Do we really want to bring back the wolf?

Near our house on the Derbyshire-Staffordshire border is a place called Wolf Edge. It is a raven-haunted slope set to the sounds of curlew song in high spring and I visit it regularly, not least because I imagine that within the deep peat soil there is some remembrance of the site’s eponymous predator, and the thought thrills me. A similar emotion appears to have gripped Derek Gow, and has led him to locate, over several decades, as many references to British and Irish wolves as possible. He has done a great job of researching the lore surrounding these much mythologised creatures and has unearthed plenty of arcane material – such

The rise of the ‘workation’

The biggest single driver of last year’s property boom was the surge in working from home. For many, the commute went from daily chore to occasional concern, enabling them to move to areas that previously seemed beyond reach, from the Cotswolds to Cornwall. But others have gone further still – swapping ‘work from home’ for ‘work from anywhere’. These digital nomads typically ditch the nine-to-five or find flexible employers to enable them to decamp to sunnier climes in the greyest months of the year. And during a winter of high energy bills and soaring living costs at home, the trend has been growing. For the estimated four million solo freelancers

Portrait of the week: Dorries finally quits, Braverman cracks down on crime and Prigozhin is confirmed dead

Home Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, told police that they must investigate every theft and follow all reasonable leads to catch criminals; the Police Federation of England and Wales said forces were already ‘stretched beyond human limits’. Home Office figures showed that only 3.9 per cent of residential burglaries resulted in someone being charged, and for thefts from the person it was 0.9 per cent. Hartwig Fischer resigned as the director of the British Museum and Jonathan Williams stepped aside as his deputy when it became clear that information about 1,500 or so missing objects had been wrongly dismissed; police continued investigations. Two men were arrested on suspicion of arson

Roger Alton

England need to look alive to have a shot at the Rugby World Cup

So the end is near… or it certainly will be soon if England’s rugby players carry on trying to do it their way. One thing we can be certain about: England are not going to win the World Cup. There is a chance they might not get out of their group; Argentina are properly good and Samoa will be hard to beat. Even Japan could give England the run-around, though they are not the team they were. At this rate, England might finish up even lower than eighth – their current position in the rankings – come the end of the tournament. Time for rugby’s answer to ‘Bazball’. Not to

The ‘historic’ national dishes which turn out to be artful PR exercises

In 1889, Raffaele Esposito, the owner of a pizzeria on the edge of Naples’s Spanish Quarter, delivered three pizzas to Queen Margherita, including one of his own invention with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, their colours taken together resembling the Tricolore. The Italian queen loved the pizza, and Esposito duly named it after her. In that restaurant today hangs a document from the royal household, dated 1889, declaring the pizzas made by Esposito to be found excellent by the queen. And so was born the Pizza Margherita, a dish now synonymous with Naples. The queen’s seal of approval in the wake of Italian unification, which had proved difficult for Naples, came

How to survive summer in Andalusia

Early on in his biography of the novelist Kingsley Amis, Zachary Leader quotes a hilariously misanthropic letter Amis wrote to the poet Philip Larkin, one of his closest friends. Amis, at the time in his early thirties, was complaining about a three-month stint he and his family – including his son Martin, then five years old – spent abroad, as required by the terms of the Somerset Maugham Prize, which he won in 1955 for his first novel, Lucky Jim (Martin would also win it in 1973 for his debut, The Rachel Papers). Clearly not impressed with his surroundings in Portugal’s Algarve, Amis listed a ‘sort of basic kit’ of

The Franco-Prussian war changed the map of Europe – so why are we so ignorant about it?

