High life

High life | 4 July 2019

Hold the presses, this is a world exclusive. A Boris ex I sat next to last week gave me the scoop: he is absent-minded, disorganised and drops wine on sofas. The ex in question was Petronella Wyatt and we were at a lunch Rupert Hambro gave for Conrad Black. There were lotsa big hitters there,

Low life

Low life | 4 July 2019

As they say: it all happened so quickly that it wasn’t until afterwards. One minute I was bawling at my sister, the next NHS workers arrived from all directions and removed my mother from her house to a nursing home. It was like the dramatic conclusion to an undercover ‘sting’ operation. They came streaming in

Real life

Real life | 4 July 2019

Either the osteopath is a psychopath or he is the second coming. I see no other possibility. I turned up on the doorstep of his surgery feeling demented from the pain that has been gnawing at the base of my skull relentlessly for two weeks. All I had done was to duck under the tape

More from life

The turf | 4 July 2019

When Hayley Turner was made, she wasn’t just given a competitive spirit, a sensitive pair of hands and excellent balance. Somebody screwed her head on the right way too. Profiled by the Racing Post after becoming the first woman to ride a Royal Ascot winner for 32 years on Thanks Be, she was embarrassed to

Wine Club

Wine Club 6 July

Our offer from Corney & Barrow is absolutely jam-packed this week so I trust you’ll forgive me if I get straight to the nitty-gritty. Regular readers will recall the fabled Brett-Smith Indulgence, whereby C&B’s MD, Adam Brett-Smith, knocks a few extra quid off a case for anyone buying two dozen bottles or more (on top

No sacred cows

The disastrous decline of Scottish and Welsh education

I’ve contributed a chapter to an education book published this week by the Institute of Economic Affairs. I was asked by the editors, Pauline Dixon and Steve Humble, to assess the impact of Britain’s education reforms, beginning with the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988, extending through the creation of league tables in 1992

Dear Mary

Your problems solved | 4 July 2019

Q. Friends and I keep in touch and share our more memorable experiences on Facebook. One friend is an elderly woman who makes comments on our posts that are intended to demonstrate her wit and erudition but which never fail to come across as banal and irritating attempts at point scoring. She is delightful company


Norman’s wisdom

We were in a club, discussing Norman Stone, recently departed, over a meal that he would have enjoyed. Norman divided opinions. This manifested itself in his obituaries. Professor Sir Richard Evans summed up for the prosecution. He cited Norman’s failure to build on his early scholarly promise and his chronic neglect of academic duties. He

Mind your language


Two rules of grammar are certain: never split an infinitive and never end a sentence with a preposition. As for the origins of words, it is universally known that the origin of posh is from ships’ tickets to and from India stamped ‘Port Out, Starboard Home’. None of this triad of certainties is true. Let

The Wiki Man

Why governments should spend big on tech

I was talking to a large Silicon Valley video-conferencing firm the other day. ‘Just for interest,’ I asked, ‘what would it cost to provide your service to 65 million people?’ The reason I asked is simple. I don’t understand why it is fine for government to spend £60 billion on a railway or £20 billion