High life

High life | 13 December 2018

Here we are, 41 years down the road, and I’m once again writing for The Spectator’s Christmas issue. This is a triple one, so I want to make it count. In my sporting days, trying too hard was as counterproductive as not trying hard enough, so let’s see if this principle also applies to the

Low life

Low life | 13 December 2018

At the turn of the century, I started a diary. I’ve mostly typed it on old typewriters, bashing out a sheet of A4 like a hyperactive muppet, without giving any forethought to what I am going to say. The pleasure I get from the daily typed entry is partly mechanical. When the page is done,

Real life

Real life | 13 December 2018

Ebenezer Grayling sat busy in his counting house. It was a cold, bleak day at the Department for Transport. Big Ben had only just struck three but it was getting dark already and the lights were going on in the grand buildings of Whitehall. Grayling stared down at the papers in front of him. He

Wild life

Wild life | 13 December 2018

Laikipia, Kenya ‘The End,’ I typed. The book had taken me 14 years to write. I rose from my desk and stretched; outside, go-away birds glowered down from the fever trees and a dust devil coiled across the valley. ‘A walk at last!’ I grabbed my cattle stick — and up leapt the labrador, the

More from life

The turf | 13 December 2018

The Scudamores are one of the bedrock families of jump racing. After being shot down and spending two years as a PoW, Geoffrey Scudamore trained racehorses in Herefordshire, including a Cheltenham Festival winner ridden by son Michael. Michael, one of the great horsemen of his day, won the 1957 Gold Cup on Linwell and the

Wine Club

Wine Club 15 December

It’s the music that gets me, the bloody piped music. Christmas carols on an endless loop. It’s a wretched constant, whether one’s in the supermarket, the station, the airport or even — and, good grief, is nowhere safe? — the doctor’s surgery, as I’ve just discovered. ‘How can you stand this?’ I asked the girl

No sacred cows

How to lose more friends and alienate more people

This used to be the busiest time of the year for me. If you do anything in public life — even something minor like running a free schools charity — you get asked to do a lot of things at Christmas. More if you pop up on telly occasionally. Last year, I must have attended

Spectator Sport

The end of the era show

It may be the end of the year but it’s also the end of some major sporting eras. Alastair Cook signed off amid sun-drenched glory and a tsunami of affection. And surprise, surprise, it has liberated Joe Root to make a team in his own image, playing with brio and bravery. Roger Federer may be

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 13 December 2018

From Michael Fabricant MP Q. When I go for intimate meals at a restaurant with a friend, I am invariably asked by other diners for a selfie or have embarrassing questions about my hairstyle directed at me. How can I turn these down — particularly the latter — while not seeming churlish? A. Confuse the


My magic Fortnum’s moment

I admit I had a falling out with Fortnum & Mason a few years ago over its new brasserie on Jermyn Street. It replaced a restaurant that looked like a toilet-roll cover or wedding dress, and although I had never eaten there, I felt protective of it. Why was she blown away and on what


Either fish or fowl

It is enough to drive a fellow to the bottle. I am not given to agnosticism. My view is that if the evidence seems to sustain a conclusion, weigh it and arrive at one. On Brexit, I find that impossible. Most of my friends have no problem. From Remoaners to rejoicers, they all deal in

Mind your language

Word of the year: Shouty

‘Remind me what incel means again,’ said my husband. There was no point, since he’d forgotten twice already. I suspected a psychological barrier to learning. Incel (a label for people unhappy at being involuntarily celibate) was a runner-up for Oxford dictionaries’ word of the year, won by toxic. But to me the word that captures

The Wiki Man

The most underpriced present you can buy

During the second Gulf war, simply out of curiosity, I found myself visiting the website of a giant American mercenary organisation. At the top of its home page I was surprised to see the words ‘online shop’. Thinking I could perhaps order an airstrike, or a fleet of Humvees to collect my daughters from school,