19/12/2009
19 Dec 2009

19 December 2009

19 Dec 2009

19 December 2009

Featured articles

Features
Ben Schott
Schott’s Spectator Almanac

To see Schott's Spectator Almanac, please click here: Schott's Spectator Almanac [PDF]

Schott’s Spectator Almanac
William Boyd
Christmas short story: The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth, by William Boyd Illustrated by Carolyn GowdyBethany Mellmoth is in a quandary — and she doesn’t like quandaries. It’s December 20th. Five days until Christmas. The fact that this is a Christmas quandary makes it no more bearable. In truth she thinks that this fact makes it more unbearable. Her mother and father — nearly two decades divorced — both demand her presence on Christmas Day.

Christmas short story: The Dreams of  Bethany Mellmoth
Joan Collins
Christmas in L.A. | 14 December 2009

When my daughter Katyana was eight years old she fell into a coma in hospital. I would not allow any of the medical staff around her to talk about her condition in a negative fashion. I was convinced that she was able to comprehend what was being discussed around her bedside and that it would somehow affect her recovery. The doctors, interns and nurses all believed I was a raging nutter and I would hear them tut-tutting as they backed away, whispering how sad it was that my daughter didn’t have much of a chance of recovering.

Christmas in L.A. | 14 December 2009
Ed Howker
All in a good cause?

Today’s big charities are slick operations that spend huge sums on running costs and marketing, says Ed Howker. Worse, many of them have been annexed by the governmentOne Christian Aid week, aged seven, I collected charity envelopes with my mum from the terraced homes that rise out of the Calder Valley. Dressed in a blue anorak, I was every bit the budding charity mugger, but there is one doorstep I particularly remember: as usual we asked the occupier if they had ‘ever considered giving any money to Christian Aid?’ ‘Sorry,’ said the middle-aged woman, ‘I don’t give to charity.

All in a  good cause?
The Spectator
But if you’re still feeling philanthropic...

If you’re disheartened by the politicisation of big charities, here’s a selection of smaller charities recommended by Spectator staff. If you’re disheartened by the politicisation of big charities, here’s a selection of smaller charities recommended by Spectator staff. For Dementia Living with someone who has dementia is very hard. The person you knew slowly disappears and you are left with a stranger who has changed almost beyond recognition.

But if you’re still feeling philanthropic...
Lloyd Evans
How vodka cured my fear of flying

I’ve discovered a brilliant way to cure my phobias. It’s so easy, so ingenious and so cheap (it cost me nothing), that I want to share it with as many people as possible. My technique will work its magic on any trivial or unreasonable fear you suffer from. Mine happens to be flying. Or it used to be. Until 28 July this year I hadn’t travelled in a plane, or even visited an airport, for 16 years.

How vodka cured my fear of flying
Fraser Nelson
Meet Farmer Mandelson

Lord Mandelson of Foy sticks his nose into the room in which I am waiting for him and sniffs the air theatrically. ‘This place smells,’ he declares. And this, it seems, is my invitation to follow him through to his office — for an interview and some light admonishment. He is cross with Charles Moore for revealing in this magazine the details of an extraordinary shooting party at the Rothschilds’ manor.

Meet Farmer Mandelson
Matthew Dennison
Big frocks, silk stockings and lissom ladies

Matthew Dennison on the life of Augustus Harris, the Victorian showman who invented the Christmas pantomime and pioneered sex, celebrity and excess as an art formForget Lord Leighton and his fleshy goddesses forced to bare all in the interests of classical scholarship. Forget Wilkie Collins and Mary E. Braddon, and those sensational stories of exciting young women with a past. Foremost among 19th-century efforts to cloak titillation in the garb of respectability is the invention of the principal boy of pantomime.

Big frocks, silk stockings and lissom ladies
The Spectator
What would you take to Bethlehem?

The Wise Men offered gold, frankincense and myrrh — but where can you get hold of myrrh these days? The Spectator asked Britain’s great and good what they would give Jesus if He were born today The Wise Men offered gold, frankincense and myrrh — but where can you get hold of myrrh these days? The Spectator asked Britain’s great and good what they would give Jesus if He were born today The Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York Firstly I would give Him myself.

