High life

High Life | 21 February 2009

Gstaad Nicola Anouilh is the only son of the great French playwright Jean Anouilh — more than 70 plays, including Antigone, Becket and La Sauvage — and a close friend since Paris in the Sixties. He was of a generation just below mine, one that managed to get into Jimmy’s only during the events of

Low life

Low Life | 21 February 2009

The other night, Jim, a pub landlord, was complaining angrily to me about the government. I listened but said nothing. Then he produced a newspaper clipping. It was an article about the British army’s latest sniper rifle. It had a range of, I forget what — two miles? In the wrong hands, said Jim, it

Wild life

Wild Life | 21 February 2009

36,000 feet When I was a teenager on a flight to Nairobi I sat next to a pretty Kenyan girl the same age as me. We got talking. Out of the blue at 36,000 feet she slipped me a scrap of paper on which was scrawled, ‘I LOVE YOU.’ ‘That’s nice,’ I said. I did

Slow life

Slow Life | 21 February 2009

Child’s play During the night or behind a cloud the sunshine had changed colour, and now as it shone all over me it launched cascades of contemplation, pleasant images flashing like fireworks as it smashed into my closed eyelids. Bang, bang, bang and involuntarily I was carried off, launched headlong down a fast-flowing river of

More from life

Status Anxiety | 21 February 2009

One of the paradoxes of social organisations is that the more egalitarian they are on the surface, the more hierarchical they are underneath. Thus, the House of Commons is more class-bound than the House of Lords, the Labour party more rigidly stratified than the Conservatives, and comprehensive schools more cliquey than Eton College. Of nothing

Spectator Sport

Spectator Sport | 21 February 2009

A damned fine spell A few of us had a small dinner the other day to thank Angus Fraser for his distinguished stint as the Independent’s cricket correspondent. Not quite reeling off 45 overs from the Nursery End, but a damned fine spell anyway. The evening was, as such occasions should be, wine-fuelled, good-humoured and

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 21 February 2009

Q. I was brought up in South Africa and did graduate studies in the US. When I moved to London in the mid-1970s I encountered ‘put downs’ at dinner parties when I mispronounced aristocratic English surnames which I had only seen written. I had some exposure to them in South Africa but obviously not enough.

Mind your language

Mind your language | 21 February 2009

A bright rainbow on a wall caught my eye, and the building behind it turned out to belong to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. On its website, the department has a cheerful image of helicopters and cranes constructing a rainbow. When I add that the home page is headed by a picture of