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. 283, No. 8938, 1999

A Brace of Bounders
Like Christmas it comes round once a year. Or, as some wag said, like Halloween. I refer, of course, to my late father's diaries. Those diaries. That book. Once again Macmillan had declined to show either my mother or me a copy of the second volume which,...
A Choice of Humorous Books
No, how do you do - I didn't quite catch your name? Oh, The Esquire Handbook for Hosts - a pleasure to make your acquaintance, so charmed... I really oughtn't... oh, naughty, perhaps just the one... Here's a book (Thorsens/HarperCollins, L (English pound)12.99,...
A Choice of Recent Gardening Books
For the gardener who has everything monographs never come amiss. Like all the best presents, they flatter. Giving someone a monograph implies that only the last word in scholarly research could satisfy such an exacting person. This year there are plenty...
A Nation of Shopkeepers Falls on Hard Times-There's Poverty in the Midst of Plenty
The first Ho-ho-ho of the season can only be around the corner of the High Street. Cotton-wool beards are being glued into place, robes adjusted and breath tested. Already a corps d'elite of sub-editors are polishing up their traditional headlines, JINGLE...
Ancient & Modern
IF the curse over Northern Ireland is finally to end, breaking the long cycle of bloody vendetta in which the IRA and Unionists have been engaged, both sides had better read Aeschylus' great trilogy Oresteia (458 BC), in which the avenging Furies can...
An Orchard You Can Take on Your Lap
NIGHT AND HORSES AND THE DESERT by Robert Irwin Penguin, 25, pp. 462 This is called `an anthology-' of classical Arabic literature, but I don't quite know why. It's much more like a very witty and readable history of it, with copious examples of each...
A Shortage of Turkish Delight
Among the worst aspects of modern warfare is the difficulty for non-combatants of escaping it. As we have witnessed in Kosovo, East Timor or Chechnya, the innocent civilian is either an immobilised victim, to be shot, imprisoned or at least kept under...
Awake to the World
Exhibitions 1 Sir Edward Borne-Jones: The Legend of the Briar Rose (Agnew's, 43 Old Bond Street, London Wl, till 17 December) Awake to the world John Spurling The Legend of the Briar Rose' was first shown at Agnew's in 1890 and Old Bond Street was congested...
A Woman's Life-History Is Written in Her Handbag Grunge
An investigation into the contents of women's handbags reveals that some contain as many as 44 items. That does not surprise me. I divide women into two types. The first has a lot of handbags, empties them often, selects the one she plans to use, cleans...
Call to Adventure
Call to adventure Patrick Skene Catling LITTLE TIM AND THE BRAVE SEA CAPTAIN and TIM AND LUCY GO TO SEA by Edward Ardizzone Scholastic Press, L (English pound)9.99 each Now that children's most daring adventures are vicarious ones, enacted on video screens,...
Cambridge Diversions
Kettle's Yard, Cambridge: my memories of this miniature cultural mecca go back to distant student days when most undergraduates (a male majority; co-educational colleges were yet a gleam in the future's eye) went short-back-and-sides and clad themselves...
Cherie Blair Ate My Words
PERHAPS every profession sees its own reflection in the world beyond. Does the salesman approach each new door in trepidation, terrified lest a total stranger start trying to sell him something he doesn't want? The parodist is peculiarly prone to see...
Christmas Books II
David Hughes I look every year for boois that say it all. For me in 1999 all that ever needs to be said about the English trying to settle in France, the unsettling nature of the French, the nature of culture clash, lurks with sly hilarity in Posy Simmonds's...
Cry Me a River
GOD save us from our sons. If they are like the BBC broadcaster Fergal Keane, they write and broadcast about you when you are dead and cannot reply. You might emerge, as did his father, as a drunken, feckless fantasist, a stage Irishman from Kerry; a...
Dangerous Mix
Jack Straw's recent statement on hunting was just a puff of wind in the doldrums in which hunting people find themselves. Some find it so difficult to enjoy their sport in the current climate that they have begun to drift away from it. But, at home,...
Dealers' Dilemma
What do you do if five days before the sale of your property at auction, a third party steps forward and offers you double the auction estimate? Discreet withdrawal is impossible: the property has been widely publicised, given its own hardback catalogue...
Dear Mary
Q. When we bought our house last year it was conditional upon the usual South African voetstoots disclaimer - that is, subject to all defects, visible or not. True, we had seen it only on sunny days and the paintwork was suspiciously immaculate for a...
Diary
Moscow Luba Vinogradova, my wonderfully irreverent translator, was waiting at Sheremetevo airport to collect me in her four-wheel-drive Lada. Her driving has improved dramatically. The main risk, she told me, was that we might be stopped by the police...
