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. 8777, 1996

30 Point Pack
When North was asked why he had made such a rampant overbid on this week's deal, he replied that he was playing with a `thirty point pack'. Normally a game contract requires 25 out of the 40 points in the pack. However, if your partnership has no losers...
A 3D Triumph for the Future
Edward Lucie-Smith found paranoia as well as enthusiasm at a conference on holography Holography is a pariah art form perhaps, indeed, the only remaining pariah art form. Mention holograms to your average curator of avant-garde exhibitions, or even your...
A Bridge Too Far
Living Bridges has got people talking, but not, perhaps, in the way it was meant to. The exhibition is magnificent, the catalogue instructive, but the proposal to build one of the invited designs for an `inhabited bridge' across the Thames between Waterloo...
Aidez Moi!
I DON'T know about Charles Powell's demons and George Urban's obsessions, but it was certainly awesome to stand near a diamond-eyed Mrs Thatcher in her heyday, in full flow about the menace of Germany. At one of the parties in Downing Street to which...
Ancient & Modern
COLLEGES and quadrangles, disturbed during the summer only by the shriek of garden machinery carefully designed to make thinking and writing impossible, now thud to the cretinous beat of rock music. The students have returned, in even greater numbers...
Appalling Manners
Not since Michael Frayn's Noises Off (and that must be more than a decade ago) has there been a funnier backstage idea for a play than Peter Nichols's Blue Murder, currently on a national tour but amazingly still without a West End home in prospect....
Bad Timing
Being a Not motoring correspondent can be a dispiriting task when - as is so often the case - those who ought to be allies turn out to be the worst enemies of public transport. There is a strong case to be made for railways, but then those in the industry...
Chips from a German Workshop
Theodor Mommsen (1817-1902) is the man whom most professional ancient historians would name as the single greatest contributor to our knowledge of ancient Rome. His daemonic energy and indomitable power of work enabled him to achieve an output which...
Comedy of Errors
Tricky Dickie' Nixon, to me the most fascinating and complex President of the United States this century, was the subject of a riveting and surprisingly sympathetic play on Radio Four this week, American Faith: Richard Milhous Nixon's Road to Watergate...
Crying out for Followership
NOT FOR the first time have Sir Edward Heath and other Europhiles been trying to make use of Churchill's famous Zurich speech of September 1946, in which he called for a United States of Europe. Scholars such as Andrew Roberts who have examined it favour...
Dear Mary
Q. A friend of ours, who has lived in this area far longer than we have, has set us a problem. We have managed to acquire an area of land on which there are some good blackberries. Last year, when they were plentiful, we were walking our gun dogs when...
Diary
I have been in New York for two weeks for the opening of Skylight. It's been the full Broadway experience, at once tense, highly charged and, at the last, exhilarating. The English like to sneer at Americans, saying that they worship success and that...
Fat Is Funny
Call it Eddie Murphy's law: just when it's assumed that everything you do is bound to bellyflop, you manage to get something right. Eddie Murphy, widely written off in Hollywood as a clapped-out Eighties no-hoper with a one-way ticket on the oblivion...
Feeling out of Sight
If bookshops and libraries arranged their novels in alphabetical order according to subject instead of author, the 'A' section would need several shelves for fiction about Aids. Not only fiction: the illness has developed its own literature, including...
From Gourmand to Gourmet
What's going on here? A former Chancellor, a noted trencherman and father of a noted trencherman, loses five stone and writes a diet book. I feared that perhaps he had fallen out of love with food. Some four years ago I wanted to persuade Nigel Lawson...
God Was on His Side
JUST THINK of it, if I had bet L1, just a single, measly quid. Yes, Frankie's going well, so why not? Had I done so, I would now be jangling not L1 but L25,095 in my pocket. A heady thought, but then gambling is all about heady thoughts. Frankie Dettori...
Hammer Horror
'Armand Hammer is a billionaire, an art collector, a friend of Prince Charles, an intimate of Gorbachev, and the greatest social-climber, name-dropper, liar and crook in the world.' This prescient paragraph appeared in `High life' ten years ago, with...
