Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

At last, a museum of real British culture

Pin yourself to the spinning wheel as the knife thrower aims his blades. Take a Northern Soul twirl on the talcum-powdered floor. Play ‘With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’ on George Formby’s banjolele. At last popular entertainment, from Sooty to Strictly, is being given its rightful part on the nation’s stage. These fabulous artforms,

I’m saving the world, one worm at a time

Recently, I was walking down a London street when on the pavement I spotted a worm. It was so motionless I wasn’t sure if it was alive or dead. Normally, I would have passed the worm by without a second thought. But I’d just been to my local park to do stretches, meditation, breathing exercises

Is AI the biggest Brexit benefit?

It’s not easy being a Leaver, right now. For a start, the government that actually delivered Brexit – the present Tory government – is facing a one-sided electoral hammering which will make the Anglo-Zanzibar war of 1896 (duration: 38 minutes) look like a tense, nail-biting score draw. In the same vein, polls consistently show high

Growing up straight

Attending an English public school in the 1970s when you weren’t from that world was a tough gig. Mum’s family were from the East End. Dad was what might euphemistically be called a ‘wheeler dealer’. Having had little education, Dad was determined his children wouldn’t suffer the same fate. So my brother and I were

Stoicism is back

If Marcus Aurelius were around today, would he have a podcast? The answer, of course, is no. His meditations were for his own guidance and never knowingly meant to be published. This doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have found himself shoved forward as a hero of a new resistance. His sound bites would be rendered into

Damian Reilly

Tim Dillon, your tour guide to the end of the world

Tim Dillon is a comedian who not so long ago worked as a New York tour bus guide and subprime mortgage salesman. He started a podcast from his porch in 2016 and used it to talk about world events, what he and his lowlife friends were up to, and, frequently, to complain about how broke

Julie Burchill

The art of the flounce

With Owen Jones very huffily leaving the Labour party, I was moved to examine the state of The Flounce in public life de nos jours. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it thus: 1. To move with exaggerated jerky or bouncy motions (‘flounced about the room, jerking her shoulders, gesticulating’ – Agatha Christie)2. To move so as

I’m a hypochondriac. Even I’ve had enough of the anxiety epidemic

Our age of mental hypochondriasis has some surreal, even comic, aspects. I recently met some Gen-Zedders who were actually competing over bagging psychological diagnoses. Unsurprisingly, ADHD was the gateway pathology for these young folk – prescription rates for hyperactivity have jumped a fifth in the last year to 230,000, with doctors claiming to be overwhelmed

My night with a murderer

My father met a murderer once; a carrot-topped former chorine called Ann Woodward, who gave her veddy veddy posh husband both barrels after discovering he intended to divorce her for someone more upper-class. She got off after her mother-in-law, Elsie, who preferred a killer in the family to a scandal, bought off the American cops.

China’s greatest poet was a drunk teenage girl

One of China’s most famous poems was penned by a teenager with a killer hangover. ‘Heavy sleep can’t get rid of the dregs of alcohol,’ she grumbles, sequestered in her darkened room after a night of boozing and bad weather. She has to ask a maid to open her curtains. Here comes one of the

Julie Burchill

The monstrous beauty of Nico

Few things sum up the chasm between childhood and adolescence more poignantly than our changing relationship with music. One minute life is all familial cuddles and nursery rhymes – the next it’s all parental alienation and rock’n’roll. One year I was eagerly buying the records of Pinky & Perky, the next those of Dave Dee

Julie Burchill

Terfs are the new punks

‘PUNK’S NOT DEAD!’ I will sometimes write as a sign-off on emails to mates when I’ve said something particularly ‘bad’. It’s something of a joke with me; although I was around the scene early on (1976) and started my career off as a 17-year-old writing about punk, I didn’t much like it. I liked black

Now AI is coming for musicians

Do you remember those far off misty days of yore, when shocking, startling, amazing, disquieting revelations from the world of Artificial Intelligence only arrived every year or two, or even longer? It was about, ooh, a fortnight ago: a wistful, innocent time of smiling boy scouts, and honey for tea, and vicars in bicycle clips,

Lloyd Evans

Did we really need Warsi and Baddiel’s podcast?

Podcast fever continues to dominate the political airwaves. The rewards for success are enormous and popular podcasters are able to fill concert halls around the county by delivering a couple of hours of chitchat to willing punters. Since the running costs are minimal, the profits are vast. This explains the gold-rush of media darlings and

A river-side chat with Paul Whitehouse

The words ‘immersive experience’ have always suggested, to me, a rather strained hour or two smiling patiently at unemployed actors pretending to be ghosts or personages from the olden days or, if I’m really lucky, chocolatiers who are not called Willy Wonka for legal reasons. In fact, all the publicity for the ‘Fish and Feast

Could the BBC sink Desert Island Discs?

