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. 8832, 1997

After Fragrance, Sweetness
These wines in our grand Christmas offer come from four continents and six countries, although four of them are still French, Undurraga's sauvignon blanc(1) from Chile is an old favourite. At L3.90 the bottle (reduced from L5.05 list price), it is not...
A Good Whine
Twenty years ago it was a relatively straightforward business to order wine with one's meal in a restaurant. The list would normally begin with house wines and continue with those, first white, then red, listed by geographical origin. Thus, from France,...
Ancient & Modern
AS the wretched Louise Woodward goes off to jail for 15 years for second degree murder of the baby Matthew Eappen, the abysmal Eappen parents seem delighted that `truth and justice' have been served. But what have truth and justice got to do with each...
A Novelist and Her Novelties
While visiting Roman ruins in Tunisia and lying on palm-fringed shores among families of melancholy-looking Germans, I've been re-reading A Family and a Fortune by I. Compton-Burnett. The secret of enjoying the books you take on holiday is to make sure...
A Rising Reputation
CALLAGHAN: A LIFE by Kenneth 0. Morgan OUP, 25, pp. 800 This is Dr Morgan's 25th book. His very industry puts most historians to shame. He has become the laureate of Labour's golden age, which lasted from the party's entry into the 1940 coalition to,...
Asparagus and Butterflies
THE END OF ALICE by A. M. Homes Anchor, L6.99, pp. 252 To review this book at all is to dignify it with more attention than it deserves. It is as though Hilary Alexander were sent to write up the finer points of the Emperor's new wardrobe. This is a...
A Three-Act Farce
Christmas is the cross food writers have to bear. I'm sorry about the religious solecism, but Easter is a piece of cake - usually simnel-cake -compared to Christmas. Editors always decide that this is the edition when food and wine writers should earn...
B Stands for Bear-When Bears Are Seen Approaching in the Distance
New York For addicts of Dallas, it was a traumatic moment when Bobby Ewing was shot dead. They wanted him brought back to life but how would the soap opera's scriptwriters get themselves out of this? Easily: they explained that it was all a bad dream....
Cilla's Pairings
I've reached the age when I'm glad to have nothing to do on a Saturday night. Last weekend I put on the supper (pheasant in a red wine casserole; not so much Two Fat Ladies as one bloke going to seed) and watched Blind Date (ITV) with the offspring....
Dear Mary
Q. I frequently find myself in Thai International's first-class lounge at Bangkok airport awaiting a return flight to Hong Kong. On the past two such occasions I have witnessed the cringe-making sight of a fellow British expatriate doing his best to...
Diary
Hallowe'en is a far bigger deal for kids than Guy Fawkes night these days. Mine have been in a lather of excitement all week, so on All Hallows Eve I found myself trying to stop a posse of witches, ghosts, ghouls, vampires, psychopaths, Freddie Krugers...
Duty Called
Opera North's production of Aida, which I saw on tour in Manchester, is an odd hybrid, possibly reflecting the nature of the opera itself. The sets would serve for any moderately traditional, fairly lavish production of the old war-horse, while the costumes...
Foolproof Cooking
The bright colours and sharp smells of autumn and memories of harvest festivals fill me with enthusiasm for inviting people to dinner. Autumn is a time of wonderful food: plums and heavily scented muscat grapes; ruinously expensive funghi porcini; vacherin,...
Game of Contrasts
Siobhan Davies Dance Company; Compagnie Maguy Marin Queen Elizabeth Hall An interesting feature of this year's Dance Umbrella is the constant, well-calibrated juxtaposition of different dance forms. Whether intentional or not, this game of contrasts...
His Time Has Come
THE REAL MAHLER by Jonathan Carr Constable, L19.95, pp. 254 There is a monumentalist tendency in modern musicology, and nowhere is it more lavishly indulged than in the pursuit of Gustav Mahler. The major Mahler studies in English (Mitchell), French...
Honouring the GLI
THEY have just elected a new President of Ireland. The doyen of Fleet Street, Michael Wharton, writing as Peter Simple in the Daily Telegraph, suggested a little while ago that the true leader of the Irish people, the greatest living Irishman indeed,...
How the War Was Won
CHURCHILL AND SECRET SERVICE by David Stafford John Murray, 225, pp. 400 Balfour famously remarked of Churchill's first long book, `Winston has written an enormous book about himself and called it The World Crisis.' Six volumes entitled The Second World...
How to Curry Favour
Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time was recently adapted for television by Channel Four. Below is his recipe for a curry as adaptable as the novels' character, Kenneth Widmerpool. Mutton, pork or chicken shrimps, prawns or hard-boiled eggs...
I Did It My Way
SOLTI ON SOLTI by Sir Georg Solti Chatto & Windus, 20, pp. 276 Sir George Solti died suddenly at the ripe age of 85, the day before Diana, Princess of Wales's funeral and only hours after completing the proof corrections of these memoirs. One of...
