High life

My lunch with Fergie’s body double

Gstaad There is nothing much I can add to what Daniel Johnson and Charles Moore wrote about the great Paul Johnson, except that I shall miss his annual summer visits to Gstaad, where we walked for hours on mountain trails and I had the opportunity to take in some of his best bon mots. He

Low life

The medicinal qualities of the perfect joint

Feeling lucky always, I assumed that chemotherapy would be the piece of cake that some had predicted for me. They said they knew people who were treated with chemotherapy for years and years and meanwhile managed to live a relatively normal life. But by only the fourth cycle of my second round of it, I

Real life

The war against semantics

‘My pronouns are xe and xem’ said the name badge on the supermarket checkout person’s uniform. And I thought, good for xem, because that wasn’t ruining grammar. How to explain that the transgender community are doing my head in because they are stealing words? (I don’t mind them inventing new ones.) I want to explore

More from life

Wine Club

Wine Club: ridiculously pleasurable picks from Swig

So that’s it, a month on the wagon almost done and dusted. Hurrah! You might recall that owing to a spat over some liqueur chocolates, Mrs Ray declared that I was in clear breach of the Dry January code and promptly zapped me with a one-week penalty, now almost spent. Allies of mine – Dave

No sacred cows

Big Brother is watching me

About six months ago I was contacted by Big Brother Watch, the civil liberties campaign group, and asked if I wanted to help with an investigation into the surveillance of critics of the government’s pandemic response by state agencies. Would I submit subject access requests to different Whitehall departments to see if I was among

Spectator Sport

Why England vs Scotland is always one to watch

If you think the Calcutta Cup is just any old rugby match between England and Scotland, then the latest in BT Sport’s fine series of documentaries should put you straight. It’s called The Grudge and is about the 1990 Calcutta Cup, the climax to the Five Nations with everything at stake for the first and

Dear Mary


Still thrilling: the Wolseley reviewed

Restaurant and dog years are similar, and so the Wolseley, which is 20 this year, seems as if it has always been here. Other restaurants fall so swiftly you have only fragments of impressions. Breakfast on Bond Street in what feels like a one-bedroom flat belonging to Patrick Bateman. Pasta in a cellar with art,

Mind your language

The ins and outs of ‘outwith’

‘I don’t mind when a Scotsman says it,’ remarked my husband magnanimously. The ethnically sensitive word in question was outwith. The Stornoway Gazette announced in 1998: ‘On Christmas Day and outwith these hours, arrangements to have urgent prescriptions dispensed may be made by ’phoning 701472.’ I like the apostrophe in ’phoning. Short for telephoning, as



The Sacred Heart sister at Sophia Posts me an airmail letter With two sought-after stamps For her twelve year-old collector. Much later, on cassette, She talks of doing a doctorate On etiquette in Edo, Plus a traveller’s guide for the Gaijin. The millennium hosts its moment; A tsunami coasts toward Christmas. She tells me on

A Post-It Note

for Wendy So time, for one of us, will carry onin chilly rooms where either you or mewill linger for a while after we’ve gonein silences on worn upholstery,in orange paperbacks we’ll never readby crooked lamps, the shadows they still thrownow falling where, for once, we’d both agreedthe lucky one would be the first to