Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

My strange hobby: a life in search of death

As George Orwell astutely observed, England is a nation of hobbyists – and their sometimes eccentric private pursuits are one of the reasons that this country did not follow the rest of Europe into totalitarian dictatorship during the 20th century. A people bent on taking a fishing rod to stream or canal every weekend, or

The desperate world of babytech

In the penumbra cast by the light of my phone, I can dimly see the wreckage of a night with a newborn baby: half-drunk bottles of milk, the tangled cord of the monitor, muslins strewn across the bed. It is 3 a.m. and the baby has gone back to sleep. I, however, am wide awake. Or rather, the consumer in me is wide

Harry and Meghan’s desperate rebrand

Harry and Meghan are at it again – launching themselves into another rebrand – this time embarking on a faux-royal tour to Nigeria, hiring new PR staff in the UK, promoting strawberry jam on Instagram and – good grief! – touting Netflix shows about friendship and polo. There’s a certain sadness about this latest effort,

How snooker snookered itself

Anyone who flicks through their television channels this Bank Holiday weekend will almost certainly glimpse the final of the World Snooker Championship. Played over Sunday and Monday at Sheffield’s Crucible, the 35-frame marathon is snooker’s answer to Test Cricket. And as one of the few sporting events the Beeb still has the rights to, it

Philip Patrick

Why are the Japanese so bad at English?

Tokyo, Japan ‘Shhh! Now on face to respectable great eels life’. How’s that for the first line of an article? I spotted this gem written on a sign in the window of a seafood restaurant in the Hibiya Midtown shopping centre in Tokyo recently. I was delighted. I’ve spent 25 years in Japan and have

Julie Burchill

I’m proud I squandered my wealth

I don’t have much in common with Charlotte Church (I support the ancient state of Israel, whereas she supports Narnia; she’s still relatively young and cute, whereas this ancient mariner’s ship has sailed) but something we do share is a lifetime of extreme generosity verging on the profligate, often to people who do not deserve

Why unorthodox thinkers are embracing Christianity

Russell Brand was baptised on Sunday, he says – in the River Thames, despite his tongue-in-cheek fear of catching a virus – and he’s thrilled about it. He thanked those who embraced his decision, while expressing understanding of those who are cynical. He’s not perfect, he explains; he knows he’s going to make mistakes, but

Welcoming the flat season with three bets

If City of Troy is as brilliant as his trainer Aidan O’Brien thinks he is and he runs to his best form, then he will win the first Classic of the flat season at Newmarket tomorrow. The three-year-old colt is not just a ‘talking horse’: his record on the racetrack last season was sensationally good,

In praise of the 1/3 pint

The worst thing that happened to me over the pandemic was I got ‘really into beer’. I was already into it in the most straightforward way: I liked drinking it and I liked getting drunk. I liked the ceremony of it: walking into the pub, ideally at noon on a balmy Saturday, inhaling that rich

Tanya Gold

‘Vital but fraying’: Five Guys reviewed

Five Guys is a burger house from Arlington, Virginia, based on the premise that if you can serve a drink, cut a fringe, or make a hamburger, you will always make money in America. Thirty years and 1,700 restaurants later, it sits on Coventry Street off Piccadilly, soaking up the alcohol of a thousand British

Olivia Potts

How to make ham and parsley sauce

Poor old parsley sauce. As someone who writes regularly about old-fashioned food, it often feels that we are living through a golden revival of vintage dishes. You can’t move for cookbook concepts pinned on comfort and nostalgia, or restaurants attempting to take the diner on some kind of Proustian journey. Whether it’s nursery food, school

Roger Alton

The strikers giving Southgate a headache

Poor Gareth Southgate. Having three outstanding finishers is giving him a thumping headache ahead of the European Championship. Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden are thrilling football crowds with their goal-scoring talents in three of the best domestic leagues in the world. Most national team managers would welcome such a golden trio: but for

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

I’m driven mad by tailgaters

It’s the flash that shocks you first. It’s night and you’re driving in the outside lane of the motorway at a speed that isn’t exactly the national limit, but isn’t so wildly in excess that it would raise eyebrows. Suddenly your car floods with the light of a thousand suns. The flash in the rear-view

