High life

The write stuff | 24 May 2008

Is the opening sentence of a book, especially a novel, the most consequential, or is it just dressing for the feast to come? I’d say the former judging from A Tale of Two Cities, Moby-Dick, Pride and Prejudice, and my favourite, The Death of Manolete, by Barnaby Conrad. ‘In August, 1947, in Linares, Spain, a

Low life

Walking disaster

Jeremy Clarke on his Low Life I was looking at trail running shoes in a specialist running shoe shop, intending to buy. The young woman who sprang forward to assist was fit, lean and agile. She exuded tiptop mental and physical health. Helena she was called. She was Czech. I, on the other hand, was

Real life

Civic torment

‘Do you mind if I just put a bag of garden waste next to yours if you’re having it collected?’ said the friendly lady who lives next door. I was piling up my regulation green canvas bags for ‘heavy garden waste’ and white bags for ‘light garden waste to be composted’ when she popped the

Wild life

My brilliant career

In the summer of 1986 I got a job as a busboy in Burger King on the Champs-Elysées. I was given a funny pair of trousers, which I was ordered to wear as part of the uniform. I refused, and so later the very same day the only employment with steady prospects I’ve ever had

More from life

On the buses | 24 May 2008

Boris would have approved. He might have been envious. He might even have remembered the lunch he owes me. But I’d have let him off that just to have seen his face when he saw me at the wheel of a Routemaster bus. Since it is a vintage vehicle, an ordinary car licence suffices provided

Unwelcome news

In 1811, Jane Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra, in response, no doubt, to an anxious enquiry: ‘I will not say that your mulberry trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.’ I know something of how the Blessed Jane felt, for my advice about the health and welfare of mulberry trees

Status Anxiety | 24 May 2008

I never thought I’d claim I was quoted ‘out of context’ — until I went to Cannes ‘Memo to writers and others,’ wrote Kingsley Amis. ‘Never make a joke against yourself that some little bastard can turn into a piece of shit and send your way.’ I should have borne this in mind when I

Spectator Sport

Spectator Sport | 24 May 2008

Tim Henman famously spent a lot of his time trying to convince us he wasn’t as nice as all that. So when Henman called Andy Murray a ‘miserable git’ at a charity do the other day, we ought to listen. Though, bless him, when Murray was asked about this he did say, ‘Well I suppose

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 24 May 2008

Q. I treated four friends to a trip to the Far East. On the way back there was a cock-up at the airport with an overbooked plane and our party had to be put up for the night in a (magnificent) hotel. As a stickler for standards I wrote to the airline to complain and

Mind your language

Mind Your Language | 24 May 2008

Dot Wordsworth gives it her best shot I hardly wish to interpose my body between Anthony Horowitz and Simon Hoggart, even though the former invoked me. He declared (Letters, 10 May) that he is puzzled by Mr Hoggart’s remark in his television column that ‘in 1945 nobody ever said, “I’ll give it my best shot”,’ as