Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

Alexa is gaslighting me

Amazon has teamed up with Disney to launch a new app, Hey Disney! – a joint voice assistant feature which will allow your child to ‘Interact with Mickey Mouse, or Dory from Finding Nemo’. Just what we need. Customers can use Hey Disney! at Disneyworld theme parks – ‘ask “Disney Magical Companion” to request fresh

Advent is a time of horror

At the age when most children are being read The Tailor of Gloucester or ’Twas the Night before Christmas, my father took a very different approach to bedtime stories during Advent, and read me my first M.R. James story. I can’t have been much more than five years old, and he was probably a few

Gus Carter

Hong Kong’s fading Britishness

Not much of Hong Kong still feels British. There is the odd tube stop – Admiralty, Kennedy Town, Prince Edward – but that’s about it. On the car ride from the airport, I chatted to the driver as we passed under half-built concrete arches covered in green construction cloth. He told me the authorities were

Is Conor McGregor the Irish Trump?

The flamboyant, ridiculous mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor is considering a run for the Irish presidency. ‘Potential competition if I run,’ he tweeted yesterday, along with a picture of Gerry Adams, Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny, the three septuagenarian current favourites for the job. ‘Each with unbreakable ties to their individual parties politics… Or me,

The strange life of Alvin Stardust

He had mutton chop sideburns, a vast quiff and was dressed in black leather, even down to murderers’ gloves, over which he wore enormous silver rings, which he then wiggled in a beckoning fashion while staring suggestively into the camera. Nevermind hiding behind the sofa during Dr Who – for me, in December 1973, as

The growing appeal of dreary Düsseldorf

In the cavernous basement of Bilker Bunker, a second world war air raid shelter in downtown Düsseldorf, the staff of groovy events guide the Dorf are toasting the magazine’s tenth birthday. During the war, Germans sheltered here from the RAF. Today, their descendants come here to party. With an art gallery up above and DJs

What fiction can teach us about terrorism

The first decade of this century, following Al Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in September 2001, was something of a golden age for films about terrorism, a spate of them following in quick succession. In the light of Hamas’s 7 October mass-killing of innocent Israelis, it’s interesting and informative to watch

Gareth Roberts

I’ve finally given up on physical books

When I first heard about ebooks, I was horrified. Something deep within me flinched. Surely, I thought – my surface brain trying to rationalise this atavistic spasm – the tactile reality of books is an intrinsic part of the joy of books? Nowadays I only read a physical book if there really is no alternative

The lost world of MSN Messenger

Despite only being 30, the students at the school at which I work often make me feel old. They love nothing more than testing my knowledge of their Gen-Z slang: no, I don’t know what you mean when you say Romeo is a ‘simp’ or whether Macbeth’s behaviour is ‘sus’. My average 12-year-old student is

Why companies should ditch personality tests

An increasing number of British companies are using personality tests to hire staff. Two of the more popular personality tests are the Big Five and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). There’s just one problem and it’s a rather big one: both of these tests are utterly scientifically useless. And Brits are being hired (or not hired) based on the results

Ireland can land the Coral Gold Cup

The weather is going to play a key role in the outcome of tomorrow’s big race, the Coral Gold Cup (Newbury, 2.50 p.m.). To start with, the cold snap might even claim the card altogether with a course inspection due at 7.30 a.m. on race day. Secondly, after little rain over the past fortnight, the

Israeli nightlife is slowly returning

Tel Aviv is the size of Bristol, with about 400,000 residents each. While Bristol has 400 pubs and bars, and just shy of a thousand restaurants, the rough concrete charm of Tel Aviv yields no fewer than 1,750 cafes, bars and clubs and more than 4,000 places to eat. Tel Aviv is a dense, hedonistic city: friendly,

What’s wrong with eating dog? 

