High life

Taki: why would anyone want 72 virgins? They’re useless in bed

The long lazy summer is upon us, and as I walk the Swiss hills below the mountain ranges my thoughts are always of the past, the long hot summers of long ago, girls in their pretty dresses, my father in his whites sailing around the Saronic Bay with a ball-and-chain standard flying from his main

Low life

Real life

More from life

Our house was burgled as we watched The Fall

Caroline and I were watching The Fall in our front room when the intruder entered our house. Not great timing on his part, considering The Fall is a BBC drama series about a serial killer who breaks into people’s homes, then tortures and murders them. Thankfully, we never actually set eyes on him. We only

Long life: The curse of the black tie

I seem to have been steeped in opera lately. First there was Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne, then Peter Grimes on the beach at Aldeburgh, and now Wagner’s complete Ring cycle at Longborough in Gloucestershire, all within the space of three weeks. As I write, I haven’t quite seen the whole Ring cycle — there

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I stop my friends giving me Christmas presents?

Q. Over the years my close friends locally have been giving each other birthday and Christmas presents. Now, as I reach 60, it seems ridiculous to worry about choosing and buying all these presents for Christmases ad infinitum, as well as remembering each of their birthdays. Some of them have new daughters-in-law or sons-in-law and


Mind your language


Swathe is a popular word at the moment, and ignorance of its meaning, spelling and pronunciation deters no one. It is in the papers every day (swathes of empty seats at Wimbledon), and I was interested to hear it on the wireless the other evening pronounced to rhyme with moth. Can that be right? The


The Colours of London

(after Yoshio Markino, 1911) Colours of women, a grey-veiled pink, a bloom Fading to yellow, stippled, dust-hung, flecked Soot startling white lace in summer gloom. Colours of trees, pavements sticky with leaves Trodden to blackened bronze, a patina Attached to every twig. The heart grieves, Colours the blood with fungus, smudges all Spires, bridges, waters,

The Wiki Man

Why I’m hiring graduates with thirds this year

Whenever I return to my old university, I am always struck by how incredibly focused, purposeful and studious everyone seems to be. It fills me with despair. It’s hard to tell the difference between a university and a business school nowadays. Where are all the hippies, the potheads and the commies? And why is everyone