High life

High life | 10 March 2016

   Athens I am walking around downtown Athens watching as thousands of migrants field pitches from smugglers offering alternative routes to Germany and Austria. I ask a friendly policeman 50 years younger than me why he doesn’t arrest the smugglers and throw away the key. ‘Others will take their place quicker than we put the

Low life

Low life | 10 March 2016

Nice airport was more or less deserted. Two-and-a-half hours early for the easyJet flight to Gatwick, I had a leisurely cup of tea and a bun at a café kiosk before going through security, sharing a counter with a couple of young gay Frenchmen who were bickering respectfully over the timing of some future arrangement.

Real life

Real life | 10 March 2016

‘Racing is 99.9 per cent disappointment,’ said the trainer philosophically, as I sat in the yard sipping coffee, waiting for the vet. She arrived in her pick-up a few minutes later and wound down her window. ‘Am I in the right place?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said, still in sardonic mode. ‘It depends what you’re

More from life

A new taste of Twitter nastiness

Whenever I hear a leftie complain about being abused on Twitter, I think: ‘You should try being me.’ A case in point is the journalist Caitlin Moran, who has often taken up the cause of feminists threatened with violence. Among other things, she campaigned for a ‘report abuse’ button in the hope of making Twitter

Long life | 10 March 2016

I used to enjoy the ghost stories of M.R. James, but I’ve never actually seen a ghost or even believed that ghosts existed. I have visited many allegedly haunted houses in my life but no scary apparition has ever crossed my path. The old house in which my grandparents lived in Lanarkshire was such a

Dear Mary

Your problems solved | 10 March 2016

Q. My niece, who came to stay with me in the country for the weekend, arrived without cash and asked me to lend her some for the tip. I lent £30 which she assured me she would give back immediately, but though we live very near each other in London, she has failed to drop


A thirst for Justice

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a great common lawyer, was an adornment to the American Supreme Court. His wisdom is still cited in common-law jurisdictions throughout the world. Any English lawyer who would prefer to exchange Holmes’s incisive rulings — which usually amount to common sense elevated to a Platonic idea — for some European mush

Mind your language


There is a nice row of swastikas at head height in Burlington Gardens, behind the Royal Academy. They are carved below a plaque ‘Founded ad MDCCCXXXVI’. (The date refers, not to the Academy, but to the University of London, which had its offices here until 1900.) The architect was James Pennethorne. His swastikas did not

The Wiki Man

What’s the point of the driverless car?

A first last week: a Google driverless car in autonomous mode was partly at fault in a collision, interestingly one involving a bus. The car was merging into a lane of faster-moving traffic to dodge a pile of sandbags in a collapsed drain and nudged in ahead of the bus on the assumption that its