High life

High life | 17 April 2019

New York On 21 April 1980, Rosie Ruiz won the fabled Boston Marathon in record time and looked as fresh as a daisy when the media descended on her after she had been crowned with a wreath à la ancient Greece. Rosie answered all the questions. She loved running. This was only her second marathon.

Low life

Low life | 17 April 2019

We drove north and parked in the designated car park with a quarter of an hour to spare before the minibus was due to pick us up and take us to our holiday destination. On it would be up to six strangers with whom we were to spend a week in the confined space of

Real life

Real life | 17 April 2019

An angry villager accosted me outside my house as I came through my front door. ‘You’re wrong about those horses,’ she called. By which she meant the 123 horses taken from a farm down the road by the RSPCA. ‘They were never fed!’ she shouted at me. ‘They were starved! We have been trying to

Wine Club

Notre Dame’s loss is too much to bear

Civilisation only ever hangs by a thread. Today one of those threads seems to have frayed, perhaps snapped. It is impossible to watch the footage coming out of Paris, all that can be done is to groan and turn away. It is not possible to watch the spire of Notre Dame collapse. It is not

No sacred cows

Spectator Sport

Master of manners – and the high seas

Something very odd happened on the Today programme the other morning. Amid the mountains of bombast that usually fill the Radio 4 airwaves at that time came the calm, modulated tones of a man speaking with great humour, wit and modesty of an extraordinary achievement. It was Sir Robin Knox–Johnston, on the eve of his

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 17 April 2019

Q. I am not a professional writer but on the strength of a short piece I contributed to a Festschrift have been asked to extend this to a 5,000-word memoir. I had no idea how difficult I would find it to do this work outside of the office context in which I normally operate. I


Top brass

Bellamy’s is a Franco-Belgian brasserie in Bruton Place, a dim alley in the charismatic part of Mayfair; the part that has not been ruined. There isn’t much you can do with an alley except blow it up. It feels like a survivor from a more ancient time: 2004. Its rivals from that time are broken

Mind your language


Spoiler alert: in Henry Fielding’s play Tom Thumb, the hero is swallowed by a cow ‘of larger than the usual size’. Before this tragic end comes a scene between Princess Huncamunca and Lord Grizzle, who declares: ‘Oh, Huncamunca, Huncamunca, oh! / Thy pouting Breasts, like Kettle-Drums of Brass, / Beat everlasting loud Alarms of Joy.’