It’s hard not to pity Ghislaine Maxwell

This week, I’m having puppies! First litter! The Johnsons were not doggy as we always moved around too much (my late mother claims it was 32 times in 17 years), but once you have a dog, life seems boring without. I have a theory that children give couples something to talk about and, when they go, only a dog can fill the conversational void. The mother (or ‘dam’) is Ziggy, who entered our lives one week before lockdown after I had a sudden strong urge to get a dog. On 13 March last year I drove to a farm in Somerset and fell for a puff of white fur with

Who let the dog out?

Caroline and I are just back from a weekend break in Scotland and, nice though it was, I hadn’t realised how difficult travelling anywhere is at the moment. We had originally planned to drive, but the fuel crisis put paid to that, so we had to book a last-minute flight. EasyJet from Luton to Edinburgh was £475.92 for the two of us — ye gods! — and three days in the mid-stay car park was a whopping £128. To cap it all, the bus that takes you from the car park to the airport wasn’t running — Covid, obviously — so we had to walk about half a mile carrying

Lame and formulaic: Black Widow reviewed

Black Widow is the latest Marvel film and although I’d sworn off these films a while ago, due to sheer boredom, I was tempted back by the fact that this one stars a lady (Scarlett Johansson) and another lady (Florence Pugh) and even a third lady (Rachel Weisz) and is directed by a lady (Cate Shortland). Could be wonderful, I thought, except it isn’t. More women is its only decent idea. Otherwise, it’s business as usual. Otherwise, it’s all formulaic bish-bosh, smash-crash action scenes broken up by lame jokes and lame philosophising along the lines of: ‘Your pain only makes you stronger.’ Not if you’re dying in hospital and they’ve

My battle to be top dog

Even a small dog can be quite high maintenance. No, I’m not talking about Mali, our one-year-old cavapoochon, but Bertie, a six-month-old cavapoo. Bertie is Mali’s best friend and — I regret to say — almost constant companion. The reason they spend so much time together is because his owner, a close friend of Caroline’s, drops him off on her way to work and picks him up on her way home. They both think it’s a perfect arrangement because the two dogs can keep each other company, gambolling away all day in our garden, while they get on with their busy lives. But Muggins here, whose office is located at

Dear Mary: How do we stop our friends’ dogs wrecking our house?

Q. We have old friends who live in the northern hinterlands and have a property in Provence where they normally spend each summer. On their journey down through England they make a stopover with us. We’re always pleased to have them, but not their ill-trained dogs, which always cause some damage. Since our friends couldn’t go last year, they are determined, despite France being on the amber list, to travel later in July and are angling to stay with us. While we’d be glad to see them, we’ve had enough of their dogs (they now have three) and won’t tolerate them any more. I did consider booking the dogs into

How to solve Joe Biden’s dog problem

Pity poor Major Biden, First Dog of the United States, FDOTUS for short. Thrust first from the lowly surroundings of a shelter in Delaware then on to the porticoes of the Biden HQ and finally the White House, he appears to be experiencing teething problems as he adapts to his new life. And teeth are, quite literally, the problem. Prone to biting, the German Shepherd has now been found guilty of two biting incidents having first injured a member of the Secret Service and now a White House staffer whilst out on one of his walks. But this is not all. Major is also suspected of pooing outside the Palm

How not to walk a dog

Watching a woman driving a dog past my house like a carthorse is just another ‘new normal’ of lockdown. This moron had two long ropes attached to a harness around the body of her huge dog and was trying to steer it along the village green by long-reining it from behind as though it were a pony. The poor dog looked utterly fed up. I don’t know, because I couldn’t face asking her, but I got the impression that like the rest of the idiot new dog owners out there, she thought this system was less cruel than putting a conventional collar around its neck attached to a conventional lead.

The puppy pandemic is getting out of hand

They came in their droves. Labradors, Alsatians, French bulldogs, Spaniels, Cavapoos, Cockapoos, Labradoodles, Corgis, like a roll of dog poo bags, the list goes on. No sooner had Boris locked us up in the March sunshine last year than the nation rushed to acquire a dog. After years of standing firm, parents finally gave in to their children’s pleas and took the plunge. Those living alone, confronted with the prospect of indefinite confinement, threw caution the wind (and their furniture) and gave in to the idea of a dog. Those who had not owned a dog for years, decided they would once more fling themselves unto the canine breach. I

Are Wall Street’s ‘Spacs’ about to make waves in the City?

This column generally takes a sceptical view of financial novelties and gimmicks. So my antennae have twitched in recent days at frequent mentions of Spacs, or ‘Special Purpose Acquisition Companies’, which are the latest plaything of Wall Street and could be about to go large over here. Also known as a ‘blank cheque’ company, a Spac is a stockmarket-listed cash shell that raises money with a view to merging with a real — usually hi-tech, often relatively early-stage — business seeking a fast route to listed status. Hundreds of Spacs have been created in the US since the craze began last year, many with celebrity names — sports stars, astronauts,

A quick fix: how Boris and Carrie can bring Dilyn the dog to heel

A lot of nonsense is being written about Dilyn, the adorable Jack Russell owned by Boris and Carrie, a lookalike for my dog, Perry, now nearly 16. Is Dilyn the currently subdued Boris’s alter ego, one journalist wondered. We read that Dilyn allegedly humped Dominic Cummings’s leg, and at Chequers ‘mounted’ a stool made from the hide of an elephant shot by Teddy Roosevelt. He also peed on an aide’s handbag after she arrived at Downing Street for a meeting. Of course it is not the first time Boris has had a poorly trained dog in his life. When he was editor of The Spectator, a dandie dinmont called Laszlo