Desert Island Discs is 80 years old and to celebrate this milestone the BBC has planned an event unprecedented in the show’s long history. It is also one that will surely have its creator and original presenter, Roy Plomley, spinning in his grave. Desert Island Discs Live will take place at London’s Palladium over three nights

Sydney Sweeney and the return of real body positivity

Yay! Boobs are back! Sydney Sweeney made engagement farming easy with her cleavage-revealing curtain call this past weekend as the host of Saturday Night Live. If you spend any time online at all, I’m sure you’ve seen the video. Wrapped in a revealing little black dress, Sydney thanks the cast, the crew, Lorne Michaels and giggles

Are we ready for P(doom)?

It’s difficult to remember a time before climate change – a time when our daily discourse, our newspaper front pages, endless movies and TV documentaries, and Al Gore, Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough (Peace Be Upon Him), were not lecturing us, sternly and constantly, about the threat to our planet from the ‘climate emergency’,

What has Amy Lamé actually done for London?

It’s no surprise that Britain’s night economy is in dire straight given a quarter of people told pollsters they would like to see nightclubs permanently closed even after the pandemic. Yet nobody embodies modern society’s contempt for club culture quite like Amy Lamé, Sadiq Khan’s embattled ‘Night Czar’. Places that ought to be the capital’s dedicated nightlife

How to carry out a citizen’s arrest

One Monday morning about 30 years ago, I drove to work, parked my car in the village car park, and started hauling my bags of files out of the boot. In my new role with a firm of solicitors, the weekend had been a chance to familiarise myself with my pressing caseload. I initially paid

The genius of Flanders and Swann

War has had its apologians ever since history began,From the times of the Greeks and Trojans when they sang of Arms and the Man,(But if you ask me to name the best, sir, I’ll tell you the one I mean,Head and shoulders above the rest, sir, was the War of 14-18) If you’ve never heard

Where is the Princess of Wales?

Tuesday’s statement about Prince William was terse to the point of being unhelpful. ‘The Prince of Wales has pulled out of attending the memorial service for the late King Constantine of Greece at Windsor Castle due to a personal matter.’ Granted, William has been unusually active during the past few weeks. One minute he has

Frank Skinner: twilight of an insurgent comic

Watching Frank Skinner perform his latest one man show at the Gielgud Theatre reminded me of what it must have been like back in the dying days of variety. By the late 1970s and early 1980s cheeky jokesters and all-round entertainers such as Tarby, Brucie, Doddy and Manning were feeling the heat from a new

Dinosaurs and culture wars

Last week marked the 200th anniversary of the most significant evening in the history of palaeontology. On 20 February 1824, the learned gentlemen of the Geological Society gathered at their rooms on Bedford Street in Covent Garden for a meeting that would transform human understanding of prehistoric life. To begin, the clergyman William Conybeare announced

Julie Burchill

The enduring ghastliness of Alastair Campbell

As someone who was fond of Derek Draper (a feeling that probably wasn’t mutual, as I nicked his bird) it was strange to see photographs of his funeral. It seemed like a state occasion for some legendary leader who had died in battle defending his country, rather than for the husband of a likeable TV

AI just exploded. Again

When they come to write the history of the AI revolution, there’s a good chance that the writers will devote many chapters to the early 2020s. Indeed, such is the pace, scale and wildness of the development, it is possible entire books will be devoted to, say, what happened in the last week or so.

Think drug legalisation is a good idea? Visit Fentanyl Land

In 1988, I lived on the backpackery Khaosan Road, Bangkok, in a hotel which offered heroin on room service. It went like this: in the morning, you padded down the teakwood stairs to the little kitchen and you asked the pretty Thai girl for breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, ‘extras’. Ten minutes later the same

Welcome to the age of uncancelling

In September 2019 my fear was that comedian Shane Gillis might throw himself off a bridge. Just hours after being hired by Saturday Night Live, one of the world’s biggest TV shows, he was fired. The reason: journalist Seth Simons had posted clips of Gillis disparaging Chinese people. The clips, from 2018, showed Gillis on

Rewild the churchyards

In the village where we used to live, the churchyard was just over the road from our cul-de-sac. I often used to potter around on my lunchbreaks, or pass through on walks. The oldest gravestone I managed to find, if I remember correctly, was for a local chap who had died in his seventies around