High life

High Life | 19 September 2009

There is a mordant Eskimo proverb that says a good butler is worth at least three wives. The only trouble being I’ve never heard of an Eskimo with a butler. Gianni Agnelli had two he couldn’t do without: Pasquale, until he reached 40, and then Bruno, until the ‘avvocato’s’ death. I inherited mine from the

Low life

Low Life | 19 September 2009

The plan was that in the morning we’d gather our wild foods from the woods and hedgerows, and in the afternoon we’d light a fire and cook and eat a communal meal. But if our survival had really depended on it, the first thing I would have done was to butcher and eat the little

Slow life

Slow Life | 19 September 2009

There is a line from J.B Priestley, from the novel The Image Men, which I’ve just started again. It’s a line spoken by an almost supernaturally clever character and goes something like ‘Relationships, on the cocktail-party level, are tedious. Parties are such a bore.’ And since I got married, I’ve found this audacious summary of

More from life

Status Anxiety | 19 September 2009

I have often toyed with the idea of writing a book called What They Don’t Teach You at the Elephant and Castle Journalism School. Under such headings as ‘How to Fiddle Your Expenses’, it would contain the kind of information that is usually only available in the saloon bar of the White Swan, the legendary

Spectator Sport

Spectator Sport | 19 September 2009

In a recent issue of the brilliant weekly glossy magazine produced by the French sports paper L’Equipe, there is a picture that tells you all you need to know about modern football. It shows the owner of Manchester City, Sheikh Kaldoon al-Mubarak, leaving the stadium after the home game against Wolves. He is being driven

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 19 September 2009

Q. Caught short by unexpected guests and an empty larder, in desperation I opened a can of high-end cat food (Fancy Feast brand — chicken, heart & liver flavour), mixed in a shot of brandy and served it as ‘pate’ with some water biscuits. It was delicious (the brandy cutting some of the natural gaminess

Mind your language

Dot’s irritated that language changes.

Much to my annoyance, and yours, I know, language changes. Thus Samuel Johnson, whose Dictionary we celebrate with its author’s 300th birthday this week, defined urinator as ‘a diver; one who searches under water’. Charles II had a urinator of his own, as a letter by Robert Boyle indicates: ‘His majesty’s urinator, Mr Curtis, published