Low life

Low liferss

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Outstrip Jeremy Clarke’s worst excesses and win an invitation to his Low life book launch

30 May 2015

On 26 June there is a party at the Spectator office at 22 Old Queen Street to launch a paperback collection of Low life columns. If you would like to… Read more

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The ant mind is right up there with the medieval one

23 May 2015

From somewhere in the tree canopy, a nightingale song. The virtuoso trilling and warbling, the underwater bubbling, the teetering on the brink before the tumbling cascade. I’m wearing turquoise Speedo… Read more

All aboard

A tale of two cruises

16 May 2015

I’ve been on two cruises before: one was fun, the other misery. The misery one was a late August cruise from Dover to Iceland via Shetland, Orkney and Faroe. The… Read more

A pirate's life for me

We could swear and spit, strangle and shoot people

9 May 2015

The old fishing town faced the sea psychically as well as architecturally. Dressed as pirates, my grandson and I walked down through the steep and narrow streets to the quayside,… Read more

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A fingertip symphony in a deeply rural French ladies’ hairdresser

2 May 2015

Two stylists work at this deeply rural French ladies’ hairdresser. Christelle is a gorgeous 17-year-old point-of-lay pullet, so lithe and well made I want to weep. Sylvette, the owner, though… Read more

Poet John Clare spent much of his life destitute, and died in Northampton General Asylum. (Photo: Getty)

What’s On in South Devon gave me three choices: functioning psychotic preacher, bingo or a poetry evening

25 April 2015

I’m such a constitutional lightweight lately that I’ve started looking on the website What’s On in South Devon for things to do of an evening that don’t involve total annihilation.… Read more

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A child in church! It’s a miracle!

18 April 2015

To say that Oscar was warmly welcomed as he stepped through the massive oak door into a chilly House of God for the first time in his life on Easter… Read more

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The kindness of strangers you need the morning after

11 April 2015

Spectator Life’s third birthday party was a glamorous affair. It had paps, pop stars and Pippa. One went in and waiting at the top of the stairs were Spectator Life’s… Read more

The condor... and the eagle. Image: Getty

One day the Condor and the Eagle will fly wing-tip to wing-tip

4 April 2015

The pub was disappointingly empty, so I took my first pint of the evening upstairs, where some sort of New Age society was holding a public talk and discussion. I… Read more

Kenyan Maasai women gather for a meeting dedicated to the practice of female genital mutilation Photo: Getty

Football in front, infibulation behind

28 March 2015

I’m watching Manchester City being taken to the cleaners by Barcelona on the telly, while at the table behind me my Parisian feminist intellectual hostess Natalie is discussing female genital… Read more

Place your bets Photo: Getty

My afternoon in a Gallic version of Betfred

21 March 2015

For the Cheltenham Festival I received the customary tipster circular from my pal Soapy Joe. Soapy’s most convincing credential as a horse-racing tipster is that he is banned from every… Read more

'Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Table-Talking', 1904. Illustration from The Poets Corner, by Max Beerbohm Photo: Getty

Lunch with Max Beerbohm’s brother’s grandson

14 March 2015

It’s a silly, chippy complex, I know, but I often feel, on the rare occasions that I am induced to attend a lunch or dinner party, that I don’t belong.… Read more

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Mahler’s Fifth is the perfect soundtrack to a tooth extraction

7 March 2015

Frantic chewing of sugar-coated nicotine gum had caused my left lower molar to go irretrievably rotten, and the dentist finally extracted it after a prolonged and heroic struggle. Mahler’s Symphony… Read more

Waterloo Cup The Blue Riband Of Hare Coursing Day 2

The day an ancient and very wonderful sport died

28 February 2015

Last week was the tenth anniversary of the last running of the English hare-coursing classic, the Waterloo Cup. I shan’t start raving on about the perversity of banning a so-called… Read more

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This shower head should come with a health warning

21 February 2015

This hotel is brand new. One half is a university students’ hostel, the other an apartment hotel. Car parking is ample and free of charge. The students we saw coming… Read more

Jonathan Joseph celebrates his try with team mates during Six Nations match between Wales and England Photo: Getty

My grandson's getting into the rugby: 'Which one's West Ham?'

14 February 2015

My grandson and I had a lovely hour-long swim at the leisure centre. We had the learner pool to ourselves for the first half an hour, during which we threw… Read more

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My initiation into the fellowship of wine (I swallowed)

7 February 2015

This month’s wine club lecture was on red burgundy. The members were settling themselves at two large tables when I arrived, about ten to each one. I took an empty… Read more

London Based Scots Celebrate Burns Night With Haggis And Whisky

The risks of being an Englishman on Burns Night

31 January 2015

I’m rubbish at public speaking and detest it. Even the thought of reciting an English poem of my choice at a Burns Night Supper cast a long shadow beforehand, in… Read more

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Twelve miles of indefatigable misery

24 January 2015

The taxi-driver wound his window one third of the way down and put a priestlike, confessional ear to the freezing night air. I spoke the name of my village. Twelve… Read more

Antibes

My addiction to literary pilgrimage is akin to masturbation

17 January 2015

The hotel and its bright tan prayer rug of a beach were one. In the early morning the distant image of Cannes, the pink and cream of old fortifications, the… Read more

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The joys of home and hearth and hot lemon

10 January 2015

Over Christmas and New Year I was rotten with flu and didn’t go out once. I stayed soberly at home beside the fire with the family and enjoyed every minute.… Read more

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That’s another year gone and, against the odds, I’m still here

3 January 2015

A fruity voice on the train’s announcement system said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, make sure you have all your belongings, family members and what have you with you when alighting from… Read more

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Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us

13 December 2014

After lunch on Christmas Day my father always stood at the sink in his apron and yellow Marigolds and did the washing-up. Rolling up his shirtsleeves the gentleman’s way, as… Read more

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The best thing about travel-writing gigs is meeting other hacks

6 December 2014

The thing I enjoy most about travel-writing gigs is meeting other hacks. Hacks are almost invariably fun, funny, gossipy, irreverent, and they like a drink. They are well read and… Read more

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The criteria for admittance to a Maldivian cemetery

29 November 2014

Moofushi, Maldives   We clambered aboard a dhoni, the sturdy wooden boat that the Maldivians use for getting about the islands, and motored across from our high-end ‘all-inclusive’ resort to… Read more