High life

High life | 10 September 2015

Serena Williams, according to some commentators the greatest woman who has ever graced this earth of ours, will complete the calendar year of grand-slam tennis by winning the United States Open. At least that is what I expect will have happened (I am writing this column before the final has been played). Even to my

Low life

Low life | 10 September 2015

There is something repulsive about the sea, especially when seen from the altitude of the upper decks of a monstrous floating pleasure palace where all intimacy with it, including the sound and the smell, is lost. On the inaugural Spectator Mediterranean cruise I paid attention to the sea but rarely, and usually when speed walking

Real life

Real life | 10 September 2015

Exciting news. We might be expecting. I say might because I haven’t done a pregnancy test yet. I thought about doing one then I thought, what the hell, I will leave it to fate. If it happens, it happens. If not, I will look on the bright side as it will save me a lot

More from life

Long life | 10 September 2015

I remember Sidney Blumenthal from my time in Washington in the late 1980s when I was there as the first American editor of the Independent. He was a smartly dressed, agreeable political journalist, handsome in a donnish kind of way, who had a gracious, dignified manner that seemed to put him a cut above most

My own modest proposal: designer babies for the poor

I’ve just written an essay for Quadrant, an Australian periodical, in which I propose a controversial solution to the problem of entrenched inequality: free designer babies for the poor. Yes, yes, I know. It sounds like a 21st-century version of Swift’s ‘Modest Proposal’ and, at first, I rejected it as being too far-fetched. But the

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 10 September 2015

Q. I regularly travel on the Ashford-St Pancras train and usually put my case on the seat next to me so that passengers can pass along the aisle, after which I put it down by my feet. Last week a woman pointed at it and said loudly, ‘Does that deserve a seat of its own?’


Stewed Siena

The Indian summer was still fending off the mists and mellow fruitfulness. But the autumn term was about to begin; the season’s changes would soon be manifest. So it was a day for anecdote and recapitulation; for telling amusing August tales, behind which lurked deeper meanings. A couple of friends had been to the Palio,

Mind your language


In a wonderfully dry manual of theology on my husband’s bookshelves, written in Latin and printed in Naples in the 1830s, there is a discussion of whether ‘rustics and idiots’ are supported in their belief by ‘motives of credibility’, such as miracles. The same question has been asked about belief in Jeremy Corbyn, except that



Let’s celebrate the solitary meal: the serendipitous trawl through the fridge; the hopeful foray into the deep freeze, the obliging egg and — on a good day — the last hurrah of a cheesecake or a cold Jersey potato, pleading for release from its stiffening cocoon of mayonnaise. No waiting for a table here; all

The Wiki Man

Eugenics for your email

You won’t read much about Sir Francis Galton nowadays because, while it’s inarguable that the man was a giant in scores of scientific fields (many of which he invented), it is hard to deny that he was a teensy-weensy bit racist. That he wrote a letter to the Times in 1873 entitled ‘Africa for the