High life

High life | 27 August 2015

According to Somerset Maugham, in material terms one must live on the razor edge between poverty and minimal subsistence in order to cultivate the life of the spirit. I’ve always respected Maugham’s wisdom and understanding of human nature, and Larry Darrell, in search of the Tao, is among my favourite fictional characters. Maugham wrote The

Low life

Low life | 27 August 2015

I sprinted through Milan station, speed-read the departures monitor without stopping, and arrived gasping on platform 8 with two minutes to spare. The driver of the FrecciaBianca bullet train was waiting only for the guard’s signal to depart. The guard was standing on the platform beside the open door of the rearmost carriage, fingering her

Real life

Real life | 27 August 2015

On the basis that I might need a new boiler soon, I thought I had better sell the London flat and move to the Cotswolds. Fine, so it wasn’t just the gurgling noise coming from the Potterton Performa. I had been pondering my place in the world, which is never a good thing for a

Wild life

Man’s greed and gain

Laikipia An elephant can break through an electric fence by pulling out the posts, pushing younger, more stupid animals into the wire — or by simply sitting on the fence. I do hope they will play such tricks on us, now that high-voltage wires enclose most of the ranch, leaving only a few corridors for

More from life

French cowardice knows no bounds

Boy, am I glad I’m not a Frenchman. Last week’s dramatic incident on board a Paris-bound train, in which a terrorist atrocity was narrowly averted by a group of heroic passengers, is a stain on French manhood to rival the Battle of Agincourt. I’m not referring to the incompetence of the French security services, who

Long life | 27 August 2015

We learn from a new report that children in England are among the unhappiest in the world — more unhappy, even, than the children of Ethiopia, Algeria or Israel. Why should this be so? Life is still quite good in England. It is generally peaceful and prosperous. Yet, in the admittedly rather haphazard list of

Dear Mary

Your problems solved | 27 August 2015

Q. How do you persuade someone drunk to leave a party when it doesn’t make sense for them to stay? When the taxi arrived to take me and two friends back to my house after a 21st, one girl refused to leave. She said she was having too good a time. Things were already winding


A secluded paradise

Do-orzaat. Dorset is part of L’Angleterre profonde. It is possible to find evidence of modernity, but only in limited areas. Around 120 miles from London, west Dorset and the Somerset marches are around the same distance from the 21st century, let alone the 20th. It helps that no motorway runs through the county and mobile

Mind your language

Names | 27 August 2015

We reached peak Charlie in 2012, when 5,571 baby boys were given the name. There were only 4,642 last year. Perhaps the Paris massacre early this year will leave more infants than ever lisping ‘Je suis Charlie’ when they learn to talk. Names go in waves. In the Office for National Statistics list of last year’s


The Matador

The matador scowled at the back of the bar, and sipped his beer. He wanted to stab the people who stared at him. His black tie, his black suit didn’t shield him from their eyes. He ordered testicles, his unique entitlement, and a carafe of deep red wine. He flung his right arm around, as

The Wiki Man

Two industries in need of regulation

I had a water meter installed in my flat a few months ago. I looked at it just now and it said ‘13’. I didn’t know what ‘13’ meant, so I went online to check. Apparently, in a few months, four of us have used 13 cubic metres of water, or 13,000 litres. The £40