High life

High life | 14 January 2016

Gstaad War and Peace has been in the news lately, so what was it that Leo wrote about all happy families being alike? Tolstoy came to mind last week right here in Gstaad, when I encountered probably the worst-looking family I’ve had the bad luck to run into in the past 79 years. I wonder

Low life

Low life | 14 January 2016

I was at home in Devon for the month of December. My sister was also there and her tyrannical, wildly fluctuating moods set the weather inside the house. She sleeps badly and usually appeared in the kitchen at 10 or 11 o’clock in a hagridden state, insane with anger at we know not what, daring

Real life

Real life | 14 January 2016

All disputes are now a clash of rights in which both sides compete to see who has the greatest claim to the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I’ve realised this because the other day I took on a road resurfacer who I caught fly-tipping debris and as the ensuing row almost came

Wild life

Wild life | 14 January 2016

On New Year’s Day I took the family out for an evening walk on the ranch. Along the verges, lush after rains, I urged our children, Eve and Rider, to help me collect specimens of different plants, or identify wildlife spoor or scat. I wore shorts and flip-flops. As usual I was talking too much

More from life

Tell the truth about benefit claimants and the left shuts you down

Next month sees the release of Trumbo, a biopic about Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter who was blacklisted by the Hollywood studios after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. Trumbo continued to work under a variety of pseudonyms and won two Academy Awards for his screenplays, neither of which he was

Long life | 14 January 2016

Before the start of Aladdin in Milton Keynes this week a promotional video showed Brian Blessed in oriental costume bellowing to the audience that pantomime had never been so popular in its long history and that Britain was still full of people longing to shout ‘He’s behind you!’, ‘Oh, yes it is!’, ‘Oh, no it

Dear Mary

Your problems solved | 14 January 2016

Q. What can be done when more people than you can cater for accept an invitation? We are giving a two-hour 21st-birthday drinks party for our daughter. Our Chelsea cottage will hold a maximum of 70 but, adhering to the immutable law of party-giving, which is that a third of those you invite will be


The Battle of Brussels

My friends divide into three groups. There are those who are determined to anticipate Lent. There is a larger number whose January diet barely made it until Twelfth Night. There is a third group, whose dietary plans are indeed based on Twelfth Night: the characters of Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek. To which set do

Mind your language


‘Did you say “fabric”?’ asked my husband when I was telling him about words that have just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. No, phablet, but I can see why he misheard. It’s a dull portmanteau word meaning ‘half phone, half tablet,’ just as the first citation, from an Australian periodical, explained in 2010.

The Wiki Man

Q: What is a good school? A: One that other people like

A few months ago I received a call from someone running a small private school near New York. They believed their school was objectively better than a larger, more famous establishment nearby, but had more difficulty attracting pupils. What should they do? This is not easy. You see, however skilled your teachers are, what really