Yes, yes, just to get the obligatory ‘of courses’ out of the way up front: of course ‘weather’ is not the same as ‘climate’; and of course the thickest iciest ice on record could well be evidence of ‘global warming’, just as 40-and-sunny and a 35-below blizzard and 12 degrees and partly cloudy with occasional showers are all apparently manifestations of ‘climate change’; and of course the global warm-mongers are entirely sincere in their belief that the massive carbon footprint of their rescue operation can be offset by the planting of wall-to-wall trees the length and breadth of Australia, Britain, America and continental Europe.
[audioplayer src='http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_9_January_2014_v4.mp3' title='Luke Coppen and Freddy Gray discuss Pope Francis']
[/audioplayer]On the last day of 2013, one of the weirdest religious stories for ages appeared on the news wires. The Vatican had officially denied that Pope Francis intended to abolish sin. It sounded like a spoof, but wasn’t. Who had goaded the Vatican into commenting on something so improbable? It turned out to be one of Italy’s most distinguished journalists: Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder of the left-wing newspaper La Repubblica, who had published an article entitled ‘Francis’s Revolution: he has abolished sin’.
[audioplayer src="http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_9_January_2014_v4.mp3" title="Richard Davenport-Hines discusses the Profumo affair's enduring appeal"]
[/audioplayer]Christine Keeler and Jack Profumo might never have met in the swimming pool at Cliveden if it had not been for a filly called Ambiguity. As children, growing up at Cliveden, we all swam in the Thames. In the summer, the river was cold, dark and full of sludge, but my grandmother Nancy Astor, a devout Christian Scientist, thought it good for us.
I really can’t remember exactly how I came to appoint Simon Hoggart the wine correspondent of this magazine, but I have a feeling that it must have been in the aftermath of one of those long lunches at which it was then — and I hope and believe still is — the privilege of the staff to get sozzled at the expense of the wonderful and benevolent proprietors.
It might have been a parliamentary awards judging lunch. Perhaps it was just a lunch.
If there is one characteristic that accounts for the deep unattractiveness of the modern British, it is their lack of self-control. It is not merely that they lack such self-control as they scream their obscenities in the street, eat everywhere they go, and leave litter behind them: it is that they are actively opposed to self-control on grounds of health and safety. They are convinced that self-control is the enemy of self-expression, without which their existences would be poisoned as if by an unopened abscess.
I was drifting in and out of sleep last week, listening to the news, when suddenly eight words — at first sounding no different from the general run — slammed into my senses. ‘Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers is dead.’ For the first time I knew how it felt when ‘the earth stood still’. One of the two brightest flames of my youth had been extinguished. I was friends with both Phil and Don Everly for some 45 years and it was, to be sure, a dazzling friendship.
Winter garden visiting is a solitary pastime, lending itself to the misanthrope, and is highly recommended. When it’s so cold not even your dog wants to come with you, seize the moment, spurred on by the smug promise of self-improvement. Unfortunately, many of the best garden gates are closed during winter and can only be imagined or glimpsed by chance; see Hatfield in the film Orlando, with Tilda Swinton in the title role; her blanched androgyny majestically amplified by the frosted maze and standardised Quercus ilex of this great garden through which he/she runs.