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

Who doesn’t love a good catfight?

Was I the only person who felt a flash of disappointment when a source said of the imminent Girls Aloud re-union that ‘No one wants it to be a catfight’? Obvs I don’t just want a catfight – they’re the best girl group ever, so they are artists and women of substance. But just a

America has warped our minds

Churchill immortalised the phrase the ‘special relationship’ in his 1946 ‘Sinews of Peace’ address. He was talking about the UK and the US. And when we think of America and Britain’s relationship, we think of the wars we’ve fought together and the diplomatic camaraderie we’ve shared over the past hundred years. We think of Iraq

Gareth Roberts

The best place to see art? Twitter of course

We hear a lot these days about how social media causes many of our ills. You may have heard some of that from me. And I was right. But I’ve recently realised that there’s one thing where the socials – in particular, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) – score a positive triumph. They are the

Is this the worst pop song ever recorded?

On a cold January night 39 years ago in Los Angeles, 46 of the world’s biggest egos gathered together to record a song that was, according to Netflix ‘The Greatest Night In Pop.’ The song was the grandly titled ‘We Are The World’, a hastily composed follow up to the monumentally successful British charity single

Julie Burchill

The rise of the sham actors

We’re all wise to those phoney rotters who hold ‘luxury beliefs’ – the excellent phrase coined by the social commentator Rob Henderson in 2019 to describe ‘the modern trend among affluent Americans to use their beliefs as a way to display their social status… a belief held or espoused in order to signal that a

Why do so many writers become dictators?

The list of writer-politicians goes back as far as Julius Caesar, who wrote a robust account of his campaigns. More recently, Boris Johnson has published fiction, as has former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, although neither to much acclaim. Inevitably, the names on this list tend to be either minor politicians or minor writers. Often both. 

Lloyd Evans

How to write the perfect aphorism

I love aphorisms. As a kid I used to pore over my parents’ book of quotations, relishing its gems and treasures like the defiant wit of Palmerston. ‘Die my dear doctor? That’s the last thing I shall do.’ ‘Sweater: garment worn by a child when its mother is feeling chilly’ The beauty of these sayings

Why we still love Kate Moss

‘She’s the kind of girl you wish lived next door, but she’s never going to,’ said the photographer David Bailey, speaking about the supermodel Kate Moss, who turned 50 this week. Moss has for three decades been a magnet for tabloid gossip and a muse to culturally influential people.Marc Quinn made sculptures out of her in

Gus Carter

The weirdness of our new migrant god

Funny to think what our taxes go on. I wouldn’t have had ‘the invention of a deity’ on my 2024 government expenditure bingo card, but here we are. The National Maritime Museum, which last year received £20 million from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has unveiled a statue of a ‘god-like protector of

It’s time to shake up the Emmys (and the Grammys, Oscars and Tonys)

In our celebrity-obsessed culture, the EGOT establishes someone as an all-out legend. Achieving an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony is the Hollywood-Broadway equivalent of a quadrathlon. Only 19 people have ever won all four awards and the feat is usually accomplished over several decades. Articles run every award season advising punters of the stars

Ross Clark

Harry, Meghan and the absurdity of the awards industry

Can I have a Legend of Aviation award please? I deserve it for the time I flew Aeroflot and lived to tell the tale. Then there was the time I flew from Denmark to Amsterdam, taking off from a snowbound runway in a twin-propped plane which looked like something out of Biggles; that was pretty hairy,

Why I self-publish my books

Trying to publish a book used to be straightforward. You came up with an idea, spent months, if not years, writing it, then sent it off to an agent or publisher who rejected it by return. Life was simpler back then. We all knew where we were. Rejection wasn’t necessarily based on the quality of

Would you sign a relationship contract?

