the Absurd
`C'EST magnifique, mais ce n'est past l'economie' - such might have been the response to the recent summit in Dublin of European Union finance ministers as they charged cavalierly on to European Monetary Union convergence. The French word for the general...
The Great Talking Shop
The great talking shop THE LITERARY COMPANION TO PARLIAMENT edited by Christopher Silvester Sinclair-Stevenson, 30, pp. 605 The House of Commons, alas, never changes. The edges are periodically tinkered with, admitting women members, changing the sitting...
The Right Voice
Music lovers hate music, said Sir John Drummond, a former Controller of Radio Three. This startling remark was made two Sundays ago in the last part of Humphrey Carpenter's The Envy of the World, three programmes celebrating 50 years of the Third and...
The Truth about Mr Neil's Sunday Times: It Went Down (in Both Senses)
Has the Sunday Times declined as a newspaper? The question arises with the publication of Andrew Neil's new book Full Disclosure (reviewed in this issue by Charles Moore). Mr Neil edited the Sunday Times for 11 years. He writes about his time as editor...
Trapped in a Tragic Pattern
THE AGONY OF THE RUSSIAN IDEA by Tim McDaniel Princeton,L19.95, pp. 212 The Russian Idea is a hardy if abstruse construct. It stalks Gogol's Dead Souls which concludes with a reckless declaration of Russia's Otherness: `All things on earth fly past and...
Who's Afraid of Lebed?
Of course events in Russia can affect us, but we must bear in mind the inherent limitations of our knowledge and avoid partisanship. The rush to enthuse over Gorbachev and disparage Yeltsin, then to endorse Yeltsin and demonise his opponents, then to...
Words Fail Him
CHANGING TRAINS by Steven Norris Hutchinson, 16.77, pp. 273 I am told that the sales reps were hawking this book with the promise that it would be the next Alan Clark's Diaries. But the difference is (and you will get to know this adjective much better...
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.