High life

High life | 21 May 2015

This is as good as it gets. A light rain is falling on a soft May evening and I’m walking north on a silent Park Avenue hoping to get into trouble. Fourteen thousand yellow taxis have turned Manhattan into a Bengali hellhole, blasting their horns non-stop, picking up or disgorging passengers in the middle of

Low life

Low life | 21 May 2015

From somewhere in the tree canopy, a nightingale song. The virtuoso trilling and warbling, the underwater bubbling, the teetering on the brink before the tumbling cascade. I’m wearing turquoise Speedo swimming shorts and a panama hat and lying on a terrace lounger. In my hand, a tumbler of the local rosé, one ice cube. The

Real life

Real life | 21 May 2015

You can’t always get what you want. And you can never get what you want if you want a phone with buttons. I’ve been nursing along an old BlackBerry. Well, I’ve been nursing a drawer full of old BlackBerrys. I began stockpiling them when the company started to nosedive and I realised I would soon

Wild life

Wild life | 21 May 2015

 Nairobi Trout were first introduced into Kenya’s highland streams in 1905. Men like Ewart Grogan, ‘baddest and boldest of a bad bold gang’, shipped Loch Leven fingerlings in ice-packed chests to Mombasa and then up to the Rift Valley on the Lunatic Express. From there, porters carried them up into the misty, forested Aberdare and

More from life

Long life | 21 May 2015

I have rather a poor record for speeding over the years. I have been caught by cameras quite often, sometimes getting points on my licence and paying modest fines, and twice avoiding further points by attending speed-awareness courses to be educated in the dangers that speeding can cause. It has all sort of worked; I

Freedom for free schools

I was disappointed to hear Andy Burnham on Marr last Sunday declare his opposition to free schools. He put plenty of distance between himself and Ed Miliband, even admitting Labour spent too much in the run-up to the recession, which is quite something given that he was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the

Dear Mary

Your problems solved | 21 May 2015

Q. How can I discipline inconsiderate people who do not reply properly to wedding invitations? I am being driven demented by replies on cards from people who have scrawled, for example, what looks like ‘Tom M’ and ‘James P’, which do not correspond to anything on my list. I refused to spoon-feed guests by enclosing a


Let’s drink to a Tory majority

Most of my friends are still on a cloud of post-election euphoria. There is one exception: those involved with opinion-polling. They have all the conversational self-confidence of a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, circa Christmas 2008. I have tried to cheer them up, because there are explanations for the polls’ systemic failure. Most

Mind your language


Benidorm has applied for World Heritage status. To achieve this, says Unesco, a site must have ‘outstanding universal value’ in one of ten natural or cultural categories. Perhaps Benidorm is ‘a masterpiece of human creative genius’ — clever to get all those people to go there on holiday. Heritage is overdone now, especially as an



To draw conclusions from the precise force Exerted by a handshake or a kiss Is to confuse a delta’s civilities With the ambiguous thunder of its source, And what the fingers or the lips endorse Could be misleading. It comes down to this: Emotions are such things as you might miss. The river is the

The Wiki Man

The importance of selective inefficiency

Readers of a certain age may remember choosing a cassette player in the 1980s. In theory the process was simple: we would have read reviews of competing devices in audiophile publications and then bought whichever device scored best in terms of sound quality, reliability and value for money. Except we didn’t do this, did we?