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 October 4

'Abducting a General', by Patrick Leigh Fermor - Review
Abducting a General Patrick Leigh FermorJohn Murray, pp.200, £20, ISBN: 9781444796582Kidnap in Crete Rick StroudBloomsbury, pp.255, £16.99,, ISBN: 9781408851753 Recent years have seen the slim but splendid Patrick Leigh Fermor oeuvre swell considerably....
Airstrike Notebook
Turkey, SyriaIt is the early hours of the day that Parliament votes on whether to bomb the so-called 'Islamic State' -- and we are sitting cross-legged on the floor of a Kurdish smuggler's house. He has a picture of Mecca on his wall, a gold watch on...
Arts Feature: The Wonder of Nasa's Photography
When people ask why I'm obsessed with the Apollo moon missions, I always want to reply using the same phrase: 'Because they were out of this world.' I never do, because it happens to sound like a very bad joke. But it's the truth. For the first time...
'Churchill's Rebels: Esmond Romilly and Jessica Mitford', by Meredith Whitford - Review
Churchill's Rebels: Esmond Romilly and Jessica Mitford Meredith WhitfordUmbria Press, pp.320, £12.95, ISBN: 9781910074015 Even ardent Mitfordians must quake at the sight of yet another biography of the sisterhood. There have been more forests felled...
Cinema: Gone Girl
Gone Girl18, NationwideGone Girl is David Fincher's adaptation of the bestselling thriller by Gillian Flynn, a relentless page-turner which I've heard people say they read 'even though it's not that good' -- you were hooked; get over it; don't be snotty...
Clive James Interview: A Long Goodbye
Clive James on poetry, civilisation and the critical benefits of facing leukaemia Clive James has published a new poem days before we meet. It opens, 'Your death, near now, is of an easy sort'. It is about a Japanese maple his daughter has planted...
Dance: Manon; Juliet & Romeo
ManonRoyal Ballet, in rep until 1 NovemberJuliet & RomeoSadler's Wells What can the Royal Opera House be insinuating about its target audience? No sooner had Anna Nicole closed than Manon opened the new ballet season. Kenneth MacMillan's gold-digger...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. What is the etiquette on tipping in London houses? I have been in the habit of staying with friends who don't have cleaners and live fairly dishevelled lives so the question hasn't come up before. But the other night my husband and I stayed for...
Diary: Jeremy Vine
Last Tuesday I tried to sign up to a new life. My wife and I argued, slightly. 'I don't think this will work!' she laughs, and I reply feebly: 'But babe, it's the future.' (My use of the word 'babe' is like a label on the conversation -- WARNING:...
Exhibitions: Constable: The Making of a Master; C.R.W. Nevinson: A Printmaker in War & Peace
Constable: The Making of a MasterV&A, until 11 January 2015C.R.W. Nevinson: A Printmaker in War & PeaceOsborne Samuel, 23a Bruton Street, W1, until 18 October The V&A has an unparalleled collection of hundreds of works by John Constable...
Faith, Sin and Divorce
I'm one of those despised Catholics who actually believes the basics. And that's why I don't take Communion I am a divorced and remarried Catholic. I attend Mass every week. When my children want me to take them up to Holy Communion, I walk along...
Food: Tanya Gold
The Disney Café is a gaudy hell on the fourth floor of Harrods, Knightsbridge. It is adjacent to the Harrods Disney Store, and also the Harrods Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, in which females between the ages of three and 12 can, for fees ranging from...
Gig Review: The Fall
The FallElectric Brixton I had a fair idea of what I was in for when I went to see The Fall at Brixton's Electric last Friday. They're a middle-aged band from Manchester, just like the Stone Roses, or the various incarnations of New Order. In journalese,...
High Life: Taki
This is about life up high. Two weeks ago The Spectator had that rapscallion and mischief-maker Peter McKay writing about how great it is to pilot a plane. (He's taking lessons and has flown solo.) I've always been told that riding a motorcycle and...
Hong Kong vs China
Hong Kong's protests reflect not just tension with the mainland, but a great Chinese tradition. That's what really scares BeijingBeijingThere's a nondescript building tucked away near my house, about the size of a college dormitory. Sometimes I wave...
