Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

Olivia Potts

The not-so-French roots of chicken cordon bleu

We all have our quirks when it comes to cooking. I have clear mental blocks over what is and is not a complicated supper, many of which do not follow any kind of logic. I wouldn’t think twice about setting a sauce or ragu going early in the day, blipping gently, returning to it every

Why experience beats flair at Goodwood

 Faced with a field of 13 two-year-olds in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies Stakes at Goodwood last Saturday a friend and I agreed the best thing for our Placepot was to go with experience. Just three of the fillies had run before and sure enough two of those three, Jakarta and Royal Equerry,

Roger Alton

The perils of going to Manchester United

Plodding up Wembley Way to the FA Cup Final at the weekend surrounded by a phalanx of well-refreshed Manchester United fans was not a savoury experience, but the game was something else. What was clear was how good United were, full of bite and high-throttle energy, ready to go for broke against the best team

The weird world of regional auction houses

Michael Prowse, proprietor and auctioneer at Pilton Auctions, is rummaging through boxes at the back of his office – which is in a warehouse, up a wooden ladder and underneath corrugated metal and plastic roofing. ‘I’ve got something horrendous here,’ Michael says, ‘but its on it’s way to the bin.’ I’ve asked him what the strangest

Sick of Cornwall? Visit Cornouaille

I am Cornish. Indeed I am so Cornish my sister lives about three miles from where my echt Cornish ancestors lived in the 13th century (near Falmouth), and my mum makes working-class Cornish recipes so obscurely Cornish most of the Cornish have barely heard of them (‘date and lemon pie’). As such, I am pretty

What drives the Shakespeare conspiracy theories?

As predictably as the tides, as welcome as a pebble in your shoe, the bogus question of ‘who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays?’ is in the news again. Jodi Picoult, the writer, thinks that Emilia Bassano (aka Aemilia Lanier), the daughter of a musician, must have had a hand in them, because, she says, Juliet is

My day with the Met police

As we are reaching 100mph, I can hear the muted sirens and see blue lights reflecting on gawping onlookers. I’m neither an officer, nor a criminal but I’m in the back of a police car on my way to an incident that apparently involves two men fighting in the middle of a road. I am

Is it weird I have young friends?

Can an older person like me ever really be friends with a young person? At one time I would have said yes, absolutely. Age has nothing to do with friendship. You either enjoy someone’s company or you don’t. End of story. But now I’m not so sure. My young friends in London are always having

I’m a middle-aged man in Lycra – and I’m proud

It began after pint of beer on a Friday evening and a grudging realisation that, well, getting a little bit more active would be no bad thing. Before I knew it, I’d talked myself into doing a 60-mile cycle through the Essex countryside the following Sunday morning – part of an organised cycle race, charmingly called

Julie Burchill

What kind of city dweller complains about noise?

I’m a highly insensitive person, which means that I’m rarely perturbed by aural excitement. I love public noise, the sound of the crowd. I would never want double-glazed windows – and I even like the sound of drills and construction because I enjoy living in a boomtown where lots of people want to be. The

Two bets at Haydock and one for France

Horses drawn high had a considerable advantage in the big sprint races at Haydock a year ago and I suspect it will be same again tomorrow, even though the going is much softer than 12 months ago. There could be a particular advantage for front runners if they claim the near-side rail early on and

Bridgerton’s big fantasy

Bridgerton is an American fantasy of ye olde England – right down to the absurd if enjoyably playful not-quite colour blind casting and its insinuation that Regency London was peopled with an equal number of Bame and white aristocrats. Even the casting of Queen Charlotte, played by half-Guyanese actress Golda Rosheuvel, is an allusion to

Ross Clark

The next Bitcoin bubble will be the largest yet

The power of Bitcoin to make and lose fortunes in a very short time is unmatched in history. But could the biggest boom and bust be yet to come? Since January the value of Bitcoin has staged a remarkable recovery, and is now back trading at or even above the highs it reached in 2022. That is

Facing death in the African bush

I travel to the African bush frequently, at least once a year. It takes my mind of British politics. The trips often involves watching predators hunting down their prey and then tearing the poor animals limb from limb. Red in tooth and claw, the African bushveld reminds me of the fragility and brevity of life and

The best bottle to come from the Gigondas

One needs wine more than ever, yet when imbibing, it can be hard to concentrate. So much is going on. We were at table and the news came through about Slovakia. Was this an obscure incident, regrettable but below the level of geopolitics? Or would it become a second Sarajevo? Fortunately, that seems unlikely. In

