High life

My New York is gone forever. The internet has seen to that

 New York Back to the mythic city, dreamed into existence by the movies long ago and instantly memorable, a visually stunning place built for action and adventure, a city of broad avenues and narrow side streets, of soaring towers and grubby tenements, all giving an air of, as Humphrey Bogart drawled in The Maltese Falcon,

Low life

Real life

More from life

America’s crazy war on old pianos

More than 20 years ago, when I was living in New York, I wrote an article about the mutilation by the United States government of a fine old piano on the pretext of saving the African elephant. The piano was a 1920 concert grand from the once famous Parisian house of Érard, from which came

Why the other jockeys love Jamie Moore

In the parade ring just after Sire De Grugy had won this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, I found myself among a group of jockeys who had run out of the weighing room jostling and joshing like a bunch of schoolkids. They had, though, a serious purpose: they had emerged to pay tribute to one

Wine Club

Spectator Wine Vaults

A really tasty selection from The Wine Company this week at very generously discounted prices. There is a theme of sorts: I wonder if you can spot it. Made exclusively for The Wine -Company (Moa Ridge and The Wine Company share an owner in Suffolk-based Johnny Wheeler), the 2011 Moa Ridge Chardonnay (1) from Marlborough,

Spectator Sport

In defence of the Boat Race

It’s Boat Race time again and as soon as the BBC starts its broadcast on Sunday there will be those who invade Twitter and such places, having a moan faster than the Bullingdon Club can trash an Oxford curry house. Why’s it always the same two teams in the final? The more strident will demand

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I escape the tyranny of teacher presents?

Q. It’s only April and yet I am being emailed by parents who have already taken charge and are drumming up support for collective year presents for teachers at my children’s schools. I have one son and two daughters who are all leaving their respective schools and I would prefer to thank staff members on


Gordon Ramsay joins in the posh invasion of Battersea

London House is in Battersea, which some people call South Chelsea, but is more East Wandsworth to my mind; or maybe North Clapham, or, even better, West Brixton. This is the self-hatred that the housing bubble has brought to London: we have whole sorrowful postcodes that long to be something else because original posh London,

Mind your language

Why did we ever spell jail gaol?

‘Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.’ said the Community Chest card in Monopoly. I was never sure what a Community Chest was, but it seemed American, like the spelling jail. Those who love the spelling gaol, which combines characteristics of being very English yet outlandish, might


Ledbury Road

Two poems in memory of Mick Imlah 1. ‘Hardy and Housman lived round here,’ I said, slumped in an armchair in your flat. ‘Compared to those two, we’re small beer — Hardy and Housman, geniuses crowned here! No blue plaques for us, who’ve gone to ground here… We’re pygmies, compared to giants like that, Hardy