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Religion is the new politics — but Britain’s secular politicians just don’t get it

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_26_June_2014_v4.mp3″ title=”Damian Thompson vs. Cristina Odone on the role religion plays in politics” startat=44] Listen [/audioplayer]Aren’t Buddhist monks adorable?  They meditate for days without needing to go to the toilet. They talk to each other in ‘grasshopper’ haikus. Their pot bellies are full of wholesome vegetarian fare. Your package tour to Southeast Asia isn’t

Should I report my boyfriend to the police?

Driving along in the car, listening to the radio news, the boyfriend turned to me and said he thought the Michael Fabricant row a very strange one. Fabricant was being pilloried for having tweeted that he could never go on television with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown because he might ‘end up punching her in the throat’, but

Welcome to the age of self-love

Remember when masturbation was something everybody did but no one talked about? It was not most people’s idea of a conversation starter. Certainly nobody boasted about being a self-abuser. It was seen as a sorry substitute for sex, a sad stand-in for intimacy. Not any more. Masturbation has been reinvented as ‘self-love’, a healthy and

Why Thailand’s elite fell out of love with democracy

Like any sensible, prosperous Englishman in his middle years, I spend every winter in Thailand. Indeed, I’ve been visiting the country for three decades: I can still remember my first hotel in Bangkok, a beautiful teak-stilted villa down a rat-infested alley which had the singular facility of offering heroin on room service. I went with

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What it takes to be Best Sommelier of the World

It is blossom time in Tokyo. An unruly pack of journalists, photographers and TV crews prowls the corridors of the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, where a world championship is taking place. Where’s the smart money going? Who’s looking good and who’s out of sorts? Who stayed out last night and who was tucked up in

The delicious return of Gin Lane

In 1751, William Hogarth was asked to create two prints: one depicting the evils of gin, the other the virtues of beer. Hogarth must have received a pat on the back from the brewers who commissioned him, because ‘Gin Lane’ cast gin as the greatest of all evils. It ruined mothers, and caused starvation, insanity and

Red wine… with a hint of Diet Coke

A mixed case arrives from Corney & Barrow. My orders are to improvise so I pull out a bottle at random. Here it is. El Campesino, a 2013 Chardonnay (£7.13), from Chile, which has a full, direct flavour and a slightly bitter tang that cuts against the sweetness. The Dionysian experts who scour the earth

My own private craft beer World Cup

11 p.m., Saturday 14 June. Football fans gather before the TV in anticipation of England vs Italy. There is quiet, save for the click and hiss of fresh lagers being opened. Football and beer are indivisible. The football was forgettable, and so — in most cases — was the lager. When was the last time

Politically correct wines worth drinking

When the editor of this special suggested I might try some wine for him (did he need to ask twice? No!) it’s fair to say that New World wines weren’t my first pick. ‘How about Eastern Europe?’ I said, with an eye to Macedonia. Or failing that, Germany? It’s far too long since I’ve tasted

Discovering bourbon on Brick Lane

When I was stationed in Kentucky I never drank bourbon. It wasn’t until I came to London that the drink became something special to me. I always passed a bowling alley on Brick Lane with fluorescent lights and unmarked taxis waiting by the door. One night they had two for one drinks, so I went

Rose Prince’s summer wine match menu

It may seem like stating the obvious, but to me the best wines are food wines, meaning those that should never be far away from a plate of something they match perfectly. A dish with the right wine is a meeting of two halves to make a whole experience that stays in your memory for

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The immigration museum that travelled 4,000 miles

The Immigrant Church at Sletta emigrated from North Dakota 18 years ago. Built on the prairie by Norwegian settlers in the 1900s, but latterly abandoned, it was deconstructed, transported and rebuilt on the island of Radøy, off Norway’s west coast. Now it presides over the West Norway Emigration Centre, a monument to the Norwegian diaspora,