Foreign life

Real life

I’m taking on the Hilton through its breakfast buffet

‘Have you ever eaten breakfast at the Hilton before?’ shouted the woman on the door of the restaurant, as a guest attempted to gain entry. She told me I could help myself to coffee and I said I would, because I had As he mumbled something, she shouted: ‘And how are you this morning?’ He

Wine Club

No sacred cows

Even Tommy Robinson has the right to protest

I was at the march against antiSemitism in London on Sunday, but did not witness the arrest of Tommy Robinson. I’m thankful for that because I wouldn’t have known how to react in my capacity as head of the Free Speech Union. Whether the Met was right to arrest him (and subsequently charge him) requires

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Help! My stepmother uses fabric conditioner

Q. My father missed my mother so much after 50 years together that, following her death, he married again. I make every effort with my new stepmother but we have nothing in common. To be frank, common is the operative word. What I really mind is that when he and I meet alone for our


The Swiss appetite for wine gives them a good name

A friend was in town, who rebuts two instances of dull conventional wisdom. The first is that although Swiss Germans may have many qualities – they make excellent bankers – they have no joie de vivre. The Calvinist heritage persists. Second, that the Swiss are an implacably martial race. Other armies, especially the British, use

Mind your language

Stockton, Cleverly and scatological etymology

There’s a street in the City of London called Sherborne Lane. In the Middle Ages it was known as Shitteborwelane [Shitborough Lane] or Shitheburnlane. We philologists are accustomed to discussing vocabulary that is taboo because of its sexual or scatological references, and this place name is not rare in depending on a word that ‘is


from Maydown Road

Night is returning to teatime. Soon a coneof orange streetlight will be all he has to see her byas she touches her laurel, steps inside her homeon which he’s been keeping an eye while she’s at work, as no one else will.Only the postie or Amazon opens that gateand once he saw the latter with

Bone Water

He felt brave, capable and full of duty He went out with the rest of them and scoured the high grass And the tide-step and low sandy grass He saw how early morning on the river had its beauty They spread out in a loose crescent form Each man could hear the other’s high rubber

The Old Campaign

‘Love and war are the same thing…’             —          Miguel de Cervantes Somewhere over the tiled foothills of our council estate A man and a woman are arguing. The focus of the argument is something brutally trivial A TV programme choice, that sort of thing, Yet the air is a hot Isandlewana of big

The Wiki Man

Cryptic crosswords are hard – but so is life

As regular readers will know, I am an inveterate fan of cryptic crosswords. At the everyday level, they are the perfect way to kill 20-50 minutes of otherwise boring time. There is a refined elegance to clue-setting: the best are little works of art. Crossword-solving also cultivates the useful talent of looking beneath the clue’s

The turf

In praise of Harry Cobden

For the past two years anybody who has asked Harry Cobden, Paul Nicholls’s stable jockey, which horse in the yard he was most looking forward to partnering, the answer has always been the same: Bravemansgame. But when declarations were made for the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock last weekend, the rider’s name attached to