Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

JFK’s assassination and the landscape of loss

It has become a commonplace to observe that, 60 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, America lost its innocence – or at least the myth of its innocence. Certainly, the event has left a stubborn impression on history and culture; something to do with the power, grandeur and

Why women still love Twilight

Anybody who has been a teenage girl will know how dark and swampy the sexual imagination of that demographic can be. At 14 and 15, after watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996), and then James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), I became so obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio that I’d lie for hours on my bed hatching

What Ridley Scott gets wrong about history

The film director Ridley Scott says that those who worry about the historical inaccuracies in his new biopic of Napoleon should ‘get a life’. Or as the told The Sunday Times last week: ‘When I have issues with historians, I ask: “Excuse me, mate, were you there? No? Well, shut the fuck up, then.’ If

How to travel India by steamboat

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. Nowhere is this so true as in the streets of Calcutta, departing point of our cruise. The legacy of Mother Teresa has placed a stigma on the ancient capital of the British Raj, now forever considered a city of the dying and destitute. Unsurprisingly, Calcutta does not

In praise of the pickle

Have you taken the pickle pill? Pickles and the liquid in which they often come are proliferating across western cuisine. They have been praised for their health qualities, with gut-pleasing, sodium-rich pickle juice becoming a post-workout favourite in Britain and America. It’s even being incorporated into cocktails and beer. ‘Putting a pickle in cheap beer

Jonathan Miller

Is Napoleon anti-French?

The English director Ridley Scott has certainly produced a massive irritation to French amour-propre. Over the weekend, he said that criticism of his film Napoleon proved that the French ‘don’t even like themselves’. Whether Napoleon is a masterpiece is yet to be determined (it isn’t released until Wednesday) but opinion is already divided. As if the

Finding my family roots in Spain

The sun had sunk behind the mountains that surrounded the harbour of Cudillero, a small fishing town in Asturias. My hair was still wet from the sea. Two old men were sitting next to us, chatting loudly in Spanish while my husband, father, and I ate bonito pate. Despite being a shy child, my grandfather

Will the Las Vegas Grand Prix survive?

Equal parts hype and horsepower, this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix is the most talked about sporting event of the year. For the first time, Formula One will take to the strip, with 20 cars screaming past the floodlit Venetian Caesar’s Palace and the faux Eiffel Tower at 200mph. Certainly, it lost its shirt on

Flat-footed: welcome to the floorboard wars

Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, this wasn’t – at least not yet – and it probably passed much of the country by, especially given the rival distractions of recent weeks. It was nonetheless a lawsuit that will have been followed in compulsive detail by at least two groups of people: those who own their own flats –

Four tips for upcoming big races

Cheltenham’s November meeting is, as usual, a meeting to savour and I am looking forward to my first visit to the Cotswold track this season when I attend tomorrow’s seven-race card. I put up two tips for tomorrow’s big race, the Paddy Power Gold Cup (2.20 p.m.), last week and I was pleased to see

Julie Burchill

Why I’ll always love Big Brother

I’ve always been a Big Brother fan; I was hooked from the very first series way back in the year 2000, which featured Nasty Nick, Anna the lesbian nun and the winner, charming Scouse builder Craig Phillips who took the prize of £70,000 and promptly gave it all to his friend Joanne Harris for a

How to give gifts

1. Don’t try to compete with a super-rich host. You may have to sing for your supper but you are not expected to pay for it. Their ‘people’ will have ensured that everything they need for the purposes of entertaining you is already in place. Your 360g of Marrons Glacés (£64, Fortnum & Mason) will be

How to get rid of your saggy tattoo

Sagging angels, wilting lilies, drooping lines from love sonnets, withered swallows, flaccid snakes, limp dragons, shrivelled babies’ names: this will be the view inside the British bathroom, and at the British seaside, and in British hospital beds and morgues, in 2060, when today’s tattoo-wearers now in their prime will be in their seventies and eighties. 

