In the Christkindlesmarkt — the Christmas market — in Nuremberg at about this time of year you will see an astonishingly large array of Christmas decorations. The market stalls are full of them — carved ones, tinselly ones, glittery ones, some woven out of straw — those stalls, that is, which are not selling sausages, spiced biscuits and specially rich varieties of seasonal cake. English Christmas, as everyone knows, was imported by Prince Albert.
Mary Wakefield meets Nigella Lawson and finds that she is friendly, confident, beautiful — but nervous with it In a window-seat at the far end of the bar in the Rib Room of the Carlton Tower Hotel, Nigella Lawson, dressed in black, sits waiting for me. The lighting is mellow, the seats leather and her eyes modestly downcast. If she were auditioning for the part of Anna Karenina, there would be no contest.
Good generals know when it is time to give up an impossible defence and seek a more secure position to hold. It is time to give up Christmas. It is now utterly overrun by the combined forces of sentimentality, irreligion, bad manners and worse taste.
I do not say that on ‘the day’, as it is now called, we shouldn’t mount the odd raid to attend church — though the same hostile forces have long been within its gates too, infantilising its liturgy, replacing its sacred music with ditties and recorders, and plastering its walls with the scrawlings and daubings of children.
Russia’s Duma election was not an irrelevant farce. It marked an important stage in the continuing struggle between President Putin and the enlightened few who are striving, with talent, energy and courage, to create democracy and a civil society in this country. Though the political events in the preceding weeks sometimes looked like impenetrably intricate clan wars within ‘the elite’, they exposed this struggle in all its simplicity.
Last month, the sixth since President Bush proclaimed ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Iraq, proved the worst so far in terms of American and ‘coalition’ body bags: 81 in all. November was also marked by the bombing of a residential quarter in Riyadh, and by the four Istanbul car-bombs. In ironic contrast, this was the month dignified with President Bush’s state visit to Britain, complete with his and Blair’s defiant rhetoric about defeating ‘global terror’.
Tom Stacey on how, as an act of penance, his great-great-uncle donated the great west window to King’s College Chapel As the choristers of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, fill our ears on radio and our eyes on television with their double Christmas bill of carols for the birth of Jesus, the light that plays upon the Chapel’s sublime fan vaulting is, as ever, exquisite. Yet behind that light I have a tale to unfold, mysterious and dark.
Craig Brown has to mind his Ps and Qs when he goes carol-singing with The Pedants’ AssociationIt’s always pleasant to go carol-singing, or carols-singing, with The Pedants’ Association, formerly The Pedants Association, originally The Pedant’s Association. I first joined ten years ago with the long-term aim of attracting the requisite number of votes in order to change its title to The Association of Pedants, thus rendering the apostrophe redundant, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Theodore Dalrymple on the joy of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — in gooseberries, for example, even in human beings In my line of work, it is rather hard to think of reasons to be cheerful. On the contrary, it requires quite a lot of concentrated intellectual effort: one has the sensation of scraping the bottom of one’s skull for thoughts that just aren’t there. Of course, since lamentation about the state of the world is one of life’s unfailing pleasures, the world is a greater source of satisfaction than ever.
Hell exists, says Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, but so does hope. Choices have consequences, and by making the right choices we move towards GodBefore very long, I would imagine, together with my fellow-Cardinals, I will be going to the Vatican for the election of the successor to Pope John Paul II. The election takes place in the most precious jewel of the Vatican Museum, the 15th-century domestic chapel of Pope Sixtus IV, known as the Sistine Chapel.
It was the eve of Aids Day here. Rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof were jetting in for a fundraising concert with Nelson Mandela, and the airwaves were full of dark talk about megadeath and the armies of feral orphans who would surely ransack South Africa’s cities in 2017 unless funds were made available to take care of them. My neighbour came up the garden path with a press cutting. ‘Read this,’ said Capt.