High life | 14 February 2019

Gstaad   Who was it that said we always hurt those we love the most? I did just that last week, skiing out of control, making a sharp left turn and crashing into my wife Alexandra — a beautiful and terrific skier — who was standing still in front of a mogul. As I knocked her down, my skis ran over her face crushing her nose and causing two deep gashes on her forehead. I then rolled down the mountain unable to stop because of the ghastly plastic garments we now wear that accelerate our speed on the ground. Neither Alexandra nor I wear a helmet while skiing, something to

The kiss of death

I once threw Tony Parker’s Lighthouse across the fo’c’sle of a ship at sea when I read that his characters were composites. Oral history should be historical, or it goes into the ocean. So it is a shame that I sometimes question Xinran’s authenticity in this account of the loves and lives of four generations of Chinese women. I question conversations recalled verbatim when they clearly weren’t recorded; and perfectly rendered speech when only notes were taken. Is this too severe? Then it is appropriate, because severity is something you must get used to, though this is a book about the Chinese concept of ‘talk love’, defined as ‘the process

The problem with allowing straight people to have civil partnerships

Tomorrow, the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill – which would allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships – gets its second reading in the Lords. The bill has already made it through the Commons; and if the formidable Equal Civil Partnerships lobby group succeeds, it will become law by the end of the year. Supporters of the bill say it is a minor and sensible tweak to messy marriage legislation. They make the argument that a system allowing gay couples to choose a civil partnership over marriage, if it suits their purposes, but doesn’t afford the same privilege to straight couples is quirky and unfair. The legislation provides Parliament with a

A golden era has ended

When I proposed to Caroline back in 2000, she was a trainee solicitor and I was a freelance journalist. In my mind’s eye, I pictured myself enjoying several years as a DINK — Double Income No Kids. Imagine my horror, then, when she got pregnant as soon as she qualified and showed no intention of returning to work. Three years later, I had become a SITCOM — Single Income Two Kids Oppressive Mortgage. So much for my dreams of eventually retiring as a GLAM — Greying Leisured Affluent Married. For years, I’ve been complaining about this in a half-serious, half-jokey way, by which I mean I needle Caroline about it

Why didn’t the Tories back down over civil partnerships earlier?

Much as I deplore the integration of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law there are some battles which really aren’t worth fighting. Today, Theresa May announced that civil partnerships are to be made available to heterosexual couples for the first time. This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court in June that the current arrangements – whereby gay couples can enter into a civil partnership but not heterosexual ones – are in conflict with the convention. Why on Earth did the Government resist this change in the first place when it was so plainly obvious that it was discriminatory? David Cameron made a huge fuss about enabling

The delights of divorce

Looking around at my immediate group of female friends I notice a marked difference between the seven or so of us who are married with kids, and the three who have left their husbands and are going it alone. Guess which group appears to be more content? Yes, it’s the divorcees. I have been a long term, close up observer of the lives that my newly single friends carve out for themselves and I have to say, I’m envious. The Sunday Times finds that 53 per cent of women report that they are “much happier” post-divorce. This does not surprise me. Once the initial split has occurred (interestingly in my

Rod Liddle

Why is no one sticking up for marriage?

I took part in a debate organised by the Times this week about reform of our divorce laws. Well, I say a ‘debate’. There wasn’t much of that. Not much in the way of dissent. The four other panellists, who included a government minister, all wished to liberalise our divorce laws. And it was chaired with great impartiality by Sir James Lawrence Munby, who was until recently the president of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales. He made a stirring ten-minute speech on why we need to liberalise the divorce laws. Yes, it was like one of those exquisitely balanced Newsnight debates, then. The audience

Ebbsfleet or bust

Dominic Savage had an early start. In Barry Lyndon (1975), Stanley Kubrick’s sprawling take on Thackeray, he played a prepubescent toff called Bullingdon blessed with a blond pudding-basin crop. By the time Savage started making his own films in the early Noughties, the hair had vanished, and so had any of Kubrick’s civilising varnish. For television Savage made a loose trilogy of dramas which plummeted circle by circle into a pit of social deprivation. His subjects were teenage parenthood (Nice Girl), underage drug use and prostitution (When I Was 12), and suicide in a young offenders’ nick (Out of Control). These cheerless vignettes felt all the more raw because his

An unhappy marriage shouldn’t be grounds for an instant divorce

It is wrong to dwell on the misfortunes of others, but was there anything in the news more riveting than the Supreme Court hearing which ended with Hugh and Tini Owens, 80 and 68 respectively, being told they were going to stay married after her bid to end her 40 year marriage was thrown out. Naturally, Lady Hale, president of the court said that she was only reluctantly persuaded that the case should be dismissed; the ruling has been met with near-universal calls in the commentariat for the introduction of no-fault divorce. There were details that would probably strike a chord with lots of married people, chiefly the fact that

Letters | 12 July 2018

Marriage proposal Sir: Matthew Parris’s proposal that marriage be abolished, and civil partnerships installed in its place, is absurd (‘The term “marriage” needs to be untangled’, 7 July). This would not simplify the ambiguous connotations that the word ‘marriage’ has come to hold; rather, it would diminish its importance at a time when it is greatly needed. Committed and legally recognised relationships are a salient component of a functioning society: providing a stable environment in which to raise children, and serve as a welcome source of privacy in an era where such a concept is scarce. However, the distinctive quality of matrimony — at least in a Christian sense —

The term ‘marriage’ needs to be untangled

Rebecca Steinfeld (37) and Charles Keidan (41) have a moral objection to marriage. They’ve been together since 2010, have two very small children, but haven’t tied the knot. This, they say, is because the law doesn’t offer a knot they’re comfortable tying. ‘Charlie and I see each other as partners already in life, and we want to have the status of being partners in law,’ says Rebecca. They hold (and you may agree or disagree but it’s not a crazy view) that the concept described by the word ‘marriage’ is asymmetrical between the man and the woman, and inextricably tangled with religion and with cultural attitudes this couple (and others)

Are wedding vows unfair against men?

