High life

High life | 8 December 2016

Here we go again, my 40th Christmas column in a row, and it seems only two weeks ago that I filed the last one. This is a very happy time of year — parties galore, lots of love for our fellow man and happiness all around. Mind you, there is an old calypso that says:

Low life

Low life | 8 December 2016

We’re driving east, destination Grasse. Hairpin bends circling oak-clad hills. Autumn gold and scarlet. Exciting cambers. Blinding winter sunshine. The radio tuned to France Musique. A virtuoso Latin jazz trumpet. A bit poncy but it’s better than nothing. We’ve been talking and not talking. Now we’re talking again. She asks me if I like the

Real life

Real life | 8 December 2016

‘Right, this is it,’ I said to the builder boyfriend. ‘I am going to knock on the door of next door.’ ‘I don’t know why you are bothering,’ he said. ‘Does it really matter who lives next door? You’re going to be so happy here. This move makes absolute sense for you. Just look around.

Wild life

Wild life | 8 December 2016

 Kenya I realised I had fallen from grace when we were dropped from the Queen’s birthday party guest list at the British High Commission in Nairobi. I wondered what offence I had caused to the recently arrived plenipotentiary. I worried that it was because one evening, while jogging in the diplomatic suburb of Muthaiga, I

More from life

Long life | 8 December 2016

While American conservatives, including Donald Trump and the Cuban exiles in Florida, whooped with joy at the news of the death of Fidel Castro, and while millions of America-haters throughout the world extravagantly mourned his passing, Barack Obama was circumspect. ‘History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people

The turf | 8 December 2016

It is a long time since I spent a morning on the gallops with the footballer-turned-racehorse trainer Mick Channon (he was in Lambourn at the time), but it proved an education for me and for two inappropriately dressed young owner’s daughters who also turned up. Their vocabularies were extended considerably. National Treasure though he became,

Who will rid me of this turbulent beast?

I’m keeping my eyes peeled for one of those billboards saying ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ so I can gleefully point it out to Caroline. Regular readers of this column will know that my wife brought home a Vizsla puppy last December, her surprise ‘gift’ to the family, and that the

Answers to GCHQ puzzles

1. Tea – the initial letters spell MERLOT. 2. 9th – taking the identified letters spells ‘Beethoven’. 3. Northern Ireland. It is, for example, ‘West of Scotland’. 4. Papa. ‘Mike lives in Quebec, and is very fond of Golf’ etc. 5. a) Charles Dickens, b) Arthur Conan Doyle, c) Evelyn Waugh. 6. Forty (winks!) 7.

Wine Club

Wine Club 10 December

Tricky time of year this, with the festivities hoving into view. Never easy for anyone, least of all those of us who suffer from Christmas Affected Doom, Depression and Despondency (CADDAD), a ghastly affliction about which I’ve written at length elsewhere so won’t bore you with now. Suffice to say that it is a dreadful

Spectator Sport

Ten questions of sport

1. Can anyone explain why England wore dark blue, not white, for the autumn international against Argentina, just as they did against Fiji? Is there anybody in the whole country, other than the marketing department at the Rugby Football Union, who thinks it is a good idea to change England shirts for no other reason

Dear Mary

Celebrity Dear Mary

From Rt Hon Gisela Stuart MP Q. I keep getting into arguments with people about what being a Labour MP is all about. I used to think that being in government was better than being in opposition. They now tell me I’m wrong and that the years since 2010 have been better and purer than


Wiltons wonderland

I have agonised over this Christmas review. I ate the Christmas lunch at Harveys Nichols 5th Floor Restaurant, Knightsbridge, next to a roof garden sponsored by Nutella chocolate spread. (The review of that restaurant is 17 words long: don’t go there, especially if you like Nutella chocolate spread, because it will ruin it for you.)


Wines of the times

The other day, I had lunch with the grandest person I know. Forget 1066: Adrian Ziani de Ferranti can trace his Venetian ancestors to the time when St Theodore was the city’s patron saint and St Mark’s corpse still reposed in Alexandria. Ziani Doges were buried under the crypt of San Zaccaria centuries before Bellini

Mind your language


My husband has an irritating habit of holding his hymn book open at the right page but obviously not referring to the text as he belts out carols. He is perfectly happy growling, in what he thinks a light baritone, the Latin version of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’, even the fourth verse, beginning: ‘Ergo

The Wiki Man

The rich aren’t so different any more

The traditional orange at the bottom of a Christmas stocking dates to a time when this was the only orange a child might receive all year. Earlier, in the 17th century, a single pineapple might cost the equivalent of £5,000 today; like pepper in the Middle Ages, pineapple ownership was confined to royalty and the