High life

The golden age of motor sport

There are heroes and then there are unsung ones, and I basically prefer the latter as I have known a few of them in my lifetime. The funny thing is that I grew up learning only about famous heroes, the Ancient Greek type, starting with the semi-God Achilles. Homer didn’t deal with unsung heroes; everyone

Low life

My week alone in a mess of morphine foils

After commuting to Marseille for nine days of radiotherapy, I spent the week alone in the cave, in bed, in a mess of morphine foils and empty coffee cups. Sister Catriona was in the UK overseeing the birth of her first granddaughter. Friends and neighbours kindly kept me supplied with staples. Every day the sun

Real life

The village bonfire night has taken a sinister turn

The children walked with flaming torches ahead of the float bearing the bonfire queen which was headed for the towering monstrosity of pallets and tree branches on the village green. The builder boyfriend and I stood at the front of the crowds lining the road as the procession came through in the darkness and it

Wine Club

Wine Club: a glittering selection from Armit Wines

I shocked an old friend the other day when I confessed how much I drank per week. He shocked me by confessing how often he had sex. We sat in speechless astonishment before clearing our throats in a very English way and moving on to the weather. I’m not in the least bit proud of

No sacred cows

What to do about the Equality Act

Among people of a conservative disposition, it’s long been accepted that the Equality Act needs to be repealed. This legislation, passed in 2010 in the dying days of Gordon Brown’s premiership, was designed to embed Labour’s egalitarian ideology into the fabric of the British state, yet none of Brown’s successors have done anything about it.

Spectator Sport

The future of sport is in the Middle East

When the burly honchos of the Rugby League World Cup gushed about taking the game to new heights, no one was actually thinking about the Golan Heights – but that’s where we are. What sounds like a fascinating quarter–final takes place on Friday (as I write) when the dominant team in global rugby league, Australia,

Dear Mary


Mind your language

The many uses of ‘multiple’

I once failed to entertain the former Master of Balliol Sir Anthony Kenny by telling him about the inscription in the lift at the London Library, the gift of the Byzantinist Sir Steven Runciman. I suddenly forgot what it said. All I could think of was Inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae, ‘Between the midst of


unreliable narrator

and where yesterday I lay broiling in the vat of my bedroom  today a sneaky little breeze tickles my soles — Coo-ee! Only me!  shifty at first but soon breeze picks up speed with What — did you think I was gone for good? That me and my three ‘e’s had  danced our final conga

Some day I want to be Peter Sellers

in his Clouseau-era. I want to get home knowing at any minute I might karate chop Burt Kwouk as he comes flying round the corner or trap his trouser-tie in the fridge door or flip up the fold-down bed on his head — basically I want to triumph frequently by freakish misadventure. And I want

The short-lived bloom of Monica Rose

In her, oily tongued Hughie found his perfect foil: a cockney sparrow, whose pixie cut and skinny frame won the hearts of millions in the age of monochrome. Her money more than doubling as she made the ratings soar, bringing with it a rags-to-riches change. The sky seemed the limit, yet something in her ached

The Non-Discovery of San Francisco Bay

Drake, the clot, missed it by a mile. That hook of rock failed to snag  his sails into the only gap for a  thousand miles and the Ohlone breathed  easy in their skins unaware of the  Great Inevitable whilst the dew  on the antelope’s nose lay undisturbed.  Salmon knew the river  would not deepen. The