High life

You can’t make friends with Uncle Sam and survive for long

Can somebody tell me when America last got it right? Uncle Sam’s track record in selecting leaders in faraway places reminds me very much of my own where libel is concerned: plaintiffs 5; Taki 0. Let’s see, the good Uncle overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran back in the early 1950s in order for the Shah

Low life

Real life

Why won’t my cleaner leave me the Watchtower?

‘Hi I did Put it on It needed more’ is the pleasingly obscure haiku I find on my kitchen table. It is from Denise, one of the most wonderful people I know. To give Denise a title — such as cleaner, cleaning lady, home help — would be disingenuous or even downright rude. Because it

Wild life

More from life

Not all knowledge is equal

I first locked horns with Michael Rosen, the former children’s laureate, on Sky News about four years ago. We were debating the merits of trying to teach all children the best that’s been thought and said and quickly got on to the subject of whether the grammar school education we’d received would be appropriate for

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Is it an insult to be given anti-ageing cream?

Q. When someone gives you anti-ageing cream as a present, is that an insult or a compliment? — A.O., Provence A. It is both, but such creams make pointless presents. Cosmetics are all to do with suggestibility: for them to work, the user must be the one who has studied the spiel on the packaging


Horse racing, Sancerre and escaped lobsters

A stint in dry dock — the ‘dry’ literally — has one advantage. There is time for lots of long reading. After many decades since the last opening of Middlemarch, I had forgotten how good it is. I had completely forgotten a delicious minor character, Mrs Cadwallader, who is a blend of Aunt Dahlia and

Mind your language

A bitter struggle with the dictionary

‘Don’t mind if I do,’ is one of husband’s stock phrases — jokes he would think them — in this case trotted out if anyone says, of the weather, ‘Bitter’. (The joke must come from Colonel Chinstrap in ITMA, even though my husband wasn’t born then.) Mr Verdant Green, notionally at Oxford in the mid


My First Love

I made the mistake of getting in touch with him twenty years after – invited him to stay. He was almost alcoholic, had lost his front teeth, told endless anecdotes and, worst of all, was allergic to my dog. You’d think that’d be a cure or antidote to all those years of unrequited love spent

The Wiki Man

Why don’t more non-smokers try e-cigarettes?

I was waiting on an office forecourt recently puffing on an e-cigarette when a security guard came out. ‘You can’t smoke here,’ he shouted. ‘I’m not, actually,’ I replied. He went to consult his superior. A few minutes later he reappeared. ‘You can’t use e-cigarettes here either.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because you are projecting the image