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 August 9

Alistair Darling Inches Closer to Saving the Union
The success of the campaign to save the Union can be heard in the increasingly hysterical tone of independence supportersEdinburghWhen the histories of the Scottish independence debate are written, 13 February 2014 will be seen as a crucial date in the...
Ancient and Modern: Bread, Circuses and Hamas
There must be some reason why Hamas seems to remain quite unfazed by Israel's merciless slaughter of its people. Perhaps it is all part of a grand strategy.The point about Greek democracy is that its purpose was to enable internal disputes to be...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
At the impressive Westminster Abbey vigil to mark the centenary of the first world war on Monday night, there was one big candle for each quarter of the Abbey, and one dignitary assigned to each candle. At different points in the service, each dignitary...
Cinema: Wakolda
Wakolda12A, Key CitiesWakolda is not a sunny film for a sunny day, just so you're aware, but as there is so little else around -- August is a hopeless month for films; August is a dumping ground for the sub-par -- you are going to have to take that...
Culture Notes: Surviving the Edinburgh Fringe
And they're off. The mighty caravan of romantic desperadoes, radical egoists, stadium wannabes, struggling superstars and vanity crackheads is on its way to Edinburgh. This year's Fringe sponsor is Virgin Money, which must be some kind of in-joke...
Dance: Romeo and Juliet: Mariinsky Ballet
Romeo and Juliet: Mariinsky BalletRoyal Opera House According to some textbooks, one thing the fathers of Soviet choreography hastened to remove from ballet was that awkward-looking language of gestures generally referred to as 'ballet mime'. Which...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. A scholarly book of great importance to me appears to have gone missing from my library. It was heavily annotated so it is irreplaceable. I lend books all the time and I have a strong feeling I have lent it to someone, but I just cannot remember...
Diary: David Frum
Wellington, Ontario A British visitor to this village might be disoriented by the flags. They look almost exactly like the Union Jack, but not quite. These banners omit the Cross of St Patrick, which was bundled into the flag of the United Kingdom only...
Don't Blame the Blob, Mr Paterson
Owen Paterson shouldn't hold green activists responsible for his sacking. The culprit was David Cameron Why did David Cameron send Owen Paterson to Environment if he meant to sack him? Paterson knew and cared about his subject. He wore green wellies...
Exhibitions: Brothers in Art: John and Paul Nash
Brothers in Art: John and Paul NashRoyal West of England Academy, Queen's Road, Clifton, Bristol, until 14 September John Northcote Nash (1893-1977) was the younger brother of Paul Nash (1889-1946), and has been long overshadowed by Paul, though they...
Food: Tanya Gold
L'Escargot, or the Snail, is a famous restaurant on Greek Street, Soho, opposite the old Establishment club; the oldest French restaurant in London, they say (1927), and who am I to argue? It is the type of restaurant that non-Londoners have heard...
'Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born', by Matthew Parker - Review
Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born Matthew ParkerHutchinson, pp.388, £20, ISBN: 9780091954109 Ian Fleming's first visit to Jamaica was pure James Bond. In 1943, as assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, he flew from Miami to Kingston to attend...
Here Comes Boris - Get Ready for the Next Tory Leadership Battle
The next Tory leadership battle has just begunSo Boris has made his great leap. The blond king over the water has revealed his plans to cross the river, return to Parliament and assume what he believes is his rightful destiny -- to be Prime Minister...
High Life: Taki
Porto CheliI have been thinking about my children and my own strange boyhood as I gaze up at the clear blue skies of summer. Summers lasted an eternity back then, and by the time one got back to school there were new friends, new loves and new discoveries...
'H Is for Hawk', by Helen Macdonald - Review
H is for Hawk Helen MacdonaldCape, pp.310, £14.99, ISBN: 9780224097000 Is it the feathers that do the trick? The severely truculent expressions on their faces? Or is it their ancient origins? Or the places where they live?Whatever their secret, birds...
