Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

Gareth Roberts

I’ve finally given up on physical books

When I first heard about ebooks, I was horrified. Something deep within me flinched. Surely, I thought – my surface brain trying to rationalise this atavistic spasm – the tactile reality of books is an intrinsic part of the joy of books? Nowadays I only read a physical book if there really is no alternative

The lost world of MSN Messenger

Despite only being 30, the students at the school at which I work often make me feel old. They love nothing more than testing my knowledge of their Gen-Z slang: no, I don’t know what you mean when you say Romeo is a ‘simp’ or whether Macbeth’s behaviour is ‘sus’. My average 12-year-old student is

For one night only, I was back on the DJ decks

Hard to imagine now but I was once a hot club DJ. I now need to go to bed on the same day I got up but once upon a time – in fact, hundreds of times upon a time – I dropped big tunes at famous clubs including Le Beat Route, the Camden Palace

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. 

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,

The glamour of a Dunhill Rollagas lighter

Sometimes a small purchase gives an outsize amount of pleasure. I have felt this recently with a particularly robust pair of replacement boot laces and an especially bobbly, Italianate lemon. But most satisfying amongst all these small pleasures has been a lighter. Specifically, a Dunhill Rollagas lighter from eBay. Clearly an object of the 1960s,

Julie Burchill

Advent calendars are becoming offensively showy

Each year in the charity shop where I volunteer, the Christmas cards arrive in August; by September, they must be on the shelves. We’re a small shop and space is precious; shoes and bags which would make us a healthy profit are swept aside for half-hearted etchings of mardy robins. But at least it’s in

In defence of the office romance

In the wake of Philip Schofield’s ‘unwise but not illegal’ relationship with a much younger employee, ITV have issued a new policy. It requires staff members to declare the names of their ‘associates’ and the ‘nature of their relationships’ on a Google Forms questionnaire. This is frankly a pathetic attempt to stamp out abuses of

My terrible evening on a stand-up comedy course

A few years ago, I abandoned a five-year counselling course after just 40 minutes. Apparently, I couldn’t have a refund from the community college but could transfer to another course. I may have a writer’s fascination with finding things out but I have a strange aversion to being taught. Looking at the long list of courses

Tanya Gold

The unconscious savagery of the Rolls-Royce Spectre

Most Rolls-Royce drivers have four cars or more: this is a car for leisure. They drive their Rolls-Royces perhaps 3,000 miles a year: I would never do that. I would treat it like any other car. Lawrence of Arabia had nine armoured Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts for his campaign in Arabia. I would go to the

Deliver us from speed awareness courses

I can’t decide if I’m a brilliant or bad driver. I admit I didn’t pass first time (it only took seven attempts). But in the intervening decades, I’ve amassed so many miles behind the wheel I like to think that, if he knew me, I’d be Sadiq Khan’s Public Enemy No.1. High mileage, no major

The message in the King’s new coins

Last week, the Royal Mint unveiled a new set of designs for British coins. They depart dramatically from tradition by featuring themes from nature rather than heraldic, royal, or national emblems. The last set of definitives, designed by Matthew Dent and released in 2008, featured enlarged details of the royal arms, and previous designs have

Crocs vs Birkenstocks: the great clog divide

What we put on our feet says a lot about a person. Shoes define our character. There are shoes that breathe, shoes for diving, shoes for driving, shoes that light up, shoes with wheels in them, shoes that look more like gloves than shoes, shoes by Kanye West, shoes for old people, shoes for the

The joy of shaving brushes

Have you ever considered the harm that men’s daily shaving regime does to the world? I know, if you considered the harm of everything you do on a daily basis then none of us would get up in the morning, but… Think of it: assuming there are three billion men in the world who each

Is your car snooping on your sex life?

Most drivers have no idea just how much data their vehicles are collecting. The cars of today are less computers on wheels than they are monitoring monstrosities – and some of the spying is truly shocking. Cars can tap into your search history, and many people’s search histories are, for lack of a better word,

Jenny McCartney

An ode to the BlackBerry

The demise of tech plays out first as disorientation, then entertainment. We’ve reached the latter stage with the BlackBerry, the now-defunct Canadian harbinger of global smartphone addiction. A new film out this month charts its spectacular rise and fall: young folk, look up from your iPhones, and learn how in its Noughties heyday, the BlackBerry

I hated counsellor training

In practically every respect, I’m a useless human being. This is not the vanity of false modesty – I really am worse than most people at most things. I’ve never picked up a musical instrument, a golf club or a foreign language; I can barely boil an egg and would find it almost impossible to paint

Ross Clark

My smart Volvo has managed to scrap itself

For much of the past few years, car production has been compromised by a global shortage of microchips. Why no manufacturer has seized the opportunity to market a microchip-free car (i.e. like all cars manufactured before the 1980s) I don’t know. I would certainly swap my too-clever-for-its-own-good Volvo V60 for such a model. I haven’t met anyone

The quiet thrill of moss hunting

Did you know that an expert on mosses is called a bryologist? And did you know that there are 754 species of moss in The British Isles? No? Well then you can be forgiven for not knowing that my brother, Mark, I write with pride, recently discovered another moss – number 755 – new not only to The British Isles

The simplicity and joy of recorded conversations

Recently I stumbled across a file of conversations I’d recorded with my seven-year-old son Frank back when he was four. Topics include his travels through wormholes, why he finds planet Earth ‘boring’, the tragic story of how his ‘first family’ died and how he got his ‘laser eyes’. It was only by listening to these

The pointlessness of being early

We all know that the saddest words in the English language are ‘too late’. We also know that ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ and that ‘punctuality is the politeness of kings. However, since this piece was published a couple of weeks ago, many have got in touch to point out that, very often, ‘the

Stop paving over front gardens

It’s a pretty typical 1930s-built semi in the outer London suburbs: four bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, average back garden and unusually large front garden with a lawn and mixed shrub borders. Or rather that’s what it was until it changed hands earlier this summer and the new owners had different ideas. Now that

A beginner’s guide to buying a guitar

Thinking of adding another six strings to your bow? You wouldn’t be alone – lockdown inspired plenty of people to learn the guitar. The trend may have lessened as people return to the office, but it has still meant UK and European sales for the guitar maker Fender are £5 million higher than before Covid.

Click bait: confessions of a Lego addict

The empire of Lego has many dominions and protectorates, with every year, it seems, new territories to conquer. There are theme parks; there are films of excruciatingly ironic sophistication; there are competitions to make bizarre tableaux that grip nations; there are highly controlled TV documentaries about life at the heart of Lego in Denmark. I

What you get for a £25 million custom Rolls-Royce

Back in the early days of the motor car, Rolls-Royce would sell you a ladder chassis and drivetrain, but for the bodywork you’d have to consult a coachbuilder and write a separate cheque. It wasn’t until 1946 that Rolls-Royce provided its own. Henry Royce dealt with the oily bits, but when it came to the