High life

Why going to church beats going to a nightclub

Gstaad It’s nice to be back in good old Helvetia again, but as the holiest of holy days approaches I cannot help but think of my friend Jeremy Clarke and his struggles. Philosophers, starting with the Greeks, have dealt with life’s problems yet not one of them has been able to pin down Man’s ultimate

Low life

The naked truth about cannabis farming

Then dear old Dolly drove down from Essex to pay her respects. It was a brave effort because she hasn’t been anywhere for years and only once before to France, in the 1970s to pick grapes. She arrived at midday and immediately piled into the wine. The day was pleasantly warm enough to sit outside

Real life

Confessions of a conspiracy theorist

‘You’re one of them anti-vaxxers,’ said the brusque northerner who was seated opposite me at a friend’s supper party. ‘Why do you think I got Covid and was really ill even though I’m up to date on my jabs?’ And he fixed me with a murderous stare. I said: ‘I think you’ve got the wrong

Wild life

In praise of missionaries

Kenya Tonj is a war-battered settlement on a river that eventually feeds into the White Nile, in South Sudan. When they are not feuding over livestock, Dinkas from remote cattle camps, dressed in garish jalabiyas, saunter down the dusty main street. For months at a time, tropical deluges turn the surrounding mud hamlets into islands,

More from life

A last-minute alternative to Christmas cake: boiled fruit cake

This time last year, I was disgustingly well organised. Awaiting the arrival of my first baby, with a late December due date, I’d ensured everything was squirrelled or squared away. I’d bought all my presents by October, wrapped them by December; I’d made my Christmas cakes and bought my Terry’s Chocolate Orange. For the first

No sacred cows

The number at my Christmas table is growing ever smaller

When I imagine the perfect Christmas lunch, I think of the end of A Christmas Carol in which Scrooge turns up unexpectedly at his nephew’s house and discovers a warm family gathering: ‘Nothing could be heartier… Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!’ I can picture myself as an old man, parked in front of

Spectator Sport

Wesley Hall represents everything that cricket should be

Few sights in the history of cricket have been more thrilling – or more terrifying for batsmen – than the great West Indian fast bowler Wes Hall coming in off his 30-yard run. He is now Sir Wesley, and frail at 85, but still as forthright and impressive as ever. I was privileged to be

Dear Mary


Beyond satire: Richard Caring’s Bacchanalia reviewed

Bacchanalia is the new restaurant from Richard Caring – I sense he would like me to call it a ‘landmark’ or ‘super-restaurant’, so I won’t – in the old Porsche showroom on the corner of Mount Street and Berkeley Square, and all nightingales have fled. Caring, who has doused Britain with his metal Ivys, is


South Africa and a toast to democracy

Not everything in the entire world is going to hell in a half-track. A few days ago, I tasted some South African wines. Although there are many reasons for a gloomy appraisal of South Africa’s prospects, wine is not among them. The industry is benefitting from new investment, encouraged by easier export markets made possible

Mind your language

The worst words of 2022

‘Homer, the poet?’ asked my husband, puzzled, as he often is. He was responding to my scornful observation that the Cambridge Dictionary had chosen homer as its word of the year for 2022. The reason was merely that it had figured as the answer to a Wordle puzzle and many people did not know what



This is not you because you don’t work anymore. Hands that once caused crowds to roar in derby matches – flicking balls like flies over the bar – now struggle with a fork. That chest which swelled to face the cavalry stampede of strikers groans at all the air still left in the world. Legs

30th December 2016

Each twig of the willow tree was gluedto a clear twig shadow of frozen dew. By midday, a one degree rise in heatloosened ridges of ice to the ground in showers. They lay amongst the grassstrangely, like transparent razor blades and glistled as they fell. Under thisgentle fire: two blackbirds and a robin fought over


Sectioned, I was sent to the Cicada Lunatic Asylum. Doctor Coppola signed the papers. His patients, he explained, were beleaguered by obsessions. Hence the cicadas which colonised the trees in the great courtyard. We were encouraged to adore them. This was Doctor Coppola’s radical way of defying insanity, he was known across Europe. It wasn’t

The Wiki Man

Why work is no longer working

It is often said that Rishi Sunak has no idea what it is like to survive on a low income but this failing is hardly confined to the über-rich: in reality, few people above median income really know what it’s like to be skint. People may think back to leaner years but, even then, if

The turf

Farewell to the greatest ever jockey

In racing’s record books 2022 will be remembered especially for Alpinista’s Arc de Triomphe and Baaeed’s all-round brilliance. But it was the year, too, in which we lost the sport’s most popular owner, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and the greatest ever jockey, Lester Piggott. His figures still astound. Lester won 30 British Classics including an