High life

The day I have dreaded has finally arrived: my birthday

Coronis Trafficking in enchantment, I sailed west to Coronis, the most perfect private isle on this planet. At times I think I’m in the realm of fantasy, such is the beauty of the place, the perfection of its function, yet a nouveau riche, Bezos or Zuckerberg, say, would most likely find it not up to

Real life

Have millennials sunk my house sale?

We were about to exchange contracts when I got a call from the estate agent to tell me that another list of queries had come in. I took one look at it and decided I had better not read it properly, because I saw the words ‘wind turbines’. In a few decades no conveyancing will

No sacred cows

The appalling hypocrisy of Peter Wilby

According to the ancient proverb, if you sit by the river for long enough you will see the body of your enemy float by. That happened to me earlier this week when I discovered the fate of Peter Wilby, a former editor of the New Statesman and the Independent on Sunday. In 2018, when I

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how to leave a boring book club

Q. I am organising a funeral for a close relative and am puzzled that some people wish to attend the wake but not the service of committal at the crematorium. My view is that if you want to enjoy the wake, which will be a good party in a perfect country pub, then you should


What wine should you serve to a matador?

We were talking bulls. A friend of mine, Alexander Fiske-Harrison, is a remarkable character who can claim at least two distinctions. First, he must have been about the worst-behaved boy in the modern history of Eton College. He claims that this is an understatement and that he heads the role of infamy since the days

Mind your language

The changing face of ‘values’

‘Don’t they know what prolific means?’ asked my husband, looking up in a bad-tempered way from a headline on the BBC website: ‘Lucy Letby: Investigating the UK’s most prolific child killer.’ Sky News, the Mail, Reuters and the CheshireLive website used the phrase too. Prolific comes from the Latin prolificus, meaning ‘producing or capable of


Ladders and Snakes

What have I done with my one life and all the time it takesUp the ladders of alcohol and down depression’s snakesI’ve met too many predators and bought too many fakesI had too many choices and made some bad mistakesUp the ladders of ecstasy and down delusion’s snakesWhy does a simple scene in life involve

The First Circle

                        Lacing up gleaming skates, then off the rein             At last, kids shuffling gouts of steam We elbowed into churned-up tracks and packed the train             Of bodies bent and wobbling in the stream                         That watched in awe below the mirror ball             As denims and drape jackets paid the price For slinging

The Wiki Man

What I learned from being debanked

My own debanking story concerns a card rather than a bank account. Not the same degree of inconvenience as Nigel Farage, but a similarly telling insight into modern administrative culture. I feel awkward writing this, because in the 30 years I have used American Express, including an enjoyable decade when I also worked for the

The turf

The fight over jockey saunas is heating up

When the nine equine athletes involved in the seven-furlong contest for Newbury’s Saturday highlight, the Group Two BetVictor Hungerford Stakes, strolled around the parade ring there was nowhere else in the world I would have preferred to be. As the sun gleamed off perfectly burnished coats and perfectly toned muscles rippled in sturdy hindquarters I