Real life

Have the Surrey busybodies followed us to Cork

‘We’re waiting for the llamas to turn up,’ said the lady selling lottery tickets from her car in the supermarket car park. She had accosted the builder boyfriend as he walked by, shouting: ‘I want a word with you! We’re all very worried about what you’re going to be doing to that old house up

More from life

Why foreigners can’t speak Thai

For 12 years now I have been learning Thai from my maid, Pi Nong, who has been employed in our building for decades. It’s a much misunderstood relationship. Here the maid is an obligatory fixture, integrated into daily life for foreigners and Thais over the age of 45 and over a fairly modest income level.

Wine Club

No sacred cows

Why I’m optimistic about multiculturalism

Many of my conservative friends are beginning to catastrophise about the future of Britain in light of the pro-Palestinian protests that have erupted in our major cities over the past month. ‘I think you’re screwed,’ an American philosopher told me on Monday. ‘You should have raised the alarm about immigration from Muslim countries 25 years

Spectator Sport

English cricket doesn’t travel well 

It’s a tricky old time for cricket. The collapse of England’s World Cup white-ballers – and how they have managed to run up the white flag with quite such aplomb – is one of the great sporting mysteries of our time. One day they are the best in the world and hot favourites; the next

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how do I stop my wife from sleeping naked?

Q. Wealthy ex-pat friends came to stay and, despite being attended to assiduously by our major domo, they left without leaving him a tip. I concealed their faux pas by palming him €50 and pretending that they had given it to me to give to him. But I am annoyed at their lack of consideration,


Mind your language

How useful is precarity? 

‘There’s no such word,’ said  my husband. Well, he has been wrong before.  For him precarity doesn’t exist; he admits precariousness. Yet precarity is now in vogue among campaigners. Precariousness is used by non-specialists. It is laughable to see how precarity has become grist for the academic mill. Among recent books on precarity are: Contesting



(after Baudelaire) In order to write such undefiled poemsI must lodge in the suburbs of the sky,companion to the steeples, steeled by dreams,the bells’ mystic clamour flooding my mind.  Awake in this eyrie, chin on arms,      I see how the citizens toil and sleep,the towers, the chimneys – the city’s masts –vast cloudscapes evoking eternity. I can

Jonah’s Letter

I’m sailing to Tarshish as usual. The air is thick, Its walls are greyish white, This desk light flickers intermittently. Let me be plain: Being good in your sort of way Does not appeal to me. Why would I go to Nineveh? The parking’s diabolical And the people there Are not my type. Some send