High life

High Life | 18 October 2008

New York Peggy Noonan was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and is a graceful essayist and good Catholic lady who happens to be a political conservative. I haven’t seen her in years but sometimes we exchange emails. She has written a book about how badly Americans need Patriotic Grace, the title of her opus, and

Low life

Low Life | 18 October 2008

I owe English Heritage an apology. In last week’s column I was scornful of the content of the short historical documentary they show every half hour on a screen suspended above the ruins of Lullingstone Roman Villa. Specifically, I took issue with the idea expressed in the film’s narrative that Romans — or Romanised Britons

Slow life

Slow Life | 18 October 2008

I was in a meeting a year or so ago about a charity record for Darfur. Mick was on board. Bono was confirmed. It was all looking good — good for Darfur, as the benevolent gods of rock assembled to come to the rescue. Amy Winehouse’s name was mentioned. ‘Isn’t she a bit tricky?’ said

More from life


We can all think of discoveries, which made little impact at their first introduction, but which changed the ways people worked or lived for ever, nevertheless. Charles Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’ of 1840 must be the most strikingly impressive example of this. But I think I may have spotted one in the gardening sphere as well,

The Turf | 18 October 2008

Was that the chairman of Coutts I saw emptying his pockets of wads of twenties round the Ascot betting ring on Saturday? Was that the CEO of HBOS in front of me in the Tote queue investing exclusively on 100–1 shots? Illusions, of course. It must have been the unaccustomed glare of sunshine which greeted

Status Anxiety | 18 October 2008

I have been reading with interest the articles in the press about the Afghan family that is supposedly living in a £1.2 million council house. You see, the house in question is just round the corner from mine and if it really is worth £1.2 million that means Acton has been unaffected by the credit

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 18 October 2008

Your problems solved Q. When my 16-year-old son has friends round I fill the fridge with beer for them. The other night, for example, ten boys came over. I know for a fact that only five of them really drink, yet after they had gone I found all 25 bottles had been opened and about

Mind your language

Mind Your Language | 18 October 2008

I had not realised that T.S. Eliot was a Sherlock Holmes fan until I thought to look up the word grimpen, which occurs in ‘East Coker’, in the Four Quartets: ‘On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold.’ We take grimpen to mean ‘a bog’. The OED undogmatically gives the meaning as

The Wiki Man

The Wiki Man | 18 October 2008

Last month I bought from eBay a strange little electronic gadget called a Chumby, an item not yet on sale outside the United States. Last month I bought from eBay a strange little electronic gadget called a Chumby, an item not yet on sale outside the United States. It worked happily for ten minutes and