What would you take to Bethlehem?
Peter Oborne
Letter from Zimbabwe

There is only one real subject of discussion at this weekend’s Zanu-PF Congress in Harare: when will Robert Mugabe stand down? The old man — whom party loyalists now refer to as the ‘second son of God’ — will be 86 in February.There is only one real subject of discussion at this weekend’s Zanu-PF Congress in Harare: when will Robert Mugabe stand down? The old man — whom party loyalists now refer to as the ‘second son of God’ — will be 86 in February.

Letter from Zimbabwe
Toby Clements
Who’s afraid of Santa Claus?

Toby Clements says that there’s a good reason many children find Father Christmas an alarming figure — he’s an unresolved hotch-potch of different mythsLast year in the run-up to Christmas I took my two-year-old son to get his hair cut in one of those strange hybrid toy-cum-barber shops that proliferate in north London. It was going as well as one could hope until they announced a surprise guest as a special treat, Father Christmas.

Who’s afraid of Santa Claus?
Rian Malan
Happy Christmas from Jo’burg

Once upon a time, in the desolate Great Karoo, my father pointed out a distant line of bluegum trees marking the route Father Christmas was likely to follow when he came to deposit gifts under our Christmas tree. I was around four at the time, but even then I sensed something odd about Christmas in Africa. The cards on our mantelpiece depicted snow, but we’d never seen such a thing. Our windows were shuttered against heat, not icy blizzards.

Happy Christmas from Jo’burg
Janine Di-Giovanni
La famille recomposée

It isn’t just the Sarkozys whose domestic affairs are complex, writes Janine di Giovanni. They’re all at it. Modern French life is a potage of wives, exes, new babies and grown-up kidsThe wan grey light at Gare du Nord at Christmastime always reminds me of my move to Paris six years ago. I was heavily pregnant, weeks away from birth in a foreign country. The train ride across the Channel with my new French husband was swift, but I was acutely aware of the 20 years of life I was leaving behind in London as we passed the wet, snowy flatlands of northern France.

La famille  recomposée
Barry Humphries
Christmas Notebook

I felt immeasurably old this morning in Sydney when a youth on a bicycle yelled at me in the street ‘I love your body of work!’ I returned the flattering salutation with the modest smile I keep for such occasions, but my fan had already pedalled into the traffic.I felt immeasurably old this morning in Sydney when a youth on a bicycle yelled at me in the street ‘I love your body of work!’ I returned the flattering salutation with the modest smile I keep for such occasions, but my fan had already pedalled into the traffic.

Christmas Notebook
Daniel Kalder
It’s the end of the world. Again

The Ancient Mayan ‘long calendar’ stops in 2012, suggesting we’re all doomed. Bring it on, says Daniel Kalder — we’ve been predicting the End for three millennia: why stop now?For two months now, Roland Emmerich’s wrathful CGI God has been killing billions in the name of the Holy Box Office in the film 2012. Having already caused carnage with aliens, an ice age and Godzilla, this time Emmerich took his cue from the Ancient Mayans, whose ‘long calendar’ purportedly stops in 2012.

It’s the end of the world. Again
Jonathan Wynne-Evans
Short story: Black box

In March The Spectator Book Club launched its inaugural short story competition in association with Barclays Wealth. The topic was invisibility, and it seemed to appeal. We received over 500 stories, most of an excellent standard. Our judging panel comprised Mark Amory, Clare Asquith, Peter Hoskin, David Blackburn and Ravi Bulchandani from Barclays Wealth. After much heated debate, five finalists were selected: Jonathan Wynne Evans, Matthew Faulkener, K.

Short story: Black box
Sinclair McKay
Bring back Father Brown

G.K. Chesterton’s perspicacious priest is 100 next year. Sinclair McKay says that he is more colourful and insightful than any of today’s TV detectivesA chap murdered by an invisible man? A decapitiated Scottish laird with the fillings stolen from his skull? A poet, hypnotised into committing suicide? Who could deal with such curious and baffling crimes?There’s only one possible answer: an amateur sleuth who specialised in the bizarre and diabolical long before Mulder and Scully; a detective long due for a comeback: G.

Bring back Father Brown
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