Hugo Rifkind: Why My Friends Love the Idea of a Nasty, Stupid Mansion Tax
I see all the flaws with a mansion tax, I really do. And yet some little piece of me, some tribal chip within my soul, rejoices at the thought of one. So do not expect the sympathy of the young, you owners of 'perfectly normal houses', now classed,...
James Forsyth: Why Are the Tories So Happy?
Two things have been puzzling Tory high-ups in Birmingham this week: does Nigel Farage have another defector in his back pocket, and why is the Tory party in such a good mood? Many expected that a second MP defecting to Ukip would have plunged the...
Leading Article: Hate Preachers and Hateful Laws
If the Labour party conference in Manchester felt like a funeral, the Conservatives' gathering in Birmingham had the air of a wedding. It had jazz bands, champagne bars and a near-universal mood of celebration -- which is odd, given that every opinion...
Letters
Degrees of abilitySir: Nick Cohen has written an amusing piece on PPE ('Crash course', 27 September), marred by lazy journalism. I never said that Cameron was 'my ablest pupil', an impossible judgment to make. What I said was that he was 'one of my ablest...
'Lila', by Marilynne Robinson - Review
Lila Marilynne RobinsonVirago, pp.272, £16.99, ISBN: 9781844088805 If there were a harvest festival to honour the bounty of the autumnal book crop, the choir would be in especially good voice this year. There is much cause for rejoicing, with work...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
It's unusual for somebody promoting his own television programme to tell you not to watch it, but that's what Evan Davis has been doing. At least, he has asked us not to watch Newsnight during his first week as its chief presenter -- the week that...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I like the New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield, who according to Virginia Woolf smelt like a civet cat and had a hard, cheap face, and who was the only contemporary writer of whom she was remotely jealous. I like her writing and I like what I...
Martin Vander Weyer: Osborne's Hidden Gift to Ukip
George Osborne's promise to crack down on multinational companies' avoidance of UK taxes by the use of impenetrable devices such as the 'Double Irish' and the 'Dutch Sandwich' certainly has the support of this column. I have long argued that the...
Matthew Parris: A Third Way to War
Jesse Norman was permitted three minutes for his speech to the Commons in last Friday's debate. But the contribution from the Conservative MP for Hereford & South Herefordshire was one of the more important backbench interventions -- and no less...
Mind Your Language: Mark Reckless
When I first heard 'Wonderwall' being played in a public house, in 1995 I suppose, I thought it was some unreleased Beatles record that had been just been discovered. The song appeared on an album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, which has on...
Music: Damian Thompson on Schubert
Just how much fun is it listening to all 650 of Schubert's songs, asks Damian Thompson On 10 October, the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford will host the first concert in 'the biggest ever celebration of the life and work of Franz Schubert'. Over three...
Music: Peter Phillips
The death of Christopher Hogwood has deprived the world of the most successful exponent of early music there has ever been, or is ever likely to be. It has also reduced by one the quartet of conductors who have been called 'the Class of '73', a term...
'My Grandfather's Gallery', by Anne Sinclair - Review
My Grandfather's Gallery Anne SinclairProfile Books, pp.224, £15.99, ISBN: 9780374251628 When she was four, Anne Sinclair had her portrait painted by Marie Laurencin. It is a charming picture, a little dark-brown-haired girl with a white bow, very...
My Stepson the Islamist
Reckoning with my stepson's turn to radical Islam Two years ago this week, my stepson came home wearing an Arabic black thawb. He walked into the sitting-room, smiled defiantly at me and at his father, and asked us how he looked. We were a little...
'Napoleon the Great', by Andrew Roberts - Review
Napoleon's exploits may have captured the world's imagination, but the great European drama, played out over 20 years, was ultimately tawdry and pointless, says David CraneNapoleon the Great Andrew RobertsAllen Lane, pp.940, £30, ISBN: 9781846140273 Forty-odd...
'Nora Webster', by Colm Tóibín - Review
Nora Webster Colm TóibínViking, pp.311, £18.99, ISBN: 9780670918140 In Colm Tóibín's much-loved 2009 novel Brooklyn , Eilis Lacy, somewhat to her own surprise, leaves 1950s Enniscorthy (Tóibín's own home town in County Wexford where several of his...
