Nigel Farndale

Katy Balls, Douglas Murray and Nigel Farndale

22 min listen

This week we’ll hear Katy Balls on the government’s dwindling COVID optimism (00:41), Douglas Murray’s prediction of a dull decade of arrested development (04:26) and finally Nigel Farndale of why we owe so much of what we love about the Olympics to the Nazis (12:50).

How Leni Riefenstahl shaped the modern Olympics

It’s an uncomfortable truth, but the Olympic Games in their modern form were pretty much invented by the Nazis. They came up with the idea of the torch relay, for example, the one that begins in Olympia and ends with the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony. But it wasn’t the events at

Writing obituaries can be strangely life-affirming

In my line of work I sometimes owe a cock to Asclepius. The ancient Greeks believed that a sacrificial offering to Asclepius, the god of good health, could buy you time. Perhaps it worked in the case of Boris Johnson. On the night he was taken into intensive care, I had the digital team of

Just join Germany

An argument you sometimes hear from those sitting on the Brence (the Brexit fence) is that it’s a pity the EU couldn’t have stayed the same as it was when we first joined it in 1973. Back then, say the Brence-sitters, it was a trading bloc with only nine members, which made sense. Greece wasn’t

From Hitler to girls in pearls

I’ve heard it said that the ‘countryside’ is an urban idea, a place invented by the late Victorians in order to escape industrialisation. If so, we’re craving it more than ever. Surveys suggest 80 per cent of us now dream of living in a rural idyll. Since foxhunting was banned, riding to hounds has never

Out on the farm

If the Church of England was once the Tory party at prayer, then the nation’s shotgun-owning farmers were the party’s armed wing. I grew up on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales and must have been about 18 before I met someone who didn’t identify as TBC (True Blue Conservative). Ours was one of the

Inside the new Navy

The Royal Navy is known as the Senior Service because of its illustrious history; Francis Drake and all that. But the days when it ruled the waves have long gone. In 1945 it had almost 900 warships and a million men. By the time of the Falklands War it was down to 70 warships and

Why it’s time for a Cad of the Year Award

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Harry Cole and Camilla Swift debate the return of the cad” startat=1527] Listen [/audioplayer]Plans are afoot to introduce the Flashman novels, those politically incorrect celebrations of cowardice, bad form and caddish behaviour, to a new generation of readers. But according to Sarah Montague on the Today programme, ‘Flashman is not typical of our

Is any kind of sex still taboo in literature?

The first gay marriage will be conducted this Easter, and those who still object to the idea find themselves in a minority. The majority, according to polls, can’t see what all the fuss is about. How far we have travelled in a relatively short period of time. Until 1967, the punishment for homosexuality was a

Don’t hug me! (Even though sometimes it’s rather nice)

When, in 1957, Harold Macmillan accepted the Queen’s invitation to become prime minister, following the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden, he returned from the Palace, marched up Downing Street to where Eden was waiting for him, and gave his old rival a man-hug, right there in front of the Pathé news cameras. No, of course

The importance of not being called Nigel

You know what the real problem with Nigel Farage is? It’s not his politics, for they are a matter of personal taste. No, it’s something more objective. His name. And not that improbable surname, either, the one that makes him sound like a Bond villain. It’s the Nigel. There’s a passage in Julian Barnes’s novel

The views that inspire writers

Unimaginatively, I usually take the same route for a morning walk when on holiday in Cornwall, over the dunes to Brea Hill, inspiration for Betjeman’s poem ‘Back From Australia’. I know the scenery so well I no longer see it. But for a change the other day I walked along the other side of the

Diary – 27 May 2005

An actor friend and I were worried that we were not being good male role models to our sons, of which we have three apiece. It was all very well taking them around National Trust properties, teaching them chess and explaining to them the difference between native and Pacific oysters, but what they needed were