Hitler's Valkyrie
Unity Mitford at 100 On 8 August 1914, four days after the declaration of war, Unity Valkyrie Mitford was born, the fifth child and fourth daughter of David and Sydney Freeman-Mitford, who admired the actress Unity Moore. Grandfather Redesdale suggested...
Hugo Rifkind: Why Don't Any of My Friends Own Holiday Homes?
This is to be one of those columns that makes the writer faintly wish there wasn't an internet. It would be one thing merely in print -- ephemeral, swiftly forgotten, to be stumbled across only by like-minded individuals en route from Charles Moore...
'In Confidence: Talking Frankly about Fame', by Laurie Taylor - Review
In Confidence: Talking Frankly About Fame Laurie TaylorZero Books, pp.188, £9.99, ISBN: 9781782797678 The TV chat show, if not actually dead, has been in intensive care for a while now, hooked up to machines that go bleep. But the long-form interview,...
Interview: Wynton Marsalis
At the end of his performance at the Barbican with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis made a little speech. The next piece, he announced, was a number that Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers used to play. Marsalis then recalled how he...
'Invisible', by Philip Ball - Review
Invisible Philip BallBodley Head, pp.326, £25, ISBN: 978184792289 The best books by good writers -- and Philip Ball is a very good writer indeed -- are sometimes the ones that don't quite work. This brilliant study of how occultists and scientists...
Leading Article: Benefits vs Railways
George Osborne proposed an attractive idea this week: that spending on state benefits should be diverted into new infrastructure in the North. His conceit was that while welfare spending produces no economic return, spending public money on new high-speed...
Letters
Poor treatmentSir: Jane Kelly's article ('No tea or sympathy', 2 August) on the lack of empathy and emotional support shown to patients is humbling. It is also worth noting that showing patients a lack of compassion has wider consequences. We know for...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
It's much more stressful to live in the country than in a town. There are always threats of one kind or another -- wind farms, housing developments, road 'improvements', and so on. And then there are often arguments with neighbours about this and...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I've might have no testosterone. (My production is currently being stopped by injection once every three months.) But what I do have is a Fiat Barchetta, bought for a grand on a whim on eBay. It's the prettiest little two-seater, an old-school, fun...
Martin Vander Weyer: A Challenge for Centrica's New Boss: Persuade the Public We Need to Get Fracking
Iain Conn, who will succeed Sam Laidlaw as chief executive of Centrica, would have been a dead cert for the top job at his current employer, BP, were it not for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The subsequent...
Matthew Parris: I Found My Inner Fascist in a Letterbox
There's a little bit of a fascist in all of us. For some, the tragedy of human want may provoke an impatient urge to expropriate and centralise for the more efficient use of economic resources. Others, alarmed at the world's exploding population,...
Mind Your Language: Pre-Diabetes
'Pre-diabetes is an artificial category with virtually zero clinical relevance,' said an American professor in the Times . A friend of mine has even been told by the vet that her little cat is in a pre-diabetic condition, being a little over the...
Music: Marcus Berkmann
One of the many delightful aspects of having children is that you can get them to do things you are too old, lazy or important to do yourself. My disinclination to attend any sort of music festival, owing to a distaste for tents, chemical lavatories,...
Notes On. Gloucestershire
The heat was still sweltering as we headed off at dusk towards the hide to watch wildlife with our enthusiastic guide, Leonie. My wife and I were on our first ever safari -- or rather 'stayfari'. No, we weren't in deepest Africa, but in deepest Gloucestershire....
Opera: L'Orfeo; la Forza del Destino
L'Orfeo; La forza del destinoBavarian State Opera, Munich Opera Festival Rather than brave the boos and the first reprise of Frank Castorf's half-hearted Ring at Bayreuth, I decided to pay a visit to Munich and catch the last two days of its annual...
Portrait of the Week
HomeThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined 50 heads of state at the St Symphorien cemetery near Mons to commemorate the invasion of Belgium in 1914. The Prince of Wales attended a service at Glasgow cathedral; the Duchess of Cornwall attended a service...
