Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

Ross Clark

The next Bitcoin bubble will be the largest yet

The power of Bitcoin to make and lose fortunes in a very short time is unmatched in history. But could the biggest boom and bust be yet to come? Since January the value of Bitcoin has staged a remarkable recovery, and is now back trading at or even above the highs it reached in 2022. That is

Isabel Hardman

The stressful world of the Chelsea Flower Show

The man in the Post Office was a bit bemused by the three enormous boxes I was trying to send from my home just outside Edinburgh down to London. He’d asked what the value of the packages was. In one sense, they were worthless, I explained. But I really needed to make sure they got

What I resent about my dog

The main benefits of dog ownership are well-known – you get companionship, unconditional love and the exercise that comes with taking the thing for a walk. But there’s a side-effect that no one ever mentions: having a dog teaches you what it’s like to be famous. I’ll be sitting in a café, happily reading a

The greatest rockstar you’ve never heard of

A man takes the stage at the Clapham Grand. His large, histrionic eyes are ringed with kohl. His slim limbs are decked in spandex, open to a furry navel. He throws back his flaxen hair and punches the air. ‘Thunder!’ he yells to the opening salvo of the AC/DC tub-thumper ‘Thunderstruck’. His name is Mac

Penknives aren’t dangerous

The company that makes the world-renowned Swiss Army penknife has decided to introduce a range of penknives that come… wait for it… without knives – citing increased regulations ‘due to the violence in the world’. It isn’t the knives that need changing, but rather the poorly-applied laws The problem is that a Swiss Army penknife without

My vote winner? Banning ‘fun’ runs

One of us must once have told a political pollster: ‘I really have no idea at all who I’m going to vote for.’ A moment of mild exasperation put us down as ‘Don’t knows’. Forever afterwards, the prospect of an election, whether for Wandsworth council, the Mayor of London or the Battersea parliamentary constituency, brings

Rory Sutherland

How to solve ‘range anxiety’

In ‘The Adventure of Silver Blaze’, Sherlock Holmes mentions ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night-time’. ‘But the dog did nothing in the night-time,’ argues Inspector Gregory. ‘That was the curious incident,’ replies Holmes. You never hear anyone say: ‘We finally stumbled across a charming little petrol station nestling among the trees’ Along

A bloke’s guide to aftershave

In 2020, the year of coronavirus, I came to a fork in the road. I’d just turned 50, a moment of looking back over your life, realising what you’ve failed to achieve, and accepting there’s only a finite number of years left to you. It was clearly a time for making a change of some

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was the NME’s squarest journalist

Before I went to medical school I had a hip alternative life. In the 1980s, as a 17 year-old schoolgirl, I wrote for the New Musical Express. My friends assume I had a great time with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but the truth is I was such a cautious Carla that I didn’t

A love letter to the Fiat 500

On visits to the continent as a child, what struck me was the strangeness of other European countries. Going to France or Italy, pre-internet, you cut off your connections to the outside world, and even got the British news a day or two late. People ate horse meat, tortellini in brodo or croque monsieurs, and

What next for the world of watches?

Every year, the world’s greatest watch companies and their biggest fans head to Geneva for an orgy of horological spectacle: Watches & Wonders. Here, companies pull out their latest, newest, most impressive goods, showing off the main products they intend to launch and the fans salivate and loosen their already pummelled wallets. It’s not a cheap

Confessions of an egg snatcher

April is nesting season and with it comes egg collectors, an illegal band of very specialised and, in some ways, very British of criminals. Many would consider themselves wildlife enthusiasts. Most see their crime as a hobby, ignoring the effects of stealing a clutch of eggs and thus accelerating the species decline in a particular

A beginner’s guide to finding a good nanny

When an au pair or nanny writes ‘I was wondering if I could talk to you this evening,’ it is rarely good news. At best, it is to ask for a pay rise; at worst, to give notice of a departure. ‘I’d like to go to Madrid,’ said our beloved au pair one evening, confirming

Now’s the time to join the Garrick

Amelia ‘Milly’ Gentleman, the Guardian’s fearless investigative reporter, has ‘exclusively’ revealed some of the Garrick Club’s filthy secrets. It’s ‘the final gasps’ of ‘a declining patriarchal elite’, she writes. ‘A lonely slice of an England that forgot to modernise’. All over the country, fair-minded folk must be thinking ‘woo, when can I join?’   Clubmen

Watches satisfy a strange masculine urge

A year or two ago I got my first expensive watch, a Longines Conquest Heritage. It wasn’t quite my dream timepiece – that was a 1960s Omega Seamaster automatic (think Bond films at the Sean Connery stage) but these are priced off the scale and need plenty of specialist upkeep. The Longines Conquest, very much

Why don’t people like my cowboy hat?

The presence of ‘The Hat’ has already raised disputes within my family. My wife refuses to walk with me in our village, which I think is unreasonable. ‘Well, would you walk around with me if I were wearing a witch’s hat?’ she said. I know what she means, but she’s wrong. This is not fancy

In praise of peculiar names

It began, as these things often do, in the Births, Deaths and Marriages column of the Times. ‘On 29th February, to Olivia von Wulffen and Rupert Oldham-Reid,’ the announcement read. ‘A daughter, Antigone Elizabeth Anna, sister to Peregrine Yorck von Wulffen and Otto the dog.’ The ad was spotted by journalist Harry Wallop who posted it

Carrie Johnson and the tragedy of pond life

As so often, Hello! magazine had the scoop. Carrie and Boris Johnson are expecting again. This time it is ducks. For her 36th birthday Mrs Johnson was presented with an incubator and some duck eggs. Any day now there will be a splintering of shell and a chorus of incipient, high-pitched quacks as another waddling brood

Max Jeffery

Unhappy? What a luxury

Rob Stephenson is trying to produce a sonic representation of joy. He’s DJing on stage at the World Happiness Summit in London, pumping out a kick drum at 124bpm. The sound represents the subliminal satisfaction you get from a walk round the park, Rob says. He adds bongos and the dinging noise of a triangle

What my strange old friends taught me

As a young man I sought out the company of much older people in the arts, feeling they had some secret to life, often the same one in different guises, which I wanted, needed to discover. In the let-it-all-hang-out youth culture of the 1990s I felt awash, and the elderly (which to a 20-year-old meant