Cosmo Landesman

In defence of staring

Like many people, I enjoy watching people. There’s a great pleasure in sitting in a café or on a park bench on a sunny afternoon and just watching people pass by. But increasingly, people-watching is becoming suspect, and even criminalised. The latest and most worrying example is Transport for London’s campaign against what it calls

Vlad the Invader

35 min listen

In this week’s episode: What does Putin really want for Russia? For this week’s cover story, Niall Ferguson writes about how Putin seems to be trying to recreate the Russia of the Past, while this week’s diary by Timothy Garton Ash says the West has misunderstood his intentions, Niall and Timothy join the podcast along

Why men of a certain age love to get naked

Something very strange happens to men as they get older: they like to go nude. I don’t mean they become practising nudists who seek out and enjoy the company of others of their kind. But unlike most younger men, they feel no embarrassment or regret at being seen naked. Consider the recent battle between one

When did sexual deviancy become so dull?

Recently, at a London dinner party, I found myself sitting next to a beautiful young woman with a PhD in physics and a passion for bondage. At first I thought: I’ve hit the jackpot! Brains-Beauty-Bondage — here she is: wife number three! And then she treated me to a long monologue on the joys of

It’s no longer just clean eaters who are the health bores

David Hockney has just endorsed a series of specially designed beer mats, created by an artist called Mr Bingo, that display a cigarette in an ashtray with the slogan: ‘Bored with wellness.’ He went on to declare he found the very idea of wellness ‘ridiculous’ and ‘too bossy’. Hockney is a verification of that urban

Plan Z: the rise of Éric Zemmour

34 min listen

In this week’s episode: Who is Eric Zemmour – can he take on President Macron? In our cover story this week, Freddy Gray looks at the rise of Eric Zemmour, the TV presenter who looks set to stir up French politics ahead of next year’s election. Freddy is joined on the podcast by Sophie Pedder,

Would you go to a naked dining club?

Why would anyone want to dine in the nude with other nude diners? Yes, I get being nude on a sunny beach. Swimming nude. Walking nude. But eating nude in public? What’s the appeal? Why leave your comfort zone for the Twilight Zone? Yet nude dining is making a comeback — or at least it’s

Help! I don’t know what a cervix is

With all this talk of private parts, the political has now gotten very personal. Recently, I was having an argument with a male transgender rights activist over Labour MP Rosie Duffield’s claim that ‘only women have a cervix’. I huffed and puffed and pontificated about the ‘undeniable facts of biology and female anatomy’ when it

The heist: nobody is safe from Russia’s digital pirates

37 min listen

What is the true threat of ransomware both to our governments and us individually?(00:30) Also on the podcast: What are the Italian ‘Green Pass’ Protests?(15:14) And finally… is it harder to be the good Samaritan in the modern world?(25:28) With former head of the national cyber security centre Ciaran Martian, white-hat hacker Tommy DeVoss, journalist

My failed attempts to be a good Samaritan

I’ve been trying to be a good Samaritan for some time now and failing. But this week I discovered that even well-trained, experienced good Samaritans — who work for the Samaritans — can fail too. Reports have surfaced revealing the ‘abuse’ of vulnerable callers by a small number of the charity’s phone volunteers. It’s a

We’ve become a nation of armchair psychiatrists

Are we becoming a nation of amateur psychoanalysts and armchair psychiatrists? We all speak the language of therapy and are quick to diagnose and label friends, strangers and even loved ones. Prince Harry does it to his wife Meghan Markle in a forthcoming five-part series on mental health for Apple TV that he’s co-produced with

The agony of watching friends succeed

I’ve just had the first sign that things are going back to normal — and that I’m going back to normal, too. I was suddenly struck by a feeling I’ve not had since the first lockdown last March; a feeling writers and journalists know all too well. Literary envy. Whatever your profession, envy is something

The joy of drinking alone

Thanks to a combination of night-time curfews, social-distancing rules, pubs closing, restaurants failing, the ‘rule of six’ and compulsory mask-wearing, that basic and necessary human need for people to meet for a drink has never been so difficult. Now, with the government’s new three-tier Covid strategy in place, anyone at any moment could find their

In defence of the Covid snitch

Nobody loves a bossy, busy-body. A curtain-twitching nosey-parker or that most despised creature of the popular imagination and the playground: the snitch. Once such people were the comic baddies found in Ealing Comedies and sitcoms like Dad’s Army. But the spread of Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown rules that began in March gave them a

OK zoomer, is that really the best you’ve got?

Every generation and teen subculture likes to put the boot into baby boomers like me. I’ve been physically attacked by skinheads, verbally assaulted by right-wing intellectuals and mocked by millennials. But I never thought I would be subjected to the derision and verbal lashings of Generation Z. The ‘zoomers’ — that is, people born after

In praise of cultural elitism

At present we have a series of ‘culture wars’ over a wide range of issues — race, gender, sexuality, power and privilege. But the one culture war we don’t have any more is over culture. Yes, we fight about the ideological messages of literary texts, but not about matters of personal taste. We scrutinise and

Daddy issues | 13 June 2019

When I was growing up in the late 1960s, boys like me craved the admiration and approval of our dads; we wanted nothing more than to impress them. And now that we are dads, we crave the admiration and approval of our children; we want nothing more than to impress them. But the curious thing

Hands free

Eight years ago, I had an erotic epiphany. It was around midnight: I had sex on the brain and porn on my laptop. Suddenly, everything felt wrong and a wave of sadness washed over me. I felt like some sleazy man from a Michel Houellebecq novel. I no longer wanted to be that kind of