Dickens's Responsibility for the Disappearance of Mighty Conceptions and the Rise of Gerrards Cross
The utopian dimension, at any rate for the foreseeable future, has been taken out of politics all over the world, except where religious fundamentalism reigns. And, probably, it has been taken out more thoroughly here in Britain than anywhere else, if...
Early to, Bed, Early to Rise.?
THE POWERS BEHIND THE PRIME MINISTER by Dennis Kavanagh and Anthony Seldon HarperCollins, L (English pound)19.99, pp. 388 After the fashion of the day, this book about the changing political structure of Downing Street has a come-hither subtitle: `the...
Great Outsider
Exhibitions 2 Honore Daumier (Grand Palais, Paris, till 3 January) The Honore Daumier prints currently on show in the Grand Palais as part of the first Paris retrospective of his work since 1934 are small, and, for reasons of conservation, dimly lit....
Handel Addiction
Opera Rinaldo (Barbican) Handel addiction Michael Tanner The strange phenomenon of Rinaldo fever has swept London during the last few months, with no fewer than four productions since August. At the Bloomsbury Theatre one could see it in both the 1711...
How Apartheid Saved Africa
Johannesburg IT SEEMS to be a season for apologies, or at any rate demands for apologies. The 100th anniversary of the start of the Boer War, the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Durban, and the macabre eulogies on the death of Julius Nyerere,...
How to Fail as a Father
MY advice to Tony is: act your age. I know I didn't. When in my middle years I found that I was to become a father again, I thought I was the dog's bollocks. Like the Prime Minister, I already had three strapping children - the oldest pushing 16 and...
I Cannot Prove It, or Tell You Why, but John Prescott Is to Be Killed
I urning points are just that: locations rather than landmarks. A stone bv the roadside, a shrub, a twisted tree may be unmemorable in themselves yet memorable for being the points upon which a journey turned. For John Prescott, I am afraid, it was that...
In the Court of Mohamed
THOUGH no lawyer, I assume that all precedents and points of law touching upon Hamilton v. Al Fayed are to be found in Jarndyce v. Jarndyce or, better still, Beachcomber's lengthy Case of the Twelve Red-Bearded Dwarfs. Beachcomber, for the benefit of...
It May Be Repugnant, but the Unionists Are Not Going to Get a Better Deal
The Unionists of Ulster have every reason to be suspicious of the deal which they are being offered by David Trimble and the government. They themselves had a clear understanding of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, based on handwritten pledges from Tony...
Letters
De haut en bas From The Rt Hon. the Viscount Cranborne Sir: I always read your magazine's conspiracy theories about the House of Lords with huge amusement. Even by the low standards of Grub Street they are a miracle of inaccuracy. As a general rule it...
Maybe It's Time for Plan 'B'
DEAR, oh dear. The heart goes out to that libel jury. There they are, called on to adjudicate in the matter of Hamilton v. Fayed, and the question of whether you can believe the word of a top Tory or an Egyptian grocer, when - pow - Jeffrey Archer is...
Millennial Bond
The World Is Not Enough (12, selected cinemas) Onegin (12, selected cinemas) Thank heavens Peter Mandelson got his role as special agent to Northern Ireland. He would have found it unbearable to watch from the back benches as his beloved Millennium Dome...
Mind Your Language
I DO not know whether it is something to do with my maternal instincts, but I find the growing of vegetables far more satisfying than making a flower garden. Yet I assume it is men who are responsible for the wildly false etymologies that vegetables...
Natural Justice
Theatre 2 Macbeth (Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon) Natural justice Is there a better theatre than the Swan for projecting the actors into the auditorium and for giving you the feeling you've been allotted your own part in the play? One of my more...
Parliamentarian of the Year: The Winners
THE 16th annual Highland Park/Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year awards, sponsored by Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky and The Spectator, were presented by Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary, the guest of honour at the awards presentation luncheon...
Politics of Change
Not everyone agrees with me about this but one of the glories of the Westminster Parliament is Prime Minister's Questions. I love it, either on radio or television. There is drama in the sight and sound of a prime minister being put on the spot; often...
Porridge and Macaroni
MR BLUE by Edward Bunker No Exit Press, L16.99, pp. 408 Like many a man in his late sixties, the American Edward Bunker looks back to the good old days: Today, a young criminal's crime skills are limited to shooting somebody and dealing crack. Back in...
Portrait of a Lady
You do not need to be versed in Italian Renaissance studies to fall in love with Leonardo da Vinci's `Lady with an Ermine'. Isabella Czartoryska, its second Polish owner, prized it even while failing to recognise the identity of the animal. `If it's...
Portrait of the Week
Lord Archer withdrew as the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London and had the whip withdrawn from him, after admitting he had persuaded a friend, Mr Ted Francis, to lie for him during his libel suit against the Daily Star in 1987 by saying they...