Opera: Rigoletto; Xerxes
RigolettoRoyal Opera, in rep until 6 OctoberXerxesEnglish National Opera One of the greatest tests of how an opera house is functioning is the quality of its revivals. Both the Royal Opera and the English National Opera score highly in that respect....
'Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave', by Kika Markham - Review
Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave Kika MarkhamOberon Books, pp.208, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408851753 In a varied career, the actress Kika Markham has regularly played real-life charcters, including, on television, Mrs Thatcher -- piquant casting...
Portrait of the Week
HomeThe Commons, having been specially recalled, passed, by 524 votes to 43, a motion supporting 'the use of UK air strikes to support Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces' efforts against Isil in Iraq'. Only after four days did RAF Tornados from...
Qatar: Whose Side Are They On?
Qatari money has flooded into London - but also into much less savoury places On 17 June, a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society, held in the House of Commons, discussed (according to the minutes published on the society's website) how a tribal elder...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
A letter arrives from the lawyers handling my defence in the phantom whiplash injury claim. It is now coming up to three years since a singularly rough-hewn couple alleged I had incapacitated them by shunting my little convertible in a slow moving...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Well, that was a lot of fuss wasn't it? The Ryder Cup is a strange old creation, only fractionally less momentous than D-Day, judging by some of the hoo-hah, but it can turn even Nigel Farage into a proud European. The Little Englander agreed, very...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I initially thought Nigel Farage had made a mistake in unveiling Mark Reckless on the final day of his party conference. Wouldn't it have been more disruptive to announce the news during the Conservative party conference?But after spending the first...
'Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts', by Jonathan Powell - Review
Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts Jonathan PowellThe Bodley Head, pp.407, £20, ISBN: 9781847922298 Jonathan Powell is best known as Tony Blair's fixer. He was intimately involved with the Northern Ireland peace process, about which...
Television: James Delingpole
So you've just popped down to the supermarket for the weekly shop, toddlers in tow, when the grenades start to fly, the air lights up with tracer bullets and you realise to your horror that unless you find a suitable hiding place in a matter of seconds...
The Age of Selfie Obsession
People can't seem to stop taking pictures of themselves - and their private parts. It's the ultimate expression of our increasingly puerile and narcissistic society So it now seems pretty clear to me that we can no longer send women photographs of...
'The Ash Tree', by Oliver Rackham - Review
The Ash Tree Oliver RackhamLittle Toller Books, pp.184, £15, ISBN: 9781908213143 The ash tree may lack the solidity of oak, the magnificence of beech or the ancient mystique of yew. In terms of habitat it may support fewer species of fauna, insect...
Theatre: Evita; the Vertical Hour
EvitaDominion Theatre, until 1 NovemberThe Vertical HourPark Theatre, until 26 October Tim and Andy are back. Their monster hit Evita opens the fully refurbed and re-primped Dominion Theatre, which is built on the scale of an airport terminal and...
'The Corridor of Certainty: My Life beyond Cricket', by Geoffrey Boycott - Review
The Corridor of Certainty: My Life beyond Cricket Geoffrey BoycottSimon and Schuster, pp.277, £20, ISBN: 9781471130021 After 13 barren years Yorkshire is back at the top of county cricket, where Geoffrey Boycott believes it has a place almost of...
The Shadow of the Tanks
Looking at these protests, I fear another Tiananmen For Beijing, the tens of thousands of protestors choking the centre of Hong Kong are such a dangerous outrage that mainland media cannot report on them. The real outrage is this: China agreed to...
'The Soul of Discretion', by Susan Hill - Review
The Soul of Discretion Susan HillChatto, pp.320, £18.99, ISBN: 9780701187644 W.H. Auden was addicted to detective fiction. In his 1948 essay 'The Guilty Vicarage', he analysed the craving, which he claimed was similar to an addiction to tobacco or...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Rightly, the authorities are doing all they can to find and discipline the disgruntled racegoer who threw a beer can at the champion jump jockey Tony McCoy after a recent contest at Worcester. McCoy, of course, as well as being the straightest man...
'Travelling to Work: Diaries, 1988-98', by Michael Palin - Review
Travelling to Work: Diaries, 1988-98 Michael PalinWeidenfeld & Nicolson, pp.592, £25, ISBN: 9780297844419 In these diaries, which I found excellent in a very specific way, Michael Palin tells us about his life between the late 1980s and the late...
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