High life

High life | 4 January 2018

Gstaad When the snow finally stopped, the sublime, silent stars above made for dramatic viewing. Against silhouetted Alpine peaks, starry nights, untainted by light pollution, seem made in Hollywood. I arrived here one week before Christmas determined to get in shape following the debauch of New York. The snow was coming down, the town was

Low life

Low life | 4 January 2018

As I stood there, I was reminded of the man of no fixed abode who, several years back, aged 68, made it into the local paper charged with shoplifting. He’d failed to steal a bottle of champagne and a hat to the value of £75. In court, the magistrate had inquired as to the brand

Real life

Real life | 4 January 2018

Reluctantly, I decided I would have to throw away the MRI scan of my head. I’ve hung on to it for years as potentially crucial evidence. But a New Year clear-out of my renovated house would mean nothing unless I made hard choices. Some randomly kept treasures needed to be culled now the house was

More from life

A taste of Taipei

The Taiwanese seem besotted with food. The National Palace Museum in Taipei has almost 700,000 objects in its collection, but the most popular two items are a piece of jade that looks like a pak choi cabbage and a stone which resembles a slice of pork belly. You can judge a nation by what it

Under the volcano

Roberto the guide had promised us the most spectacular church in Central America — so why had he brought us to a concrete ruin? Smiling at our confusion, he shooed us through the door and suddenly we were inside a rainbow. Row upon row of stained glass give the arched interior of Iglesia El Rosario

The turf | 4 January 2018

Jeremy Clarkson wrote recently about a day at Newbury. He declared: ‘Claiming that horses are different is like saying ants have recognisable faces. They’re all just milk bottles. Identical.’ He went on to insist that ‘in horse racing there never is any action. It’s just meat running about.’ Pausing only to note that he was

Why I’m a target for the twitchfork mob

Shortly after midnight on 1 January my phone began to vibrate repeatedly. Happy New Year messages from absent friends? No, I was trending on Twitter — the third-most popular topic on the network after #NYE. The cause was a story about me in the next day’s Guardian that had just gone live. The headline read:

The call of the wild | 4 January 2018

As Sini harnessed up the huskies they were all yelping with excitement, but once we set off and the forest closed in around us they fell silent. Now the only sound was the soft patter of their paws as they raced ahead, dragging our wooden sledge through the snow. It felt good to be back

A watery wilderness

There is a distinct nip in the air as I slide quietly from the riverbank into the water. November may be the start of Botswana’s summer, but in the early morning a fleece is still an essential item of clothing. The hippo have finished their nightly wanderings, returning along the ‘hippo highway’ to their watery

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 4 January 2018

Q. At my son’s school the boys keep a clandestine leatherbound book known as ‘The Bible’, a sort of Rogues Gallery which, inter alia, keeps a detailed account of various misdemeanours and advice on how to circumvent school regulations. It is handed down from year to year, and one of my son’s friends was caught


Evening service

It was a culinary triumph. My hosts do not spend much time in the UK, and are determined to entertain stylishly during their visits. This Christmas they succeeded, blending tradition and radicalism. The planning began in Pall Mall on the third lunching-day in advent. We addressed the major strategic question: satiation. After bird plus pud,

Mind your language

Can’t help but

Writing about Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge in the Sunday Times, India Knight wrote: ‘I can’t help but be reminded of the relationship between Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York.’ Reporting on the Ashes for the Guardian, Geoff Lemon wrote: ‘I still can’t help but think that England are going

The Wiki Man

How to make economists fight like ferrets in a sack

One of the funniest passages of writing I have read in the past few years appears within the pages of Richard Thaler’s memoir Misbehaving. He describes what happens when the University of Chicago economics faculty moves to a new location. The economists simply have to agree among themselves who will occupy each office in the