Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

Julie Burchill

In praise of age-gap relationships

Anne Hathaway’s latest film, The Idea of You, has become Amazon’s most-streamed rom com, causing me to reflect that Hollywood’s young man/older woman scenario has changed for the better since The Graduate. Though everyone was mad for it at the time, was there ever a grimmer film about relationships? We’re meant to empathise with the

The trouble with French rap

Last Monday, a group of 20 French rappers released a video entitled ‘No Pasarán’. Evoking the Republican resistance against Franco in the Spanish civil war and before that, the resistance of the French against the Germans during the Great War, the phrase called for people to resist Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. If last night’s

I’m an unhappy shopaholic

When I was a child I had a dream, as most kids do, of entering a toyshop and being told I could carry away with me as much as would fit in a large shopping trolley. In would go every kind of Action Man, every game of Buckaroo or Operation, and enough Star Wars figurines

Freddy Gray

Freddy Gray, Angus Colwell, Matthew Parris, Flora Watkins and Rory Sutherland

30 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: after President Biden’s debate disaster, Freddy Gray profiles the one woman who could persuade him to step down, his wife Jill (1:05); Angus Colwell reports from Israel, where escalation of war seems a very real possibility (9:02); Matthew Parris attempts to reappraise the past 14 years of Conservative government (14:16);

The unbearable lightness of voting

After a while you forget: was I up for Portillo, or had I gone to bed? I think I’d gone to bed. Abbott, Boateng and Bernie Grant, in bed, I definitely remember that. And Powell, accordingly, out. Was that – what? – ’87? What even was that? 1997: where the hell was I? 2010? That

When the world goes mad

Anyone visiting the small Westphalian city of Münster in north-west Germany may notice three man-sized cages hanging from the handsome St Lambert’s Roman Catholic Church in the city’s main square, the Prinzipalmarkt, and wonder about their provenance. The cages are one of the last visible relics of an episode in which society took leave of

Meet the eccentric Exmoor landlord running for parliament

Steve Cotten is standing to be an MP in this week’s general election. He has also been called ‘Britain’s grumpiest pub landlord’ by the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the New York Post. In truth, Steve, 64, isn’t grumpy. Not often, anyway. He’s eccentric, certainly, but kind, generous and good humoured, and dedicated to his

I am the victim of a bureaucratic injustice

I live north of the river in London and my parents live south of it, in the Tunbridge Wells. I have long been a registered user of the Dartford Crossing for fear of forgetting to pay to cross – and thus incurring an automatic fine. This means that the cameras at the bridge and tunnel

I’m an ageing, male Swiftie

Over five decades, I have been lucky enough to witness some of the great rock concerts of our time. Bob Dylan at Blackbushe in the late 1970s, The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert at the Albert Hall in the early 1980s, The Rolling Stones at New York’s Shea Stadium in the 1990s and Bruce Springsteen and

Real Americans drink and drive

Prius owners are always demanding more legislation against drink driving, but an advantage of living in America is that if you are too trashed to drive home, your 15-year-old kid can pick you up from the bar. The only problem with this is that we Americans love reckless driving too much to let anyone else

I loved Taylor Swift – then I grew up

You will almost certainly have noticed that Taylor Swift is making her way across the UK. Even in the crowded news marketplace – an election, Euro 2024, poorly royals – she is, just by virtue of playing some concerts, consuming a lot of airspace and column inches. We see endless vox popping of her fans,

Why we love to be baffled

So much of life is a search for answers. How to get ahead, how to earn more money, how to be happy. But deep down, is there a part of us that likes not knowing an answer? Do we sometimes want to be baffled? It’s a question that’s come to fascinate me as I’ve embarked

Why rich kids are weird

The son of the celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, imaginatively named Marco Pierre White Jr, has been convicted of theft and sentenced to 41 weeks in prison. The former heroin addict briefly became a reality star after a stint on Celebrity Big Brother, but has since reverted to bad behaviour, being imprisoned in 2018 for stealing

My doomed run for parliament

I had always been interested in politics but had not done anything practical until the rise of Nigel Farage’s Ukip. He was proving a thorn in the side of David Cameron in 2013, which attracted my admiring attention, so I decided to try and get involved. Despite having done my bit for European unity by

Why prog beat punk

Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman once described progressive rock as the ‘porn of the music industry; you bought an album under the counter in a brown paper bag’. He was no doubt referring to the genre’s mid-1970s nadir when punk burst onto the scene and nicked all the cool kids, leaving the nerds to their embarrassing flares

Where to find history without the hectoring

I recently had an encounter with Oliver Cromwell’s hat which, these days, rests on a bespoke hat-rest in the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon. It’s an astonishing piece of craftsmanship being far wider than any normal hat at nearly three feet across. The perfectly horizontal brim is constructed from thick black felt and the central head-holding

Lara Prendergast

The Farage factor

45 min listen

This week: The Farage factor. Our cover piece looks at the biggest news from this week of the general election campaign, Nigel Farage’s decision to stand again for Parliament. Farage appealed to voters in the seaside town of Clacton to send him to Westminster to be a ‘nuisance’. Indeed, how much of a nuisance will

Max Jeffery

Would you dare to wear a Rolex?

‘London has become a jungle, right? Anyone with anything nice risks having it taken.’ Bobby, the manager of one of Hatton Garden’s watch shops, does business in a windowless room as far from the street as possible, watched over by a thickset guard and a couple security cameras. ‘I’m a paranoid person,’ he says, and

Pensioners should do national service

When Rishi Sunak proposed national service for 18-year-olds as the first big idea of his election campaign, my initial thought was: absolutely, bring it on. But then I had a second thought, which was that if Sunak was trying to boost the Conservative vote, rather than the nation’s preparedness, his big idea probably wasn’t going

What happened to the Evening Standard?

Like any bunch of ageing ex-hacks, those of us in the ‘Former Evening Standard Employees’ Facebook group are fond of reminiscing about the past. Occasionally, it’s at boozy reunions, when we recreate afternoon epics in the Elephant pub near the old Kensington office. More often, it’s when posting online RIPs to old colleagues who’ve passed

Do art attackers think they’re helping?

The latest painting to be attacked by an ovine climate protestor is Monet’s Poppies in Paris’s Musee D’Orsay. Thankfully, the initial reports that the painting was not protected by glass were inaccurate, and the alarming red rectangle – which at first glance looked as if the painting had been torn to the underlying canvas –

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is crumbling

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the epitome of Hollywood masculinity. His on-screen magnetism and talk show couch affability have endeared him to millions. Now though, the Rock seems to be crumbling.  Johnson first forged his identity in the testosterone-fuelled world of professional wrestling The Rock, who has referred to himself as ‘the hardest worker in

The Beckham rumour that refuses to die

I first heard it in the spring of 1999 from a bloke who was sitting behind me at a West Ham game. It concerned David Beckham and Victoria Adams of the Spice Girls, who were then on their way to becoming the UK’s most prominent celebrity couple. They were set to marry that summer – and

What to do if you’re being sued

In each country where I have sued or defended a client, whether in England, France or the US, an often bitterly fought dispute ends peacefully. Given the brutal nature of our species, this could be considered surprising. For most of the 30,000 years we have roamed the planet, disputes have ended with one party killing

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