Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

Explaining the near-death experience

Every few weeks, an attention seeker – er, truth seeker – raves to a media outlet about what they experienced when they were ‘clinically dead’. In last week’s Daily Mail, it was the turn of Julia Poole, a 61-year-old ‘spiritualist’ from Cornwall, who suffered an overdose at the age of 21. Poole, who describes her

Why I’ve turned to woo-woo medicine

Michael Vaughan has been through hell, twice. The first time was well publicised. On thin grounds, the former England cricket captain was accused of racism and was then subjected to a brutal investigation by cricket’s overlords. Defending himself valiantly, he was exonerated. The second circle of awfulness, though, was just as bad – he became

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

The concerning sickness of NHS staff

If you have been to the cinema recently and arrived in time for the adverts, you may already know what I am talking about. Somewhere between promotions for mega-burgers in glorious technicolour and exotic holiday destinations, you are plunged into what seems an endless, but is actually only a two-minute, horror flick, entitled ‘Sicker than

Are antidepressants making you asexual?

Gen Z is often described as a sexless generation. We are having less sex than previous generations did at the same age. We are less likely to have been on a date. More of us identify as asexual. In fact, according to this Stonewall report, more Gen Z Brits identify as asexual (5 per cent) than gay (2 per cent) or

The problem with vets

A year or so ago my mum, 90, took her cat to the vet. She left an hour later, relieved of nearly £800. Her aged cat it appeared needed tests, a scan and various medicines. My mum lives in a poor area of London and is on a state pension. She has little spare money, but

An only child is a lonely child

Lonely children often grow up to be lonely, not to mention anxious and depressed. In one study, after factoring in profession, parenting style and relationship, sleep patterns, and dietary habits, only children were more likely to display symptoms associated with anxiety and depression than those with siblings. One, it seems, really is the loneliest number.

Confessions of a fortysomething brace face

When I was a teenager, my grandmother would pick me up from school every week and drive me to the orthodontist, the aptly-named Mrs Crabbe, so she could stick more pieces of metal in my mouth, tighten something up, or twist some new jazzily-coloured elastic bands onto the brackets glued onto my teeth in a vain attempt

Americans are wrong about British teeth

There is no clearer demonstration of the difference between America and Britain than their attitudes towards teeth. In America, you fix them. Doesn’t matter if they’re nearly straight. You subject yourself to years of semi-torture to achieve the American dream – a white picket fence of perfectly uniform teeth. Most perfect teeth are artificial –

I ❤️ the NHS

There is much to bemoan about the NHS, from the cruel entitlement of its junior doctors to its zest for hiring diversity and inclusion staff when many people can’t even see a GP. I have been a harsh and consistent critic for years. I don’t like the cultish, Big Brother vibes, the gawping black hole

Give me back my codeine

It’s a long time since I took a powerful drug that wasn’t dispensed by a pharmacist. Last winter, during what has become the annual post-Christmas Covid collapse, I searched in vain for the codeine cough linctus I’d been prescribed when the virus first struck four years ago.  Why must we suffer because a few scrotes

Avoid microplastics? Don’t bother

They’re everywhere, it seems: in the oceans, the fish, the soil, our drinking water, our vegetables, our grains and cereals, our meat – even in us. Microplastics and smaller nanoplastics are tiny particles of plastic flubbage measuring half a centimetre or less that result from the degradation of plastic refuse, and according to recent news coverage

Can’t sleep? Try a boring audiobook

I’m sleeping with the actor Richard E. Grant at the minute and can highly recommend the experience. He’s reading Agatha Christie’s The Murder at the Vicarage to me and has the perfect voice for it, faintly lascivious but not disturbingly so. As for the content, it’s just what’s wanted – engaging but not too stimulating.

