High life

Rupert Murdoch has nothing to fear from me

Harvard man Russell Seitz has sent me an extraordinary present as an object lesson in ‘what a magazine should be in case you start another one’. The paper has yellowed and is dog-eared, pages are falling out and the print is faint. But the Transatlantic Review, Vol. 1, No. 1, dated January 1924, is a

Low life

The joy of morphine sulphate

Two football friends, brothers, Mick and Pete, came to visit last week. We’ve been going to matches together since 1969, aged 12, in the good old skinhead days when the police enjoyed a punch-up as much as anybody. We used to travel all over the country on Lacey’s Coaches for away games and looked up

Real life

AA only admits the right sort of alcoholics

The support group groupies have issued another ban. They have attempted to slap an exclusion order on another long-standing member, in addition to the one they have meted out to my friend, the bricklayer. This latest victim hasn’t been to a meeting in Surrey for seven years because the last time he went, the local

More from life

The sweet satisfaction of a burnt Cambridge cream

If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, then a Trinity or Cambridge burnt cream must taste as sweet as its French twin, the crème brûlée. The two cooked custard dishes are essentially identical: an egg yolk-rich baked custard served cold and topped with a layer of hard caramel. Both are similar

No sacred cows

I’m on Andrew Doyle’s side – for now

I’ve agreed to interview the author and journalist Andrew Doyle about his new book at the Conservative party conference – on stage, no less – so I thought I’d better read it. It’s about the inexorable rise of the social justice warriors, whom he regards as a danger to the survival of free speech and,

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I get out of a friend’s bad birthday party?

Q. I shall be spending more time in the company of newer acquaintances in the West Country and would appreciate your advice with regard to a resurfacing problem: narcolepsy. The condition is the source of much embarrassment and I find myself at pains to explain it upfront. (People may infer spurious connections due to limited


Why the dry martini is the finest cocktail of all

We were discussing bourbon and whether American whiskey could ever rival Scotch. I recalled the first time I ever tried the transatlantic spirit. It was more than 50 years ago, in an undergraduate room in Oxford. The occupant was an ingenious fellow. At the beginning of one term, he wrote to Jim Beam, the whiskey

Mind your language

What ‘Budget’ and ‘bilge’ have in common

The Budget (which the revolutionary fiscal act last week was technically not) is directly connected with bilge and with one of the circles of Dante’s Hell, the eighth, which houses the financial fraudsters, speculators, extortionists, counterfeiters and false forecasters. The circle is divided into the ten ditches of Malebolge. The Malebolge, singular bolgia, take their


The Man Who Tried to Kill the Stars

Half through his third bottle of red, he took the keys to the gun cabinet, unlocked it, loaded a rifle, stepped out into the garden, wet grass beneath his feet, breath cloud- plumed in cold air, scanned the organic darkness above, sighted a target, fired, then swung his gun around the night sky, aimed again,

The Wiki Man

The hidden benefits of smart motorways

In 2015, Holborn Underground station was suffering from serious overcrowding at peak hours, with a bottleneck forming in the space leading to the escalators. So Transport for London tried an experiment. Abandoning the usual ‘stand on the right, walk on the left’ convention, they placed signs on two of the three ascending escalators instructing people

The turf

The lessons of Newmarket

The swallows who nest yearly in my garage have agreed that ‘that’s enough baby-making for this year’, and started their 6,000-mile trip to the southern Sahara. Between burps, many thousands of wildebeeste are currently sniffing the Kenyan air and nudging each other south for new shoots on the grassy plains of the Serengeti. To me,