High life

High Life | 22 September 2016

Sicily   Under the watchful eye of Mount Etna the storied past of the island lies parched and yellowish, but as one gets nearer to the fiery growling giant the air turns cool, the sun glistening against black volcanic rock. Sicily is of two minds. Orange groves and beaches galore, then dank forests and the

Low life

Low life | 22 September 2016

One side of the hostel overlooked Waterloo station’s 22 platforms. Trains departed and arrived at the rate of two or three a minute. Another side abutted a Victorian cast-iron girder bridge over which suburban trains arrived and departed with rolling thunder, to which was added that fingernails-dragged-down-a-blackboard, pigs-screaming-at-feeding-time, metal-on-metal noise as the trains negotiated a

Real life

Real life | 22 September 2016

Out of the blue, I woke up one morning and my feet didn’t work. I opened my eyes, swung my legs out of the bed, and at the very moment my feet should have begun walking nothing happened and I promptly fell flat on my face. I asked Dr Google and he was unequivocal. If

Wild life

Wild life | 22 September 2016

Laikipia   For a rancher north of Mount Kenya, a man’s best legacy might be a good bloodline of Boran beef cattle. For years I wanted to buy a bull from George Aggett. His Borans are wide and deep and they are natural polls, that is, they are born hornless. George’s grandfather settled on the

More from life

Long life | 22 September 2016

The publication of private emails by Colin Powell has spread panic in Washington. Now nobody feels safe. Some prominent people have even deleted their entire email accounts, fearing that their private messages will be hacked and revealed to the world. It hasn’t been the leaking of official secrets of the kind associated with WikiLeaks and

What’s right about Momentum Kids

Forgive me if I don’t get too worked up about Momentum Kids. For those who haven’t been following Labour’s internal politics too closely, Momentum is a Trotskyist faction within the party that was instrumental in getting Jeremy Corbyn elected last year and, barring an upset, re-elected this weekend. Momentum claims the main purpose of its

Wine Club

Wine Club 24 September

We’ve something a bit different this week: six wines not only from the same region (Burgundy) but also the same producer (Maison Louis Latour). The Wine Company’s Mark Cronshaw presented such a fine selection of Latour’s wines that they were impossible to resist, especially after we’d cornered him to demand some pretty punchy discounts. Maison

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 22 September 2016

Q. How can I tactfully request that well-meaning old friends stop toasting my (new) husband’s hospitality? It seems ungrateful but, during a week’s stay at our new house in France, these much loved friends did it at least once a day, to the point that the other members of the house-party became irritated. I admit


Winemaking with convictions

Any Australian who admits to not having convict ancestors loses caste. When granted a coat of arms, the smart ones always include fetters. It is the Oz equivalent of claiming that your ancestors came over with William the Conqueror. But it was not always thus. In the Adelaide of the 1890s, there was a family

Mind your language


Jonathan Swift, in his satirical poem ‘An Epistle to a Lady’, says modestly: ‘If I can but fill my Nitch,/ I attempt no higher Pitch.’ This notion of a social alcove was identical 300 years later when a character in Bill the Conqueror by P.G. Wodehouse finds she has grown used to ‘his undynamic acceptance

The Wiki Man

The stupidest target in British transport

Two books to recommend to my fellow transportation nerds: Travel Fast or Smart? A Manifesto for an Intelligent Transport Policy by David Metz, formerly chief boffin at the Department for Transport; and Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain Has No Transport Policy by Christian Wolmar. The first is excellent throughout, the second is excellent right up