7 april 2018 [ £4.50 www.spectator.co.uk [ est. 1828 The tiger and me Egypt’s Mona Lisa Why I’ve quit cricket Boris Johnson Elizabeth Frood Kevin Pietersen Red London BAHRAIN BD3.20. CANADA C$7.50. EURO ZONE €6.95 SOUTH AFRICA ZAR84.90 UAE AED34.00. USA US$7.20. Corbynism is poised to take the capital, says Will Heaven MACRON’S THATCHER MOMENT GAVIN MORTIMER established 1828 Criminal policies A ny notion that the surge in killings in London was a problem confined to gang members has been dispelled by the death of 17-year-old Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, who acted as a mentor for troubled children but who died in her mother’s arms after a drive-by shooting. Violent crime is everyone’s problem, yet until this year it had slipped a long way down the list of pressing political issues. Terrorism continues to take up debate, as do sexual offences, especially allegations involving public figures. But grubby, everyday lawbreaking — including of a violent kind — seemed to have receded as a national problem. The news that for two months in a row London’s murder rate has been higher than New York’s has jolted the country out of this complacency. Crime statistics are notoriously difficult to interpret — police figures for recorded crime tend to disagree with those derived from the National Crime Survey, which asks members of the public for their personal exposure to crime. But it is hard to argue with the figures for murder — a crime which is almost always recorded. For decades until around the turn of the century the murder rate surged, hitting an artificial peak in 2003 when 218 victims of Harold Shipman were perversely added to the total for that year. The rate then declined until 2014, since when it has seen a sharp rise. This mirrors the pattern in recorded knife and firearms offences, which similarly declined until 2014, before rising again. Why violent crime has rekindled is not straightforward, though there are several possible contributory factors. Since the revelations about the late Jimmy Savile emerged in 2012, a great number of police resources have been consumed with investigating historic sex offences. While serious sexual offences committed in the past should not be dismissed, a moral panic has led to disproportionate attention being paid to allegations which have either proved to be fantastical — such as those against the late Sir Edward the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Heath — or which were simply not serious enough to have been pursued decades after the events supposedly took place. The skewed priorities of some police chiefs have been compounded by the politicised approach of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, who announced her departure from the job this week. Under her leadership, the Crown Prosecution Service has concerned itself rather more with ‘fashionable’ offences, such as date rape and hate crime. The result has been a string of collapsed rape trials — while shoplifters and burglars have escaped prosecution. There is another possible factor in the rising crime rate, in which Theresa May is strongly implicated. In 2014, the then Home Secretary issued new guidelines which discouraged the police from the practice of stop and search. She claimed that the police were using their powers unfairly to target ethnic minorities — quoting Home Office fig- It is not acceptable that the CPS and police are allowed to set a political agenda of their own ures which showed that black people were seven times more likely to be stopped than white people. Alasdair Palmer, who worked as May’s speechwriter at the time, has questioned this assumption: a study for the Home Office, he said, revealed that there was no bias in how police selected subjects for stop and search, once you took into account who was out on the streets when police were doing the searching. But the outcome is beyond dispute: the number of stop and searches has plummeted by two thirds since Mrs May changed the rules. There was a time when the Conservatives were trusted as the party which could best tackle crime. If crime rose, they tended to benefit politically, even if they were in power at the time, thanks to widespread perception that Labour was too soft, too quick to support crackpot theories which displaced the blame from the criminal to society. Yet this is a lot less politically clear now. Besides May’s curtailment of stop and search, the government has cut police numbers — an issue which Jeremy Corbyn was able to exploit in last year’s general election campaign. Moreover, Labour has a good recent record on crime. Under Tony Blair, the party shed utterly its reputation for being soft. His slogan ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ was one of the most successful in recent political history. His government took up Michael Howard’s claim that ‘prison works’ and doubled the number of inmates behind bars — while, initially at least, still managing to convince liberals that he was on their side. The crime rate fell sharply throughout his time in office. It will not be easy for the Conservatives to regain their traditional advantage on law and order, but the first thing the government should do is to refocus the police and Crown Prosecution Service on everyday crime: the burglaries, muggings and increasingly stabbings which blight lives in many communities, especially the poorest. It is not acceptable that the CPS and police are allowed to set a political agenda of their own. Second, the government needs to ensure that police forces are not hollowed out, and that officers are allowed to fulfil their duties without being put off by sensitivities over race. We need to be honest about where crime is being committed, who is committing it and who are the victims. Whenever we have a spate of fatal stabbings, as we had in 2008 and as we are having again now, it becomes painfully clear that it is taking place more in some communities than others. If there are cultural issues over crime, they need to be addressed by the government and lawenforcement agencies, not evaded for fear of accusations of racism. Jeremy Corbyn has already stolen Tony Blair’s slogan ‘for the many, not the few’. Theresa May needs to find a new way of expressing ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ — because it describes exactly where government policy should be. 3 Not cricket, p20 Egypt’s Mona Lisa, p39 Big beasts, p16 THE WEEK 3 Leading article 6 Portrait of the Week 7 Diary Cheating cricketers, bookish pranks Sebastian Faulks 8 Politics Whither the parliamentary Labour party? James Forsyth 9 The Spectator’s Notes The righteous vanity of Tony Benn Charles Moore 15 Rod Liddle The DPP was never much cop 21 Mary Wakefield The deranged world of Virgin trains 22 Ancient and modern Putin’s diseased ideology 25 James Delingpole Why it’s time to stop fetishising experts 26 Letters Unusual evensong, British boats and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ schools 27 Any other business Call that a trade war? Martin Vander Weyer BOOKS & ARTS 10 Labour’s capital gains London Tories are braced for disaster Will Heaven BOOKS 28 Philip Hensher The Long ’68, by Richard Vinen 11 Ian Harrow ‘Geordie’: a poem 30 Mark Vanhoenacker Skybound, by Rebecca Loncraine Sian Hughes ‘Hay’: a poem 13 City slacker Sadiq Khan is a lousy Mayor Andrew Gilligan 16 The tiger and me Saving the true king of beasts Boris Johnson 20 Cricket notebook I’d rather talk about golf Kevin Pietersen 22 Macron’s battles Is this his ‘Thatcher moment’? Gavin Mortimer 24 The grand tourist trap Get away from the crowds Harry Mount 31 Laura Freeman Painter to the King, by Amy Sackville Graham Robb The Dark Stuff, by Donald S. Murray 33 Andy Miller The Executor, by Blake Morrison Julie Myerson The Trick to Time, by Kit de Waal 34 Nicholas Shakespeare The Old Man and the Sand Eel, by Will Millard Jane Solomon ‘Romanx’: a poem 35 Oliver Balch The Long Spring, by Laurence Rose 36 Julie Burchill Not in Front of the Children, by Greg Healey Alistair Elliot ‘Making’: a poem 37 Stuart Jeffries Life with Lacan, by Catherine Millot 38 Brian Martin Census, by Jesse Ball 39 Elizabeth Frood Nefertiti’s Face, by Joyce Tyldesley Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, Robert Thompson, GG, Russell, Percival, Nick Newman, Kipper Williams, Grizelda, Bernie, RGJ, Paul Wood. www.spectator.co.uk Editorial and advertising The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP, Tel: 020 7961 0200, Fax: 020 7681 3773, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (editorial); email@example.com (for publication); firstname.lastname@example.org (advertising); Advertising enquiries: 020 7961 0222 Subscription and deliver queries Spectator Subscriptions Dept., 17 Perrymount Rd, Haywards Heath RH16 3DH; Tel: 0330 3330 050; Email: email@example.com; Rates for a basic annual subscription in the UK: £111; Europe: £185; Australia: A$279; New Zealand: A$349; and £195 in all other countries. To order, go to www.spectator.co.uk/A151A or call 0330 3330 050 and quote A151A; Newsagent queries Spectator Circulation Dept, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP, Tel: 020 7961 0200, Fax: 020 7681 3773, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Distributor Marketforce, 161 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9AP. Tel. 0203 787 9001. www.marketforce.co.uk Vol 336; no 9893 © The Spectator (1828) Ltd. ISSN 0038-6952 The Spectator is published weekly by The Spectator (1828) Ltd at 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP Editor: Fraser Nelson 4 the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk London calling, p13 Macron’s big moment, p22 Hellenic charm, p44 LIFE ARTS 40 Phineas Harper Hate Stansted? Blame superstructuralism LIFE 55 High life Taki Low life Jeremy Clarke 42 The YouTuber Hobbit houses and 3-D homes Ian Sansom 57 Wild life Aidan Hartley Bridge Susanna Gross 56 Real life Melissa Kite Radio Kate Chisholm 44 Exhibitions Charmed lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor Martin Gayford 45 Theatre Ruthless! The Musical; Miss Nightingale Lloyd Evans 46 Opera Ariadne auf Naxos; Coraline; Hansel and Gretel Richard Bratby AND FINALLY . . . 52 Notes on… Southend-on-Sea William Cook 58 Chess Raymond Keene Competition Lucy Vickery 59 Crossword 60 No sacred cows Toby Young I am not saying I want the people-tiger ratio reversed, though it might be exciting to be one of the 3,200 people facing 7.5 billion tigers Boris Johnson, p16 I take no pleasure in seeing England all out for 58 Kevin Pietersen, p20 Is farting in public one of the human rights the French fought for in 1789 or just the hallmark of a very selfish man? Stuart Jeffries, p37 Battle for Britain Michael Heath 61 Sport Roger Alton Your problems solved 47 Television The City & The City; Dave Allen at Peace James Walton Mary Killen 62 Food Tanya Gold Mind your language 48 Music The sound of Iceland Guy Dammann Dot Wordsworth 50 Cinema Wonderstruck Deborah Ross CONTRIBUTORS Gavin Mortimer is the author of The Men Who Made the SAS, among other books. On p22 he describes Macron’s ‘Thatcher moment’. Kevin Pietersen, whose Cricket Notebook is on p20, was the fastest batsman to reach both 1,000 and 2,000 runs in One Day International cricket. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Graham Robb’s most recent books include Cols and Passes of the British Isles. He writes about a trudge through the Peatlands on p31. Mark Vanhoenacker is an airline pilot and the author of How to Land a Plane and Skyfaring. On p30 he writes about gliding. Elizabeth Frood is Associate Professor of Egyptology and the author of Biographical Texts from Ramessid Egypt. She examines the Mona Lisa of the ancient world on p39. 5 Home A lison Saunders said she would relinquish her position as the Director of Public Prosecutions when her five-year contract ends in October. Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told the Times that she was ditching the previously embraced principle of believing all complaints of sexual assault. ‘We should have an open mind when a person walks in,’ she said. In February, 15 people were murdered in London and 14 in New York; in March it was 22 and 21. On 2 April two teenagers were shot in London; one died at the scene and the other the day after. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said that the sale of ivory items of whatever age would be made illegal. S ome Labour MPs joined criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the party, for not having done enough to counter anti-Semitism in its ranks. Mr Corbyn deleted his personal Facebook page. He had been accused of belonging to Facebook groups which contained anti-Semitic posts, which he denied having seen. Christine Shawcroft, a director of Momentum, which backs Jeremy Corbyn, resigned her seat on Labour’s National Executive Committee after having called for the reinstatement of a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial. She was replaced by Eddie Izzard, the comedian who often wears women’s clothes. Momentum issued a statement: ‘Accusations of anti-Semitism should not and cannot be dismissed simply as rightwing smears.’ Mr Corbyn then attended an event held by Jewdas, a satirically minded Jewish far-left group, which on its 6 Twitter account called Israel ‘a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of’. The government delayed until 17 April the final decision on which company will make UK British passports after Brexit. M ore than three quarters of companies employing more than 250 people reported paying men more than women in different jobs. The condition of Yulia Skripal, who, with her father Sergei, was poisoned in Salisbury on 4 March, is no longer critical, her hospital said. Russia, which had expelled 23 British diplomats, said that Britain must cut its diplomatic mission in Russia to the same size as the Russian mission in Britain, entailing a reduction of another 27. A fire that started at 4.20 p.m. on Good Friday destroyed a shuttle bus at Stansted airport, and all flights until midnight were cancelled. About 3,300 customers of the suppliers Calor gas were left without hot water and heating over Easter. The Duke of Edinburgh, 96, went for hip surgery to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in Marylebone. Abroad K im Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, applauded K-Pop and other music acts from South Korea as they performed at the 2,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre. North Korea would take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the International Olympic Committee announced. The 8.5 ton retired Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 fell into the Pacific. China imposed import tariffs on American goods such as frozen pork, fruit, ginseng and wine in retaliation for United States tariffs on steel and aluminium. Nasim Aghdam, 39, who had a grudge against YouTube, shot and wounded three people outside its headquarters in California, then shot herself. Drue Heinz, the philanthropist, died aged 103. French railway workers began three months of strikes with a Mardi Noir of inaction. Half the flights in Europe were delayed on the same day because of a system failure at Eurocontrol, which co-ordinates flights. al-Islam, a guerrilla group, agreed Jaish with Russia to be evacuated from Douma, the last rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, to rebel-held territory in Idlib. Sixteen Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces as thousands rallied on the border of the Gaza Strip at the start of a six-week protest. A day after agreeing with the UN to accept half of about 30,000 illegal African immigrants and sending 16,250 to western countries, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, changed his mind. Winnie Mandela, for 38 years the wife of Nelson Mandela, until their divorce in 1996, died aged 81. Spotify, the music streaming company, floated shares on the New York stock market. A ustralian cricket took on a soggy aspect with tearful performances at press conferences by Steve Smith, the captain, David Warner, the vice-captain and Cameron Bancroft, the player caught applying sandpaper to the ball, all banned for months. Darren Lehmann tearfully resigned as coach. The Vatican poured cold water on a quotation from Pope Francis retailed by the 93-year-old atheist Eugenio Scalfari: ‘There is no hell — there is the disappearance of sinful souls.’ CSH the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Sebastian Faulks W T he Australian cricket cheating scandal has been confused on many levels. Reports at first said that the coach, the captain and the vice-captain had coldly devised a plan and used the team’s most naïve player to carry it out. This turned out to be untrue. Cricket’s governing body imposed a risible onematch ban. The accused’s more worldly defenders said everyone cheats, the South Africans are always at it, so it’s no biggie. Australia Cricket, the country’s overlords, took a much sterner view, invoking the idea of national shame. A tidal wave of fake news and counterthe spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk bull engulfed the e-world. All the players involved began to weep. The whole Aussie macho, larrikin, ocker nonsense melted into a pool of tears. It became impossible to navigate any sensible path through the damp confusion. But here’s what we do know for sure. Cricketers regularly cheat by saying loud, insulting things to the batsman to break his concentration (‘sledging’). They all do it. England do it. But Steve Waugh’s Australian team INTRODUCTORY OFFER: Subscribe for only £1 an issue 9 Weekly delivery of the magazine 9 App access to the new issue from Thursday 9 Full website access (1999-2004) took this practice to brutal and tedious new lengths. And here are a couple of opinions, for what they’re worth. There is a famous photograph of the Australian bowler Merv Hughes, his body contorted with fury and hatred, screaming abuse at a departing batsman, Graeme Hick. This is glossed a ‘good send-off’ or ‘typical Merv’. But really it’s a disgrace. The gloating (mostly English) over Steve Smith and David Warner’s discomfort is unpleasant; and all credit to Smith’s father for standing by his son. But Warner, Smith and the cat’s paw Bancroft are paying for the sins of a previous generation of Australian players and the willingness of umpires and administrators to classify oafishness calculated to give an unfair advantage as ‘part of the game’. Test cricket without a strong Australia would be pointless and the other qualified countries need them to bounce back. They could start by volunteering to stop the verbal intimidation. T he news that an Australian bookshop has moved Steve Smith’s autobiography from the ‘sport’ to the ‘crime’ section reminds me of being in a health farm in Spain this time a year ago. An English fellow inmate told me he had finished a fine book about the Battle of Britain, which he had returned to the multilingual library. ‘That’s funny, Patrick,’ I said, ‘because I was looking through the English section for something to read only this morning.’ ‘Yes,’ Patrick replied sheepishly. ‘I… er, put it in the German section.’ M Iran is our natural ally The National Trust in trouble Boris in Libya Can you forgive her? Isabel Hardman and Matthew Parris on Theresa May’s fate MY DATES WITH DIANA TAKI The H less ou on ston of hen the much-admired (and very tall) literary agent Gillon Aitken died in October 2016, he left most of his estate in a charitable trust to be named after his daughter Charlotte, who had, very sadly, predeceased him. Quite soon, the trust will start its work, which is to ‘educate the public in the appreciation of literature’, including poetry and drama, by whatever means seem appropriate — to include prizes, grants, scholarships, the funding of retreats, courses and so on. As one of the trustees, my job is to find the best ways to fulfil Gillon’s wishes. The slate is blank. My first feeling is that there are too many prizes already; but, on reflection, I wonder if there is scope to reward travel writing, a genre Gillon loved and did much to encourage in this country. I have never been a fan of people telling you who next got into their train compartment (it seems to me the literary equivalent of showing your holiday snaps), but if ‘travel’ can stretch to include foreign reportage, such as Among the Believers by V.S. Naipaul (whom Gillon represented), or a memoir like Naples ’44 by Norman Lewis, then we might be on to something. The Zimbabwean lawyer and fiction writer Petina Gappah told me a writerin-residence programme in Berlin was invaluable for her work and so I am off to investigate the possibility of starting a retreat in rural Normandy. From the experience of judging grant applications to the Society of Authors and from the anguish of writer friends, I know that a simple cheque can also help buy time to finish a book. www.spectator.co.uk/A152A 0330 333 0050 quoting A152A UK Direct Debit only. Special overseas rates also available. $2 a week in Australia call 089 362 4134 or go to www.spectator.com.au/T021A y new novel, Paris Echo, has just been sent to the typesetter, to be ready for publication in September. It’s a melancholy moment when you say, ‘OK, it’s done’ and hit ‘send’. After three years of planning, dreaming and straining, then three months of editing and fiddling, what you’re effectively saying is: this is the best I can do. ‘Between the idea/ And the reality,’ as T.S. Eliot pointed out, ‘Falls the Shadow’ — the shadow of one’s clumsy hands, unconscious tics and limited ability. I don’t want to end on a downer, though. I’ll perk up by September, and any book set in Paris must have some OK bits. 7 POLITICS|JAMES FORSYTH Moderate Labour MPs have nowhere to go T he case for Labour moderates leaving their party strengthens by the day. Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour demonstrates that he is not going to change. His decision to attend a Seder with Jewdas, a fringe group who have claimed that the antiSemitism scandal is being whipped up by his political opponents, shows how determined he is to stay in his own comfort zone. A poll showing that 80 per cent of Labour members think he’s doing a good job as leader highlights how impossible it would be to remove him. But a more interesting question than whether Labour moderates should go is what they should do once they have. One option would be to set themselves up as the Labour party-in-exile. They could declare that their party has been taken over by a hard-left fringe antithetical to its real traditions and that they are leaving to keep ‘true Labour’ alive until they can take it back. This approach might work if most Labour MPs were prepared to leave. It would be akin to a declaration of independence by the Parliamentary Labour Party. In the House of Commons, this new Labour party would step into the shoes of the old one as the official opposition. It would have four years to prepare itself for the next general election. But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs are not ready for such a dramatic step. Any small splinter claiming to be the true heirs to Attlee, Gaitskell and Blair would also face problems. First of all, the official Labour party would select candidates against them at the next election — and few MPs would be confident of having a sufficiently large personal following to hang on in these circumstances. The group would also have to generate its own publicity once the initial excitement of their defection had worn off. As Vince Cable’s stalled leadership of the Liberal Democrats proves, this isn’t easy even for a former cabinet minister and experienced media performer. Another problem would be that the group’s explicitly Labour nature would make it harder for it to attract converts from other parties. A ‘true Labour’ party would be a classic social democratic party. But across Europe, these parties are in crisis. The French Socialists came fifth in the 2017 presidential election, the German Social Democrats have just 8 recorded their worst result since the formation of the Federal Republic, and in Italy earlier this year, the Partito Democratico received less than 20 per cent of the vote. The UK Labour party managed to put on votes at the last election by essentially fusing a traditional social democratic party with a radical left one. Any ‘true Labour’ party would not be able to do that. The other much-mooted option is the establishment of an explicitly pro-EU political party. There are, however, problems with this idea too. For one thing, it is likely to lose appeal with time. Once Britain leaves the EU in March 2019 and then the single ‘True Labour’ would be a classic social democratic party. But across Europe, these parties are in crisis market in December 2020, it will become harder to make the argument for going back in. The force of the status quo will be with the new arrangements that the UK has negotiated. The next problem is what kind of pro-EU case to make. Would this party just want to go back in on the old terms (in which case Britain could never really lead in Europe)? Or would they want Britain to go the whole hog and join the single currency so that it can influence the EU’s most important political and economic project? There is almost certainly room for a proEU party in British politics. But it would have very similar difficulties to Ukip. For even if it had a decent level of national support, it would struggle to convert that into parliamentary seats. In 2015, Ukip got more than 12 per cent of the vote but won in only one constituency. Some maintain that the case for a new centrist party is much broader than just the EU. They argue that Labour under Corbyn has moved massively to the left and the Tories under May are a very different party than under David Cameron. They contend that this leaves a gap in the centre that somebody should be able to fill. (Though, interestingly the Liberal Democrats have conspicuously failed to achieve it.) Unusually, neither the Tories nor Labour are led by their liberal wings at present. But it is also the case that the Tory move towards a more nationalist posture has been halted by the general election, and the political repositioning that has followed. May’s chief of staff is now Gavin Barwell, a former Croydon MP who is one of the Tories most worried about how the party appeals to the more diverse parts of Britain. It is also entirely possible that the next Tory leadership contest, which is still likely to happen before the next election despite the recent improvement in the Prime Minister’s standing, will see the Tories elect a leader with more liberal leanings than May. In terms of economics, it is hard to see where the big centrist-shaped gap is. Labour might have moved away from the centre, but the Tories keep dropping heavy hints that they are prepared to put up taxes to spend more on public services. This, in purely economic terms, puts today’s Conservative party to the left of David Cameron’s. In 2015, he fought the election on a pledge not to put up any of the principal forms of taxation. The most surprising thing is that with the tax burden set to rise to a 40-year high, no party is outlining a tax-cutting agenda. The strongest argument in favour of Labour moderates quitting their party isn’t about electoral success, but morality. If you think the election of your leader as prime minister would be against the national interest, then you have an obligation to act. But no one should think that the path to power for any Labour MP brave enough to leave will be easy or short. Those hoping for a realignment of the British political system à la Macron will be disappointed. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/COFFEEHOUSE ‘Bloody centralists.’ Hourly updates from Parliament and beyond. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Charles Moore W hat is it, psychologically, that makes it so hard for Jeremy Corbyn to recognise that some of his supporters are horrible people with horrible views (in this case, raving antiSemites)? I remember asking myself the same question, in the early 1980s, about Tony Benn. I used to attend Labour party conferences and their numerous leftwing fringe meetings (often addressed by Benn’s no. 1 fan, J. Corbyn). Benn was always there, always courteous, genially smoking his pipe. Often, however, his supporters would say extremist things, and sometimes they would yell foul abuse — either at party and trade union moderates or at the media. Never once was Benn vile himself, but never once did he rebuke those who were. I watched him closely when rabble-rousers like Arthur Scargill or Derek Hatton stirred up hatred or when people like Eric Hammond of the Electricians Union were shouted down. He would just sit there smiling. I concluded that Benn, for all his personal niceness, craved power and he thought these people would win it for him. In 1981, they nearly did. I also noticed that he was tremendously vain, in the way that only people who think they are righteous can be. He was Saved, so his followers must be too. Mr Corbyn seems to be a chip off the old block. R achel Sylvester of the Times is a brilliant journalist. I am proud to have given her her first Lobby job. But I cannot help smiling at her columns as she searches desperately for signs that a party which she thinks virtuous — centre-left, pro-European, with ‘open’ values — could rise from the dead (this, literally, is her metaphor in Easter week). Rachel’s current candidate for Messiah is David Miliband, who lives in New York. She quotes ‘one friend’ of his as saying, ‘David is still attracted to Britain.’ That is big-hearted of him, but the bigger question is, ‘Is Britain still attracted to David?’One must recognise how deeply Blairism lies in ashes before one can find a phoenix to rise from them. The first step, I suggest, is to forget about stopping Brexit. It is as futile as trying to stop black majority rule in Rhodesia in the 1960s: there the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk may be some difficult consequences, but the change has to happen. A Unilateral Declaration of Dependence (UDD), trying to arrest Brexit and maintain Brussels rule would be no use. Rachel dimly perceives this. ‘Opposing Brexit would be part of the new movement’s agenda, but not its whole identity,’ she writes. The Remainer politician with first-mover advantage will be the one who declares that Brexit cannot be stopped, and proposes a lovely, moderate future all the same, instead of claiming the country has none. He/she has been amazingly slow to come forward. W hen Algy Cluff, the former proprietor of this paper, published his memoirs two years ago, I wrote that it was one of the few books I’d read which I wished longer. Unfortunately, his new work Unsung Heroes is even shorter, but I warmly recommend it all the same. Although Algy’s own life has been extremely active and successful, his greatest gift is for describing, affectionately, lives of which this could not be said. Here, in full, is one such: ‘One of the more extraordinary ornaments of clubland in the 1950s and ’60s was H. “Loopy” Whitbread. Of fairly repulsive appearance, with pendulous jowls and a large paunch, he appeared to have had two eggs for breakfast — one of which he had eaten and the other he had smeared over his Old Etonian tie. He was a member of the Whitbread brewing family but, because of the danger he represented to the lift boys and an endearing tendency to ask what the employees he chanced upon were paid and then promptly responding “Ridiculous — that should be doubled!”, he was quietly removed. Living alone in Englefield Green, he would take a bus every day to London, going first to the St James’s Club where he would enquire whether there were any letters for him, which indeed there were as he had written them himself in Englefield Green the previous day. His only subject was Eton College, about which he knew everything, and he carried a list of all Etonians in his pocket. “Did you go to Eton?” was his sole form of greeting. If the answer was yes, he would consult his Etonian list to verify the answer. If no, you were of no interest and he would immediately move on. In the afternoons he became something of a menace to younger members of the Royal Automobile Club swimming pool and by the mid-1960s poor Loopy was heard of no more.’ A complete life — so short, so funny, so sad. A ll proceeds from Algy’s book will go to the Remembrance Trust, a charity he is establishing. When he was chairman of the UK War Memorials Trust, Algy discovered that most believe the excellent Commonwealth War Graves Commission deals with all war graves. Not so. It starts from 1914. His trust will be dedicated to ‘the restoration and preservation of those older graves and memorials around the world’ (I have seen many myself in India) where British servicemen died. The book may be bought for £20 from Sandoe, Heywood Hill, or Algy himself. D rue Heinz is dead, at the reputed age of 103, though some believed her older still. She was much the greatest patron of writers in our time. Most philanthropists find books too undramatic for their patronage and lavish it on opera. Drue really loved books (which is not odd) and writers (which is). We loved her back. Her kindness was so imaginative, and so enduring. It would be futile to deny, however, that though she was endlessly understanding to her friends, she could be demanding of her staff. One of her maids left her service and wrote her a letter thanking her because, she said, having worked for Mrs Heinz, she felt prepared for every difficulty a life in service might throw up. Since she was working for Princess Michael of Kent, one gasps. Drue was very proud of this letter and would show it to friends. 