High life

High life | 28 January 2016

The Dolly Sisters were off to Davos last week for the World Economic Forum: Nat Rothschild and Sebastian Taylor in their finest playing up to Harry Selfridge, in reality Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief. This total waste of a week advertises itself as a discussion of the global issues of the day. In reality, it’s

Low life

Low life | 28 January 2016

Roy was a superb mechanic, a methodical master of his trade. For an hour I respectfully watched him work to try and learn something of the mysteries of the internal-combustion engine. I saw instead his oil-blackened fingers pluck away the veil to reveal that there was no mystery, only simplicity. Job done, I invited him

Real life

Real life | 28 January 2016

My attempt to have a small cyst removed from the spaniel was always going to be fraught with difficulty. My vets are in a posh area of London and have a name that sounds like a multinational reinsurance broker. This is because similar amounts of money go through their books. To save their blushes, let’s

More from life

Long life | 28 January 2016

No good deed goes unpunished. This is a saying that applies with special poignancy to Olive Cooke, the 92-year-old poppy seller who jumped to her death in the Avon Gorge near Bristol after receiving something like 3,000 begging letters a year from charities. Mrs Cooke was a great believer in charity. She had sold poppies

Is this a golden age of protest?

Are we living in a golden age of protest? A bunch of aggrieved citizens only has to raise a murmur of protest, whether it’s about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or Islamophobia, and the institution they’re targeting instantly capitulates. A case in point is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No sooner had a

Dear Mary

Your problems solved | 28 January 2016

Q. For the past two New Year’s Eves we have ducked an annual party given by some acquaintances, who are very nice although the husband is a bore. His wife has recently been unwell and they have decided to corral us New Year refuseniks for a curry supper, date to be confirmed when all are


Border spirit

There has been a gastronomic revolution in London. For some years, the Boisdale restaurants, often mentioned here, have featured Macsween’s haggis, made in Edinburgh. It is a good drop of haggis, and the various Boisdales were using around four-and-a-half tons a year. Ranald Macdonald decided that it was time to review the competition. There was

Mind your language


Near Victoria Station in London they began to build a tower-block advertised as ‘The Peak’. I expected it to resemble Mont Blanc. After a few floors, it was finished, and the top of the façade projected like the peak of a baseball cap. I felt cheated. Peak is a vogue word that itself has gone


Another Slice

All the books stored above our heads, all the books there aren’t enough hours to read again, and still we hesitate to banish them complete. The second-hand life, charity shops, jumble sales, car boot fields: the slow long-term dance, temporary ownership, possession and loss. Charity shops can take anything unwanted, books and LPs, the unfashionable

The Wiki Man

The power of painless payment

I am one of those annoying, mildly claustrophobic people who sit at the end of a row in cinemas. There are plenty of things in life — films, plays, social events — which I can only fully enjoy knowing I can make a sharp exit at any time. It’s not that I leave: I just