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How to avoid another world war

Henry Kissinger has died at the age of 100. He was the US Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and was one of the most powerful and influential people of the 20th and 21st century. He wrote the following piece for The Spectator for our Christmas issue last year. The first world

The uncomplaining bravery of the senior royals

I had my first in-person audition since the Covid era began last week. What a thrill finally to be in a room with the casting director, director and producer rather than the lockdown-triggered misery of self-taping. Actors generally fall into two categories: those who rather like watching themselves and those who would rather be boiled

Voices in the wilderness: Russia’s exiled media

Before Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, there was a narrow but clearly defined space for Russia’s opposition media. The fearlessly anti-Kremlin Novaya Gazeta – whose editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year – was not only tolerated but funded by a regime-friendly oligarch at the behest of the deputy head of

Handel’s Messiah is as much a Christmas tradition as pantomime

It was 9.45 p.m. and yellow light beamed from the church windows into the rainy night. As I opened the door the last bars of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ reverberated from the chancel. This was a rehearsal by the London Docklands Singers. ‘Everyone knows the “Hallelujah Chorus”,’ said the conductor, Andrew Campling. ‘It’s in the DNA

Antarctica: the best journey in the world

If there is one minor pitfall of being a travel writer, it is this. Whenever you tell a bunch of people what you do, invariably someone will ask: ‘Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?’ I struggled to answer until I got on a special new boat called the Greg Mortimer, operated by a Australian

My new life as a boss – and a mother

A few weeks ago I was 40,000ft in the air with Nellie, my wife, and our newborn daughter on our first cross-country flight when the latter decided to test the technological limits of her Pampers Pure Protection Size 2. I was bent over in the aisle, blocking traffic, sweating, wrangling her out of her soiled

Quentin Blake’s long history with The Spectator

The Christmas present that comes with this article is an original artwork by Britain’s greatest living illustrator, Quentin Blake. By happy chance, this Friday – 16 December – is also his 90th birthday. Hip hip hooray! It is not the first illustration he has drawn for this magazine, which is why it’s very apt that

A Spectator Christmas poll: What gives you hope?

Volodymyr Zelensky   I am inspired by the Ukrainian people – a courageous, creative and strong people who united in one moment against the brutal and unjust Russian aggression. All Ukrainians today are warriors – those on the front line, volunteers, journalists, IT specialists, doctors, teachers, absolutely everyone. These are strong and courageous people who are

The trials and tribulations of a churchwarden

Missing: one king, answers to Balthazar. Wandered off last Epiphany with a French peasant girl who had a basket under each arm and an eye for wise men bearing gold and smellies. Could have returned to Babylon, more likely made for Lewisham. We will miss him at our church crib this year. While paintings of

Why does no one dress for dinner at Claridge’s any more?

F. Scott Fitzgerald declared in an excellent late story that ‘the second half of life is a long process of getting rid of things’. It is certainly what I am striving to do. I have far too much stuff so I’ve decided a little culling is needed. Some weeding out imperative, deaccessions inevitable. I’ve startedwith

The puzzle of the twice-born Jesus

Lazarivka Snow has covered the fields and forests of much of Ukraine. When the sun reigns in the sky, its rays gild the scene. All my previous winters, all previous Christmas celebrations, were peaceful, and the snow, if it came, emphasised this calmness. Snow and cold preserve the life of the grass until spring, until

How to fail upwards

Steam, which is largely insubstantial, rises. The same goes for soap suds, methane bubbles and numerous politicians. We naively consider 21st-century Britain a meritocracy, yet serial failures still float to the top of our public life. It has been a good year for these latter-day Widmerpools. Two changes of prime minister provided rich openings. One

Why an air fryer is the ideal Christmas gift

Christmas has an annoying tendency to kick off far too early these days, but I can never give into it until after my son’s birthday on 23 November. This year he turned 18, which feels like a milestone for both of us. He can now legally be served in a pub and go to prison,

My memories of Raymond Briggs

I really loved Raymond Briggs. I first met him in 1976, before his mega-fame had arrived. I was working in the publicity department of Raymond’s publishers, Hamish Hamilton, and every so often he would trundle a wheelie suitcase into the office containing the painted boards of artwork for his latest cartoon story. His visits were

‘Universities shouldn’t be safe spaces’: Rory Sutherland and Slavoj Žižek on cancel culture, futurism and Hollywood Marxism 

Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural theorist. Rory Sutherland is The Spectator’s Wiki Man. We arranged for them to have a chat. They spoke for more than four hours about identity politics, Elon Musk, Hollywood, free speech and more. Introductions & ‘luxury beliefs’ Rory Sutherland: I’m recording this on a Meta Portal moving camera,

There’s nothing romantic about mistletoe

The line of trees beside the road into Tenbury Wells are bare of leaves at the beginning of December. But on their spindly branches are huge clumps of mistletoe, weighing them down like muffs on the skinny arms of dowagers. Most of the country’s mistletoe grows in a small area of England – Worcestershire, Herefordshire,

Space won’t offer an escape from Earth’s problems

Because I have the title Astronomer Royal, I’m often asked: ‘Did you do horoscopes for the Queen?’ Sadly, the answer’s ‘no’. I’m just an astronomer, not an astrologer. Scientists are poor forecasters – almost as poor as economists. But I fear I’ve become typecast as a doomster because I predict a bumpy ride through the

The mystery of Jesus’s siblings

Since I gave birth four years ago and then, too soon afterwards, two years later, I have deliberately become a sponge for other women’s experiences of childbirth and raising babies. I found the whole process almost unbearably difficult, and I was baffled that other women didn’t seem to be walking around sharing their birth stories

It’s hard to beat Christmas in the countryside

Christmas in the countryside – what could be better? All right, at the time of writing we’ve had such storms that the swans are swimming across the flooded fields and we squelch through thick mud when we take the dogs out, but we hope the sun will come out tomorrow. I don’t just write about

U-turn if you want to: a short story by David Mitchell

Twiddling my thumbs at the Rotterdam depot. Waiting on 72 pallets of Chinese tumble dryer. Five games of online chess, four YouTubes of sweary parrots, three Gordon Ramsay Kitchen Nightmares, two Idiots In Cars and a partridge in a pear tree later, it’s 12 noon. Another Pot Noodle for lunch. Spicy seafood, the label alleges.

Notes on...

Operation Turtle Dove: can these birds be saved?

With the exception of turkeys and geese, turtle doves are perhaps the birds most associated with this time of year. They are, of course, the second gift in The 12 Days of Christmas and they also feature in the nativity story – in the Gospel of Luke, a pair of turtle doves are sacrificed at