High life

The age-old story of strongmen

The only good news, after the massacres in Ukraine, is that so many ugly behemoth super-yachts have been seized and will not be polluting the seas this summer. There is no more horrible sight than an oligarch’s super-yacht on the horizon, and that is before it disgorges its passengers, which is a horror show in

Low life

My sojourn in the Test Valley

After north Cornwall I came to the Test Valley, I think. That is what it says on the council vans anyhow. An immensely kind family lent me an immense cottage in farmland a mile outside a village. I’ve started new drugs costing the French taxpayer €4,000 a month. Possible side effects are thrush and fatigue.

Real life

Bring back Nancy

The bank was having Transgender Visibility Day when I popped in to deposit some cash.The stressed-looking customers, meanwhile, seemed mostly like they were having Affluence Invisibility Day. One woman was complaining bitterly that £4,000 had been transferred to the wrong place and the bank wouldn’t give it back. I put my hand on the cash

More from life

Wine Club

No sacred cows

Is this Premier Inn all I’ll be remembered for?

It’s fairly commonplace for people to wonder what, if anything, they’ll be remembered for. I’m going to be 59 later this year, so it’s been preying on my mind. Will it be the self-deprecating memoir I wrote about failing to take Manhattan? The schools I helped set up? The Free Speech Union? The answer, I’m

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do you stop a cat from sneaking next door?

Q. A great friend is in a terrible state regarding a cat foisted on her by a close relation. She has become very attached to it but it keeps going next door through her neighbour’s cat flap and eating the neighbour’s cats’ food. The neighbour is a high-profile elderly lady who is getting annoyed. My


The wine of the Wild Geese

The Irish rarely understate their achievements. Yet there is one exception. Over the centuries, the links between Catholic Ireland and the Bordeaux wine trade have been fruitful. O’Brien (Pepys’s Ho Bryan, now Haut Brion), Lynch, Barton and many other names: these are enduring memorials to a fruitful relationship. But the best-known Hibernian exiles were warriors.

Mind your language

The Aesopian language of algospeak

To evade algorithms that hunt down forbidden words, users of platforms like TikTok employ cryptic synonyms. So dead becomes unalive, and the pandemic becomes panini or Panda Express. A technology journalist in her mid-thirties, Taylor Lorenz, drew attention to the trend last week in the Washington Post, calling the vocabulary ‘algospeak’. But why should anyone



Her tree still sheds its leaves, their fall makes grief and grieving tangible, and where a cast-iron drainpipe sleeves rainwater poured from rotted eaves an old grief, making water sing, dies in the broken guttering, and where her dormer window mists she ghostwrites with her fingertips or doodles breath as scrims of rain bring gusts

The Old Camellia House

Here they once tended the camellias; Now all the camellias are deceased, Choked by the fresh flora that flourishes In this broken purposed infirmary For tender flowers consumed by the years. The red, remembered as a period piece, The white, no longer abed, still waiting For the nurseryman’s nurturing hand. Now never beheld through the

The Wandering Albatross

won’t budge. Tired of her name, tired of travel and the southern blue, she sinks into the patch of land she’s found, and spreads her windsurf wings only to feel the sun. She won’t meet her mate of thirty years again – so much water under the bridge. She’ll die here, and nothing and no

The Wiki Man

How to watch YouTube on your TV – and why you should

According to Pliny the Elder, Scipio Aemilianus was the first man to shave daily. The origin of the name Boeing is Welsh. The family emigrated to the US from Germany, where they were called Böing, but this was a Germanisation of the Welsh patronymic ab Owen. In Pembrokeshire there is a Church of St Elvis.

The turf

The glorious return of the Grand National crowd

How wonderful after three years to have the crowds back to enjoy the glorious concoction of skill, bravery, razzmatazz and tear-jerking emotion Aintree’s Grand National meeting always provides. Having begun my working life on the Liverpool Daily Post in the days when developers’ greed nearly destroyed this national treasure, I relish my annual pilgrimage. Competition