Her Talent Was for Love
EMILY TENNYSON: THE POET'S WIFE by Ann Thwaite Faber, 25, pp. 716 After a week spent at Farringford on the Isle of Wight in June 1859, which had given him an opportunity to observe the Tennysons at home, Edward Lear wrote to his friend Chichester Fortescue:...
Heywood Hill's at 60
Heywood Hill's bookshop is 60 years old this month. Heywood Hill, who founded it and gave it its dash, is 10 years dead; Nancy Mitford, whose wartime stewardship gave it a larky glamour, has been in her grave at Swinbrook these 23 years. The shop has...
Imperative Cooking: The Ring Cycle
HOW MANY steamers can you pile on one gas ring? Before Mrs Anderson was Mrs Anderson she lived in hall at university. Her room, unlike mine, had a gas ring. It was, shall we say, an added attraction. For two years six-course dinners were cooked on one...
In the Shadow of the Cinema
THE BEACH by Alex Garland Viking 10.99, pp. 439 The Beach is a young man's novel. It is dominated by the character of the narrator, a young man (inseparable from the author) in search of solitude and danger in order to prove his manhood and understand...
Job Lot
There comes a moment in every gardener's life when it seems right to buy a specialist gardening magazine. No longer do the newspapers and broad-based country magazines quite satisfy you thirst for hard facts. You have learnt the horticultural lingo,...
Learning the Future Past
Only a few years ago, the man publicly hanging from a gantry in Kabul last week ruled his country as the client of a 'superpower'. That superpower, the Soviet Union, was powerless to save him because it no longer exists. All that Mr Gorbachev, its last...
Lessons in Civility from a Great Gentleman Who Put the Public First
History sometimes appears as a record of unrelieved human depravity. But it is also lit by flashes of unusual devotion to duty which make one feel ashamed of one's own shortcomings. Recently I have become increasingly uneasy about my failure to deal...
Let Him Be the Tony I Knew
TO DROP a name, I first met Tony Blair 23 years ago when he shared a house at Oxford with some friends of mine. He had very long hair and used to complain that Mr Wilson and his team were too far to the Right. When he came down from Oxford, he astonished...
Letters
A duty to be true Sir: Charles Powell's acid review (Books, 28 September) saddens me. On the very first page of my book I point to the deformation professionnelle inherent in the work of every diarist, and I invite correction. But Sir Charles Powell...
Loved and Now Brought to Life
HUGH GAITSKELL by Brian Brivati Richard Cohen Books,L 25, pp. 492 Of politicians since the war, five have been loved: Aneurin Bevan, Anthony Crosland, Michael Foot, Hugh Gaitskell and Iain Macleod. I have been lucky enough to know two, Crosland and Macleod,...
Lower Your Eyes
Das Rheingold; Die Walkure (Covent Garden) It would take a nicer capacity for discrimination than I possess to decide whether Bayreuth or Covent Garden has a more utterly vacuous production of the Ring, though, as far as musical standards are concerned,...
Low Taxes, Cry the High Spenders
ONE question always elicits an ambivalent response from Mr Blair's courtiers. They are not good at answering it and when they try to do so, their normally confident exposition drains away into incomplete sentences, pauses and circular hand signals. But...
Mind Your Language
YOUR suggestions as to the origin of the term spend a penny have poured in, but I cannot say that all of you have really been concentrating. The problem I set was a reference to the act taken from an 18thcentury letter; yet more than one reader has suggested...
Models of Design and Performance
Short stories take up almost as much space in William Trevor's lone list of titles as do novels -After Rain is his eighth collection. He is indeed blessed in this facility with both fictional forms. It is hard to write a good novel, but to serve up even...
My Sexually Turbulent Priest
I FIRST encountered the species in Africa soon after I became a Catholic in the mid1950s, and their stalking habits became increasingly familiar to me as I watched them move in on their prey. They were not confined to one specific habitat, anywhere would...