Radio: Kate Chisholm
Our hearing is the first of our senses to develop while we are in the womb. It's the first connection we make to the life around us, and to other people. In a new series of The Listeners on Radio 4 (Tuesday) we heard from 'professional' listeners,...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
A parcel has arrived addressed to 'Cydney Kite'. The spaniel is ecstatic. She has never received her own mail before, let alone an express delivery package. She wags her entire body frantically as I open it and is driven half demented by the heady...
'Reynolds: Portraiture in Action', by Mark Hallett - Review
Reynolds: Portraiture in Action Mark HallettYale, pp.488, £50, ISBN: 978030019699 On Monday 21 April 1760 Joshua Reynolds had a busy day. Through the morning and the afternoon he had a series of sitters. Each of these stayed for an hour in the painter's...
Rod Liddle: Tread Carefully - Your Garden's Saturated with Racial Meaning
Is your life saturated with racial meaning? The most common answer to this question, when I ask friends and acquaintances, and sometimes people in the street going about their business, is: 'Your inquiry makes no sense whatsoever. It sounds like...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Thank god for the Commonwealth Games: at least they gave us a brief respite from football transfer stories. Instead of having to read about an 18-year-old defender being bought by Overambitious Wanderers for the GDP of a medium-sized African nation,...
Spectator Wine: Jonathan Ray
It is noticeable how the nights are drawing in now, added to which the leaves in our garden are ever so slightly but definitely beginning to turn. Nevertheless, we've still got summer drinks on the lawn or by the poolside barbecue in mind with this...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I'm due to speak at an Intelligence Squared debate on Saturday and I'm worried that I might be on the wrong side. The motion is 'Monogamy equals monotony' and I'm opening the batting for the opposition. Now don't get me wrong. I'm perfectly happy...
Television: James Delingpole
Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic, Monday), the new, must-see Mafioso series, started promisingly. We met two hoods -- one young, shaven-headed, good-looking; one weary, brow-beaten, middle-aged -- filling up at a petrol station in Naples, an unfamiliar (to me...
Theatre: A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named DesireYoung Vic, until 19 SeptemberA Bright Room Called DaySouthwark Playhouse, until 16 AugustStreetcar . One word is enough to conjure an icon. Tennessee Williams's finest play, written in the 1940s, is about a fallen woman trying...
The Decline of Feminine Niceness
Women are increasingly enjoined not to be 'nice'. They seem to be listeningFredericksburg, VirginiaI have come a long way with feminism. When it first hit the fan in the early 1970s I was living in a thin-walled apartment next to a woman who held assertiveness-training...
'The Diary of 'Helena Morley'', by Translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Bishop - Review
The Diary of 'Helena Morley' translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth BishopVirago Modern Classics, pp.301, £8.99, ISBN: 9781844089937 When the American poet Elizabeth Bishop arrived in Brazil in 1951, she expected to spend two weeks there and...
The Seats Boris Might Go For
Choosing the right seat is only half the battle for BorisBoris Johnson is to stand as an MP in 2015 -- but where? In the next few weeks, his secret parliamentary campaign team (and there is one) expects him to pick his constituency. The Tories need a...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
If I get to choose where to spend my last day on earth it will probably be at Glorious Goodwood. Goodwood is Ascot without the added vulgarity, Aintree without the spray tans, a garden party spiced up with some of the most ruthlessly competitive...
'Twilight of the Eastern Gods', by Ismail Kadare - Review
Twilight of the Eastern Gods Ismail KadareCanongate, pp.192, £16.99, ISBN: 9780802123114 Right at the outset of this autobiographical novel -- in fact it reads more like a memoir -- Ismail Kadare sets up his stall as a lover of women. His lust even...
Where Have the West's Leaders Gone?
No one wants to pay the price of speaking for the free world There was a time when having almost two hundred of your citizens blown out of the sky was a big deal for a western democracy. But when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine...
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