High life

High life | 15 November 2012

Miami Beach To the Mecca of brutalism, a place that rivals Marbella for vulgarity, with sprawling marble-clad palaces, boxy condo blocks and concrete lumps in the place of old world, clubby wrought-iron and glass canopies. Clubs down here mean strippers and dancing poles, none of that all-white tennis garb and polite applause after a passing

Low life

Low life | 15 November 2012

Two policemen and a policewoman were the first of the emergency services to arrive on the platform. The policemen ran about like headless chickens. The woman was calmer. She quickly grasped the essentials of the situation, such as under which wheel the suicide lay, and who had been driving the train. Then more police arrived,

Real life

Real life | 15 November 2012

Ikea is a totalitarian state. When you drive under the overhanging barrier preventing reasonably sized vans from gaining access to its car park you are entering sovereign territory. Should you get stranded in Ikea for any number of reasons, the best way out is to call the British consulate. Alternatively, you might try the Ecuadorian

Wild life

Wild life | 15 November 2012

Northern Kenya If I go out in darkness I dread neither the leopard nor the lion but I recoil from the aardvark: for me a terrifying creature. The ant bear, or earth pig, is a living fossil with snout of pig, a serpent’s tongue, ears of a rabbit and a kangaroo’s tail. A sangoma’s charm

More from life

Long life | 15 November 2012

The BBC and the Church of England are two rather similar institutions, both designed for the comfort and consolation of modest, well-meaning Englishmen who don’t like to be shaken about or threatened by anything disagreeable or jarring. The BBC is in trouble because it allowed a major current affairs programme, Newsnight, wrongly to accuse a

A perfect media storm

For those of us who write for the tabloids, there’s something almost poetic about the crisis currently engulfing our more respectable rivals. Ever since the Guardian ‘exposed’ the News of the World for deleting Milly Dowler’s voicemails — a story that turned out to be wrong — we have had to endure the moral censure

Spectator Sport

The world in Union

Here’s a thing: some years ago Rhodri Davies left Cardiff and emigrated to New Zealand with his young half-Scottish, half-Irish wife Megan. Not long after settling in Auckland Megan gave birth to a son, Jock. Jock was a bright boy, and mad keen on rugby. After university and through the local rugby club he met

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 15 November 2012

Q. Our son goes to a state primary school in west London which in most respects we are very happy with. However, the teachers correct him every time he says ‘what?’ and insist he says ‘pardon?’ instead. The upshot is that he now says ‘pardon?’ even at home. Is there anything we can do? We’re


Tea and lunacy

Food and fashion are enemies, so congratulations to the Berkeley Hotel for attempting detente with something insane. It has invented a fashion ‘tea’ called Prêt-à–Portea which is, I am told by a press release, ‘designed to add a creative twist to the classic elements of the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries resembling

Mind your language


On an article in the Times about eating oak moss I saw the headline: ‘I’m lichen it!’ Since I pronounce lichen to rhyme with kitchen, this meant little to me. You may think that I have no business pronouncing lichen in this way. That is the strong opinion of my husband. But to him lichen