Alexander Chancellor

Long life | 26 January 2017

I keep finding myself singing ‘Nellie the elephant’ who, packing her trunk and saying goodbye to the circus, went off ‘with a trumpety-trump, trump, trump, trump’. I’m hoping against hope that Donald Trumpety-Trump will also say goodbye to the circus in Washington and return to the jungle whence he came; for irrespective of whatever he

Long life | 19 January 2017

I am very bad at remembering my dreams: I would have been a poor patient for Dr Freud. But I know that as a little boy most of my dreams were rather frightening, even if I can’t recall them in detail. An oft-repeated dream involved a monstrous apparition that would rush down from the sky

Long life | 12 January 2017

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, likes making and keeping New Year resolutions. In recent years he has learnt Mandarin, read 25 books, run one mile every day, and created a robot-butler to organise his home. But this year his New Year resolution is more high-minded than usual. ‘My personal challenge for 2017,’ he writes,

Long life | 5 January 2017

The past year has been tumultuous, full of upheaval and tragedy, but my chickens have been spared it all. Indeed, their year has been unusually pleasant and peaceful. After years in which they have been regularly subjected to murderous assaults by foxes and dogs, they were finally fenced into a section of the garden that

Long life | 29 December 2016

New Year’s Day is the most depressing of holidays. It doesn’t celebrate anyone or anything worth celebrating. It simply marks the passage from one year to the next, something so predictable and uninteresting that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Yet people see it as a great opportunity to start again, to turn over a new leaf,

Long life | 8 December 2016

While American conservatives, including Donald Trump and the Cuban exiles in Florida, whooped with joy at the news of the death of Fidel Castro, and while millions of America-haters throughout the world extravagantly mourned his passing, Barack Obama was circumspect. ‘History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people

Long life | 1 December 2016

Most people who die in Britain are now cremated — more than 70 per cent of them — but there is often uncertainty among the bereaved about what to do with the ashes. When dead bodies aren’t burnt, it is straightforward: they are buried in coffins. But the options for the ashes of the dead

Long life | 24 November 2016

Do you remember Liberace? Yes, of course you do. Who could forget him? The Wisconsin-born son of a poor Italian immigrant, Liberace turned a natural talent for playing the piano into a vehicle for achieving celebrity and wealth. As a child, he was regarded as something of a musical prodigy, but he wasn’t tempted by

Long life | 17 November 2016

I started watching The Crown, the £100-million television series on the early years of the Queen’s reign, on Netflix but turned it off during the second episode because I couldn’t bear the endless coughing by her father, George VI, as he died of lung cancer. The coughing, performed with eager realism by the actor Jared

Long life | 10 November 2016

At the beginning of November 1980, one week before Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory in the presidential election, Henry Fairlie, then writing regularly for The Spectator from Washington, finally slid off the fence and made a firm prediction. ‘Jimmy Carter will be the next President of the United States,’ he wrote in the first

Long life | 3 November 2016

For almost 400 years, since it was built on the orders of Pope Urban VIII in the 17th century, the grand Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo on a lake in the Alban Hills south of Rome has been the place where popes have retreated to get away from the city’s summer heat. John Paul II

Long life | 27 October 2016

I may have made the odd disparaging remark about Brexiteers during the heat of the referendum campaign, but I have been the perfect gentleman since. Although a Remainer, I have accepted the referendum result with good grace and treated the winners with courtesy and respect. I’ve never called them swivel-eyed, or xenophobic, or racist (or

Long life | 20 October 2016

‘Welcome, Mr Chancellor, to the Age UK community,’ said the voice. It was a warm, friendly woman’s voice, but bearing a chilling message. At 76, I willingly accept that I am no longer young, but I don’t want to belong to a club for which old age is the only membership qualification. I don’t want

Long life | 13 October 2016

Monty Don, the television gardening presenter, always comes across on screen as irrepressibly cheerful and enthusiastic, but this is a misleading impression. In fact, he gets black moods. ‘It’s no secret that for many years I’ve suffered from depression,’ he said last week at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. He had tried Prozac and cognitive behavioural

Long life | 6 October 2016

In olden days, before the internet arrived, shopping was quite simple. You’d go into a shop and buy something, and that was it. If you liked the shop, if it sold things you wanted to buy at a fair price, and if the shopkeeper was efficient and agreeable, you might return. But otherwise you wouldn’t.

Long life | 29 September 2016

Every threatened species of wildlife can count on the friendship of a member of the British royal family. There are few causes that royals can espouse without risking political controversy, but wildlife conservation is seen as one. This may be why they are ready to speak out for any newt, butterfly, or other creature facing

Long life | 22 September 2016

The publication of private emails by Colin Powell has spread panic in Washington. Now nobody feels safe. Some prominent people have even deleted their entire email accounts, fearing that their private messages will be hacked and revealed to the world. It hasn’t been the leaking of official secrets of the kind associated with WikiLeaks and

Michael Gove wants to add me to his professional network

The publication of private emails by Colin Powell has spread panic in Washington. Now nobody feels safe. Some prominent people have even deleted their entire email accounts, fearing that their private messages will be hacked and revealed to the world. It hasn’t been the leaking of official secrets of the kind associated with WikiLeaks and

Long life | 15 September 2016

It’s been a very patriotic weekend, ablaze with Union flags. In London there was the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and in South Northamptonshire there was the ninth annual ‘Village at War’ festival at Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal. I watched the first event on television but attended

Long life | 8 September 2016

There is no cherished assumption that now goes unchallenged. The latest one is that country air is good for you. Ronald Reagan was much mocked when he said in 1981 that ‘trees cause more pollution than automobiles do’, but scientists later surprised everyone by saying that he was at least partially right. And now it