High life

High life | 29 September 2016

Although my birthday was in August, I chose the rather melancholy autumnal moment of September to celebrate it — mourn it, rather. There are no ifs or buts about it, turning 80 is like that final beautiful gleam of light just before you lose consciousness during a boxing bout. The beauty of adolescence is that

Low life

Low life | 29 September 2016

I stood in front of the mirror in the £61-a-night hotel room in Paddington, buttoned my polyester dinner jacket and straightened my bow tie. The last time I’d worn a dinner jacket was nearly three years earlier, I remembered, at the Cigar Smoker of the Year. What a night that was. I dug through the

Real life

Real life | 29 September 2016

‘If you ask me,’ said the builder boyfriend, watching me hobble down the street as we set off for an early evening bite at the kebab shop, ‘you’re laminitic. ‘Think about it. You’ve got ludicrously small feet. They’re useless. Look at them. I’m surprised you can even balance on them. And you’ve gained a bit

More from life

I know an anti-Tory pact won’t work

I appeared on Radio 4 with Shirley Williams recently and as we were leaving I asked her if she thought Labour might split if Jeremy Corbyn were re-elected. Would the history of the SDP, which she helped set up in 1981, put off Labour moderates from trying something similar? She thought it might, but suggested

Long life | 29 September 2016

Every threatened species of wildlife can count on the friendship of a member of the British royal family. There are few causes that royals can espouse without risking political controversy, but wildlife conservation is seen as one. This may be why they are ready to speak out for any newt, butterfly, or other creature facing

The turf | 29 September 2016

There are few more compulsive reads in racing than the Kingsley Klarion, the in-house journal of Mark Johnston’s Middleham racing operation, which runs under the slightly ambiguous slogan ‘Always trying’. It is ambiguous not because anyone doubts that every Johnston runner is out on the racecourse striving to be first past the post but because

Spectator Sport

Eddie Howe for England

The name of Jozef Venglos won’t mean much to most of us apart from a few Aston Villa completists with long memories, and possibly Prince William, though by all accounts the amiable Czech is a pretty stand-up guy. He was also the first foreigner to take charge of an English top-flight club. It wasn’t much

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 29 September 2016

Q. When an invitation to shoot arrives in the autumn, I have a sense of both excitement and dread. The dread is because at the end of the day, metropolitans request that the guns must each tip to the gamekeeper a sum far higher than would be the norm for traditional country folk. Indeed, in


Pens, sex and potatoes

I hoped that Bronte would be filled with Victorian writers licking ink off their fingers and bitching about Mrs Gaskell being a third-rate hack; but it is not to be. (Do not think I am vulgar. My description is accurate. Wuthering Heights is a rude novel, and Jane Eyre is worse. St John Rivers, its

Mind your language


Home is where the heart is, but some poor languages have no word for ‘home’. For them, home is where the hearth is. The Spaniards have a proverb (of course) on the matter: El sol es hogar de los pobres, ‘The sun is hearth and home for the poor’, since they can afford no other