High life

High life | 9 February 2017

When I was young my recurring nightmare was that I would die and be reincarnated as a polo pony. I squeezed in lots of polo during the years I played, at least three matches per week, mostly in Paris, and I felt that polo ponies had the kind of deal the mass media are now

Low life

Low life | 9 February 2017

Dr Ivan Mindlin was the in-house casino doctor at the Stardust in Las Vegas in the early 1970s. Mention any of the main characters in Nick Pileggi’s true-crime classic Casino: the Rise and Fall of the Mob in Las Vegas and the Doc knew them well, including the central characters Lefty and Geri Rosenthal. The

Real life

Real life | 9 February 2017

The builder boyfriend declared himself very happy with his £65 pee. He insisted it was good value for money because it was reduced from £130 if we paid within 28 days. Some would say that is still extortion, but the BB insisted he was a totally satisfied customer. He was also unfazed by the fact

Wild life

Wild life | 9 February 2017

 Laikipia plateau, Kenya My great-grandpa Ernest Wise was an engineer who sailed to South Africa towards the end of the 19th century to build Cecil Rhodes’s Cape-to-Cairo railway. Although that project never took off, he decided to stay on in the continent — and he prospered. A cousin recently sent us a photograph of Ernest

More from life

GCSEs and the arts of lobbying

For the past six years or so a variety of arts organisations have been campaigning against the English Baccalaureate, or the ‘EBacc’, as it’s known. To meet this standard, schoolchildren have to get grade C or above in seven GCSEs (Eng lang, Eng lit, maths, two sciences, a humanity and a foreign language) and, according

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 9 February 2017

Q. A (very attractive) man I knew at university invited me to a party given by him and his girlfriend. When I got there I found the girlfriend has reinvented herself as a hat designer and there was a pop-up shop at the party. I was bullied into buying one even though, patently, none of


Bloody Marys and glorious Jean

To the Western Isles, or at least to its embassy in Belgravia. Boisdale restaurant always claims to be extra-territorial. There was an awards ceremony, and the principal recipient was a remarkable old girl. Ninety-four years into an extraordinarily diverse life, Jean Trumpington is one of the funniest people I have ever met. She is also

Mind your language


A law I’d like to see passed would exact severe penalties for the use of the word trope. It is as welcome in our language as toxic particulates are in the air we breathe. I saw a piece in the Guardian about a dramatic monologue called The Encounter offering ‘a recognised narrative trope: the white

The Wiki Man

My alarm call for GPs

A few months ago I was stuck in traffic on my way to give a talk at the Royal College of General Practitioners. I thought of phoning the venue to warn them I’d be late, but decided they’d probably just tell me to call back at 8 a.m. the following morning. When did that whole