High life

High life | 4 May 2017

I’m sitting in my office and the place is still. The rest of the house is dark. Everyone’s out and I’m here writing about the death of a friend. I haven’t felt such gloom since my father died 28 years ago. The question why did he have to die is implicitly followed by another: how

Low life

Low life | 4 May 2017

‘Emmanuel Macron est le plus grand con du monde,’ said the elderly gent taking the vacant seat on my right at the Marine Le Pen rally last week. He had slicked-back white hair, a little hog’s-bristle moustache and broken-down white trainers. Plus grand means ‘biggest’, du monde means ‘in the world’, and con means, well,

Real life

Real life | 4 May 2017

A gentleman on Twitter ‘writes’ to say I’m boring him with my house move. ‘Snooze-fest’, says this chap, and he posts a little yellow unhappy face or ‘emoticon’, which passes for articulate on Twitter. I’ve never heard of this fellow, although it is likely he is some kind of pundit with followers in the blogosphere

Wild life

Wild life | 4 May 2017

Laikipia, Kenya On my way home to the ranch, I stopped for a beer with my neighbour Martin. It was twilight and large herds of cattle were being brought into the yards around Martin’s house for the night. Pokot militias had been attacking for days, trying to rustle cattle and shooting at anybody in sight.

More from life

It’s time you made some enemies, George

Dear George Osborne, I thought it worth passing along some advice about your new job. I’ve never edited a news-paper, but I’ve been in the business for 32 years and I’ve seen a fair few come and go. I’ve also worked for the Evening Standard in various capacities. Indeed, my first job in journalism was

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 4 May 2017

Q. I have a very good cleaner who comes once a week. She is far more efficient than anyone I’ve had in the past. But recently she has begun taking off her shoes and socks at the front door and cleaning in her bare feet, which I find utterly disgusting. How do I ask her


A very British bildung

Over the long weekend I read a couple of bildungs-romans; one a revisit after many years, the other a recent work. In Hemingway’s words, A Moveable Feast was about living in Paris ‘when we were very poor and very happy’. The poverty was relative. Hemingway did occasionally have to skip lunch, but there was always

Mind your language


Ralph Bathurst was accused shortly after his death in 1704 of being ‘suspected of Hypocrisy and of mean Complyance’. I am not quite sure what particular hypocrisy was meant, but the accuser was Thomas Hearne, a cranky but principled antiquary in the mould of Anthony Wood. Hearne resented not being able to accept appointments such

The Wiki Man

The MBA idiocies that ruin everything

I rang a company’s call centre the other day, and the experience was exemplary: helpful, knowledgeable, charming. The firm was a client of ours, so I asked what they did to make their telephone operators so unbelievably good. ‘Um, to be perfectly honest, we probably overpay them.’ Their call centre was 20 miles from a