High life

High life | 3 September 2015

 On board MS Queen Victoria   They remain engraved on my brain, like something out of a Greek tragedy, so beautiful, such legends, and then they were gone. I am referring, of course, to those ocean liners of a bygone era, those romantic boats that dreams were made of, a fantasy world of Aubusson carpets

Low life

Low life | 3 September 2015

Last Saturday afternoon, in Venice, 31 Spectator readers, plus Martin Vander Weyer, the great Taki and I came aboard the Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria for the inaugural Spectator Mediterranean cruise. The first chance we had to get to know one another was a pre-dinner drinks party in Hemispheres, the ship’s nightclub. I was late,

Real life

Real life | 3 September 2015

‘Yes, you can report it, but it’s going to take ten minutes to go through the process,’ said the oppressively cheerful bureaucrat at Surrey Police when I rang to tell them about my stolen saddle. After the first 30 seconds I could see why. She kept asking me to verify that I was all right

More from life

Long life | 3 September 2015

While the Germans were raining bombs on London during the second world war, the architects’ department of London County Council was busy colouring in Ordnance Survey maps of the city to record which buildings had been destroyed and which had not. These maps have now been published as a book by Thames and Hudson, The

Absolute beginners

Heaven be praised for the sinner who repenteth, however long it takes. For President George Bush Senior, his occasional meetings with Margaret Thatcher were like visits to the dentist: an inevitable occasion but not one to be anticipated with pleasure. Mrs Oakley has long taken the same attitude to going racing: at one Sandown Park

A marriage of misanthropes

This is a cautionary tale for any young couples out there thinking of tying the knot. Be wary of what you have in common — it may end up dividing you. When I first got together with Caroline, one of the things that made me think we were well suited was her slightly curmudgeonly nature.

Spectator Sport

The right track

Sebastian Coe’s new job as head of world athletics will be a heck of a lot easier thanks to the outstanding World Championships that just finished in Beijing. He has a chance to push athletics back to the forefront of world sport — after all, what is more thrilling than one human being trying to

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 3 September 2015

Q. I am going on a late holiday with a group of people who are keen on nude swimming, which I am not. The owner of the house has said that the pool area is secluded, so there will be no stopping them. I don’t want to strip off myself, not least because I am


Comic relief

Mum’s, or to use its full title, Mum’s Great Comfort Food, is a restaurant in Edinburgh designed to soothe itinerant performance artists. For, in the fag days of August, as the Fringe dies — it will be reanimated next year by the blood of Citizen Puppet and Nicholas Parsons — assorted actors and comics and

Mind your language


Al Jazeera, the Qatari broadcaster, is going to use refugee instead of migrant in its English output. ‘The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean,’ one of its editors explained. ‘It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises


Mealybug Nymphs, Gossamer

after Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1665)   A warm wall, heavy leaves, hard green grapes     and a cluster of berries         spun out of cobweb.   They were packed with brown roe, or, later,     an anarchy of hatchlings,         scattering crawlers   scarce larger than the