High life

The joy of being cancelled

New York I’ve never met anyone called Othello, certainly not in Venice nor in Cyprus, but perhaps there are men by that name in Africa. Someone who was referred to as Othello, but always behind his back, was the greatest of all Russians, Alexander Pushkin: a ‘raging Othello’ was how les mauvaises langues in court

Low life

My moment of madness in the opticians

Foolishly I chose new specs in the village optician’s after a long lunch: a rather outré design that I might not have chosen had I been completely sober. For the past decade I’ve worn a retro design I’d first admired in David Bailey’s striking black and white photographs of Ron Kray. Thinking it might be

Real life

Is there such a thing as a human right to night?

The street lamp as bright as the Dog Star is back to its full glare outside my house. I won a small victory earlier this year when I persuaded the council to fit a shield to one side of it after threatening to throw myself out the window because I couldn’t sleep. But the other

Wild life

When it comes to Africa, the media look away

Kenya We were flown around the country, hovering low over mobs using machetes to hack each other up Each time I sit in St Bride’s on Fleet Street during the memorial of another friend, I look around at the crowds they’ve been able to pull in and feel terribly envious. Riffling through the order of

More from life

Recipe: Lancashire hotpot

Nine months ago, after a decade spent in London, I moved to Lancashire. Although I’m a northerner born and bred, I’m from the northeast, between Newcastle and Sunderland, so this was new territory for me. Keen to assimilate, I was ready to get stuck into some of the dishes the area is famous for: Eccles

Wine Club

Wine Club 20 November

So I’ve had my booster jab — hurrah! — and if it wasn’t for my early-onset CADDAD (Christmas Affected Doom, Depression and Despondency) I’d be raring to go. As it is, though, I seem to be en route to the Depths of Gloom via Lowest Point and a change at Rock Bottom. The blasted carols

No sacred cows

The day I became a prize contrarian

Something rather unusual happened to me a few weeks ago: I was shortlisted for a prize. Not the GQ Men of the Year — shock! — but the Contrarian Prize. This is an award given to people who’ve exhibited ‘independence, courage and sacrifice’ in British public life. Previous winners include the headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh, the

Dear Mary


The heady Heights of Israeli wine

‘Where is this from?’ my friend asked, handing me a wine glass. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon, high in alcohol, bit of oak: could do with more time (turned out to be a 2016) but well made. Not French and, despite the alcohol, I did not think that it was Californian either. South Africa? Possibly,

Mind your language

How are you meant to pronounce Uranus?

I had thought there were two pronunciations of Uranus. My husband, still capable of distinguishing the anatomical from the planetary, puts the stress on the first syllable. The question arose because Lord Bragg on his radio oasis of sense In Our Time was discussing William Herschel, in 1781 the first man to discover a planet.



Where did they flee to? Who wrote off their debts when, scuttled back into a gas mantled past, they left just this pair of foxed silhouettes inlaid to the depths of the shadows they cast? Their off-cuts, spiralled and coiled to the floor, were the shirts off their backs they left behind for the brilliantined


Death dropped its guillotine on my sister. She wouldn’t have seen it coming – she’s blind. Was blind: I haven’t got used to the tense. I confuse those still living with those past. What gets me through the evenings is drink. Ironic, that, since drink is what killed her.   I’m guessing it’s unlikely you

The Wiki Man

The key to happiness? Getting behind the wheel

A friend of mine recently visited a company in Europe which plans to manufacture human-carrying, pilotless drones. These would be capable of carrying a single passenger above the traffic at speeds of around 70 miles an hour. ‘What kind of onboard information would be conveyed to the passenger?’ he asked. Will they be told their