From my desk, as I write this, in a lofty room in a soaring new hotel in Phnom Penh, I can look down at the bustling streets and see the concrete, mosque-meets-spaceship dome of the Cambodian capital’s famous Central Market. Which also happens to be the place where, 20 years ago, I ate the single

The Swiss appetite for wine gives them a good name

A friend was in town, who rebuts two instances of dull conventional wisdom. The first is that although Swiss Germans may have many qualities – they make excellent bankers – they have no joie de vivre. The Calvinist heritage persists. Second, that the Swiss are an implacably martial race. Other armies, especially the British, use

Hell is the multi-faith prayer room at Bristol Airport

When the Roman Emperor Justinian finished building the Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople in 537 he compared it to the great temple in Jerusalem. ‘Solomon, I have surpassed thee,’ he declared. Some 400 years later, as visiting ambassadors from Kyiv were led into the same ethereal structure, they remarked: ‘We did not know if we

In praise of the späti, Berlin’s late-night corner shops

The späti is a Berlin institution. These late-night corner shops began popping up in the former German Democratic Republic for workers clocking off from their evening shifts. Serving as a mixture of mini-supermarket and meeting place, spätis have outdoor seating, often wobbly wooden tables and benches on which locals sit and drink cheap bottles of

I’m an Aga convert

I never thought it would be possible to feel such emotion about a lump of hot metal but I am in love and like all new passions it’s threatening to become all-consuming. I find reasons to drop it into conversation, I seek out others and join groups on social media that share the same predilection

Britain’s curious pub naming conventions

The big London restaurant opening of the autumn has been The Devonshire in Denman Street, Soho, close to Piccadilly Circus. There was a run on bookings as soon as the reviews appeared. Giles Coren in the Times wrote: ‘What a place. What. A. Place.’ Jimi Famurewa’s review in the Evening Standard appeared under the headline: ‘Nothing beats a good

Hungary, the autumnal civilisation

A couple of weeks ago, I made the dish I always make at this time of year. It’s a Hungarian gulyás – or more correctly, a pörkölt – a mixture of beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes and paprika, stewed very slowly and served with plenty of sour cream. It’s appropriate this dish should be from Hungary, as

Melanie McDonagh

So long to the landline

So Debrett’s has really got behind the latest technology by issuing a guide to the appropriate use of the mobile phone, or rather, ten commandments. The oldies are warned that young people take fright at an unexpected call – text first to see if it’s convenient – and the young are told that they should

Admit it, there’s nothing worse than restaurants at Christmas

We’ve all been there, dragged along to the office/company/feminist protest group/a cappella throat-singing-society Christmas meal out. The idea of sitting around a huge table eating bad food with a group of people who either bore you rigid or who you actively dislike doesn’t seem particularly appealing. Why will the food inevitably be terrible, wherever you

The Terry Venables I knew

You didn’t have to like football to feel some sort of affinity with Terry Venables. He had bags of East London charm, oodles of enthusiasm and glossy good looks (as long as you didn’t mind the gold medallion around his permanently tanned neck). As it happens, I like football very much – so it was

The despair of Deliveroo

Self-pity and Deliveroo go hand in hand. You can’t have the latter without the former. It’s impossible to watch a rain-drenched driver fight with his moped’s side stand – while you sit torpidly in your pants by the window – without the heavy feeling of self-loathing. There’s something shameful about it, something pathetic. If Dante

I found peace at the gun range

I like ice hockey, 7-Eleven Big Gulps and the choice of six lanes on the Interstate. I like almost everything about America except the guns, which is why I decided to challenge my prejudices at a pistol range in Fresno, California. Walking in, I was welcomed by ‘Don’t tread on me!’ stickers and signs in

For one night only, I was back on the DJ decks

Hard to imagine now but I was once a hot club DJ. I now need to go to bed on the same day I got up but once upon a time – in fact, hundreds of times upon a time – I dropped big tunes at famous clubs including Le Beat Route, the Camden Palace

Why Russell Norman was a restaurant genius

Polpo, Russell Norman’s celebrated and original Italian restaurant in Soho, was in full flow when I visited for the first time: busy, loud, glasses full and meatballs rolling. I had returned to London after some years away in my early twenties, and had little money. Polpo welcomed diners with its buoyancy and affordability. It was

The Museum of London’s dubious ‘race research’

I don’t know about you, but I love a bit of topical reading when I go abroad. That’s why, in my last week of travelling between lush, green, untouched Cambodian islands, I’ve been immersed in apposite books like Julia Lovell’s Maoism: a Global History, and Frank Dikotter’s The Cultural Revolution. So far, I’ve been pleased

Tips for the Coral Gold Cup and Becher Chase

There are two high-class chases taking place tomorrow – one at Haydock and the other at Ascot. They will have a bearing on the betting markets for the Ladbrokes King George VI at Kempton on Boxing Day and the Cheltenham Festival. However, neither race this weekend is now an attractive betting proposition because each has