Sophia Waugh

Out in the cold

Children have a right to an education. This has been written into English law since the Forster Education Act of 1870, which began the process of making education compulsory for children aged between five and 13, and no one in their right mind would oppose that statement. So when the number of permanent exclusions from

English Cooking: Discover the true value of pie

We all know what we think of as the great English Christmas lunch/dinner — turkey (originally from America) or goose (a worldwide bird, first domesticated in Ancient Egypt), Brussels sprouts (from Rome via Belgium), potatoes (also from the Americas). So, in fact, there is no such thing as a great English feast. Or is there? While

State secrets

So much of the divide between state and private schools is a matter of mere perception — the perceptions of the teachers, the parents and the children. When, years ago, I announced that I would be sending my children to state schools, my colleagues (journalists on a national newspaper) turned on me as a pack

State schools are ‘character building’ too

In tough times, we have to be persuaded to buy the non-essentials in life. While no one would deny an education is essential, many parents are beginning to question whether paying tens of thousands of pounds for a clutch of GCSEs is really worth it. Therefore public schools are having to come up with ever

God, aliens and a novel with a mission

They say never work with children and animals. They could just as well say don’t write about aliens and God. A raft of readers hate sci-fi, and probably more sheer away at the very idea of a novel about a missionary. And yet… And yet The Book of Strange New Things works. It is in

An utterly charming, totally bonkers short novel

This utterly charming, totally bonkers short novel is something from another age. There are elements of A Handful of Dust (the young girl trapped reading Dickens), of Rebecca (the undervalued companion of a cantankerous employer), of fable and fairy tale and even of Restoration comedy. Victoria, young, pretty, big-bosomed, is the companion of a blind

Young people aren’t driven by fun, but by fear

Family legend has it that when I arrived in Durham, a fresh-faced ingénue from deepest Somerset, I called home. ‘This is the life,’ I said, after a bare 24 hours in the frozen north, and they hardly heard from me again. I would have expected my first daughter to have a similar experience, but by

Auberon Waugh’s way with wine

The cellars at Combe Florey, the house in Somerset in which I grew up, were a place of mystery and fear. You walked down wide, shallow stone steps to a large door on which my father had stuck a postcard which read ‘I know who you are’ when, in a fit of paranoia, he decided

A ladykiller at large

Ever since Sergeant Cuff appeared in The Moonstone in 1868, we English have loved our detectives. Moody Scandinavian fiction might come and go, but Peter Wimsey, Poirot, Marple and of course Sherlock Holmes continue to delight us. In Simon Serailler, Susan Hill has created a detective that ranks alongside all these greats. Like Cuff, he

From Luxor to Heston services

This wonderful book is not a history of food in 100 recipes at all; it is a history of the world in 100 recipes, as seen through the medium of what we ate and how we cooked it. William Sitwell’s erudite work never drags and should not be seen as a collection of recipes (although

Family get together 

Mark Haddon is in what must sometimes seem like the unenviable position of having written a first (adult) novel which was, and continues to be, a smash hit. Drawing in part on his own experiences of working with the autistic, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time has become one of those

… in the fall of a sparrow

Set in Romania in the 1950s, this is the story of two people, Augustin and Safta, who are both very different and yet very closely linked. Safta is the daughter of the big house, while Augustin is the deaf mute illegitimate son of the cook. Safta’s mother, high-minded, overly religious since the death of a

Losing my bottle

Why does Waitrose think I can’t be trusted with Chablis? I was refused alcohol in Waitrose the other day. Not because of my age, nor because I don’t look my age. Nor, I hasten to add, because I was drunk. I was buying supper in Waitrose — two chickens, two bottles of chablis, some green

Bookends: Getting it perfect

There is an old joke which says that if you are lost in the desert, start making a salad dressing as someone will pop out of a sand dune and tell you that you are making it the wrong way. This, in essence, is what Felicity Cloake does in her recipe book Perfect (Fig Tree,

Bookends: Getting it perfect | 7 October 2011

Sophia Waugh has written the Bookends column in this week’s issue of the magazine. Here it is for readers of this blog. There is an old joke which says that if you are lost in the desert, start making a salad dressing as someone will pop out of a sand dune and tell you that

Just the one regret

Is he a monster, saint, genius or lunatic? In this massive book Naim Attallah attempts to lay to rest the gossip, slander and misconceptions that have dogged him for much of his life, while also coming clean about his own mistakes and failures. I have to declare an interest. I was, in the 1980s, one