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. 281, No. 8887, 1998

A Great Pioneer
Frank Gillard, who died last week at the age of almost 90, was one of the great radio pioneers of the century. ch of what you hear on the radio today was created, or made possible, by him and yet he retired from the BBC in 1969. Radio Four broadcast...
Ancient & Modern
LAST WEEK Plato argued the corrupting effects of television, especially of drama on television, but this uncontroversial thesis was open to a serious charge - that of anachronism: how could Plato have known about television when it was first publicly...
A Salutary Lesson
The most valuable and most important single-owner collection of European furniture ever seen at auction' was offered at Christie's New York last week. The 60 or so `museum-quality masterpieces' of French and English furniture, along with another two...
A Selection of Recent Gardening Books
Just when you thought that gardening books, like Kansas City, had gone about as far as they can go, publishers have turned retro. A surfeit of pictures of 'After' has been replaced by what went 'Before'. The cover of Rejuvenating a Garden by Stephen...
Below the Salt
THINGS HAVE come to a pretty pass when you have to turn to men's tennis to cheer yourself up after reading the cricket scores. But with the latest Ashes debacle and the gratingly unconvincing defiance of the England captain, Alec Stewart, it was a relief...
Biting the Hand That Rarely Paid for Lunch
Biting the hand that rarely paid for lunch Frederic Raphael SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW by Paul Theroux Hamish Hamilton, 17.99, pp. 376 Writers friendships are often written on water; their enmities are chiselled in stone. Disillusionment and betrayal are harpies...
Children's Books for Christmas
The advantage of books as Christmas presents is that they are so easy to wrap and send, compared to some of the impossible shapes and sizes of other offerings which, bursting out of their paper, have to be personally delivered at great inconvenience...
Dear Mary
Q. Last year, a woman friend leaving for town agreed to a neighbour's request for a lift as she was rushing for an appointment. My friend, an unreformable Antipodean, almost immediately lit up, as was her wont. Her passenger fluttered her fingers disapprovingly...
Descending into the Pit
THE CHRIS Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the biggest in the world, with 3,200 beds. It is situated at the edge of Soweto, the sprawling collection of black townships near Johannesburg. Even within South Africa it is infamous for being a rough place to...
Devotion to Work
Exhibitions 3 Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman (The Art Institute, Chicago, till 10 January) Devotion to work Roger Kimball In some ways it is unfortunate that the single best picture in this retrospective of Mary Cassatt's work is a portrait of the artist...
Diary
Preparing to leave for Seville, I am filled with forebodins. I have to chair a small conference but the foreboding is nothing to do with that. My fear is that I shall have to have another haircut and I have had two already in the last week. It is difficult...
Dinner Dates
New York The Metropolitan club is situated on 5th Avenue and 60th Street, as good an address as one can aspire to in the Big Bagel. Architecturally it is by far the grandest club of its kind, with large, ornate rooms, sweeping staircases and beautifully...
Exploring the Blank Spaces
Exploring the blank spaces M.R.D. Foot BARROW'S BOYS by Fergus Fleming Granta, 20, pp. 489 This is a wonderful assembly of travellers' tales, some long in print and long forgotten, others rescued from the archives of the Colonial Office and the Admiralty,...
From a Plague to a Disease
LOVE UNDETECTABLE by Andrew Sullivan Chatto, 12.99, pp. 252 The first of the three essays which make up this strenuously argued, eloquently expressed and often moving book takes as its starting point that moment two years ago when the author suddenly...
God Bless Us, Every One
THE LAST Spectator Wine Club offer of the year, from Lay & Wheeler in Colchester, traditionally offers mixed cases for paupers and plutocrats. However, the pressure at Christmas time is always for better, grander wines which are also more expensive,...
Hands Off
I poked the Leader of the Opposition. This was more respectable than it sounds. The poking took place at The Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year awards lunch at the Savoy last week. Mr Hague was sitting on my left. I wanted the salt. Mr Hague did...
Holding the Ring
Holding the ring Allan Mallinson FIGHTING FOR PEACE by General Sir Michael Rose Harvill L18, pp. 285 Somewhere in Queen's Regulations it says, I think, that a junior may not praise his superior officer in public. He certainly may not criticise him. But...
How Oscar's Selfishness Would Have Coloured a London Winter
Weather attacks in many guises. The grey of a grey November day in London is not a gentle greyness, not a soft blurring of the light, not forgiving, not neutral, not kind. It is a raised fist in the face of the human spirit, a mouthed curse, a crushing...