Is there a single major European conflict of the past 200 years that gets so little attention in this country as the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71? In 1961 Michael Howard brought out his history of the war, but Howard and the odd battlefield tourist apart, Rachel Chrastil’s bibliography – strong on contemporary memoirs, strong in fact on everything from the miraculous appearances of the Virgin Mary and the cult of St Radegund to the transmission of smallpox – is curiously thin when it comes to British interest. There may be simple enough reasons for this – among them, Britain’s determined neutrality and the infinitely worse conflicts to come – but

Tinta de Toro: the Spanish red that helped Columbus make waves

I am assured that this is not a legend. But a few years ago, an Irishman’s life was twice saved by a raging bull. The Irish fellow was running with the bulls at a town near Pamplona. He tripped and was virtually impaled. The bull’s horn went into one side of the chap’s stomach and out of the other. He was rushed to a neighbouring hospital, which was accustomed to bull wounds, and the surgeons saved his life. While they were doing so, the aeroplane that he should have been catching took off. There were no survivors. Fifteen years later, the Irishman developed gut rot. One doctor wondered whether scar

The other side of flamenco

When you hear the word flamenco you probably think of a lady dancing in a polka-dot dress, stomping her feet, accompanied by guitars and singing. And in the fair capital of Andalucía, Seville, you would have no problem finding such a sight. All across the old town, around the cathedral and in the lee of its 12-century minaret turned cathedral bell-tower, glamorous flamenco dancers are busy at it, stirring up passion on the cobbled streets and in the city-centre tourist shows. There’s no denying such flamenco demonstrations will raise your pulse and the tourists, not surprisingly, love them. But if you think that’s good, you need to head south of

The unique style of Seville

If you want to feel scruffy, head to Seville, the outrageously attractive capital city of southern Spain’s Andalucia region. It’s not just the abundant exquisite architecture – the city has one of the largest historic ‘old towns’ in Europe, with every bar, café and restaurant looking tiptop – but also the sartorial elegance that abounds among the local population, made even more striking by it coexisting in apparent easygoing harmony with the often plain awful turnout of us tourists and visitors. If Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain is the city of rucksacks and walking sticks, then Seville – currently Google’s most searched-for flight-only destination – is the city of

Our provision for adults with learning disabilities is seriously inadequate

This book reveals one man’s determination to enable his brother to live his best life. It is also a fable for our time. It hints at how we all might live if we turned the lens on the world. ‘Does Reuben have a learning disability’ asks Manni Coe, ‘or do we have an understanding disability?’ Coe’s younger brother Reuben, now 39, has Down’s syndrome. In Coe senior describes their loving upbringing in Yorkshire and Berkshire as other people stared, and Reuben’s adventures living a supported, partially independent adult life. Reuben visited another brother in the US (being able at that stage to fly unaccompanied) and enjoyed part-time voluntary jobs,

The pagan pleasures of Spain’s Finisterre

It was starting to feel rather spooky on the pathway to Finisterre. Only two days before I’d been in the celebratory environs of Santiago de Compostela with its endless arrivals of jubilant pilgrims. Now dark clouds were scudding across the Galician hills in the distance and the only sound I could hear was the wind blowing – in an accusatory manner, it seemed – through the trees beside me. While Santiago de Compostela marks the official end of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, with the purported remains of St James the apostle in the basement of its cathedral, a minority of hardy souls continue for another 86 kilometres to

The curious rhythm of life in Spain’s Santiago de Compostela

Surely no other city can claim to have so many backpacks and walking sticks on its narrow cobbled streets. In Spain’s Santiago de Compostela it always looks like there is a giant hiking convention going on. These aren’t your average ramblers, though. They are pilgrims, as the city marks the end of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The Camino, or the Way of St James, is most associated with the 500-mile route from the base of the French Pyrenees westward though Pamplona, Burgos and Leon. More accurately, the Camino is the collective name for the multitude of pilgrimage routes laid across Europe that, like a river’s tributaries, finally converge