What makes a relationship work? I look at the happiest, most stable couples I know and wonder what the trick is. Did they spot problems early on and talk them through? Do they simply accept each other’s flaws? We all have foibles; a relationship is simply a matter of deciding which ones we can live

Ten novels about flooding

Shropshire was named this week as an unlikely entrant in the top ten global dream travel destinations for 2024 – alongside more predictable contenders like Mauritius. This news received extensive media coverage, most of which featured serene, summery images of Ironbridge, the Georgian engineering marvel that is the county’s most recognisable attraction. There was something wonderfully

Sam Leith

How am I supposed to remember what happened in The Tourist?

Hooray, I thought. There’s a new season of The Tourist. I remember liking that, I thought. It was that thing with the bloke in Australia, wasn’t it? And I was all set to settle down for a good binge, when I realised that I had almost literally no idea what had happened in the first season. This is

Have we just discovered aliens?

It’s one of the greatest puzzles of the universe, and one that has vexed humanity ever since we first gazed at the stars and thought of other worlds. Is our Earth the sole place that harbours life, or might it be found elsewhere, among the trillions of planets, star systems and galaxies? As Arthur C.

Julie Burchill

In praise of Israeli women

I’ve always admired Israeli women. Though I didn’t see any in the flesh before my first trip to the Promised Land 20 years ago, at Sunday School I far preferred the complex women of the Old Testament – Deborah the judge, Yael the assassin, Ruth the first philo-Semite – to the repenting hookers and grieving

The strange return of Cilla Black

She was an unlikely contender for fame from the outset, with a pub singer voice and a nose so  prominent she would later have it surgically reduced. But, with her Scouser-next-door persona and trademark cropped hair, Cilla Black was in the right place at the right time: she rode the popular wave created by Beatlemania and

David Bowie: the man who fooled the world

In 1973, everyone loved David Bowie. Album buyers had put Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Hunky Dory high in the charts, while singles buyers had bought similar success for ‘Drive In Saturday’, ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Sorrow’. Then right in the middle of this, he released ‘The Laughing Gnome’. In truth, he probably didn’t. It was a twee little novelty song

The joys of light verse

Coleridge defined poetry as the best words in the best order and at no stage did he ever suggest that being light-hearted in verse is any less worthy than the solemnest offerings of Milton or of his old pal Wordsworth. Nevertheless, there is a feeling among many who take their art seriously that anything in

Will we worship the AI?

It’s hard to believe that only five years ago the word/acronym AI was barely seen outside the science pages, and even then solely in the most speculative way: as something that might happen, in a few decades, maybe, if you’re the dreamy type. But also maybe not. Now there literally isn’t a day that goes

Christmas traditions and the lost practice of ‘mumming’

Christmas, we are often told, is rich in traditions invented by the Victorians (or even later), and it was a rather austere affair before Charles Dickens. But while it is true that the Victorians gave us many of our Christmas traditions in their current form, English Christmas traditions before the Victorian era were simply different,

Julie Burchill

Why are pagans so annoying?

I’ve never been keen on pagans. They strike me as attention seekers with no actual merits to boast of except saying that they don’t believe in organised religion – something most of us got over at 15. Claiming to be a pagan is also a way of hinting that you’re having better sex than everybody

The importance of Midnight Mass

This year Christmas Day is on Monday; for the clergy this means two major feast days in a row, with the Fourth Sunday of Advent falling today, Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass will be the fifth mass of the day for me, to be followed by three further masses on the morning of the 25th. Clerical

Notes from an army chaplain

It happened in Italy a long time ago. The war was still at its height, but winter had set in, the roads were impassable and we were pulled out of the front line. I was chaplain to a regiment which had been through a difficult period and the men welcomed the respite. There was some

Julie Burchill

Esther Rantzen is wrong about assisted suicide

It can’t be any fun to have lung cancer as Dame Esther Rantzen does; I watched my father die from mesothelioma over the best part of a decade, and in the last couple of years this once tall, handsome, athletic man was more or less a tumour on legs. But I recall the zest with

Theo Hobson

Praying with the Pentecostalists

I go to my local church. But not my very local church. There’s a Pentecostal church, a plain building used mostly by worshipers from the Caribbean, on my very road. Happy music sometimes spills out and I have often seen smartly dressed worshippers outside. When I told my wife that I planned to go to