How Britain sobered up

36 min listen

This week:  The Spectator’s cover story looks at how Britain is sobering up, forgoing alcohol in favour of alcohol free alternatives. In his piece, Henry Jeffreys – author of Empire of Booze – attacks the vice of sobriety and argues that the abstinence of young Britons will have a detrimental impact on the drinks industry and British culture. He joins the podcast alongside Camilla Tominey, associate editor of the Telegraph and a teetotaler. (01:27) Also this week: could Mongolia be the next geopolitical flashpoint?  The Spectator’s Wild Life columnist Aidan Hartley writes in the magazine about Mongolia’s fate, as the country tries to juggle a historic relationship with China and Russia, with desires for a stronger

The joy of yaks

The Mongolian taiga After driving across clean, fast rivers and through forests turning golden, orange and red in the Mongolian autumn, we came upon herds of yaks grazing the taiga. The yak, or Tartary ox, is the Shetland pony of cattle, as drawn by Norman Thelwell: not much higher than a big ram at the withers, with a low-slung, fat body, an overcoat of long, shaggy hair, a woolly head and a dangling mop of a tail. The herd we alighted from our car to see was being driven down from wooded slopes by a youth riding his pony bareback, whistling and singing. As the yaks, all white and brown

The strange inspiration of the Gobi desert

The first time I went to Mongolia was in 2014, when I travelled across the country with the actress Michelle Rodriguez and a group of her friends, courtesy of the Mongolian-American conservationist Jalsa Urubshurow. Driving out of Ulaanbaatar at dawn, we stopped at a market on the outskirts of the city to buy caviar, blinis and crates of Chinggis vodka for the 12-hour drive. Because I was not a follower of the Fast & Furious franchise, I had little idea who Michelle was, but every vendor in that tiny market knew her on sight. The place came to a standstill at 5 a.m. It was clear that the terrifyingly long

The wonder of the wandering life

Anthony Sattin begins with a quotation from Bruce Chatwin, who famously tried all his life to produce a book about nomads but never quite succeeded (the nearest he got was Songlines). Hoping to persuade Tom Maschler at Cape of the virtues of the project, Chatwin described nomads as ‘a subject that appeals to irrational instincts’ – perhaps not the best way to sell something to publishers, who tend to pride themselves on their rational ones. But Chatwin’s thesis – that we were all originally nomads and need to recover some of that instinct – is now triumphantly brought to its conclusion in Sattin’s fascinating journey through 12,000 years, from the

The joy of eating birdseed

Rather like unpacking after a holiday, when you take unworn clothes from the case still neatly folded because the occasion to wear them didn’t arise, unshown film sequences from my travel programmes are carefully edited and stored. The cancellation of this year’s long trip along the Spice Route made us look at these stories again; with not much prompting we have made three whole programmes from them. In the few years since we made these series the world has changed. The champion wrestler in Mongolia, the softly spoken Mr Battulga, for example, has become president of that country. He told me of his plan to build an eco-city on the