Clarissa Tan

The Wipers Times – 100 years on, this newspaper still lives

Funny what rises from the rubble. In 1916 British army officer Captain Fred Roberts was searching the bombed-out remains of Ypres. Among the ruins was a printing press. Soon words and sentences were flying from the old machine — cheeky, irreverent, bold. It was brazen of Roberts to start a satirical newspaper right on the

The ideal death show

I am in a yurt, talking about death. Everyone is seated in a circle, and I am the next-to-last person to share. The last of the summer sun is shining through the entrance. At one end is a display coffin of biodegradable willow — there’s also tea and coffee, and coffin-shaped biscuits with skeleton-shaped icing.

Faulty towers

Ever since the Arab Spring sprang its bright new dawn, the old regimes of the Middle East — along with their economies — have fallen like dominoes. But one authoritarian regime, at least, stands taller than ever: Saudi Arabia. Its shimmery skyline, its modern minarets, all testify to the infallibility of petroleum-rich power. Yet there’s

Big School left me po-faced

How did our comedies become so sad? BBC1’s new sitcom Big School (Fridays) opened with a scene that would probably tickle the ribs of many, but I, in my usual humourless way, found it depressing. Chemistry teacher Mr Church, played by David Walliams, hoped to excite his morbidly uninterested pupils about the effects of dunking

If you’re on your summer holiday, why are you reading this?

I’m in two minds about blogging this post. On the one hand, I’d really rather be on a sunny beach somewhere, reading a good old-fashioned book or staring at the blue horizon. On the other hand, I really, really want to publicise my Spectator cover story about summer and our addiction to technology (it’s fab!).

You’re never really on holiday with a smartphone

I was sitting on some rocks by the Cornish coast when a teenager swanned by on the sun-warmed boardwalk in front of me. The boy stood on the burning deck, preparing to dash across the sand, dive. Then his phone rang. ‘Luce! Yes, I’m at the sea… Was just going to plunge… Ran back to

Television review: Channel 4’s mating season

Channel 4 is deep into its summer of love. It’s having a Mating Season and — unusually for the network — it’s not all about sex. Instead, it’s about those fluttery butterflies that occur before the birds and the bees come in, when two people meet for the first time and get to know each

‘Bankers’ was not a documentary. It was a BBC hit job

I like bankers. They’re an honest lot. All of us like money, but only they are upfront about it. I once witnessed a conversation between three financiers that started with them comparing their cars, then their houses, then their helicopters. None of the shilly-shallying you find at a society cocktail party, where people slyly suss

What Gove should know about Singapore schools

Excelliarmus! Why do East Asian children feel they can relate to Harry Potter? Because he wears glasses, like so many of them do. The fascination with British wizarding students extends to British schools, and it’s safe to say that many Asian youngsters, not to mention their parents, picture the ideal institution of learning as being

Will the internet save television?

Forget The Apprentice. A ‘reality TV’ show where you have no say, and where you can only watch as Sir Alan Sugar does all the hiring and firing? That is so last decade. Forget, too, quaint programmes such as The X Factor, where you pick the contestants you like and the ones you don’t —

François Hollande’s great haul of China

François Hollande has just completed his visit to China. The two great socialist nations more or less embraced: ‘I look forward to… working with you to make our relationship closer, healthier and more vibrant,’ said Chinese president Xi Jinping. ‘When China and France agree on a position, we can drive the world,’ Hollande cooed back. Both