Why I love terrible towns

There are plenty of reasons to visit Catania in Sicily, and some of them are positive. The town is impressively ancient – dating back to the 8th century bc. It boasts a handsome, lavishly voluted Baroque core. A few steps from that main piazza you can find the picturesque fish market, the Pescheria, which sequins the

Philip Patrick

Japanese service is stiflingly polite

One thing you can be sure of on a visit to Japan is that the service will be at the very least good, and quite often superb. The chances of being short-changed, snubbed, or slighted are virtually zero and truly bad service is so rare I almost, after 24 years in Tokyo, crave it now

Would you drink fermented horse milk?

To my great disappointment, I was never (knowingly) fed qarta – a popular dish of boiled and pan-fried horse anus served without sauce or spices. I did, however, get to try the next best thing – kymyz, mares’ milk fermented in a goatskin. It was the second day of a horse trek in Kyrgyzstan and

The miserable rise of the childless wedding

Since becoming a mother, I have come to dread weddings. Children are often no longer welcome at nuptials. My children have been banned from several already, and we have attended several others where they might as well have been, so inhospitable were they to young families. I find it indescribably depressing and utterly baffling that

The importance of London’s lost cinema

King’s Cross in the eighties was the scabbiest, dodgiest, scariest and most alternative place in central London – and the crumbling Scala cinema was its beating heart. Memories of this long-shut venue are being revived by the imminent release of a feature-length documentary tracing its brief, colourful history. The film is named after the cinema

Why are so many young people single?

An increasing number of young Brits are single. Many of these people don’t want to be single. They want to be in a relationship. But, for some reason or other, they’re having no luck. Why? What’s holding them back? A recent study shed light on the factors that contribute to involuntary singlehood in Britain and

What’s more trendy than space travel? Banning it

In bedrooms across the country, women are wearing £145 sexy silk chemises emblazoned with jewels spelling out the words ‘Ban Space Travel’. This isn’t just a bit tacky or part of a new kink. It’s a sign of growing cynicism around space exploration. (Another item in the same collection, sold by luxury underwear company Bluebella,

Leuven: Belgium’s most underrated city

From the vertiginous belltower of Leuven’s university library, you get a great view across the mottled rooftops of Belgium’s most underrated city. Leuven isn’t swarming with sightseers, like Bruges. It isn’t choked with commuter traffic, like Brussels. It’s lively and compact, ideal for a weekend away – so why have most British travellers never even

I’m sick of streaming. Films were better on Blu-ray

The digital world, I’m realising, is a bit of a racket. Recently most of my iTunes library disappeared from my iPhone, and I just don’t know if I can be bothered to go through all the different hoops, portals, queueing systems and long forgotten passwords to get them back again. I’ve also had the repeated

Gorillas in the mix: in search of Rwanda’s silverbacks

Two hours into a muddy hike through Rwanda’s Nyungwe rainforest and though I’ve been barked at by a baboon, crossed rivers of fire ants and stepped over a foot-long centipede, I have yet to see any chimpanzees, which is the reason I’m here.  My guide and our team of trackers are on the path ahead, armed

Two tips for the Paddy Power Gold Cup

Richard Hobson is a trainer that I have a lot of time for. He always gets the best out of his small string and he is always willing to share information with journalists about the well-being of his horses and their big-race targets. He places his horses well too, even if it means going to

Are party holidays ever that fun?

Forget GCSEs or landing your first part-time job. Nothing screamed growing up in Britain like embarking on your first European party holiday, armed with an alarming lack of SPF or common sense but a suitcase packed full of skimpy outfits and condoms. Every summer, thousands of young Britons would jet off to Greece, Cyprus or

Celebrity owners are ruining football

Tom Brady must get bored easily. After America’s superstar quarterback retired (for a second time) in March, he invested in a Las Vegas women’s basketball team, sorted out his divorce, bought a racing boat team with Rafael Nadal and, this summer, became a minority owner of Birmingham City. A few weeks ago, it was announced that