The secret holiday spots beloved by the Spanish

Ask a Spaniard where they vacation, and you may get a touch of the Matador effect in response. The chest lifts, the head is tilted up with the bottom lip pushed out accompanied by the reply: ‘España! My country.’ For like the Greeks, when you have so many domestic splendours to choose from, why would you go anywhere else? It’s estimated that about two out of three vacationing Spaniards remain in country for the holidays. But where do the Spanish go? It’s a bit of a mystery—perhaps intentionally so. With swarms of Brits inundating their land, you can’t blame the Spanish for wanting to safeguard a few vacation refuges. Recently

Sitges: the idyllic beach town down the road from Barcelona

About sixty years ago, before my wife was born, her parents set off on a driving holiday to the Continent. They drove down through France and into Spain and ended up in Sitges. They went no further. They’d found the perfect holiday resort, a historic town with a sandy beach and a few bars and cafes, somewhere to sit back and enjoy the sunshine, with a bit of local culture thrown in. Sixty years later, Sitges is a lot busier, but British tourists are still relatively rare. Most visitors are Spaniards, mainly daytrippers from Barcelona. There are some modern buildings, and a lot more bars and cafes, but the town

The Spanish islands worth investing in – from Mallorca to Ibiza

Another summer starts, and so another series of the irrepressible reality show, Love Island. Attention is focused on a rustic six-bedroom Mallorcan farmhouse being blinged up with ‘bright colours and neon signs’ for this year’s fame-hungry contestants. Its exact location is a closely guarded secret. An appetite for privacy and rural isolation on the Balearic Island has been strong trend since the pandemic started, with property hunters decamping from cities or the Spanish mainland. Whilst Spanish home sales in the first quarter of 2022 were the highest since the boom year of 2007, according to the Spanish Association of Notaries, the property markets of the Spanish islands have been outperforming

Why you should stay in a Spanish Parador

After all the frustrations and restrictions of the last few years, Spain is finally back on the map for British travellers. So where to go and where to stay? If you just want to drop and flop, a week or two in a resort hotel is fine, I guess. But after we’ve been cooped up in Britain for so long, it seems a shame not to see a bit more of the country – and the best way to do that is by splitting your trip between several of Spain’s splendid paradores. Spain’s paradores date back to the 1920s, when the government came up with the bright idea of converting

Friend of Elizabethan exiles: the colourful life of Jane Dormer

Thomas Cromwell’s biographer Diarmaid MacCulloch once told me that my father’s family, the Dormers, had been servants of the great enforcer of Henry VIII’s Reformation. This may have been a tease. It is a matter of family pride that Jane Dormer’s great- uncle, the Carthusian monk Sebastian Newdigate, was executed for refusing to accept the Royal Supremacy. Jane, Duchess of Feria (1538-1612), was named after his pious sister, her grandmother. Most of Jane Newdigate’s Dormer descendants remained stubbornly Catholic over the centuries of persecution that followed, but they were never aggressive about it. Under Elizabeth I, the Dormers paid fines as recusants rather than attend Church of England services, and

Spain’s shift towards the radical right

Yesterday’s snap election in Castile-León, one of the 17 regional autonomies into which Spain is divided, was another excellent day for Vox, the most right-wing of Spain’s mainstream parties. Vox, which previously had just one seat in the 81-seat regional assembly, now has 13 and holds the balance of power. Vox’s success prevented the Partido Popular, which has governed in Castile-León for over three decades, achieving an absolute majority (41 seats or more). Instead after winning only 31 seats, the Partido Popular, Spain’s main party of the right, said it would begin discussions with all the parties. But the arithmetic suggests that in order to form a stable government the

Can Spain save its dying villages?

In a little village on the Spanish Meseta, I once asked an old lady about the next village some three or four miles away. She shook her head as if considering a hopeless case and said, ‘Oh, the people there are very different.’ To me, those villages seemed like two peas in a pod. But to her, they were worlds apart. Spaniards often refer to their home town or village as their patria chica: the little fatherland. ‘Every village, every town,’ wrote Gerald Brenan in The Spanish Labyrinth, ‘is the centre of an intense social and political life. As in classical times, a man’s allegiance is first of all to his native place,