High life

In praise of amateurs

Two weeks ago in St Moritz I ran into both Nicolas Niarchos and Nikolai von Bismarck, two talented young men and Old Harrovians whose parents are friends of mine. This week I was proud to read the former’s byline and to see the latter’s pictures from the warzone in Ukraine. Good on them, the Fourth

Low life

The call of a blackbird’s full-throated song

Speaking pretty good English, Dr Tayeb came straight to the point. Was I eligible for the ground breaking new cancer treatment? He was afraid not. The radioactive test scan had illuminated the bone tumours very nicely, but the more dangerous one in the liver had remained occluded. So in my case the new treatment –

Real life

Is ours the oddest high street in the land?

The window of the new shop was as brightly coloured as a circus entrance, and stuffed full of items bearing no relation to each other, from chocolates and candles to vases and old chairs. The unusual name, too, made the place seem like it might have some mystical, hidden purpose. The builder boyfriend wandered over

Wine Club

Wine Club: a taste of Rhône royalty

Order now. A reader upbraided me gently the other day saying he felt I was overly effusive about the wines I feature in these pages. He hinted that I must be in the pay of the merchants in order to endorse quite so heartily whatever six random wines they care to offload on me. Well,

No sacred cows

How to save the Oscars

This Sunday’s Academy Awards will be a litmus test of whether Hollywood can uncouple itself from the political agenda of young woke radicals that is proving so unpopular in the US. Joe Biden had a stab at it during his State of the Union address, criticising the ‘defund the police’ movement for fear of a

Spectator Sport

Where Eddie Jones is going wrong

Rugby Union, bloody hell. We’ve got to talk about Eddie, but before that, what about something much cheerier? Just when it seemed the game was for the big bruisers of northern Europe and the southern hemisphere, Italy show us that it ain’t necessarily so. It seemed impossible that anyone could upstage France’s victory parade on

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I stop my husband spying on me?

Q. My husband has developed an irksome habit whenever he goes abroad without me. We have cameras outside the house which are programmed to alert him by iPhone when anyone comes or goes. As soon as I go into the garden I receive WhatsApp messages commenting on my activities, such as ‘I’m not sure you


The best lamb in London: Blacklock reviewed

Blacklock is the fourth restaurant of that name – there are others in Soho, Shoreditch and the City of London. It sits in a former royal coach-makers in an alley near the Garrick Club under signage that says ‘Chop’. We descend to a cavern. The walls are exposed brick, the floors are dark wood, and

Mind your language



Red Swingball bats and the Disney eye of an inflatable dolphin pressed against the hatch of the Renault 16 in front.   Lorries ahead, cabs to trailers to cabs; faces at coach windows, all lanes blocked. I slump in the back seat. We edge forwards.   I twiddle with the window winder. Nearer the bridge.

L’Embarquement pour ailleurs

      Everyone around me doggedly refuses to understand that I have never been able to live in the reality of things and people …         Debussy – letter 8 July 1910, the piece L’Embarquement pour ailleurs still incomplete   I have joined the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, fee 1 shilling. No

Innocent Encounter

From a photograph of Himmler taken by an unknown German soldier in Ukraine, summer 1941 In a meadow heavy with the scent of everything that blooms without anticipation of death, two Ukrainian peasant girls encounter the Reichsführer SS. Freed from their labours they smile and greet the slight bespectacled man who appears benign, as he