High life

High life | 21 April 2012

New York Seeing Manhattan rising in the distance is always a treat. I am not sure it’s possible for anyone brought up around these parts to appreciate entirely what New York, the idea of New York, meant to us who came from the old continent. I was 11 years old and had seen only war

Low life

Low life | 21 April 2012

The weatherman had forecast a cold front arriving speedily from the east during the course of the day. As soon as our two guests arrived we eagerly debated this with them. It seemed incredible. The sea was sparkling under a cloudless sky and the sun was getting hotter by the minute. The lovely settled weather

Real life

Real life | 21 April 2012

Somehow or other, through some sort of oversight, I seem to have acquired a racehorse. It all happened very quickly, as these things tend to. I was with the boyfriend, visiting his mother’s yard, where she deals horses. The boyfriend was inspecting a coloured pony for driving. The boyfriend fancies himself on a pony and

More from life

Status Anxiety: Once upon a time on the motorway

After my recent column about the horrors of travelling with my four children, I got a sweet letter from a 17-year-old called Tara Vivian-Neal recommending the wheeze that her parents came up with to keep her and her brother quiet on long car journeys: audiobooks. ‘Black Ships Before Troy, The Iliad and Tales of William

Long life | 21 April 2012

I am lucky with my brother John. Although he is 12-and-a-half years older than me, he doesn’t patronise or seek to undermine me. On the contrary, he is wholly supportive of my modest endeavours, whatever they may be. Although, at the end of a successful and varied career as a publisher, author and bookseller, he

Spectator Sport

Spectator Sport: National mourning

You don’t want to sound too swivel-eyed about this, but didn’t poor doomed Synchronised look cursed from the get-go in that enthralling Grand National? How often do you see the best jump jockey on the planet being chucked to the ground like a piece of straw? And that was on the way to the start.

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 21 April 2012

Q. My husband and I are at loggerheads. One of the buildings he owns has become vacant and he has planning consent for change of use to a pub. On the one hand we very much need the money. On the other I dread the drunkenness and yobbery it would bring. Can you rule, Mary?


Food: Full Marx

Quo Vadis is the restaurant in the house where Marx wrote Das Kapital, and today it is full of tulips. I always expect Soho restaurants to house crackheads and refugees from Esquire, their bloody hands echoing the streets that smell equally of dirt and soap, like a man who wants to wash but finds he

Mind your language


My husband gave me a copy of Plutarch’s Moralia for our wedding anniversary, the romantic old thing. It is in the translation of Philemon Holland, made in 1603 and republished in 1657. At the back is ‘An Explanation of certain obscure words… in favour of the unlearned Reader’. That’s me. Some entries in the glossary