High life

Accidental empires

‘Is democracy on the march or is it in retreat?’ screams a headline in the Washington Times. The question was put to Condoleezza Rice last week, and I must say, for a little-to-show-for-it secretary of state, she answered very well: ‘Freedom does not advance on a steady trajectory — setbacks and detours should be expected…’

Low life

Homer’s cure

This morning, when I woke up, I reached out and pressed the button on my bedside radio and the first word that came out of it was the word ‘tolerance’. The radio was tuned to the Today programme. It isn’t the first time that the first word I’ve heard has been ‘tolerance’. For the past

Slow life

Conduct becoming | 31 May 2008

That’s a lot of violins, I thought. Then I realised they were violas. The violins were to the left, smaller. Always smaller than I expect, violins — maybe because I wrestled with one as a child and it beat me: Tiny, pretty little things they are, with all the fleeting glamour and tyranny of a

More from life

The Turf | 31 May 2008

The Irish show enough enthusiasm for the ‘jumping Olympics’ at Cheltenham in March. Horses, trainers and punters come over in their hordes. For this year’s Epsom Derby it is a different matter. Two of Ireland’s leading trainers are effectively boycotting Epsom with horses which, if they were to run, would be vying for favouritism. Jim

Status Anxiety | 31 May 2008

In order to tell you the following story I’m going to have to make an embarrassing admission: I LexisNexis myself every day. That is to say, I plug my own name into LexisNexis, the online cuttings service, to see if any stories have appeared about me in the past 24 hours. In terms of vanity,

Wine Club

June Spectator Mini-Bar Offer

The Loire produces wonderful wines for summer. Perhaps it’s holidays in July and August, driving from château to château, past the slow reaches of the river and green meadows almost yellow from the sun. Baguettes and pâté under the willow trees…. Actually that may be a figment of my unreliable memory. But the wines really

Dear Mary

Dear Mary | 31 May 2008

Q. Later this summer my boyfriend and I are flying out to the Aegean. Our hostess emailed to say we can get a lift from the airport with another couple who are coming for the same week on the same flight and who have already booked a hire car. She says she only needs one

Mind your language

Mind Your Language | 31 May 2008

Queens’ College, Cambridge or Queens’ College, Cambridge I was interested by a note on the website of Queens’ College, Cambridge, because the use of the apostrophe in English is governed by such simple rules that it is hard to see how there can be much dispute about it. The college says that everyone is told

The Wiki Man

The Wiki Man | 31 May 2008

‘Linda works miracles in the kitchen while Trevor is ubiquitous with the cup that cheers.’ This sentence has haunted me for 15 years. It’s from a parody of the typical reader’s review in The Good Food Guide, probably by Craig Brown. I still quote it gnomically when asked whether some restaurant or other is any