Not Seen to Be Done
While the rest of the world's press sat hypnotised by the 0. J. Simpson trial, at which Californian lawyers demonstrated their readiness to tell any number of lies in order to get their client off, John Cornwell was attending another trial in Louisville,...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said on television of his Budget in the autumn, `The public will be deeply suspicious of any tax cuts because they remember we promised tax cuts last time and unfortunately weren't able to deliver them.'...
Say We've Lost the Money, and Go Home-The World's Debtors Deserve Better
The war in Vietnam was going badly wrong. What, asked the President, should be the strategy now? A hand shot up: `Say we've won, and go home.' This advice has now been taken by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and their richer members...
So Bad He's Unwatchable
I once wrote an incredibly pompous defence of the rude comic Hz, in which I argued that the character of Farmer Palmer was the most incisive piece of agricultural satire since H.L. Mencken. Contrary to received wisdom, I still think Hz is as funny as...
That's Entertainment
While I was standing in the middle of the Natural History Museum's entrance hall waiting for the beginning of Genesis Canyon, the opening performance of the l9th Dance Umbrella Festival, I began to wonder how many events I had attended in unorthodox...
The Confidence Factor
Frankie Dettori not only puts the joie into joie de vivre, he helps us all take a little out of the bookies' satchels. One tortured soul on the rails at Ascot last Saturday was going `nine to four Dettori's mount and nine to four me for the Labour exchange'....
The Dark at the End of the Tunnel
ARABS and Israelis will make peace one day, though nobody can be sure how or when. Even when they do, though, Jerusalem will retain its potential to divide. What to Jews is the site of the ancient Temple Mount, with its surviving Western Wall, to Muslims...
The Guardian Comes Well out of the Case, but Its Ally, Mr Al Fayed, Does Not
Many people may find themselves disinclined to take the Guardian's side in the paper's bitter dispute with the Tory MP and former minister, Neil Hamilton. We tend in life to judge a story by the presumed motives of whoever lies behind it. In this case,...
Their Man in Singapore
ALL THAT GLITTERS: THE FALL OF BARINGS by John Gapper and Nicholas Denton Hamish Hamilton, L20, pp. 384 Here's a funny thing. Last February Stephen Fay produced a full and vivid account of the events that had led up to the collapse of Barings 12 months...
The Politeness of Things
YOU WOULDN'T think that Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modem Manners by John Morgan (Headline, L20) would be the kind of tome to raise the blood pressure, but it caused considerable controversy even before its official launch. Why, it has been...
The Power of the Tory Conference
TEN YEARS ago, I wrote a book which tried to rescue Tory conferences (this year's takes place in Bournemouth next week) - long regarded as sterile, sycophantic affairs, infinitely less important than the annual conference of the Labour Party. My argument...
The Stress of Reporting the Lib-Dems Drove Me to Shoot Dead the Blonde with Big Breasts
Anyone who has endured, as I have, the cruel and unusual punishment of enforced attendance at every major political party's conference for each of the last ten years, has learned the myriad excuses a columnist can find for not attending the actual debate....
Thinking of England
What happened in May 1857 was more than a mutiny but a lot less than a war of independence. It is as well that Jane Robinson has chosen largely to steer clear of this debate, however, for to have talked only of 'rebellion', or whatever, would have been...
Toujours la Politesse
Alec Guinness tells us that he has kept a sort ot diary or over 3U years, and has instructed his heirs to destroy it. But this one he has kept for only 18 months, ending in June this year, leaving us breathless for more. He intended it for publication....
Vanity Affair
I am not surprised that a covert study conducted by the Martini drinks company found that men are the vainer sex. Twice as many men as women were caught admiring themselves in front of the mirrored posters they placed in cities up and down the country....
What a Load of Winkers!
Blackpool It had to happen. The only wonder is that it took so long. Three young men approached in the hoarse maw of a Blackpool soiree. They had that visionary, slightly deranged look that will be familiar to anyone who ever experienced university branches...
Who Are All These Awful People?
THE CAFE de Paris has been brought to life again. This news stirred memories. My mother, in her debutante years and after, was a regular visitor. She sang songs from those days, and in particular I remember her breaking into, `Blue moon, you saw me standing...
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