Is It Too Cynical to Wonder Whether Mr Blair Is Pulling a Fast One on His New Friend Mr Murdoch?
Last week I expressed the hope that Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, might give a ruling on the activities of the Sunday Mirror in relation to the ex-Tory MP, Piers Merchant. The paper had covertly taken a video of Mr Merchant...
Letters
A great asset Sir: I was surprised to see Nicholas Soames castigated as an MP (`Who does he think he is?, 1 November) since to those of us sitting on the government benches his chortle and solidly regular presence on the opposition benches constitute...
Local Vision
Remember the drunks, misfits and eccentrics that once were part of almost every office? Like gargoyles they encrusted the newspaper, magazine and various BBC premises of my youth, enthralling characters in my own personal dance to the music of time....
Luxe, Calme et Volupte
EASTERN EXCHANGE by John Haylock Arcadia, L14.99, pp. 229 In my own autobiography, Yesterday Came Suddenly, I wrote of the author of this autobiography that, though there were not all that many people whom I should wish to be other than myself, to be...
May His Bones Rot!
HADRIAN: THE RESTLESS EMPEROR by Anthony R. Birley Routledge, 40, pp.399 The Emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138) is one of the most fascinating figures of antiquity. Endlessly travelling, he can be shown to have visited almost every province of his...
Mind Your Language
THERE has been a great fuss about the name that Guinness and Grand Metropolitan have come up with for their newly merged company: Diageo. Its inventors say it is derived from dia, the Latin for 'a day', and geo, the Greek for 'world'. Never mind that...
Naive Charm
Cub reporters used once to be warned of the terrible fate of the Daily Express which, under the prudish rule of Lord Beaverbrook and to avoid offending readers, had painted out the privates on a photograph of a champion bull. The emasculation of his...
New Labour, New Christmas
Now it is no longer the winter of our discontent, having been made glorious summer by this son of York (or at least County Durham). Our last Labour winter was very different. In 1978, the dead lay unburied, Parliament was on a knife-edge and the IRA...
Only Death Unites
Those who thought that they were to see a short, classic drama by Marivaux, La Dispute, followed by a short, modern play, termed a curtainfaller, written by DidierGeorges Gabily in 1996, were mistaken. Rather, they saw a single production, performed...
Onward Christian Diners!
`CHRISTIAN socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat', or so it says in The Communist Manifesto. In fact, Christian socialism is not holy water at all, but grease oiling some of the wheels...
Outward Bound
THE post-war period in Britain can be seen, in retrospect, as a period of soulsearching and from the independence of India in 1947 to the Hong Kong handover half a century later, a 50-year quest to define a new identity for ourselves in the world in...
Packaging at Its Best
LABELS by Louis de Bernieres One Horse Press, 4.99, pp. 40 Like the authors of Lord of the Flies and The Collector, Louis de Bernieres had to wait until early middle-age to see himself in print. Since then he has published four sizeable novels in as...
Persecuted under Vaclav Havel
NO COUNTRY in the former Eastern bloc gets a better press in the West than the Czech Republic. But we have just been given a glimpse of an unpleasant iron reality which lies behind the velvet curtain. The influx of gypsies (or Romanies, as they should...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Michael Heseltine began to broadcast on the Today programme and on television to argue against the Conservative policy of opposing Britain's joining in on economic and monetary union in Europe. Mr Heseltine likened the pro-EMU group to the Labour...
Prince Boxes On
IT WAS an unlikely location in which to hear what amounts to a royal family `mission statement'. A hotel conference room above a golf course outside Mbabane, Swaziland is not the sort of place one might expect the Prince of Wales to encapsulate his principal...
Puffed Up with Pride
A FRIEND of mine married to a New Zealander from a large family finds his inlaws enervating and has hit back by inventing the New Zealander Joke: `How many New Zealanders does it take to change a light bulb?' Answer, I'm sorry, Jim, I don't really understand...
Remembering Cranko
There are not many places where you will see such exhilarating dancing as I have just watched over a week in Stuttgart. Here, for instance, are two exceptional leading men. Robert Tewsley, English born and trained (but unknown yet to English audiences)...
Sharing Our Inheritance
What a joy it is to open my bedroom shutters in the morning. I fold back darkness to reveal -- heaven? There is something unearthly about the pale gold light of a perfect autumn morning and, while my view is commonplace enough, the beauty of it clutches...
Stick to Your Guns
I may, accidentally, have discovered a way of making money at the races. Leave your wallet at home. Heading for Ascot in a hurry last Saturday, I did precisely that. Fortunately as I walked in through the gates I encountered a fairy godmother (I bet...