The dangers of skinny dipping

Several years ago, I went for a swim after I’d been for a job interview. I’d just finished my lengths, had my shower, and as I wrestled my knickers back on, a voice from behind me said ‘It’s Ettie, isn’t it?’ Quite how she recognised my bare bottom I don’t know, but the woman who’d interviewed me earlier in the day was

Melanie McDonagh

Enough with the King’s prostate

How very nice that the King is now out of hospital, back home and, will, we are told, soon be back in business with his red boxes. Is it too much to hope that we can be spared further updates on his condition?  ‘All Hail the King’s Prostate Honesty’. Oh yuck. Can we stop? We

Jonathan Miller

What the French get right about healthcare

Senior management was recently walking down the street and took a funny turn. With her habitual stoicism she ignored the swelling in her foot for two weeks until I finally persuaded her to go to the urgences (emergency room) at the local Polyclinique Pasteur, a mini-hospital in Pézenas, the town four miles from our village. 

Lloyd Evans

A beginner’s guide to getting a massage

 The agony could strike at any moment. Daggering pains in my lower back demanded correction. Not just painkillers, I needed a permanent cure. ‘Thai massage’ suggested the internet, so I hobbled across a tangle of east London streets and found a doorway beneath a pink neon sign. A receptionist of south Asian appearance, bundled in

Michael Simmons

Sobriety isn’t worth it

Absolutely nobody feels better at the end of Dry January. Mornings are still a struggle, you’re as tired as ever, and if anything the neurotic voice in your head is even louder. Yes, you may have gone to the gym every Sunday, but how has your life improved? It hasn’t. My own Dry January was

Why can’t I simply book a swim?

It shames me to admit this, but I haven’t been near a public swimming pool for many a year. Hotel pools, yes; the sea – occasionally, in parts of the world with predictable warmth. But I have resisted the new wave of ‘wild’ swimming and was never a regular – to be honest even an

Social media is worse than smoking for teenagers

Would you knowingly give your daughter a birthday present that was going to increase her chances of self-harming, developing anxiety and even depression? I assume the answer would be no, yet this is what so many parents do to their children when they give them a smartphone with access to social media. You could not

Did my wife, 56, really need an emergency pregnancy test?

A team of nurses was trying to ascertain whether my wife was pregnant. It didn’t seem very likely. She’ll be 57 in a couple of months, went through the menopause over a decade ago and has been on HRT for several years. And she hasn’t had IVF. Insofar as one can be certain about such matters,

TikTok is giving our children Tourette’s

Shortly after the first Covid lockdown ended, doctors began to notice something so strange that at first they struggled to explain it. There appeared to be a sudden rise in the number of children being referred with Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds called ‘tics’. While

Should you stop taking melatonin?

Do you take it? If not, the chances are you’ll know someone who does. In an age of insomnia, melatonin has become a must-have sleep aid; as ubiquitous as yoga or herbal tea. In America, it is available over the counter and, according to The National Sleep Foundation charity, 27 per cent of adults take it. The

Why summer diets don’t work

Tis the season to eat salads and wear skimpy clothes. At least, that’s what we’re led to believe, egged on by adverts featuring bikini-clad models, barely-there fashion in shops, television series such as Love Island that equate sunshine with slender figures and the perennial expectation that we should by now be ‘beach body ready’. We’re undoubtedly

What my father’s Alzheimer’s taught me

When I tell friends, ‘You never hear people talking about the upside of Alzheimer’s’, they look at me like I’ve said something about Hitler being nice to animals. In general, a mention of dementia will ruin any conversation. People freeze up at the thought. It’s true that having a relative with dementia is hard and the

Julie Burchill

Confessions of a tanorexic

In an interesting piece for Air Mail, Linda Wells writes of ‘The secret lives of tanorexics’, asking: ‘What drives these bronze obsessives – and why won’t they ever learn?’ She questions her sun-baked friends about why they are so intent on doing a thing which they are warned will ruin their complexions and make it

Julie Burchill

Why I’m with Boris Johnson on Ozempic

Seeing Boris Johnson’s byline in the Daily Mail, I felt a flare of the affection which made me break free from my blue-collar tribalism and vote Tory for the first time in 2019. I remember thinking that the experience was rather like losing one’s virginity; worrying about it for months, then secretly planning it, then

Help! I’ve become a marathon bore

Over dinner with a friend last week, halfway through a bottle of Merlot, I noticed her eyes starting to glaze over as I spoke. Normally, I’d be offended – but it’s something I’ve experienced a lot lately, and I’ve only got myself to blame.  I was in the middle of telling her a story about my