High life

High life | 8 November 2012

By the time you read this, the longest run-up to an election will be over, thank God, and the usual bores will be pontificating over the results. The irony is that for the first time ever I couldn’t care less who won. Nothing will change in the Land of the Depraved, and Big Business will

Low life

Low life | 8 November 2012

I was on a train last Sunday evening, quite late. Reading in Berkshire to Redhill in Surrey, a journey of about an hour and a half. The train was three carriages long and we trundled at a leisurely pace across country, with frequent stops at freezing, deserted platforms. I was sitting in the front carriage

Real life

Real life | 8 November 2012

In sympathy with New Yorkers, albeit inadvertently, I have had virtually no power for weeks. Worse, I have been warned that my lights are on an ancient system of fabric wiring which could burst into flames at any moment. I have been trying to fix things, but have come up against a vicious circle of

More from life

Long life | 8 November 2012

I write before knowing the results of the American presidential election, but I am still wondering whether Barack Obama might have done better if he hadn’t given up smoking. That may sound silly when everyone knows that America is a country full of anti-smoking fanatics where even hardened criminals migrate humbly from the bars to

Should I start being elderly now?

My friend Cosmo Landesman and I recently thought of an idea for a toilet book over lunch. Called ‘You Know You’re Getting Old When…’, it would be a compendium of all those moments when you suddenly get a whiff of mortality. By the end of the meal, the table was littered with paper napkins, all

The real McCoy

Luminaries interviewed in the Racing Post are often asked to name four people they would most like to have dinner with. Lucky enough to enjoy a pub lunch last week with three who would certainly qualify for my dinner-table four — Henrietta Knight, Terry Biddlecombe and Mick Channon — I felt something of a fraud

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 8 November 2012

Q. I live two hours from London so when friends invite me to their book launches it is quite enough of an effort to get up to the capital without then having to find my way to some ‘ironic’ party venue. I recently had to walk ten minutes from the Tube to attend a launch


What’s best for your liver?

British education has a lot to apologise for. Over the decades, our schools not only blocked their pupils’ access to literacy, numeracy and serious examinations. They perverted their taste in food. This was as true in the public schools as in the state system. Think of the liver we had to eat. Fried until it

Mind your language

Ash trees

Disease, we hear, will decimate ash trees, as the elms were obliterated, and we will see the spoliation of the landscape. I don’t want to be a schoolma’am about decimate. It has, as R.W. Burchfield pointed out in his edition of Fowler, been used for ‘destroy a large proportion’ for as long as it has meant

The Wiki Man

Change your browser, change your life

It is safe to say that readers of Condé Nast Traveller and the Sunday Times Travel Supplement will never be troubled by a review of the Holiday Inn Reading M4 Junction 10. Its name will never appear beside Le Sirenuse or the Gritti Palace in lists of the world’s most opulent hotels. The aroma of