Erica Jong’s middle-aged dread

Who’d get old? Bits fall off, your loved ones start dropping like flies and, perhaps worst of all, the only afternoon delight you’re up to is a cup of tea and a soporific radio play. Wealthy New Yorker Vanessa Wonderman, Erica Jong’s 60-year-old narrator, isn’t there yet, but she can see it coming down Fifth Avenue with its headlights on. Her parents are slowly and painfully quitting the world; her husband Asher, 15 years her senior, is succumbing to illness and certainly not capable of elaborate bedroom antics; and her acting career has faltered in the predictable absence of decent parts for middle-aged women. Despite high-end plastic surgery (‘as mandatory

I wouldn’t want to be a girl in the age of Tinder

My foray into the world of online dating was short-lived. Within a few hours of my profile going live, a deluge of young men in their early twenties began to bombard me with messages. I was shocked and somewhat delighted. At my age, I had expected mostly sad widowers and maybe the odd divorced equine veterinarian, encouraged by the pictures of me on my horses. To attract a clamour of Ashton Kutchers was beyond my wildest dreams because, although I was now undoubtedly in the cougar age group, I really hadn’t seen myself as a Demi Moore. When I opened the messages, however, any notion that these handsome young men

Podcast: why modern love is rubbish and is Ed Miliband an honourable opposition leader?

In the age of Tinder and online dating, is modern love rubbish? On this week’s View from 22 podcast, Melissa Kite, Cosmo Landesman and Camilla Swift discuss this week’s Spectator cover feature on why romance is being killed off by digital dating. Is it more brutal or reflective of real life to ruthlessly chase someone on their looks alone through apps and websites? Is it a tragedy that young romantics are missing out on the art of courtship? James Forsyth and David Skelton also discuss the Tories’ gamble to woo working class voters ahead of the election. Would extending the ‘right to buy’ properties to housing associations bring back voters who haven’t voted Conservative since 1992? Or is it too late to engage in such a radical proposition? Plus, Peter Oborne and Dan

Not ready for real love? Tinder is the one for you

There was once a time when finding a twenty-something on a dating site was as rare as finding a pensioner in a branch of a Hollywood Bowl. Having an online dating profile was a last-ditch attempt at love reserved only for those intent on finding a long-term partner., E Harmony, Guardian Soulmates; the clue was in the name. An earnest, humourless amalgamation of abstract nouns promising everlasting love. They were websites that boasted of their high marriage rates and whose users all listed ‘the great outdoors’ as a hobby. Dating sites were not entered into lightly. Then, in 2013, an app called Tinder was launched and a back door

Dear Mary: What can I do about my neighbours’ downmarket recycling?

Q. Since recycling was introduced in our village, the wall at the end of our drive has become the depositing point for some neighbours as well as for us. Unfortunately their detritus is not sophisticated and while our green boxes are filled with wine bottles of respectable appellations, theirs is crammed with cheap lager tins. The recycling lorry comes before our friends are up so I’m not concerned about them, but more distant acquaintances on their way to work inevitably see the boxes, and we can’t invite them all to dinner to establish our credentials. How can we persuade our neighbours to keep their empties to themselves? — J.C., Taunton,

Dear Mary solves problems for Jim Broadbent, N.M. Gwynne, Jesse Norman and others

Once again Mary has invited some of her favourite figures in the public eye to submit personal queries for her attention. From Jesse Norman MP Q. We’ve been having a little local difficulty at work with one or two colleagues who vigorously assert their loyalty to the organisation, but then go and join a would-be competitor. It’s not that this is bad for morale; on the contrary. But it confuses some of our customers. Your advice would be most welcome. A. Take the tip of a top industrialist who never tried to refuse a resignation: congratulate the deserter effusively on his decision and declare publicly that he and his new

Revealed: the marriage gap between Britain’s rich and poor

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Fraser Nelson and Julie Bindel debate the inequality of marriage” startat=1048] Listen [/audioplayer]In the digital era, those looking for soulmates can be brutally clear about who need not apply. There are websites like Blues Match, for alumni of Oxbridge and Ivy League universities only. Then come the smartphone apps: Tinder, for straightforward dating, and ‘BeautifulPeople’, where members are kicked out if deemed too ugly. The latest arrival is Luxy, an app for those who don’t want to date anyone who needs to split a bill. Or, to use its own description, ‘Tinder without the poor people.’ Luxy has been deplored for its overt snobbery but it is, in

A novel that will make you want to call social services

Nina Stibbe has a way with children. Her first book, a memoir, was a deceptively wide-eyed view of a literary Hampstead family observed in all its turbulence by the teenage Stibbe, working as the nanny. Written as letters home to her sister, Love, Nina won over fellow writers and critics; reviews spoke of a quirky, life-affirming comic genius. Now she’s written her first novel, and again she has the domestic arena in her sights. Man at the Helm is a wicked anatomising of a dysfunctional family seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old narrator. Think What Maisie Knew with laughs and four-letter words, plus a touch of The Young Visiters

How to shop for the apocalypse

 New York City An architect friend who usually designs Manhattan skyscrapers was recently asked to pitch for a far more interesting project. The client, a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, wanted him to design a family house in upstate New York with a difference. It wouldn’t just be completely ‘off the grid’, with its own power and water supplies, but — and there isn’t yet an architectural term for this — it would be post-apocalypse. The conventional house would be mirrored below ground with pretty much identical living quarters that would be completely secure and so self-contained that there would be facilities to hydroponically grow plants and vegetables without soil.

Dear Mary | 7 March 2013

Q. Every morning I walk to work and stop to pick up a cappuccino from a local café outside which is invariably sitting a (handsome) man, alone apart from his dog, having breakfast. We always say hello and I sense that he likes at least the look of me, but there is no opportunity to say anything else. He must live locally but I don’t know who he is, and I can’t ask the people who run the café as they don’t speak English. I can’t sit down with him at the one table outside as that would be far too obvious (and too cold). I can tell he is

The woman on the airport bus

By jogging from the railway station to the grim concrete underpass outside the arrivals terminal, I caught the last courtesy bus from bus stop K to the budget hotel with seconds to spare. Cheapskate that I am, I was glad to be spared the humiliation of being charged £20 by a cynical cab driver to be taken the long way round the one-way system to a destination less than a mile away. Which is what normally happens to me at Gatwick. I was tired after a long journey and the issue had assumed an importance in my mind that was perhaps disproportionate. So my euphoria at seeing hotel bus number

Low life | 28 February 2013

Neil Clark’s wonderful piece three weeks ago, ‘Running out of sweeties’ (The Spectator, 16 February), has lingered in my mind. He pointed to a type of Englishness characterised by kindness, eccentricity and a complete absence of malice, which used to be known, he said, as ‘sweet’. Like rare and delicate flowers, our nation’s sweeties are facing extinction, he claimed, in the harsher economic and social climate. These holy innocents see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, and are always the first to volunteer, yet today’s rigorously equal society allows them no room. Sad. I’ve known sweeties from all walks of life. There used to be more in the