Pupil Power
Theatre 1 Collected Stories (Theatre Royal, Haymarket) The Chiltern Hundreds (Vaudeville) We have been here before and often: Donald Margulies's Collected Stories at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket is a curious mix of All About Eve and Oleanna. To a Greenwich...
Safe to Love Him
A FLYER flies through the door. It comes from the BBC: they have got Muhammad Ali for their Sports Personality of the Century programme. They are madly soliciting votes for this award, but presumably Ali will be the winner. Who else is there? The William...
Singing in the Rain
Singing in the rain Nicholas Harman THE FALLING ANGELS by John Walsh HarperCollins, L (English pound)16 99, pp. 282 We grow used to being fondly patronised, here in the west of Ireland. Our people - and that means me too - go off to make a living in...
Some Consolation
I ought to have known that it was not going to be my day when, halfway through the morning shower, my wife informed me (well, she did put it a touch more dramatically than that) that water was coming through the sitting-room ceiling below. We have never...
Soup for All Seasons
Until his death four years ago, a slightly eccentric schoolmaster called Gordon Partington used to run a Sorrel Society, to encourage the distribution of sorrel leaves and plants and bring the joys of cooking with sorrel to the notice of the people of...
St M and the Ivy
IT can't have escaped many people's attention that many of London's newer 'dining experiences' are little but nightclubs masquerading as restaurants; post-modern gin-- palaces that also attempt to sell food. The Metropolitan Hotel in Park Lane, which...
Thatcher Conquers Germany
THE Vodafone bid for Mannesmann, and the German reaction, have given the British Eurosceptic press a field day. Here is a hugely successful British company, symbol of Cool Britannia, pitting itself against a backward-looking German establishment. Look...
The Fate of the Flightless
The fate of the flightless Norman Lamont THE GREAT AUK by Errol Fuller Cheques payable to `Errol Fuller, 65 Springfield Road, Southborough, Kent, L385, pp. 448, also available in a reduced edition of 45 the morning of 3 June 1844, in a choppy sea, in...
The Feeling above the Line
The feeling above the line William Keen ACTING UP by David Hare Faber, L9.99, pp. 276 David Hare was invited by the Royal Court Theatre to write one part of a trilogy of plays about Israel and Palestine. In November 1997, he visited the area. The resulting...
There's More to Lord Archer Than You Will Read in the Evening Standard
What did you do in the Archer years, Daddy? I hope I can give an acceptable account of myself. On one occasion, in 1990, I think, I was refused entry to Jeffrey Archer's party at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool during the Tory party conference. Quite...
They're No Angels
WHEN my 85-year-old cousin went into hospital for the last time, she was so ill with heart failure that she was put in a side room. It had no blind or curtain so that the sun blazed in on her all day. No nurse came to see her. She had to get out of bed...
Too Much Hutch
Too much Hutch Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy HUTCH by Charlotte Breese Bloomsbury, L25, pp. 364 Prominent among the four pages of acknowledgments (plus a further six at the end) in Hutch is the name Hugh Bredin. Is this the charming, gifted copywriter I knew...
Traditional Lovers
Romeo and Juliet (Sadler's Wells) Giannandrea Poesio There is little doubt that Michael Corder is one of the few present-day representatives of what was once internationally known in the not so distant past as British ballet choreography. Not unlike...
Unite against the Centre
IT seems unlikely that there were many Spectator readers among the 5,000 howling far-left protesters who joined Bill Clinton and Tony Blair for the Third Way summit in Florence over the weekend. Which is a pity, really. This Third Way is a threat against...
What a Ball
New York Here's one that will take your mind off such unpleasant subjects as opportune pregnancies, low-life Egyptians making outrageous allegations against anyone and everyone, even poor old Jeffrey Archer: what do Woody Allen, Prince and Princess Pavlos...
What Is Foreign Money?
In the aftermath of the Archer degringolade, there is a renewed controversy over foreign donations to British political parties, and in particular over the affairs of Mr Michael Ashcroft, the treasurer of the Conservative party. There is also a clear...
What's the Problem?
BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON by Helen Fielding Picador, L12.99, pp. 421 Any man reading Helen Fielding's new book will laugh but end up feeling wretched. Why are we so awful? Or, as Bridget Jones puts it, such 'fuckwits'? Bridge is thirtysomething,...
What's Wrong with Mock-Tudor?
JOHN PRESCOTT must wish he could hitch a lift in a time-machine back to the 1940s. The moment he stepped out from his Whitehall office to announce that 1.1 million more new homes were going to be built in the South-east over the next 17 years, he would...
Winners and Losers
Warriors (BBC 1, Saturday and Sunday) was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant TV dramas this year and possibly one of the best of the decade, but I'm not sure that I ought to review it. What bothers me, you see, is that every time someone tries pointing...
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