High life

High life | 14 April 2012

Papa Hemingway’s recently published letter to an Italian male friend revealed his human side, one all of his admirers were always aware of (like Bogie, tough on the outside, jelly on the inside). Until lately, Papa haters had a good long run. Soon after Carlos Baker’s matchless biography appeared around 1970, nine years after Hemingway’s

Low life

Low life | 14 April 2012

Keith the bailiff could tell at a glance, surely, that demanding £204 on the spot from a poverty-stricken household such as this one was hopeless. When he pulled up in his Sahara Gold Citroën Berlingo and saw us all sitting around the paddling pool in the front garden, the state of the children’s shoes alone

Real life

Real life | 14 April 2012

Fuel crisis? What fuel crisis. I’m driving around in a car that does 50pmg. Well, it said 50 on the gauge when I bought it from the nice City worker from New Zealand, and he was driving it up and down the vertiginous slopes of Forest Hill. Within days of me owning it, and driving

More from life

Status Anxiety: Left behind

Listening to the delegates rant and rave at the teaching unions’ annual conferences last weekend, the overwhelming impression was of a group of people who have completely misunderstood the thinking behind Michael Gove’s education reforms. The general consensus was that he is intent on breaking up our state education system to pave the way for

The turf: Triumph and tragedy

Have the French got the balls to do it? After the triumph of Corine Barande-Barbe’s globe-trotting superstar Cirrus des Aigles in Dubai’s Sheema Classic on World Cup Night the debate has resumed: will they open up Europe’s most prestigious race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, to horses like Cirrus des Anges who are geldings

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 14 April 2012

Q. A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, the Idler Academy arranged that there would be a ‘signing’ for my book. The Idler emailed the thousand idlers on their list and the headmaster’s mother came up from Oxford to help control the crowds. Two people turned up, both of whom were old friends.


Drink: Flowers of Scotland

Back in the Sixties, there was a more than usually sanguinary murder in Glasgow. While the killer was awaiting trial, the Scottish Daily Express decided to buy up his family. This must have been after the days when such a case would end with a good hanging; Alan Cochrane insists that he is not that

Mind your language

In drought

I could scarcely believe the feebleness of my husband’s little joke in declaring he would take less water with his whisky ‘to help with the drought’. I think he must have been watching repeats of Mock the Week while I am out. But the new cliché is that we are in drought. Sometimes this is

The Wiki Man

The Wiki Man: Double crossed

There is no shortage of competitors for the strangest site on the internet. ‘The Britney Spears Guide to Semiconductor Physics’, for instance. Or — an essential website (essential, that is, if you have ornamental garden geese and feel the urge to dress them in seasonal clothes). Or, a website that shows exactly what