How South African Judges Undermined the Rule of Law in Britain
Hard cases make bad law. But it is much worse when that bad law is propounded by the highest court in the land. The Pinochet ruling by the House of Lords was an unhappy day for British justice. We may have thought, in our complacency, that our judges...
I Have Succumbed
Exhibitions 1 Turner Prize (Tate Gallery, till 10 January) It can be a hard job fighting one's way into the Tate Gallery, particularly on Sundays. At the moment about 1,500 people a day are visiting the Turner Prize exhibition. That compares with around...
Letters
Strangers in the night Sir: Did George Wigg kerb-crawl? Was he unfairly picked on by the police? (Letters, 28 November.) Well, I believe the answer is yes to the first, no to the second. Wiggy (as he was also known locally) lived in those days in a basement...
Local Lottery
Maybe, just maybe, you will not win the Lottery but instead be chosen to help hand out some of its cash. Electors, selected at random, are being allocated places on the regional advisory panels of the National Lottery Charities Board. They are chosen...
Making Merry in Moscow
'A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma' was Winston Churchill's view of Russia, and he was right. Defying all logic as the country faces its worst financial crisis in 50 years, Moscow is making merry. The cultural life of the city is more vigorous...
Mind Your Language
`YOU'VE MADE your point,' said Jeremy Paxman or one of his disciples on Newsnight. It made me jump a little because my husband has been trying to interest me in falconry, and I had got as far as learning that when a hawk makes her point she rises in...
Much Beauty, Much Money
James Fox had already dedicated this compulsively interesting volume to Francis Wyndham (his admiring friend almost since he was Eton's handsomest Captain of Boats and lately the beautifully depicted principal subject of Lucian Freud's latest, largest...
Newspaper Wars in Zimbabwe May Prove Dangerous
Robert Mugabe, who was in London this week, is a tyrant by any definition. The President of Zimbabwe's most recent act of tyranny was to announce the seizure of some 800 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe. He is not very popular at the Harare (formerly Salisbury)...
Nothing Doing
Dancing at Lughnasa (PG, selected cinemas) Twilight (15, selected cinemas) They won't dance, don't ask them. Or so, on behalf of her four dowdy younger sisters, older dowdier Kate Mundy has ruled. If you saw Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa on stage...
Nothing Ethical about This Policy
UNTIL the Law Lords' split decision on 25 November to reverse the earlier ruling of the Court of Appeal and deny General Pinochet's claim to immunity from prosecution in a foreign jurisdiction, this affair could be treated mainly as a dramatic reprise...
Pinter Power
Theatre Betrayal (National Theatre) Kafka's Dick (Piccadilly) Pinter power Sheridan Morley Of all Harold Pinter's plays, his 1978 Betrayal about a three-cornered affair, loosely based on his own with the broadcaster Joan Bakewell, is perhaps the most...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was met at a meeting of European Union finance ministers by a scheme hatched by Mr Oskar Lafontaine of Germany and Mr Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France to make the tax systems of all member countries the...
Preston Pride
Preston is about halfway along and certainly the most important stop on the main line from Euston to Glasgow (although, in these sad times, with the flashy red and white Virgin having succeeded the maroon of LMS, the railway traveller tries to ensure...
Punishingly Funny Wordplay
Punishingly funny wordplay Benjamin Yarde-Buller ALTAR EGO by Kathy Lette Picador, 12.99, pp. 353 Altar Ego should, one gathers from the blurb, be approached with some caution; Kathy Lette's novels have a strange effect on readers. Jilly Cooper, on reading...
Python's Life of Dawkins
FROM THE moment I saw the `signed copy' stack of The Complete Fawlty Towers by John Cleese and Connie Booth on the green baize table outselling signed copies of Richard Dawkins's newest atheist's guide to the galaxy, Unweaving the Rainbow, it was clear...
Read All about It
Opera The Barber of Seville (Coliseum) Read all about it Michael Tanner The ENO's programme book for The Barber of Seville, now revived for the sixth time in Jonathan Miller's 1987 production, is a characteristically thorough piece of work, organised...
Restaurant: Club Gascon and J. Sheekey
IN rather a good year for new London restaurants I can report on two fine late arrivals. In the past few months the splendid Club Gascon has opened in West Smithfield, and the owners of The Ivy and Le Caprice have refurbished the `fish ordinary', J....
