High life

My lunch with the Queen

None of this would have happened had I accepted my neighbour’s invitation to dine with a Swiss billionaire banker, or bb. (Sorry, Real life.) He’s an old friend, the bb, and untypically Swiss. He boozes, schnoofs, and chases women, or Afabs, as the absurd youth of today call them. Booze, alas, now goes to my

Low life

I had underestimated France’s affection for our monarch

The end that we knew must come eventually, the end we dreaded so much that we could barely think about it, was signalled by a momentously upraised forefinger, diverting our attention to an announcement on the French radio news station. The announcement was in English, live from Balmoral castle. ‘Following further evaluation this morning, the

Real life

The ugly side of AA

A lot has been going wrong lately in the support group I’ve been attending for more than 20 years. I wasn’t going to write about it, of course. But then a fellow member stuck her iPhone in my face at a meeting and filmed me. So rather than sitting here waiting for the footage to

More from life

The ultimate chicken pie recipe

Laurie Colwin wrote: ‘No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.’ It is one of my favourite quotes about cooking, mainly because it feels true: everything you cook

Wine Club

Wine Club: a super September septet from Honest Grapes

Order today. We live in sad, uncertain times and without for a minute suggesting that we should take solace in alcohol, I’ve, erm, taken solace in alcohol. I simply couldn’t help it thanks to the tastiest of bottles from Honest Grapes. I drained each and every one as I narrowed them down to a super

No sacred cows

What Charles shouldn’t do

One of the most regrettable trends of the past few decades is the creep of politics into every aspect of our public life. Institutions tasked with preserving our heritage, such as Tate Britain, Kew Gardens and the National Trust, are busy holding themselves to account for their historic links to slavery and colonialism, while the

Dear Mary


A toast to absent friends

There have been few more momentous weeks in British history, or indeed in world history. This commentator must plead guilty. To draw on George Bush Jr, I mis-underestimated Liz Truss and appear to have made the same mistake about Ukraine. That said, we should all be relieved when the war is over on favourable terms,

Mind your language

The chronic misuse of ‘dire’

‘Dire?’ said my husband. ‘It’s something chronic.’ He was putting on his idea of an Estuary accent, in a manner that might soon be unacceptable. But it is true that everything has been called dire lately, and that’s no small claim. ‘Dreadful, dismal, mournful, horrible, terrible, evil in a great degree,’ was the semantic landscape



I waited and I saw a bird go winging slow across the sky   how slow it flew I couldn’t know how slow because it was so high   the sky more pointless than the sea where there are rocks and there is land   through which a being flying slow as far as I

pub window

under the arch of the Shiraz Palace round to the kitchen tradesman’s entrance   young girl walks in her long loose trousers early perhaps for the evening rota   does a little shimmy in her long loose body nobody near her nobody watching

The Wiki Man

Why we pick the wrong holiday destinations

Having returned from a fortnight’s break, I wonder if we get holidays all wrong. In northern Europe, the custom is that you head south to spend time on the beach. But equally, there is such a thing as too damned hot, especially if, like me, you have a healthy dose of Celtic ancestry. To avoid

The turf

My racing moment of the year

It takes a little bit of magic to train any racehorse. It takes plenty of magic to keep a 13-year-old sprinter bursting with energy and raring to go. I’m there applauding the superstars of British racing on many big occasions, but my racing moment of the year came in a woodland paddock behind Liphook Golf