High life

High life | 2 June 2012

On board S/Y Bushido However you cut it, Greek demagogues are bluffing that the faceless suits of Brussels will give in to the blackmail and fold their hand. Greeks are gamblers to start with, and some are even very good poker players. The tragedy is that the very same criminals who ruined the country to

Low life

Low life | 2 June 2012

Our Scottish visitors, man and wife, came bearing lavish gifts: a beribboned fruit cake in a Union Jack cake tin; a bottle of Bollinger; a bottle of Bailie Nicol Jarvie old Scotch Whisky (their favourite tipple); a bottle of nubile white Burgundy; four ‘Katie Morag’ children’s books; The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, which made

Real life

Real life | 2 June 2012

Perhaps I should be flattered. There was I thinking I was getting old and frumpy. But it turns out the reason I waited for so long in the ambulance before they took me to hospital was that they thought I was on drugs. The boyfriend has just revealed this. He didn’t want to tell me

More from life

Status Anxiety: Humbled at Buck House

It’s not every day the Queen invites you to tea. Admittedly, I’m not alone in being granted that honour. At the Royal Garden Party I went to last week, I was among several thousand dignitaries craning their necks to get a glimpse of Her Majesty. But it was still a lovely day out — more

All the Queen’s horses

Royal trainer Richard Hannon, we learn from an intriguing new volume about the Queen’s lifetime love affair with horse-racing, is essentially a stockman. He recognises horses by their shape and mannerisms rather than by what their owners choose to call them. So the chestnut colt with three white socks is, in Hannon-speak, ‘the Galileo colt’.

Long life | 2 June 2012

I have bought myself a floating wooden duck house for my pond in Northamptonshire. It is not a fancy one, just two little back-to-back nesting boxes on a raft under a pitched roof; and it cost £270, roughly a tenth of what you would now have to pay for a duck house of the sort

Spectator Sport

Gold standard

Heavens, we do like a moan. Sure the traffic will be hell; the commercialism mind-numbing; the Zil lanes a pain; and the presence of the egregious, a man so irritating he makes Stephen Fry seem likable, lugging the Olympic torch is preposterous. Usain Bolt will probably miss the final because he’s been stopped and

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 2 June 2012

Q. A very stylish woman with a much-admired house happened to drop into my rather dark cottage. She advised me that I should paint the inside of my fireplace white: it would look much better than the current black hole effect and would also reflect light. It seems such a good idea that I suspect


Away with the pixies

Dabbous is the place where stoned pixies would dine if they were into food. I have a fever and think of fairies and ghost trains to nowhere all day. But it is really Dabbous — Dabbous — that did this to me. Dabbous is a girl with her skirts up at Oxford — she has


A taste of heaven

I have drunk the Hallelujah Chorus. It was in Cambridge, circa 1970. I was walking back to College, past the 1950s extension to the University Arms hotel, a work of striking ugliness, even by the standards of postwar Cambridge architecture. Like Handel, I felt the heavens open, but not to see the face of God:

Mind your language


I heard a man say mayor on the radio recently as though it were mayo (of the kind that one goes easy on) followed by ‘r’. I suspect that this weird pronunciation (which could only be adopted by someone who had never heard Larry the Lamb bleat at ‘Mr Mayor’) was influenced by mayoral. Mayoral

The Wiki Man

Pushing the envelope

What’s so good about email? Well, it’s quick and easy for you to write an email, you can copy in lots of people, it’s immediate and it’s free. And the worst thing about email? Well, it’s very quick and easy for other people to send you an email, or to copy you in on an