The Roxburghe Club, by Nicolas Barker

25 August 2012
The Roxburghe Club: A Bicentenary History Nicolas Barker

Sotheran, pp.347, 95, ISBN: 97819019021116

Book-collecting fraternities are far from uncommon, but none of them is the equal of their British progenitor, the Roxburghe Club, either in age or exclusivity.  This June the members celebrated… Read more


The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton, by Diane Atkinson

25 August 2012
The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton Diane Atkinson

Preface, pp.486, 20, ISBN: 978 1 84809 301 0

Caroline Norton seems an unlikely pioneer of women’s rights. Born in 1808, the granddaughter of the playwright Sheridan, she was a black-eyed beauty, a sharp-tongued socialite with a gift for… Read more

Short Walks from Bogota, by Tom Feiling

25 August 2012
Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia Tom Feiling

Allen Lane, pp.266, 20, ISBN: 978184614834

Ten years ago a cartoon appeared in the Independent showing the New World Order — Bush and Blair peering at a distorted global map with only one entry for South… Read more

Philida, by André Brink

25 August 2012
Philida André Brink

Harvill Secker, pp.310, 14.99, ISBN: 9781846557040

The location of Philida is a Cape farm which used to be named Zandvliet and is now the celebrated vineyard Solms Delta, owned jointly by Richard Astor and the eminent… Read more

The Heart Broke In, by James Meek

25 August 2012
The Heart Broke In James Meek

Canongate, pp.550, 17.99, ISBN: 9780857862907

This is a big juicy slab of a book, as thrilling and nourishing as a Victorian three-parter.  It resembles its forebears thematically, too.  It asks a straightforward question: how does… Read more

Are You My Mother, by Alison Bechdel

25 August 2012
Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel

Cape, pp.286, 16.99, ISBN: 9780618982509

Alison Bechdel’s first book, Fun Home, enjoyed great acclaim: a memoir presented in comic-strip form, it described her father’s suicide and hidden homosexuality, her childhood visits to the family funeral… Read more

David Cameron Meets With John Major In Downing Street

How a nice little rabbit can win the political rat race

25 August 2012

‘Nice people, with nice habits/ they keep rabbits/ but got no money at all,’ sang the popular duo Flanagan and Allen in my father’s day. I can still remember Dad… Read more

Why do all the fattest people live on islands

25 August 2012

Here’s a mystery which has been keeping me awake at night recently. Why do people who live on islands, and even more so very small islands, tend to be grotesquely… Read more

I’ve left London. How will I ever work again

25 August 2012

They say that moving house is the third most traumatic thing after death and divorce and they’re right about that, I reckon. For the past few weeks and months I’ve… Read more

Branson always puts up a fight, but his days as a railwayman are surely over

25 August 2012

In my list of things to do before I die, going up in a hot-air balloon with Sir Richard Branson ranks pretty low. But still I admire his fighting spirit:… Read more


Malthus’s children

25 August 2012

Two hundred years ago, the creepy Revd Thomas Malthus would take to his pulpit to rail against the copulating lower orders. Author of An Essay on the Principle of Population… Read more


Dictating terms

25 August 2012

When the International Criminal Court (ICC) was set up ten years ago, it was meant to make the world a safer place. The Court and the various UN war crimes… Read more

Schoolgirl Hell

War on games

25 August 2012

On a visit to my old school not long ago, I found myself confronted by my former PE teacher, now the deputy head. She fixed me with an icy glare.… Read more


Edinburgh notebook

25 August 2012

One of the rites of passage for a comedian is walking through the rain at the Edinburgh Fringe, looking down and seeing one of your own flyers being trampled underfoot.… Read more


A fan’s notes

25 August 2012

When was the last time a piece of technology made you happy? Truly happy, so satisfied with the experience that you immediately wanted to repeat it? For me it was… Read more

Kensington Palace - Press View

The new country garden

25 August 2012

Like Nostradamus, the vision is flickering but I believe I have glimpsed the future — at least, the future look of garden and landscape design. I wonder whether, in these… Read more


Driving to Shangri La

25 August 2012

I’d go to Canada if I wanted to ski, or fish, or see the Northern Lights, but in the end it was only to launch my (Canadian) boyfriend D.W.’s book… Read more


2077: Below par

25 August 2012

Each of seventeen clues comprises a definition part and a hidden consecutive jumble of the answer including one extra letter. The extras spell the first four words of a saying… Read more

High life

25 August 2012

With the exception of the French Academy immortals Michel Déon and Jean d’Ormesson, two wonderful writers and both the epitome of charm and graciousness, the French can be a pretty… Read more

Sickly sweet

25 August 2012

In Competition No. 2760 you were invited to submit an example of the kind of treacly inspirational poetry that adorns the office walls of a life coach and might be… Read more

Low life

25 August 2012

Then she rented us a luxury apartment at Penzance in Cornwall for a week. Sightseeing was not high on our agenda. Bring cable ties, she’d said. I’ve been a naughty… Read more

Oh for the Prince Maurice

25 August 2012

Around the middle of last year, I was approached by the writer Tim Lott to see if I’d like to be a judge in the annual literary competition he organises.… Read more

25 August 2012

Q. My wife is known to run a very well-organised house. As a consequence, weekend guests often arrive without the right kit, assuming they can go and raid our boot… Read more

Real life

25 August 2012

Being the girlfriend of the world’s most devastatingly handsome gay celebrity nutritionist has its disadvantages. I know, how could that statement possibly be true? What could be more divine for… Read more

Cooking witches

25 August 2012

The Witchery is almost a themed restaurant; it is a weeping medieval tenement, just below Edinburgh Castle, which looks like a blackened tooth. Inside, it has wood panelling, wall paintings,… Read more