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Words to live by from Saint John Henry Newman

On 13 October, John Henry Newman, a distinguished and distinctive Englishman, was officially declared a Saint. A well-known saying of his is: ‘To live is to change; to be perfect is to change often.’ How did that work in his life and, to a lesser extent, how has it worked in mine? In 1833, Newman

Ricky Gervais: why I’ll never apologise for my jokes

There’s a moment in Ricky Gervais’s 2018 Netflix stand-up show Humanity when he talks about buying a first-class air ticket, only to be informed that nuts would not be served on board due to a fellow passenger’s serious allergy. ‘I was fuming,’ he says. ‘If being near a nut kills you, do we really want

I was born to be a pantomime Dame (oh yes I was!)

‘Flamenco, lambada/ But hip hop is harder/ We moonwalk the foxtrot/ Then polka the salsa…’ I’m sure you know those lines from the Spice Girls’ anthem ‘Spice Up Your Life’, which happens to be the biggest song-and-dance number in this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime at Helmsley Arts Centre in North Yorkshire. It’s also

A soldier’s legacy: how a baby’s cry saved a family

It was early evening on Sunday 6 August 1944. The Allies’ bloody struggle to liberate Normandy from the Nazis had reached the village of Vaudry. As gunfire broke out on a farm near the Pont du Vaudry, 40 members of one French family threw themselves into a trench next to the house. They pulled torn

Roger Scruton: My 2019

  January My 2018 ended with a hate storm, in response to my appointment as chair of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. But the new year brings a lull, and I hope and pray that the Grand Inquisitor enthroned by social media will find another target. February The 27th is my 75th birthday,

‘Cook it like a prayer’: Bip Ling’s Christmas curry

This dish is refreshing and super yummy. It’s a recipe that Didas (my Indian grandmother) taught me. The zesty tomato flavour makes my mouth water. You can’t go wrong with this curry. Everyone loves it and always asks for more! It’s comforting and warm, especially when it’s cold outside during Christmas time. Cook the dish

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The King of Christmas: A short story by Owen Matthews

The Christmas King steps slowly from his house and sniffs the evening’s chill. His tread is dainty, for all his heft, and his handsome head swings proudly as he surveys a kingdom of carrot tops and mud. He smells woodsmoke, the sows’ reek, the night’s damp rising from the river. From the kitchen door he


Petronella Wyatt: The time I saw Boris cry

Boris Johnson is nothing like Churchill, a view with which my friend Andrew Roberts concurs. But in the 20-odd years I have known Boris, I have often been struck by his similarity to John Wilkes, 18th-century politician, journalist and catnip to women. A wit and a showman, Wilkes, who denounced European entanglements and championed the

Andrew Marr: Twitter fooled everyone during this election

It’s an unfashionable thought, but having spent many hours in the university sports hall where constituency votes for Boris Johnson and John McDonnell were counted, I feel freshly in love with democracy. There they all were, local councillors and party workers from across the spectrum; campaigners pursuing personal crusades, from animal rights to the way

Joan Collins: I’m an actress, not an actor. And yes, it matters

I recently tried to put my profession down as ‘actress’ on Instagram, but the only option available from the drop-down menu was ‘actor’. Why? Actress is such a graceful word, so evocative of elegance, refinement and poise that the common and blunt ‘actor’ cannot possibly conjure. It’s even worse when we are referred to as

Anne Glenconner: My Christmas gift from Queen Mary

At the age of 87 I find myself not just a first-time author, but a bestseller. I’ve always told stories, but I never thought of writing them down until this past year. Once I got going I found I couldn’t stop, and Lady In Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown is

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Away from the manger: the holy relics of Bethlehem

‘No crib for a bed,’ says ‘Away in a Manger’ rather puzzlingly, since a crib is a manger. ‘No one paid me much attention, lying on the hard stones, a young child in a crib,’ says God made Man in the Old English poem ‘Christ’. At the beginning of his prophecy, Isaiah declares: ‘The ox