Ripping Yarn
There's a teacher at my stepson James's school who gives the boys lines whenever they use the word 'loo'. The desired term, apparently, is 'toilet'. So there's another of my campaigns to turn the Rat into a civilised human being gone out of the window....
Russia and Its Rockets
THE GREAT thing about forking out $1,500 to the Russian Space Agency for a 22-hour Magical Mystery Press Tour of the Baikonur Cosmodrome (laughingly referred to as `Russia's Cape Canaveral') is the souvenir gifts which they give out to the lucky participants....
Scarlet and Gold
One hunt ball down, one to go. The white marquee on the lawn outside our bedroom window was so big that I thought it had snowed when I opened the shutters on Saturday morning. I asked the people who were setting up the bar if they were sure it was going...
Shall We Dance?
If it's the Christmas party season, it's also the Christmas party-tape season. You could hire a DJ, but chances are that he (for it is almost always a he) will have very fixed ideas about the sort of music he wants you to hear, and these will not include...
Shrink-Proof Material
DARLING GEORGIE: THE ENIGMA OF KING GEORGE V by Dennis Friedman Peter Owen, 18.95, pp. 234 Since Sir Harold Nicolson published his official life of King George V in 1952, there has been no excuse for failing to recognise him as an exemplary constitutional...
Stop, Thief
A customed to coping with the tantrums of one leading lady, a worldweary Hollywood mogul once observed of their latest encounter: `She was beside herself, her favourite position...' When they set off for the first at Newbury last Saturday I was in much...
Subversive Approach
Ballett Frankfurt (Sadler's Wells) Throughout the 20th century, great and idolised masters such as Michael Fokine, George Balanchine, Anthony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan have secured ballet's artistic and cultural credibility...
Surprise Pleasures
Exhibitions 2 John Craxton (Pallant House, Chichester, till 17 January) Surprise pleasures Andrew Lambirth John Craxton (b. 1922) is one of the hidden treasures of English art. Although an exact contemporary of Lucian Freud, with whom he once shared...
Tax and Spin in Euroland
IN THE GLORY days of the Eighties, when smart one-liners were the only thing Labour had to keep it sane, Denis Healey used to describe Oskar Lafontaine as 'a cross between Rosa Luxemburg and Radio Luxembourg'. This fact is little known, which always...
That Is the Question
That is the question David Crane SHAKESPEARE: A LIFE by Park Honan OUP, 225, pp. 479 I don't imagine that anyone believes that there is anything to be learned now about Shakespeare's life that could seriously affect the way we read and see his plays....
The Very Model of a Modern Monarch
A SPIRIT UNDAUNTED: THE POLITICAL ROLE OF GEORGE VI by Robert Rhodes James Little, Brown, 22.50, pp. 368 What does it take to be a good King? You must be a figurehead, a wooden man! Do nothing to upset the Prime Minister or the Court or the Archbishop...
Thickets of Three-Dimensional Diagrams
Thickets of three-dimensional diagrams Robert Oakeshott BUTTERFLY ECONOMICS: A NEW GENERAL THEORY OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BEHAVIOUR by Paul Ormerod Faber, 16.99, pp. 217 The technicality and difficulty of [contemporary and conventional economic] theory...
Tony Blair, Gives a New Lease of Life to the Old Jibe, 'Perfide Albion'
Through inexperience, Tony Blair has made a balls-up of the Pinochet case, and his inability to think fast on his feet in this important but not earth-shattering affair gives me an uneasy feeling that, when a real international crisis explodes out of...
We Are the Masters Now
AT A RECENT gathering of British bankers in Piedina, a West Village haunt beloved of the Britpack solely because smoking at table is condoned, a straw poll was conducted. Since moving to New York, which of the men (all aged between 28 and 35 and most...
Whistler's Mother of All Rows
THE PEACOCK ROOM by Linda Merrill Yale, 40, pp. 406 A recent newspaper profile of David Bailey said of him something like this: `Though obviously heterosexual, he has the instincts of a queen.' You could say much the same of James McNeill Whistler. He...
Why Alex Salmond Wants to Lose
DONALD DEWAR is prone to black moods which cast him into a deep, Scottish gloom. When the mists descend over Donald, who it could be said is the best doomladen minister the Church of Scotland never had, he takes on the appearance of an elderly curmudgeon....
You May Be Experiencing Some Interference
PICTURE, if you can, the venerable figure of Sir Robin Day, his Garrick tie flapping in the breeze, solemnly bespectacled, creeping early in the morning around a doorstep in Notting Hill searching for a doorbell, ready to hand in a grovelling note of...
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