Success for the Misfits
Stepping Out (Albery) The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More (Lyric Hammersmith) What I have always most loved about Richard Harris's Stepping Out (now in its first-ever musical version at the Albery) is that it is the perfect British antidote to...
The City to Come
THE BANK of England, the Wren churches and the well-known landmarks are still there, but new office buildings have been going up all the time since 30 years ago, and the business done in them has been utterly transformed. That was when I joined Kleinwort...
The Forgotten Fifth of November
UNTIL well into the 18th century, 5 November was celebrated by Protestants not so much for the foiling of Guy Fawkes's plot in 1605 as for the landing of William of Orange at Brixham in Devon, in 1688. The man who gave us the Glorious Revolution and...
The Game's Afoot
As autumn shifts to winter, robust, substantial fare comes to the fore. In 1893, for instance, a typical pie might have consisted of the following: thin slices of venison arranged in a deep dish and sprinkled with black pepper; two pigeons and one brace...
The Glass Ceiling
Winter drinking is a class issue. There is the whisky fraternity and then there are the rest of you, thrashing about in the alcoholic depths of gluhwein, wassail, Christmas punch and sherry flip. Even as you read this, someone somewhere is planning a...
The Goose Is Getting Fat
My beloved editor insists that I write about a roast goose, as all his friends want a goose for Christmas instead of a turkey this year. Quite right too. It is a better bird, if more expensive, and it has less flesh on it, so it becomes a lovely treat...
The Great Ego Trip
THE SHAMEFUL LIFE OF SALVADOR DALI by Ian Gibson Faber, L30, pp. 764 In his wickedly amusing autobiography My Last Breath, Luis Bunuel remarks that Lorca's real masterpiece was not his poetry or his play, but his life. Lorca would have been dismayed...
The Importance of Exposing Right-Doing in High Places
In the course of a very balanced contribution to a recent Guardian debate about a privacy law, the paper's editor, Alan Rusbridger, opined that `the exposure of corruption in high places is at the very centre of what good journalism is about' - a remark...
The Messina Myth
A whole convoy of transport metaphors are deployed by those who favour closer union with Europe. Britain, they say, cannot afford to be left in the EU's slow lane. We must be on board when the European train pulls out of the station (presumably the Gare...
There Are Hints That Mr Blair May Be Regretting His Timidity
The most important conflict in modern British politics has now begun. The battle for the future of the pound will not only be the principal question at the next general election, it is likely to reshape the current party system. The issues at stake are...
The Stars Have It
Well, I was right about the Clerk's Group winning the Early Music category at the Gramophone Awards, and I think I was right about the system of judging which made this happen. However, in the event not only were the calculations of the early music panel...
The Trial of Charles De Gaulle
Paris THE haunted courtroom is there to stay. Whatever happens to the man in the dock, the ghosts are not ready to disappear. In Bordeaux, Maurice Papon, an official of the Vichy government during the years 1942 to 1944, is charged with crimes against...
Vicarious Travel
As with many things in life, the anticipation of travel can often be more enjoyable than the reality. A particular pleasure used to be to contemplate the destinations carved on to the rusticated pilasters which once graced the fagade of the old London...
When a Hit Record Is Bad News
I had driven up into the mountains, two hours north of Madrid. to meet the reclusive monks in their lOth-century monastery at Silos. They were charming, gentle and still a little unworldly, though expressions such as 'percentages', `top-twenty charts'...
When Is God Going to Apologise for Raining Fire and Brimstone on Sodom?
On Friday my just-three grandson, Leo, rampaging through our computer room, which doubles as a nursery for toddlers, broke a plaster figure of Stan Laurel. 'Velly solly glanddad,' he said in his interesting Chinese accent. He has only just learned to...
Who Lingers Longest?
A friend of mine - I shall call him Guy Fawkes, after the only man who ever entered Parliament with sincere convictions - claims that he spent three whole days and nights with his mistress while his wife believed him to be with the Promise Keepers. My...
Who's Who?
Face/Off (18, selected cinemas) Smilla's Feeling for Snow (15, selected cinemas) Fools Rush In (12, selected cinemas) John Woo's Face/Off is a high-concept film, as in `hi, concept; good-bye, everything else'. John Travolta is an FBI agent, Nicolas Cage...
Why the Famous Do Not Receive More Recognition
When the other day I asked someone what they were doing at the moment, as one does, he replied that he was writing a book about `the celebrity culture'. It will be interesting to see how the book defines a celebrity. It does seem that ours is an age...
Would You like to Swing on a Star?
GRAVITY by Erica Wagner Granta, 9.99, pp. 231 At first glance Gravity, Erica Wagner's first collection of stories, exhibits a somewhat dizzying variety of subject and setting - Ancient Egypt, Thailand, the East Anglian fens, New York's Upper East Side,...
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