We didn’t have ‘pets’ when I was little. We had dogs — gundogs. Working dogs that lived in outdoor kennels and ate great slabs of rotting meat straight from the butcher. Occasionally we dunked them in a tub full of eye-watering flea-killer. I do remember them being brushed, but roughly and only to dislodge stubborn thistles.
Now that I have my own dog — a Parson Jack Russell called Cato — I am somewhere in between the dog and pet worlds.
The intended heading for this piece was to have been ‘Spa Wars’, since the demand for luxury pampering in country-house-hotel surroundings seems insatiable. Three country-house-hotel spas have opened within half an hour’s drive of here (on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire borders) in the last 18 months, and no expense spared. Even if you knew what thalassotherapy was, would you pay a pound a minute to get it? Or the same amount to reap the benefits of the Hammam bed? Apparently this last, being a sort of solid massage table, is butch enough to get men to agree to a pampering massage without feeling even a little bit gay.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a reception in the Banqueting House on Whitehall to mark the opening of an exhibition by the American painter Cy Twombly at the Serpentine Gallery. A vast and lavish buffet was laid on tables down the length of Inigo Jones’s grandest room. Wealthy collectors drank champagne with Turner Prize-winning artists beneath Rubens’s only surviving ceiling. Lord Palumbo gave an exquisitely embarrassing speech in which — as has been widely reported — he repeatedly muddled the name of the principal guest, Cy Twombly, with that of the owner of Condé Nast, Si Newhouse (who was not there).
It’s time to lighten up about falling birthrates, says George Monbiot. The world will be a happier and better place with fewer people There is a group in North America — I am not joking — whose motto is ‘Back to the Pleistocene’. Its followers would like human society to revert not just to a pre-industrial past, but to a pre-agricultural one. Humans would subsist on the untended fruits of nature, hunting the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the air, gathering roots and berries from the derelict cityscapes reclaimed by the wild.
For the 500 or so at the Thatcher jubilee dinner it was, if not the high point, certainly one of the more important. Having cheered themselves hoarse at the entry of the lady herself, and roared their joy at a gem of a speech by Norman Tebbit, the diners applauded Michael Howard. He said he was a Thatcherite, and that the party would follow a Thatcherite direction. They loved it, for they believed it was necessary.
As the slaughter in the Holy Land continues, Emma Williams reports on the miseries caused by Israel’s security barrier, and wonders whether there is any way out of the cycle of violenceLast week yet more children were slaughtered in the Holy Land. Four little Israeli girls and their pregnant mother were gunned down by Palestinian terrorists on a settlement road in Gaza. Eleven Palestinian children were killed by the IDF, also in Gaza.