We went to the perfect midsummer wedding of my wife’s god-daughter in Norfolk this weekend. The service was pure Book of Common Prayer, omitting only some of the longer prayers and the woman saying ‘obey’ and (I think) ‘serve’. The service states the theological nature of marriage (‘signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church’), and then its purposes. These are 1) children, ‘to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord’. 2) as ‘a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication’. 3) for ‘the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and

High life | 28 June 2018

Schloss Wolfsegg   I was watching two very old men slowly approaching the open doors of the Pilatus airplane I was leaning against when it dawned on me that they were the two pilots who were about to fly me to my daughter’s wedding. The one called Willy extended his hand, as did Alex, a short guy who looked as though he was in his nineties. ‘Ah, Herr Tennisman,’ he said, referring to a match I had won more than 50 years earlier when I was on the tennis circuit, ‘wie geht es?’ Willy then told me that Alex had retired from flying airbuses 30 years before, and now flew

His muse and anchor

Misery memoirs are in vogue. There is much misery in this harrowing account of married life with John Bellany (1942–2013) CBE, RA, Hon RSA — to 20th- century Scottish art what his hero and acquaintance Hugh MacDiarmid was to Scottish poetry — but its inspiring message is that love conquers all. Helen Bellany is not a ‘quitter’, and her story triumphantly confirms it. It is a long book but does not drag. The past is so alive to her it seems only natural when she lapses into the present tense. She is a highlander from Golspie in ‘timeless and silent’ Sutherland, and the poetry of her descriptions encourages a visit

I used to think I was smarter than my wife. Not anymore

According to new research published in Advances in Physiology Education, men tend to significantly overestimate their own intelligence whereas women only marginally overestimate theirs. The architect of this study, Katelyn Cooper, a doctoral student at Arizona State University, believes this helps explain why fewer women embark on PhDs in the life sciences and why there are fewer tenured female professors in STEM fields. She also thinks it partly explains why women are less likely to rise to the top of their chosen professions. I’m not so sure about that, but first a mea culpa. I used to think I was smarter than my wife. However, after being married to Caroline

Bermuda’s gay marriage row shows the liberal-left’s disdain for democracy

The Labour benches and the pages of the Guardian are not normally places one would go for a defence of Empire – until, that is, comes along an opportunity to further a popular liberal cause in a British overseas territory. Then, otherwise liberal-minded folk, who would normally be falling over themselves to apologise for the evils of the British Empire, bizarrely come over all neo-colonial – demanding that the Government lords it over the untrustworthy natives and imposes direct rule from Westminster. This week, the Bermudan government overturned a ruling made by the island’s supreme court introducing gay marriage. The government’s decision was in response to a referendum on the

Love becomes a duty

The story, as it emerges, feels both familiar and inevitable. A bored 19-year-old student, on his university holidays in mid-century Metroland, joins the local tennis club, where he dismisses all the girls his age as wholesome ‘Carolines’ but falls for Mrs Susan Macleod, a spirited, sarcastic woman in her forties. Paul shocks the village by taking her for drives (both are soon barred from the tennis club) and then starts taking her to bed in her marital home. Here he manages to become a familiar presence. Though Susan’s husband mocks Paul as her ‘fancy boy’, he also teaches him to do the crossword and only occasionally lashes out at him

New year, new partner?

There is no doubt about it, getting a divorce is an expensive business. The average cost, according to Aviva’s Family Finances report, is £14,500 – which includes legal fees, child custody costs and changing homes. The report highlights how the cost of divorce has spiralled a further 17% since 2014 when divorces in the UK cost, on average, £12,432. It doesn’t stop there. There are also relocation costs. Those wanting to buy a new property have to spend an extra £144,600, or £35,000 in order to rent somewhere. Most people  going through a divorce don’t have money to burn – unless of course you are Ant McPartlin of Ant and

The Spectator Podcast: For richer, for poorer

On this week’s episode we’ll be discussing whether marriage is becoming an elite institution. We’ll also be wondering if the Tory glass is half full or half empty, and lamenting the loss of Britain’s tiny train lines. First up: is marriage becoming the preserve of the rich? In this week’s magazine, Ed West asks whether Prince Harry’s presumably lavish nuptials will be the latest signal that marriage is becoming an increasingly rarefied institution. What can be done to reverse this slump? And ought we to be worrying about traditional unions in the 21st Century? To discuss, we were joined on the podcast by Frank Young, Head of the Family Policy

Ed West

The marriage gap

Whatever their views about the monarchy, most people will warm to the news of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement. Sentimental as it sounds, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the last royal wedding and how happy I felt for Prince William and Kate Middleton, as she was then. It was one of those rare events when you felt lucky to live in a good country with a bright future. A marriage is, after all, the ultimate statement of confidence in the future — and God knows, we could all do with that right now. Marriage is not easy and never has been, as Harry will know from