High life

In praise of the London sense of humour

London As speaker at a posh dinner given by Jonathan and Jake Goedhuis, best UK wine merchants by far, and attended by many swells including Anthony Mangnall MP, I somehow managed to finish the speech having tasted some very good wines in between. I nevertheless got lots of mileage from pointing out the fact that

Low life

A journey backwards through my journals

I’m looking backwards: old journals, old photographs, old notebooks. What strikes me above all is the vigour and energy I once took for granted. The following little descriptions I found in the same pocketbook. The first is an oddity because I have absolutely no recollection of the action being reported. It can’t be fiction or

Real life

How I got one over on the chat bot

‘Your service contract has been completed,’ said someone or something from British Gas, in the chat box on its website. I had been watching the squiggly lines of the icon telling me a person or a bot was typing. When it finally spat that out as the reason I could not book an annual boiler

Wild life

The long and the short of it in Africa

Kenya As late as the 1920s, it was believed that Africa’s tropical sun would boil a European’s brains. ‘The direct ray of the sun – almost vertical at all seasons of the year – strikes down on man and beast alike,’ Churchill had written on his visit to East Africa. ‘Woe to the white man

Wine Club

Wine Club: six gems all enticingly priced at under £12

Order today. We’re just back from a quick flit to Italy and a wild and wonderful wedding. It was all huge fun, although as I look back with throbbing, bloodshot eyes, I see, of course, that we could have done things differently, not to say better, such as by pacing ourselves more sensibly and staying

No sacred cows

The day I got heckled at Speakers’ Corner

Monday was the 150th anniversary of Speakers’ Corner and, in the hope of drumming up some publicity for the Free Speech Union, I went along to give a speech. Rather embarrassingly, I didn’t actually know where it was. I had been there once before, but that was about 40 years ago, and Google Maps wasn’t

Spectator Sport

Is any sporting event more brutal than the Tour de France?

That great Frenchman the Marquis de Sade would have been justly proud of the Tour de France had he lived to see the day. Should we deduce that sado-masochism is a French trait? No question. Has there ever been a more brutal event in world sport? This year’s race kicks off in Denmark (yes, really)

Dear Mary


Pub food, Disney-style: the George reviewed

The George, Fitzrovia, was Saki’s local, and a pub for men talking about cars when Great Portland Street was called Motor Row. I imagine them sucking down gin and weeping for early Jaguars; a ghostly Max de Winter rising to leave for Manderley; Mr Rolls and Mr Royce squabbling over ale. Felix Mendelssohn and Dylan

Mind your language

Dominic Raab and the problem of ‘distraction’

Dominic Raab blamed distraction for Boris Johnson’s woes when the Tories failed in two by-elections last week. ‘He has track records as long as his arm of misinformation and propaganda and this is a distraction from the real issues.’ Oh, no, I beg your pardon, that was what Mr Raab said about Vladimir Putin in


Camden Visitor Moorings

The end of a perfect summer’s day – we ramble down the canal path, past Pirate Castle   and the shopping arcade where confetti sale signs camouflage lives mired in quiet desperation.   Harassed shoppers go about their business, wearing their mask of disappointments discreetly.   Everybody is dreaming of being somebody, preparing to be


Let me be baroque in death as I’ve been practical in life. Let six black-plumed stallions draw the black-gloss carriage wherein my black-gloss casket rests upon a maple plinth festooned with lilies – outrageously frilled and huge white lilies exploding from every crevice, their syrupy musk clagging the air for miles around. Let us halt