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Mmmm. Got lovely new mini-break brochure: Pride of Britain: Leading Country House Hotels of the British Isles. Marvellous. Going through all the pages one by one imagining Daniel and me being alternately sexual and romantic in all the bedrooms and dining-rooms.Bridget Jones’s Diary Last weekend my husband and I went on a mini-break to Majorca.


To the romantic, Malta smells of thyme and fig; to the cynic, tar and goat – but, whatever a traveller’s disposition, he can’t deny that the country’s place in Mediterranean history is unique. Malta’s past is bold and bloody. In 1530 the emperor Charles V gave the Knights of St John their home after they


Another summer over and, once again, the question forms in my mind: where not to go on holiday next year? It seems a silly question – for the list, surely, is endless. There are all those places which have simply nothing worth seeing. The homes of light industry and flyovers, with no distinguishing architecture, scenery


If Australia, as a nation, is negotiating late adolescence, cocksure but fragile, striving to establish its identity, then New Zealand is a child: clear-eyed, blemish-free, with a steady, candid gaze. My introduction to this gigantic adult playground came by way of a promotional video, shown by Air New Zealand on the flight from London to

Swimming pool or work of art?

One of the most amusing broadcast moments of the early 1990s was a radio debate between the painter Patrick Heron and various citizens of St Ives. The subject was the proposal to build a new art gallery in the town. Several angry Cornish voices were to be heard going on about a swimming pool –

How we trained al-Qa’eda

For all the millions of words written about al-Qa’eda since the 9/11 attacks two years ago, one phenomenon is consistently overlooked – the role of the Bosnian war in transforming the mujahedin of the 1980s into the roving Islamic terrorists of today. Many writers and reporters have traced al-Qa’eda and other terror groups’ origins back

The Young Fogey: an elegy

They’re playing rap music in the jewellery department at Christie’s South Kensington. In T.M. Lewin, the Jermyn Street shirtmakers, you can dip into a fridge by the cufflinks counter and have a frozen mini-Mars while you are leafing through the chocolate corduroy jackets. But who is left to mourn these things? In the old days,

I prefer the tub of lard

Just after David Hill’s appointment as the new Downing Street press chief, I wrote a profile of him for the Daily Mail. In this article, I revealed that Hill was a superb amateur rock vocalist, who had not only sung in several major venues across London, but had also appeared in the musical Hair. But,

I was 12, she was 13

According to a survey reported last weekend in the Independent on Sunday, almost all homosexuals are barking mad. I am using the politically correct term ‘barking mad’ so as not to incur the wrath of the mental-health pressure groups, all of which become psychotically incensed and even violent when they read of mad people being

Madonna of the Pseuds

Leonardo’s ‘Madonna of the Yarnwinder’, stolen the other day from the Duke of Buccleuch, is the painting that changed my view of civilisation. I know it quite well, because one of my sisters-in-law used to live just up the road from Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire, where it hung until it was pinched. Whenever I stayed

Chirac and the son of Nippon

Paris Within the next few months, Jacques Chirac’s illegitimate son will turn 18 and the French press will face a dilemma. Do they celebrate his majority on the front page of Paris Match? Or do they keep it as hush-hush as they have in the past out of courtesy, respect for a statesman’s private life