Ross Clark

Hate people? Visit Iceland

No-one seems to like tourists any more. This week Venice introduced its €5 entry charge – which merely buys you the right to go into the city and be ripped off by cafes and restaurants. On Tenerife, residents have been marching and daubing slogans on the walls ‘tourist – go home’. So much for free

Why the old are getting younger

Researchers at the Humboldt University of Berlin have discovered that we no longer consider ourselves old until we’re 74. What’s more, by the time you reach 74, you think old age begins at 77. Which is something to celebrate – just don’t tell the Department for Work and Pensions or they’ll get more bright ideas about pushing

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

Conspicuous luxury looks cheap

Street robbery has become an epidemic. Horrible thugs are stealing luxury watches and jewellery in broad daylight. The number of luxury watches stolen almost doubled in England and Wales between 2015 and 2022 – with 25,802 stolen in 2022. The problem is particularly bad in London, where the Metropolitan Police have set up a special unit

The myth of trauma

Everything is trauma. From Barbie’s Oscars snub (very traumatic) to Taylor Swift’s new album (also deeply traumatic), profound emotional distress appears to be everywhere. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), trauma requires ‘actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence’. A horrific car crash, a terrorist attack, an armed robbery, these all fit the bill. An

A boomer’s guide to Gen Z slang

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with my two teenage grandsons, who live in Dorset – 16-year-old Dylan and Isaac, who is 14. Listening to them chatting with their friends, I slowly realised that, half the time, I hadn’t a clue what they were on about. Peculiar words I’d never heard before

Why are men so offended by my hair?

My annus horribilis was 1992. I was in fifth grade (aged ten) and had impulsively cut my hair short over the summer. I turned up to school with auburn ringlets billowing out and up from my head in a wavy sphere. Boy did it get the boys going: constant insults, including ‘Ronald McDonald’ (McDonalds’ clown

Inside the chaotic Household Cavalry stables

Churchill had his black dog tailing him around. I used to have black horses galloping through my head. They careered around out of control, rendering me so anxious that I couldn’t sleep the night before I was due to heave myself into the saddle as a civilian support rider for the Household Cavalry. So the

Why we love hideous food

I’m sitting on a stone terrace in the winsome south Breton port of Sainte Marine, which oversees France’s prettiest river (the Odet), and I’m excitedly tucking into a dozen gleaming Morbihan oysters. I am doing this partly because I am writing about travel in Brittany and oysters are very much part of the package here

The stupidity of the former footballer pundits

It was the most dramatic moment of the whole football season. Having trailed 3-0 to the millionaires of Manchester United in their FA Cup semi-final, lowly Coventry had bravely fought their way back to 3-3 and extra time. And now, in the last minute of that extra time, they had broken away to score an incredible

Farewell to the jump season with three bets

As the curtain falls on another jumps’ season tomorrow, the ups and downs of ante-post betting are all too apparent once again. Threeunderthrufive, put up three weeks ago at 20-1, is now 7-1 second favourite for the bet365 Gold Cup (tomorrow, 3.35 p.m.) at Sandown. With his favoured good ground almost guaranteed, he will have

The case for Churchillian drinking

Churchill. No disrespect to Andrew Roberts’s more recent work, but I set out to look up a point about drink in Roy Jenkins’s biography and ended up rereading it. I think that it is Roy’s best book and extremely well written. There are also passages where he slips in points from his own experience of

Taylor Swift is the tortured voice of millennials

I gave Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department (which I need to stop calling The Dead Poets Society) a cursory listen on Friday morning, a few hours after it was released. Maybe it was because I listened to half of the self-indulgent songs while walking my dog through a moody forest before I’d had any human

Confessions of a competitive dog owner

Defeat stares me in the face every time I walk down my north London street. Decorating the knocker of a house a few doors along is a blue rosette announcing it’s home to the winners of the street dog show. Whenever I go past with my cockapoo Honey, she is nonchalant, barely bothering to stop