Hollywood can’t believe Harry’s dissed Queen Oprah

Santa Monica is a soothing place to be locked down. I moved here from New York for four months in November with my two adult kids after I lost my beloved husband, Harry Evans. I couldn’t face the task of finishing a book in our empty country house where for years we’d shown each other our pages at the end of the day and laughed over chicken pot pie. Meanwhile in Manhattan, I was tired of pretending that freezing outdoor dining, with buses barrelling past, was like sitting on the sidewalk at Les Deux Magots in Paris. With the California sun on my back at breakfast, and the orange trees

George Osborne: Why I’m going into banking

Spring in Somerset — again. If someone had told me last February that I’d spend seven of the next 12 months here, I’d have explained that was impossible: I’ve always been a city boy. Three lockdowns later, and we’ve bought a home here. I love it. Snow, then snowdrops, now daffodils — and the wild garlic is coming up in the woods. Covid has converted me to the countryside. Bruton Place in Mayfair? Not for now. Bruton itself? Yes. There’s a Bruton Set, of course. They spend a lot of the time explaining why they didn’t want to be part of the Chipping Norton Set. I’ve met one of my

Trump is being defended by Foghorn Leghorn

We weren’t long into Bruce Castor’s opening speech defending Donald Trump in his impeachment trial before we knew it was going to be special. ‘I don’t want to steal the thunder from the other lawyers’ thunder,’ Castor intoned to a mildly befuddled Senate. ‘But Nebraska, you’re going to hear, is quite a judicial thinking place.’ We never got around to the payoff for that one, but there were plenty of other amusements. We learned about the ‘Greek Republic’, which apparently awaits salvation from the United States Senate. We had a tech update: ‘We all know what records are, right: the thing you put the needle down on it and then

The political power of America’s First Dogs

From the moment Donald Trump’s presidency began, he was lacking something. But Joe Biden is about to make up for it — twice over. Trump was the first president in more than a century not to have a dog in the White House. Biden’s German shepherds Champ, 12, and two-year-old Major will be filling the vacancy left by Barack Obama’s Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, and continuing a tradition of First Dogs that can trace its pedigree back to George Washington. Far from being mere political poodles, many First Dogs have made history in their own right. Calvin Coolidge’s collie Rob Roy was the first dog to feature in

A dog is not just for lockdown

The Dogs Trust charity received 114 calls on 27 and 28 December from people wanting to offload their puppies. No, these weren’t unwanted Christmas gifts, but dogs they’d bought during the first lockdown. According to the RSPCA, demand for dogs soared last year, with breeders and rescue centres reporting unprecedented levels of interest. But some new owners have already become disillusioned. In the past three months, the Dogs Trust has received 1,800 calls from people begging them to rehome their puppies. She darts around with lightning speed hoovering up any stray morsels like a turbo-charged rat On some days, I’m tempted to contact the charity myself. The Young family’s new

The comment that baffled Boris

Real men are not supposed to confess to feeling fear. But I am frightened, second time round, about the plague. There is superstition involved. Back in March, I had an underlying belief that I would be somehow immune. This time, I feel differently. It’s partly those vertiginous graphs and partly my gloomy streak, a ‘just-my-luck’ sense that if I did succumb, it would happen with the vaccine only a hand’s-grasp away. So I’m cautious. For many people, the latest lockdown is atrocious, job-destroying, family-wrecking news. For me, it’s more of the same. Work aside, I go out only for a daily walk, hobbling along the local canal or round Regent’s

Most-read 2020: Quarantine with our new puppy will send me barking

We’re closing 2020 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No. 7: Toby Young on his lockdown nightmare When the news leaked at the weekend that the government was considering telling those aged 70 and over to self-quarantine for 12 weeks to protect them from catching coronavirus, I began to worry about my elderly neighbours. How will they get essential supplies, particularly if the supermarkets’ home delivery services get backed up? What if they’re not on Netflix and have gone through all their box sets? Who will walk their dogs? It was time to summon up that famous Dunkirk spirit and create a network of volunteers willing

Petronella Wyatt: I’m not surprised Michael Gove is a lockdown fanatic

What this government needs is a good dose of the London mob, which at its height in the 18th century would express its displeasure in no uncertain terms. In those days, the political system, as I once observed to Boris when he believed in rights, was one of aristocracy tempered by rioting. The mob, whose members ran from tinkers to duchesses, acted as a curative to despotic politicians, whose carriages would be waylaid and their occupants turned upside down. The word ‘liberty’ was then chalked on their shoes. A bystander in 1770 described an apparently good-humoured riot of ‘half-naked men and women, children, chimney-sweepers, tinkers, Moors and men of letters,

China has a friend in Jesus

Last week, I wrote about ‘Frost & Lewis’ (David and Oliver), leaders of our country’s team at the Brexit negotiations, guarantors of our Brexit intentions. It is they who have throughout maintained the essential position — that we are becoming an independent state and therefore will not trade sovereignty for market access. It is them, therefore, whom the EU wishes to neutralise. Hopes have risen in Brussels after the Downing Street ‘Carrie coup’ against Dominic Cummings. Frost & Lewis now lack a close friend at the court of King Boris except, possibly, the King himself. So it may be a good thing that Covid isolation forced them to return to

All these lockdown puppies come at a price

‘Book H in for a colonoscopy at a private clinic,’ begins one entry in Sasha Swire’s enjoyable diaries about her husband (which she should have called What Hugo Did During Term-Time.) She accompanies him to his appointment — whether for juicy material or moral support, we are not told — and relates how the bored consultant bangs on in detail, not about her hubby’s bum, but about the time his pointer swallowed a budgie. ‘As for their fees, simply extortionate!’ the expensive consultant whines in conclusion of a ‘violent diatribe’ against our world-beating veterinarian profession. At this flagrant pot and kettling, Lady Swire flares up: ‘It’s a racket — not