Guns, drugs and beatings – I loved boarding school

My son and various well-meaning friends have been advising me to abandon writing history books and cash in on the trend for boarding school misery memoirs. On the face of it, as someone who was sent away aged seven and remained in these institutions until I was 18, I am well qualified to add my

The hell of interior design

I spent seven hours yesterday cutting up cardboard boxes into little square pieces with a Stanley knife and stuffing them into rubbish sacks. I’ve just moved house and my home is piled high with bulging black bags and looks like Leicester Square during the Winter of Discontent. Given that I don’t currently have the necessary

Lisa Haseldine

Real Southerners never liked Elvis

Cowboy boots are ubiquitous in Nashville – although not hats. ‘That’s Texas,’ one woman told us earnestly. Locals say, ‘y’all,’ ‘yes, ma’am,’ and make eye contact when they speak to you. Despite the lack of cowboy hats, this is still the South. Welcome to Music City, the capital of country and the gleaming buckle of the

Julie Burchill

My teeth are falling out. I won’t miss them

Like many Brits, I never had perfect teeth. Even when I was young they weren’t gleaming white and the two front ones had a gap between them. I grew to quite like my gap – ‘diastema’ to give it the correct name – and found out all kinds of interesting facts about it. In The

Isabel Hardman

The stressful world of the Chelsea Flower Show

The man in the Post Office was a bit bemused by the three enormous boxes I was trying to send from my home just outside Edinburgh down to London. He’d asked what the value of the packages was. In one sense, they were worthless, I explained. But I really needed to make sure they got

What I resent about my dog

The main benefits of dog ownership are well-known – you get companionship, unconditional love and the exercise that comes with taking the thing for a walk. But there’s a side-effect that no one ever mentions: having a dog teaches you what it’s like to be famous. I’ll be sitting in a café, happily reading a

The internet is getting worse

In Gerald Weiner’s book The Secrets of Consulting, there is a case study in which a bright MBA graduate tells a giant multinational burger chain to eliminate just three sesame seeds from each bun to save the company $126,000 a year, under the assumption that none of the customers will notice. This works, so the next

Ross Clark

Could Rightmove make the wrong move?

Banks have been cutting fixed mortgage rates, leading to hopes among some people that the housing market – which has been pretty flat so far this year – will soon respond positively. While prices and sale volumes haven’t been going anywhere, last month the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reported that enquiries from buyers have

Our strange relationship with columnists

I’ve been reading newspapers since I was a teenager and have become strangely familiar with those who write about their lives, even though I’ve met very few of them. Recently, this has gone from being a moderately amusing side interest to an increasingly sad one.  In the late 1990s we lived a few doors down

The brutal philosophy of Tyson Fury

Tyson Fury, the towering British behemoth with the quick wit and even quicker fists, is ready to fight Oleksandr Usyk. Unlike Usyk, however, Fury is not just a pugilist; he’s a spectacle. He’s one of boxing’s greatest assets because he’s not just in the business of winning fights. Fury’s journey from rage to riches is

Two long shots for Newbury tomorrow

The classiest race this weekend is the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury (tomorrow, 3.35 p.m.) in which the French-trained Big Rock and the Newmarket-trained Inspiral are understandably vying for favouritism. They are officially the two top rated horses in the race and they both finished last season on a high: Big Rock won

Julie Burchill

The hypocrisy of the fame-shy famous

Three years ago, I started employing actors, when I had my first play in the Brighton Fringe. I always think they slightly disapprove of me as I’m a fidget and tend to leave rehearsals early (as I remarked to my husband and co-writer of the latest one as we hightailed it off to the pub

The descent of the Cambridge ball

I went to quite a few May balls in my three years as an undergraduate at Cambridge. As an editor at the student newspaper I blagged my way into the top ones – Magdalene, Trinity and John’s – since they were stupidly expensive and even as a 20-year-old student I had the sense to feel

The greatest rockstar you’ve never heard of

A man takes the stage at the Clapham Grand. His large, histrionic eyes are ringed with kohl. His slim limbs are decked in spandex, open to a furry navel. He throws back his flaxen hair and punches the air. ‘Thunder!’ he yells to the opening salvo of the AC/DC tub-thumper ‘Thunderstruck’. His name is Mac