High life

High life | 18 January 2018

I spent the better part of two sunny days indoors writing about authenticity for a Greek magazine, a strange subject in view of how inauthentic politics are in that Brussels-run south-eastern outpost dotted with islands. Mind you, what is taking place in the West makes Greek politics seem ideal by comparison. The witch hunt is

Low life

Low life | 18 January 2018

In France, or in Provence at least, polite rule number one is to say hello. You must offer a distinct ‘good day’ or ‘good day, ladies and gentleman’, for example, when joining the queue in the baker’s or at the post office, or when getting on a bus or entering a bar. A nod or

Real life

Real life | 18 January 2018

A vet has accused me of a ‘hate crime’ for making a joke about vets. On the basis that everything is a hate crime, I am not getting too upset. But it does seem to be the case that jokes are becoming a liability. The sort of complaints I used to get were from lefty

More from life

The turf | 18 January 2018

I have never been one for system betting but one little piece of guidance returns to my mind at the start of every year: back Nicky Henderson’s horses at Kempton in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival. His runners always do well at the Thameside track, although that is not the only reason why the

Wine Club

Wine Club 20 January

Well, I don’t know about you but I found the recent festivities somewhat challenging. I didn’t draw a sober breath between 8 November and New Year’s Day which, as my wife Marina kindly pointed out, was neither big nor clever. She’s no slouch herself when the corks are popping so for her to call me

No sacred cows

Why my pet dog Leo had to go

Readers may recall that the Young family welcomed a new addition to the household about two years ago: a Hungarian Vizsla named Leo. He turned out to be incredibly high-maintenance. He demanded to be walked twice a day and invariably did something unspeakable, such as rolling around in fox excrement — or, worse, start eating

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 18 January 2018

Q. I will be 80 in March and all my friends will expect to be asked to the celebration. My problem is that our dining-room table only fits 16, and everyone is too old for a buffet as we will spill the stuff down ourselves. How can I avoid offending the uninvited friends? — M.D.,


A vintage in retreat

We were pondering the relationship between military history and wine vintages. It is extraordinary to think that the French managed to make wine throughout both world wars. In the late 1980s, Alan Clark had David Owen and me to lunch at Saltwood, his castle near Hythe. It is a proper castle; the stones are still

Mind your language


In Polite Conversation, Jonathan Swift presents dialogues made up of clichés, banalities and catchphrases. When Miss Notable makes a remark seen as witty, Mr Neverout exclaims: ‘Why, Miss, you shine this Morning like a shitten Barn-Door.’ Perhaps we might not admit such an adjective, even in this archaic form, to polite company — except that

The Wiki Man

A nice, cuddly NHS would be bad for us

Recently the NHS postponed a large number of non-urgent operations to cope with what is known as the ‘annual winter crisis’. Naturally, this outcome was treated as a scandal in the press, and there were predictable calls for Jeremy Hunt to resign. But the fact that non-urgent operations are postponed is not by definition bad.