9 Labour’s capital gains The Tories are bracing themselves for disaster in London WILL HEAVEN E ver since last year’s general election, when Jeremy Corbyn inspired the strongest Labour surge since 1945, the Conservatives have been unsure if this was a freak occurrence or the start of something bigger. As they have learnt to their cost, opinion polls aren’t as reliable as they once were: only election results matter. There will be plenty next month, with seats on more than 150 councils all over England up for grabs. The Tories are nervous in lots of areas. But what terrifies them is London. The capital has served as the incubator of Corbynism, a brand of politics once laughed off as a niche Islington interest, yet now with an undeniable national appeal. All 32 London boroughs are up for election, and nothing is certain. Not so long ago, the Tory party knew that — no matter how bleak the national picture — there were parts of the capital that would always remain blue. Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Wandsworth — these boroughs were the jewels in the Conservative crown. Even at the height of Tony Blair’s popularity, the party held on to them. Campaigning in their smarter postcodes was considered almost déclassé. But this year, the Tories are in the fight of a lifetime to keep hold of every one of the nine councils they control. For many ministers, the working assumption is that the city is about to be painted red. As one cabinet minister puts it: ‘There is only one word to describe the party in London: screwed.’ For an idea of how bad things look, consider the Tory peer and psephologist Robert Hayward’s recent projection that the Conservatives will lose about 100 council seats of their 612, which would be a worse result than in 1994, just a few years before Tony Blair’s first landslide. That the Prime Minister recently chose to sit down with her nemesis George Osborne, in his role as editor of the Evening Standard, is a tell-tale sign of the depth of her concern. The extent of the panic among London Conservatives has been so great that they have been considering a drastic step. Over the past year, a series of meetings has been held at venues including Tory HQ. On the agenda was a radical idea: that London’s 10 Tories should formally break away from the national party and become a separate entity with their own brand and leader, like the Scottish Tories under Ruth Davidson. It would create clear water between them and a national party that, in the words of one insider, is becoming ‘very provincial’ under Theresa May. Borough leaders, Greater London Authority members, association chairmen, London’s remaining Tory MPs — the vast majority were in favour of the idea. But word came down from the very top: nice try, but it’s not going to happen. Someone familiar with the meetings reveals: ‘We are a very centralised party now — and we were told to shut up, basically.’ In another moment of desperation, the Conservative party asked Ms Davidson if her team — after their outstanding performance at the general election — would consider heading south to mastermind the London campaign. The answer was a polite but firm ‘no’. The Scottish Tories had performed an astonishing recovery — but it was not (just) due to a well-run campaign. The renaissance came after painstaking work to identify why national Conservatism wasn’t working in Scotland. It was a long process, and the London Tories have yet to make the first step. In recent weeks, Tory MPs have been campaigning in London — and the experience has not been invigorating. ‘Our council leader in Westminster, Nickie Aiken, thinks she is going to lose. Our leader in Wands- worth thinks he is going to lose,’ says one. The two biggest problems on the doorstep are Theresa May, who seems to embody a Shires Toryism, and Brexit, which three-infive Londoners voted against. At times, it seems the London party has been too complacent, as if it assumed wealth and Toryism went together. ‘In Chelsea,’ admits one MP, ‘it has come as a big shock to them to actually have to get out on the doorsteps and talk to people in a way they have never had to do before.’ At most, CCHQ are said to be ‘not confident but not panicking’ about Kensington and Chelsea, which the Tories have controlled since its creation in the 1960s. But as one cabinet member says: ‘After Grenfell, you never know.’ With such gloomy predictions circulating — and polling showing that only three in ten Londoners associate them with low council taxes — Tories are getting their excuses in early. Sadiq Khan is the biggest one, even if his name won’t be on the ballot paper next month. Since he was elected London Mayor nearly two years ago, the Tories have viewed him with a mixture of frustration and reverence. Some speak of him as a shape-shifting modern political genius: a Brownite turned Blairite turned Corbynite — but somehow the capital’s gay-friendly first Muslim mayor gets away with it. Khan is a ‘Teflon’ politician, says a London MP, echoing an old Labour complaint about Boris Johnson. A cabinet minister adds: ‘He has achieved almost nothing, but he is very good at politics. He’s seen as proof that if you vote Labour, the sky doesn’t fall in.’ A seasoned campaigner, alluding to private CCHQ polling, says they’re not even allowed to mention Khan to voters. The Mayor also allows centrist Labour supporters to back their party guilt-free — without feeling that they are lending Jeremy Corbyn a helping hand. Unlike London’s Tories, Khan has set himself apart from the national party. The fear among many of them is a double-whammy of those centrist voters and young, highly motivated Corbynistas. Turnout, which could be as low as a third, is everything. In part, the Tories are relying on white van man turning out in outer London. It’s them vs Momentum. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Brexit is another of the big worries — and it is here that the national implications are most obvious. The fallout has already been seen in Putney, for instance, where Justine Greening hung on at the general election with only a 1,500 majority. Labour also won the crucial swing seat of Battersea for the first time since 2005. Here, Khan — and others — are making the most of voters’ concerns. The Mayor did this by deftly commissioning a Brexit economic analysis, which said that, thanks to our departure from the EU, London’s economy would be smaller than it otherwise would have been by 2030. An examination of the small print showed this fall did not take into account immigration controls, so GDP per capita would actually be higher as a result. It’s a reflection of the state of the Tories that they have never pointed out that the Mayor’s much-hyped report claimed Brexit would make Londoners richer. With the twin liabilities of Brexit and Mrs May, London’s Tories are doing everything they can to pitch their campaign at a local level. ‘This election is bins not Brexit,’ says one. They’re more likely to mention dog mess on the pavements than May’s latest trip to Brussels. The closest they might get to mentioning a national issue is Momentum taking over Haringey council, or rife anti- At times, it seems as if the London party has assumed that wealth and Toryism go together Semitism, and why that’s emerging under a hard-left Labour leader. But even the local angle has its flaws. The decay of basic Tory infrastructure, for example, means the party is running out of foot soldiers. Things are so bad that, for the first time ever, CCHQ has paid for a fulltime employee in every London borough to chivvy local activists. The aim is to hold the nine Tory boroughs — and hope that, during canvassing, ‘we don’t wake up anybody who doesn’t like the party nationally’. The ageing Tory activists fit a broader trend. London’s demographics are turning against the party in a way that suggests national trouble ahead. ‘Our core vote is 65 and white,’ says a councillor, adding pessimistically that — across Britain — ‘in 20 years’ time our entire vote will be either dead or 15 years from dead.’ The average age in London, the sixth youngest city in the UK, is 36. If the Tories can’t cling on in the capital, what does the future hold? Already, some Conservative MPs have been canvassing in parts of Kent and Surrey — true Tory heartlands — only to hear on the doorstep: ‘I’ve just moved here from Hackney and I’d never vote for you!’ This may be a taster of what has been called ‘Londonisation’: mobile, educated, liberal youngsters from the capithe spectator 7 april 2018 www.spectator.co.uk | | Geordie When we were children and wanted to be afraid, we’d climb the locked gates of the park at night and walk as far as we dared. The lit-up doubledeckers, safe as houses, brought us home from choir practice or the Odeon or the football, on freezing afternoons. Independence was a paper-round and you never kicked a man when he was down. We were racist, sexist, and probably we stank. Life was what you went up against and since we were unimportant, we treated it as a joke. That was before the accent came into fashion and people stopped pretending they couldn’t make out a word we said and took us to their hearts. — Ian Harrow tal who lean away from Conservative values and are starting to move elsewhere. Certainly, if Labour can take control of urban areas, where house prices are higher thanks to gentrification (and what one councillor called ‘hipsterisation’), the Conservative party may see a knock-on effect years later in the suburbs and countryside. London would be easier for Tories to write off if it weren’t for the fact that its political trends can anticipate those of the rest of the country. The first sign of the Tory revival that led to David Cameron’s 2010 election win, for instance, was that the party did better than expected in London in 2005. After May’s leadership, the debate may be more about whether to forget the capital altogether and instead concentrate on Labour seats in the North and the Midlands. Perhaps even more than age or housing, it’s race that ought to concern the Tories. Just 20 per cent of Londoners were non-white at the 1991 census. That has since doubled. David Cameron’s head of strategy once lamented that ‘the no. 1 driver of not voting Conservative is not being white’ — which was certainly true in 2010, when just 16 per cent of ethnic minority voters supported the Tories. That jumped to 23 per cent in 2015, helping Cameron win his majority, but sank back to 19 per cent at the last election. Given wider demographic trends, the longer-term problems for the Tories are obvious. Some MPs are said to think the party can win the general election in 2022 but will lose massively five years later because of how much Britain will have changed. There are more optimistic voices. Mrs May’s assured response to the Salisbury poisoning might have helped in recent weeks. And some Tories think the gloom is either overdone or self-fulfilling. As one MP puts it: ‘If you go around predicting doom, saying the Tories are going to be wiped out in London, don’t be at all surprised when it comes true.’ His defiance might be wise. Politics doesn’t tend to follow demographic or economic trends rigidly, especially if politicians work to get ahead of those trends. London might be the first place to show left-leaning voters baulking at the more realistic prospect of Corbyn in power — the 1,500 protesters who rallied against anti-Semitism in Parliament Square last week clearly indicated the shine was coming off his leadership. Not to mention the 17,000 people who have quit his party in the past three months. But politics is unpredictable. Right now, the only thing that can be said with confidence is many Tories are expecting to lose in London — and expecting that defeat to embody their wider problems. Will they be right? We’ll start to find out next month. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST ‘Wow! I’m going to get myself a knife, bro.’ Will Heaven, Andrew Gilligan and Pippa Crerar on Corbynism and the capital. 11 TICKETS SELLING FAST TUESDAY 15 MAY 2018 | 7.30 P.M. For one night only, Rod Liddle at the London Palladium in conversation with Fraser Nelson. Book now to avoid disappointment. TICKETS BOOK NOW Subscriber rate: £22.50 Standard rate: £35 www.spectator.co.uk/rod 020 7087 7755 (Does not include venue booking fee) City slacker Sadiq Khan is a lousy London Mayor. Why hasn’t anyone noticed? ANDREW GILLIGAN A ccording to people at City Hall, Sadiq Khan writes some of his own press releases. I can believe it: they’ve certainly become a lot more excitable since he took over. I like to imagine the Mayor of London, late at night, combing the thesaurus for fresh superlatives to bugle his ‘unprecedented programme of far-reaching improvements’ for the taxi trade (allowing black cabs in more bus lanes) or his ‘bold package of measures’ to revive street markets (creating a London Markets Board and an interactive map). One release even panted that Khan had ‘personally scrutinised’ the New Year’s Eve fireworks display ‘to make the acclaimed event the most exciting yet’. Language like this — the bold mayor, the German Democratic Republic, the powerful Commons paperclips committee — is normally taken to mean the exact opposite of what its user intends. Yet even though we are nearly halfway through Khan’s term, most people still accept him at face value. Few seem to have noticed that, outside the realm of the press release and the TV interview, he is underachieving badly. I worked for Khan’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, so perhaps I’m biased. But the figures aren’t biased. Before the election, Khan promised that his housing policy would ‘rival the NHS with its transformative effect on society’. He said he would ‘support housing associations… to ensure a minimum of 80,000 new homes a year’, more than in any year, save one, in London’s entire history. Few expected Khan to keep such epochmaking promises. But we did expect him to do something. City Hall figures show, however, that in the first year of Khan’s term, London did not start building a single social rented home. By comparison, Johnson started 7,439 homes for social rent in his first year as mayor and 1,687 in the first year of his second term, after the economic crash. With two years of Khan’s term nearly now gone, the great social justice warrior has finally managed to begin (drum roll) 1,263 social rent homes, many of a type he once denounced as ‘not genuinely affordable’. The same pattern applies in most other mayoral policy areas: big promises, followed by things going inexorably backwards. Crime is up by 12 per cent since he took office, with a far bigger rise in murders. the spectator 7 april 2018 www.spectator.co.uk | | February and March were the first months in history when London homicides exceeded New York’s. On transport, Khan claimed that he could ‘both freeze fares and invest record amounts modernising London’s transport infrastructure’. Fares have, in fact, only been frozen for some travellers. But the impact (together with a cut in government grant) has still left Transport for London so short of money that it can no longer pay the interest on its debts. As it said in a leaked memo: ‘If this was our household budget, this would be the same as not having enough money left over from our salary each month to pay our interest-only mortgage or get our car ser- Outside the realm of the press release and the TV interview, Khan is underachieving badly viced.’ TfL has now been forced to suspend routine road maintenance, stop many investment programmes, and make serious cuts to the bus network. Even the first phase of this has reduced services by 7 per cent overall — and on some routes by 50 per cent. For the first time in 25 years, public transport use is falling, with tangible impacts on congestion. The drop might, of course, have been greater without the fares freeze: but in London it is the quantity and quality of service, more than its price, which has driven usage. And each year, the revenue foregone, and the damage to services, will compound. Khan’s promise of both real-terms fare cuts and increased investment exemplifies his greatest weakness — his wish to have it both ways, or more brutally his long-standing inability to make decisions. Depending on how strictly you count it, for instance, ‘And on your left you can see another stabbing...’ Khan as mayor has voiced between two and six different ‘no. 1 priorities’. As an MP, he once went straight from voting in parliament for post office closures to a public meeting where he protested against post office closures. He wobbled interminably over Boris’s Garden Bridge, reversing his position five times. He was against Heathrow expansion, then in favour, and is now against it once more — and so the list goes on. In politics, making decisions which make a difference — building homes, raising fares to invest, taking roadspace for cycle lanes — is contested and risky. So it’s easy to see why Khan prefers to act like the shadow cabinet member he once was, using the job mainly as a platform to build his personal profile and attack the government. It wasn’t me, Miss, it was the Tories! But Khan is not in opposition. He is in office, the holder of substantial powers and responsibilities, and there is a limit to how long he can carry on blaming all London’s problems on others. Nor is it in Londoners’ interests to attack the government constantly when it gives you most of the money you spend. Perhaps Khan is becalmed because he saw the mayoralty mainly as a stepping stone to his actual goal of the Labour leadership. Now that option has receded, his lack of purpose at City Hall has become clearer. Yet for the moment, at least, people seem very happy with Khan. His approval ratings are high. Those who watch him closely — most of his Labour colleagues in councils and the London Assembly, a handful of journalists — know he’s not doing well. But why hasn’t the public noticed? For one, the mayor of London is under less political and media scrutiny than any other major leader. London’s paper, the Evening Standard, does a bit but not enough. The national press sees him largely as local news. Most people’s knowledge of Khan is limited to favourable snapshots: lantern-jawed TV clips after terror attacks, or encounters with the kind of enemies anyone would kill for. Every dingdong with Donald Trump, Chris Grayling or a far-right turniphead disrupting one of his speeches is political gold for him. Khan also benefits from two important hopes held by most decent people: that Britain’s multi-faith society should succeed, and that Labour should be rescued from the claws of the hard left. At the same time it’s assumed he speaks for Londoners on Brexit — Londoners who are happy only because the regressive impacts of his policies haven’t bitten yet (the bus cuts, for instance). But it’s also because the Tories are so useless. Khan’s underperformance — along with the gift that is Momentum — could help them avoid at least total disaster in May’s London borough elections. Why aren’t they jumping on it? Andrew Gilligan writes for the Sunday Times. 13 Celebrating the launch of Technology Intelligence, a major new journalism initiative from The Telegraph Enter now at telegraph.co.uk/winagolf Terms & conditions apply. The competition closes at 11.59pm on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Entry open to residents of the UK, aged 18 years or over, who are registered or subscribed to The Telegraph. The winner will be selected at random from all entries received. Please note, the winner must hold a full UK driving licence to be able to accept their prize. ROD LIDDLE The DPP was never much cop A n interesting development for our police force, then. In future they do not have to believe everything someone tells them, in the manner of a particularly credulous village idiot. They may be allowed, possibly encouraged, to exhibit a degree of curiosity in their line of work — have a bit of a think about things, maybe even ask questions. I do hope they are able to cope. They have been institutionally cretinised for a long while now — ever since Alison Saunders was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions in 2013. She is stepping down when her contract comes to an end in October and is anxious to take up her new career opportunity as undermanager of a whelk stall in Cleethorpes (I think I’ve got that right). Saunders was, of course, catastrophic, perhaps as dismal a public servant as we have ever had. Not merely incompetent, but possessed of an evangelistic liberal zeal that sought to turn justice on its head. Under Saunders there was little room for that tired old shibboleth, innocent until proven guilty. In rape cases the defendant was required to prove that he had obtained consent from the supposed victim, and furthermore obtained it being entirely confident that the supposed victim was not drunk, or out of her box on narcotics, or perhaps merely distracted by worrying about whether or not she’d left the oven on at home. Saunders was never able to answer the question: but what if the man is drunk too? How can we prove that he had given consent? Perhaps he woke up the next morning with dark clouds of regret. It happened to me in July 1985 — I had sex with a midget, the last woman standing in the pseudo-goth nightclub White Trash at three o’clock in the morning. Although I had not thought she was standing at the time; I thought she was sitting. But by this point the alcohol had worked its magic and I reckoned she looked like a rather fetching cross between Gina Lollobrigida and one of the Time Bandits. Next morning, in the cold light of day, when I had to bend over double to reach her bedroom door handle and get the hell out, I thought differently. But no retrospective redress for me, only for the women. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk The paradoxes became an absurdity. Sex was suddenly something men did to women, and that’s that. Drunkenness, which is never an excuse in criminal courts, suddenly became one if the female victim was claiming rape. But not for the male. Fortunately, the British public largely refused to swallow this congenital idiocy, this poisoning of justice, and so case after case came to court to be routinely dismissed by juries who showed a hell of a lot less gullibility than the coppers or the DPP. Meanwhile, though, innocent men spent years under suspicion, their lives and careers ruined. The alcohol rule had a special resonance for me as I am 58 years old and no woman will have sex with me unless she is completely blitzed. Now Saun- Under Alison Saunders there was little room for that tired old shibboleth, innocent until proven guilty ders is gone, maybe I’m back in the game, you lucky ladies. Saunders was sex-obsessed: her other big campaign was Operation Yewtree, which saw the majority of light-ent has-beens it egregiously hounded cleared of sexual assault charges dating back decades. Ever attuned to fashionable pieties, she also launched a £30 million prosecution of Sun journalists. Not a single conviction resulted. Still, it is the mangling of the law on rape for which she will be best remembered. She subscribed to the view that the conviction rate for rape was too low, an opinion shared by the liberal media, and especially the BBC. But then, the conviction rates will be low if half of the cases brought by the Crown Pros- ecution Service — of which Saunders is the head — are patently flawed, the police enjoined to believe what they are told by the ‘victim’ almost without query, and sometimes ignoring evidence that clearly disproves the claim. As it happens, our rape convictions have actually risen. But with Saunders it was yet another case of liberals approaching the world as they think it should be rather than how it actually is. And when the facts, inevitably enough, do not fit the adolescent hypothesis, the wishful thinking, the rules have to be changed. Incidentally, when Saunders was interviewed — by the Guardian, natch — she exulted in the fact that 60 per cent of the people working for the Crown Prosecution Service were now women. Why, as a campaigner for gender equality, would you be delighted by gender inequality? Unless you were really stupid. With any luck our coppers will now extend this notion of being a bit curious about stuff to supposed crimes other than rape — such as ‘hate crimes’. It was not on Saunders’s watch that the police were told that if someone reports they were racially abused or discriminated against, then they were, and that’s an end to it. (Another mangling of justice for spurious political ends, to prove that we are a vile racist society.) In fairness to her, I suppose one could argue that she was simply a willing victim of the political mindset of our liberal elite, which will brook no argument and appoints people to positions of great power based solely, it would seem, on their willingness to impose fashionable absurdities on the rest of us. That’s how you get ahead. Anyway, if you’re in Cleethorpes and Alison Saunders sells you a carton of whelks, head straight for the police station. Explain that you were drunk and that while you did indeed ask for a carton of whelks and handed over your money, you were in no fit state to do so and Saunders had patently taken advantage of you. You had not really wanted whelks. She did not have your informed and sober consent. Rod Liddle will be in conversation with Fraser Nelson at the London Palladium on 15 May. Tickets are on sale now. 15 The tiger and me We have a moral duty to save the true king of beasts BORIS JOHNSON I am here in India looking for tigers, and am struck by the way my fellow human beings respond to their encounters — what they want from the whole tiger experience. It is a privilege to see these animals in the wild, and believe me, you can easily fail. Years ago I spent days tracking them at another park, and though the gamekeepers kept up a plucky commentary — pointing to scratches on trees and snapped grass stems that proved ‘tiger was here’ — we saw neither hide nor hair. Here at Ranthambore in Rajasthan, however, it is another story. The leaves have yet to return to the axle wood trees; the guides are expert, cocking their ears for the distress call of the chital deer, and people are spotting so many tigers that they are getting quite competitive, in a way that is revealing of our frail human psychology. It’s all about the ratio of people to beast, and what the punters want is the maximum tiger score to themselves. When one jeep spots a tiger, the word spreads and soon the animal is at the centre of a Hyde Park Corner of 4x4s and charabancs, with cameras sputtering like childish machine-gun fire. So people always hope for something more exclusive. They want to be alone with the animal, to commune privately, with their eyes locked uniquely on those tiger eyes like giant yellow marbles of liquid fire. They want to boast how they, and they alone, saw the tiger do something special: yawn, scratch, blink, stand up — perhaps even charge — as though its routines were entirely for them. The result is that even here in Ranthambore, the finest tiger reserve on Earth, the human lust to be exposed to a tiger wildly exceeds the supply; and so I have a question. This is the true king of the beasts, the apex predator at the absolute tippy top of the terrestrial pyramid. Weighing perhaps 550lb, the male Royal Bengal tiger is more than a match for the male African lion (I am afraid they checked), and at 132 decibels its 16 roar is so loud as to cause nearby monkeys fatal heart attacks (your own roar is about 75 decibels). Since the Mughal emperors, whose pink sandstone pleasure domes and hunting lodges still landmark the park, panthera tigris has been venerated in India, and indeed the whole world is culturally dependent on this universal living metaphor for courage, beauty, aggression and a willingness to defend one’s children no matter how badly they behave. People need tigers more than ever: so why the hell have we allowed the peopletiger ratio to fall into such terrifying decay? They tell me that in 1900 there were about 100,000 tigers in India. By 1961, when the Queen came to this very park (and the Duke of Edinburgh tactfully declined an invitation to shoot one, citing a ‘whitlow’ on his trigger finger), the numbers were down to 50,000. In the succeeding decades they have been driven relentlessly from their habitat by the tide of humanity. They have been shot by farmers, they have been poached, their bones ground up for traditional medicines in the Far East, their pizzles pathetically served up — even today — to people who believe this will boost their sexual potency. We have recklessly allowed the human population to balloon, and we have massa- cred the tiger, so that the people-tiger ratio is now 7.5 billion to a tragic 3,200. It is an utterly shameful state of affairs. We must change it. I could make all sorts of prudential or anthropocentric arguments for protecting these animals. If we stamp out the trade in tiger parts — as we are now banning the trade in ivory, for which all praise this week to Michael Gove — then we hit the creeps and thugs involved in ancillary trades: drug runners, gun runners, people traffickers. This will be the subject of a major conference in London this October. If we protect the tiger, we expand the tourist potential in countries blessed with tigers and create tens of thousands of good jobs. If we safeguard the tiger, as my cousin-in-law conservationist Jaisal Singh points out, we must logically safeguard their habitat, which happens to be the source of most of India’s water supply. These reasons are all good, but in the end they are not enough. This is a moral issue, and a question of how our generation is going to be judged. Since 1972 — in my lifetime — this planet has lost 58 per cent of its mammals, reptiles, birds and fish. The fate of the tiger is echoed across Africa where we have seen catastrophic declines in the numbers of elephants, rhinos, lions, hippos, you name it. I am not saying that I want the people-tiger ratio reversed, though it might be exciting to be one of the 3,200 people facing 7.5 billion tigers. I’m not even calling for a million tigers. It is about a sense of balance, and fairness to the defeated armies of nature, all the sentient beings that we treat so contemptuously as the ‘alsorans’ of evolution. Year in, year out, politicians meet to brag about what they are doing — quite rightly — to tackle CO2 emissions, and the targets we attain. It is time to set targets for animal populations. Why not start with a goal of 10,000 tigers in the wild by the end of 2050? If we go on as we are, these animals will have the same status in the minds of our descendants as the unicorn. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Everyo will rea But only a few will read this. At Orbis, we also look past headlines to focus on details. Seeking what others overlook, finding long-term value. We’re not for everyone. And we’re not like anyone else. But then neither is our performance. Ask your financial adviser for details or visit Orbis.com As with all investing, your capital is at risk. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. ne ad this Orbis Investments (U.K.) Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority CRICKET NOTEBOOK Kevin Pietersen ‘A h, the old man injury!’ That’s what people said when I busted my calf a couple of years ago. At the time I laughed it off because in more than 20 years I’d never suffered any serious injuries, aside from my knee in 2012/13. No back problems or proper muscle tears. I was having a great time on the T20 circuit, playing to 84,000 spectators in Melbourne. Then, last year, I tore my calf again playing for Surrey. At that point I started to worry that it was going to happen all the time. When you sign these T20 contracts the last thing you want is to have to leave after a couple of games. I lost interest very quickly and decided that once I’d fulfilled my obligations over the winter, that was that. I didn’t want to make a big song and dance about retirement. Just a tweet: boots up, over and out, see you later. I ’ve enjoyed watching the reaction in the media. You realise that when you’re playing, people are there to take potshots at you. I didn’t grow up with tall poppy syndrome in South Africa, and I hated it when I started to experience it in the UK. I didn’t want to do press conferences because I hated everything the media stood for, and when they had the opportunity to take me down, they did. But you also know that when sportsmen retire, the potshots have to stop, so people might as well say something nice. Still, I was flabbergasted to read Andrew Strauss say I was the best cricketer he’d played with. He was the one who made me stop! A couple of 20 my buddies were fuming but I laughed and told them not to worry about it. There’s so much water under the bridge now. It’s gone. The only line I really enjoyed was a report that said I was like an annoying alarm clock for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) that kept going off early. I was the first to play in the Indian Premier League, and that contributed to my demise with England. Now they send players off every chance they get. I was always ahead of the ECB and they hated it. S ome things are more important than hitting a cricket ball around. An elephant dies every 15 minutes, and a rhino every eight hours. The last male northern white rhino died two weeks ago. I’m the spokesman for Save our Rhinos Africa/India, which raises money for rhino conservation. I don’t have any time for politics or any of that nonsense — I just want my children to be able to show their children the same animals I showed them, so they can fall in love with Africa just like I did. I’m building a lodge in Kruger National Park. People say put your money where your mouth is: I’m spending millions of my own pounds to conserve Africa’s wildlife. I like to watch entertainers or interesting passages of play. I’ve been watching the South Africa vs Australia series, which has been engaging and is in the right time zone, but I’m not going to get up at midnight to watch England vs New Zealand. Still, I take no pleasure in seeing them get all out for 58. I’m a positive person, and there are some really good young guys in that set- up. Seeing Steve Smith crying on TV the other day, I really felt for him and the others caught up in the Australian balltampering controversy. They’ve made mistakes, but the whole thing has shown the power of social media. The anger and the animosity from the Australian public, and the global community, wouldn’t have been as severe without Twitter and Facebook. If social media had been around for Mike Atherton’s ball-tampering scandal in 1994, he would have been ruined. P eople don’t realise how hard cricketing life is on the partners. Cricket wives all deserve prizes. As a player you spend so many nights on the road, and then, when you’re at home, you’re not really there. You’re thinking about the next match, tour or contract. My wife Jessica is happy to have me really home. Now I’m doing the school runs and bath-times. I’m more present than if I had a nine-to-five. If I’m offered work abroad, I’ll only do it if the family can come too. I don’t get much cricket talk at the school gates. What is there to chat about? It’s done. I’d rather talk about golf. I was only successful at Test cricket because I was so fit. I put in the hours off the field to keep my brain strong, which let me make good decisions. I still train hard and I don’t drink much, but now it’s golf that gives me the space to challenge myself. My handicap is six, which makes me competitive. If I go down any more, I won’t be able to make money off friends. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk MARY WAKEFIELD The deranged world of Virgin trains T welve minutes till the train. That had seemed like quite enough time as I approached the Virgin ticket machine. Two tickets, London King’s Cross to Durham: a 40-second job, then perhaps a coffee. I had felt, as I so often don’t, like a responsible mother and wife, comfortably in charge of logistics. Screen one set me back a bit. Virgin had changed the layout. Where was Durham? On screen two I felt the first rising bubbles of panic. Where was the option to buy an open return? The minutes floated by. Nothing became clearer. I felt the sort of lonely despair the old must feel when technology overtakes them. I said to my husband: ‘You do it.’ But after a while he said: ‘I can’t!’ We both looked hopefully at the man by the neighbouring machine who just shrugged. ‘I can’t work it out either,’ he said, ‘and I’m a website designer.’ On the train, tickets selected at random, I opened the Virgin East Coast Twitter feed to check for delays. It said: ‘So… how do you guys like your eggs in the morning? Code: Sunny side up? Cracking job!’ By chance, waiting for me in my email inbox was a more personalised message from Virgin: ‘Agent Wakefield,’ it said, ‘it’s your final mission: unlock the keys to the Kasbah. Enter your secret code, check the websites, especially ours HINT HINT. Spy on Richard Branson!’ Wedged on a ledge outside the train’s toilet, I sent a silent plea to the members of the watchdog group currently deciding whether Virgin can break its contract and abandon the East Coast line earlier than it promised. ‘Let them go,’ I begged silently. ‘It’s not fair, but just let them leave.’ On the one hand, allowing Virgin to escape its debts seems near criminal. Branson signed up, in partnership with Stagecoach, to run the East Coast line until 2023. They promised the government £3.3 billion and if they leave early in 2020, as Chris Grayling has announced he’ll allow them to do, they’ll have paid (it is estimated) less than £2 billion. It’s the sort of bailout of private enterprise that corrodes confidence in capitalism and makes a voter wonder whether Corbyn might not have a point about renationalisation. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk I’m a regular on the East Coast line and I simply can’t take Virgin any more. In the 21st century, marketing is increasingly surreal. Every brand, every product these days has a personality and a point of view: ‘Please recycle me’; ‘I taste delicious and I’m healthy too!’ ‘We’re passionate about making custard.’ Even in this hectic environment, the voice of Virgin stands out as psychotic. Should you venture into its appalling toilets, stare up at your face, you’ll see the word, ‘SMILE!’ scrawled across the mirror. The Virgin cups say: ‘Hey there, hot stuff! Fancy a brew?’ Its paper bags: ‘Here’s to a tasty journey!’ The Virgin East Coast Twitter feed, which could and should be an invaluable way My deeper worry is that the crazed branding goes hand-in-hand with other errors of judgment of updating passengers about delays, is plain unhinged. There was a suicide on the line quite recently just outside Doncaster. Back in the day, a voice would say: ‘Fatality on the line. Apologies for the short delay.’ And we’d sigh or tut, depending. After the Doncaster jumper, Virgin’s Twitter feed said: ‘My heart is broken for all involved in this tragic incident. Services are returning to normal but so much pain will remain. If you’ve been affected by tonight’s events, please talk to the Samaritans. #ItsOkayToTalk.’ The Spectator’s Peter Jones wrote a column recently about Virgin’s decision to scrap the quiet coach in first class. ‘While most customers love the chilled-out ambi- ‘They’re sound bites.’ ence of first class, only 9 per cent really value the quiet coach offering,’ they told him. The real reason, I suspect, is that for Virgin, silence is heresy. My objections to Virgin are not just aesthetic. My deeper worry is that the crazed branding goes hand-in-hand with other errors of judgment: financial, perhaps even mechanical. If you misjudge your passengers so profoundly — Agent Wakefield! — why would you get the other elements of running a train company right? And it’s true, the more you examine the design of a Virgin train, the less it really makes sense. Why would you hide a flush button behind a loo seat? A train loo seat must be one of the most profoundly disgusting surfaces in the world. What sort of passenger wants to grapple with that? And how could they fail to clock the implications of swapping the traditional reserved seat ‘ticket’ for a hard-to-read digital display? East Coast trains still have seat-back paper tickets but on the vomitus West Coast Virgin Pendolino I’ve seen the digital reservations in action. Because you can’t see which seats are reserved by peering into the windows, there’s no shortcut to finding a spare seat. Because the words scroll slowly across a tiny screen above each seat, great jammed masses are kettled in the corridors while one by painful one the passengers read the screens. I’m sure it’s just a way of saving on the staff needed to put out tickets. If they explained it that way, I’d mind less. Virgin’s new high-speed Hitachi-built Azuma (complete with digital reservations) has been advertised on the East Coast line for a year now, in the excitable manner of a circus coming to town. Those of us who spend time squashed into the corridors know the posters by heart. ‘Not just a train, AZUMA! Azuma means “East” in Japan and “Wow” in English. The Wow gets even bigger in 2018! Looks like waiting for a train just got exciting!’ Even more excitingly, the wow has been mostly delayed until 2019 because of unforeseen difficulties with the power supply. Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, Chris Grayling has just rewarded Virgin with a lucrative new contract to run more trains. 21 Macron’s battles ANCIENT AND MODERN Putin’s diseased ideology The French President is facing his ‘Thatcher moment’ GAVIN MORTIMER The Russian economy is not in the greatest of shapes. That being the case, one would have thought friendly diplomatic and economic relations with the West would be a priority for Vladimir Putin, given his need for cash to build weapons against threats from superpowers such as Estonia. A little Roman history would help. As has been well documented, the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west in the 5th C ad heralded something of an economic dark age for Europe for some 200 years. The long-nurtured Roman economic networks extending east as far as China simply could not survive the break-up that would create the beginnings of today’s Europe. The ancient sources, as well as the archaeological record, make clear just how connected that world had been. The emperors made sure the infrastructure was in place. As Pliny the Younger said of Trajan, ‘he has opened up roads, built harbours, created overland routes, let the sea into the shore, and moved the shore out to sea’. As a result, trade flourished across a huge area. One author talked of Rome being ‘a kind of common emporium of the world’, with cargoes from ‘India and south Arabia, and Babylonian garments, and ornaments from the barbarian country beyond’ arriving as easily as from Greece. Another concluded that ‘There is one continent, one sea, the islands common to all, the harbours opened up and the gates thrown wide. Merchant ships everywhere carry products from all parts and crowd the anchorages. A mutual community has extended through practically all the land under the sun’. A Christian writer, the ‘Indian traveller’ Cosmas (c. ad 550), saw God’s hand in all this, arguing that the seas had been specifically designed to encourage trade, ‘thus uniting scattered nations in bonds of friendship’. ‘Mutual communities’ and ‘bonds of friendship’ do not feature in the paranoid mentality of Mr Putin, still trapped in the diseased ideology of the old KGB which taught him that the open society was evil personified. Until that mentality changes, it will still be the same old ex Russia semper aliquid novichok. — Peter Jones 22 T he honeymoon is over for Emmanuel Macron. His first 11 months in office have been something of a breeze — defined by economic growth, international approval and museum openings in the Middle East. But France’s youthful President is gearing up for months of domestic hostility. ‘The war of attrition’ was the headline in Tuesday’s Le Parisien. Alongside this stark declaration was a photograph of one of the President’s enemies, a prominent figure in CGT, the hard-left trade union. Burly, bearded and belligerent, Laurent Brun, head of the union’s railway section, vowed intransigence in the three-month rolling railway strike that started this week. Macron is as determined as the strikers and appears confident that victory will be his. Over the Easter weekend, French television broadcast pictures of the President getting into his car. ‘Don’t give in to the strikers!’ yelled a passer-by. A smiling Macron saluted his supporter with a clenched fist and a cry of ‘Don’t worry!’ As cocky as ever, then. But Macron may be starting to feel nervous. He knows his reputation is on the line, not just in France but across the world. Imagine the smirks in Berlin, the sniggering in London, the disappointed head-shaking in Brussels, if the tough-talking President turns out to be as weak as his predecessors when confronted with mass industrial action. Since his election, Macron has taken the world by storm. He’s hosted Trump, Putin and Erdogan, eased tensions between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, taken the initiative in stemming the flow of migrants from North Africa into Italy, repositioned France as the world’s no. 1 soft power, and reinvigorated the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 after the withdrawal of the US. All this was achieved against a backdrop of complete dominance on the domestic front. Widespread industrial action last autumn against the first stage of his economic reforms petered out, and his political opponents have been similarly ineffectual, disorientated by their parties’ dismal performance in last year’s election when Macron surged to his remarkable victory. But now the President faces a quartet of challenges that will shape the next four years of his presidency. The return of Islamist terror to France has shaken the country, demonstrating that not even a quiet backwater is safe from the jihadists. Last month’s attack in Carcassonne and Trèbes that left four dead was also proof of what the intelligence services have been warning for months: that the fall of the Isis caliphate won’t bring an end to the violence in Europe. The opposite, in fact, with scores of jihadists slipping back determined to carry on the fight. Intertwined in many French minds with Islamism is immigration — the second hurdle for Macron — and the belief that lax border controls have allowed terrorists to cross with ease into their country. In February, his government unveiled plans to crack down on illegal immigration and hasten the expulsion of failed asylum seekers. The proposed bill, which will be tabled in parliament this month, is welcomed by the majority of the public but not by some in his own party, La République En Marche. The bill will be passed, but there’s Macron’s vision horrifies millions of men and women who don’t want France to change already been strike action at France’s refugee protection office, and anti-capitalist groups plan to demonstrate against it this weekend. It has also upset some of the artistic community, with Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, railing against France’s ‘scandalous’ treatment of migrants. Hand-wringing writers won’t worry Macron but the third problem, the railway workers who’ll be striking for two out of every five days until the end of June, is more formidable. Among the reforms the government intends to introduce is one that will open up rail transport to foreign competition, and improve a service that’s declined markedly in recent years. On top of that is the €46.6 billion debt accrued by SNCF, an astronomical figure which will be partly reduced by ending the privileged status of railway workers that’s existed since 1909, and now includes a guaranteed job for life and retirement at as early as 50 for drivers and 57 for other employees. Supported by the CGT, the railwaymen are determined to retain their entitlements, but Macron regards the SNCF as the embodiment of outdated public-sector working practices. ‘We live in a changing the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘Australia would be great if it weren’t for all the cheats.’ chists, environmentalists and antifas who are itching for a fight with their president. What France has embarked upon therefore is not just a war of attrition; it’s a war of vision. Macron and his supporters are desperate to shake off France’s reputation as a nation of work-shy strikers, the people the President memorably described last September as fainéants (slackers). It was no coincidence that on the day the SNCF strike started, the government announced record foreign investment in France in 2017, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year. The left-wing newspaper Le Monde attributed this statistic to ‘the Macron effect’ . This is the France Macron envisages, the ‘start-up nation’ that he described last year during his presidential campaign and that he hopes will attract the world’s brightest minds. He wants to reposition Paris as a post-Brexit bankers’ paradise and has announced he will spend €1.5 billion in the next five years as part of a new national strategy for artificial intelligence to rival that of China and the US. It’s a vision that horrifies millions of men and women who don’t want France to change, who cherish the security and protection of the public sector. But Macron isn’t for turning. He’s even angered the elderly by increasing taxes on pensions to raise money to pay for cuts for workers. ‘Some people will complain and don’t want to understand, but that’s France,’ he has said. Many of the pensioners would have been among the eight million workers who 50 years ago, in May 1968, took to the streets in a general strike to protest against the rule of Charles de Gaulle, a president they saw as out-of-touch and conservative. Half a century later, the man in the Elysée Palace is regarded as too innovative and ambitious, a dangerous young megalomaniac who in the words of one Socialist MP is adopting ‘the politics of Margaret Thatcher’. And if Emmanuel Macron emerges with his reputation intact after this spring and summer, he’ll be entitled to call himself the Iron Man. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST Gavin Mortimer and Reuters’ Luke Baker on Macron’s challenge. Wednesday 18 April 2018 | 7p.m. Emmanuel Centre, Westminster A SP EC TA TO R SP EC IA L EV EN T world,’ said transport minister Elisabeth Borne at the weekend. ‘The SNCF needs to change too in order to offer better services.’ One newspaper poll this week revealed that of nearly 100,000 respondents, only 28 per cent approved of the strike. But that was in the centre-right Le Figaro. Many on the left are supportive; and other groups with grievances such as students, Air France employees, supermarket workers and refuse collectors will launch their own strikes or protest action in the near future. The fourth challenge facing Macron appears on the surface to be the least problematic: what to do about the 300 environmental campaigners occupying 1,650 hectares of wetlands in Notre-Dame-desLandes, near Nantes? In January they won their battle to prevent the construction of an airport after a lengthy campaign, and in conceding defeat the government instructed them to evacuate the area by 31 March. The deadline has passed and a hardcore remain, a rag-tag bunch of protesters entrenched in defensive positions that include tunnels and booby-trapped barricades. The police could crush their resistance in hours but the government knows that could provide the spark for something much bigger. The Zadistes, as they call themselves — from Zone à Défendre, or ZAD — are a symbol of defiance for France’s professional protesters, the anar- Join Andrew Neil and a special guest panel for an in-depth discussion about Russia’s people, politics, economy and how the West should deal with the newly re-elected Vladimir Putin. TICKETS Subscriber rate: £22.50 Standard rate: £35 BOOK NOW www.spectator.co.uk/russia 020 7961 0044 Claim a FREE TICKET to this event when you subscribe to The Spectator for just £12. Go to www.spectator.co.uk/A273J the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 23 The grand tourist trap Avoid the crowds to discover Europe’s real cultural treasures HARRY MOUNT ast week, I was in the Florence Baptistery by 8.30 a.m. That used to be early enough to avoid the crowds and admire the Baptistery’s east doors by Ghiberti — the Gates of Paradise, as Michelangelo called them. No longer. As I stared at the 13th-century mosaics in the apse and Donatello and Michelozzo’s tomb of Antipope John XXIII, a group of bored Italian teenagers started hugging each other and gossiping on the front pew next to me. It was the same all over town. In the Piazza della Signoria, tourists flocked round the copy of Michelangelo’s David at 8 a.m. Next door, they were queuing to see the Botticellis at the Uffizi before the gallery opened at 8.15. And this was in early spring, long before the mass tourism of summer. Unless you can fork out a fortune for a private tour of the greatest hits of Florence — or Rome, London or New York — that’s it. We have reached peak tourism. We have killed the things we love by swamping them. And yet… Just a few streets away from the Piazza della Signoria, at the Bargello museum, I had Michelangelo’s ‘Pitti Tondo’, a bas-relief of the Virgin and Child, to myself. Upstairs at the Bargello, I stared, alone, at the original bronze panels entered by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi for the Baptistery doors competition in 1401 — according to legend, the moment the Renaissance began. And by then it was mid-morning, when the tourist crowds were at their biggest over at the Baptistery, staring at those door: copies, in fact, of the original, unlike the panels I was gazing at in glorious solitude. Over and over again, the most famous places in Florence were crammed while, yards away, extraordinary spots were utterly empty. Five minutes’ walk from the Ponte Vecchio, in Santa Trinita Church, I had the Sassetti Chapel to myself. I enjoyed its 15thcentury frescoes so much that I returned later that same afternoon. Still empty. Given the horrors of international overcrowding of the world’s beauty spots, the answer is to rethink the Grand Tour. First, you could go to different towns altogether. Fiesole, up in the hills, just five miles from Florence, was completely empty 24 at ten in the morning. I looked over the 1st century bc Roman theatre to the Tuscan campagna beyond and, all the way to the horizon, there wasn’t a soul in sight. The same applies in Britain. When a man is tired of London, he isn’t tired of life. He’s tired of his fellow tourists — and he should jump on a train to, say, Rochester to see its Norman-Gothic cathedral and its Norman castle. I went there last autumn, and had both cathedral and castle to myself, apart from two French tourists in the castle giftshop. Admittedly, it was a filthy day, and I went just before the last entrance time. Still, these are just yet more useful strings to the Not So Grand Tourist’s bow: make your Florence’s most famous places were crammed while, yards away, extraordinary spots were all empty time of year and time of day as unfashionable as possible. Even in big cultural towns and cities, all you have to do is reconfigure your targets. Say goodbye to the famous places; they’re lost to the crowds. Say hello to the hidden gems. Don’t go to Buckingham Palace (packed); visit Spencer House (empty). Don’t go to St Paul’s Cathedral (packed); go to Wren’s city churches (empty). Don’t go to the packed Houses of Parliament for Westminster Hall; go to Middle Temple Hall for lunch. It’s the finest Elizabethan hall in London and no one’s there, except a sprinkling of barristers. The hammer-beam roof, the minstrels’ gallery, the table made from the timbers of ‘We need an expert on the dangers of computers. Send for Damian Green!’ Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, a huge Van Dyck of Charles I, the spot where the premiere of Twelfth Night was held in 1602… All on open view, all unrestricted by the swinging backpacks and bodies of fellow tourists. Close by are the Temple Church, with its medieval tombs of the Knights Templar, and the Gothic Revival splendour of G.E. Street’s Royal Courts of Justice: both nearly tourist-free. You have to book lunch at Middle Temple and check opening times for the Temple Church. But that’s a small price to pay for empty beauty, particularly if you’ve trekked halfway across the world to track it down. A little investment of time reaps a bumper harvest of aesthetic thrills. If you play your cards right, and at the right time, you can even see those greatest hits when they’re empty — and free. Go to Westminster Abbey at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday — the Not So Grand Tour does mean you have to get up early — and you can take Communion at the holiest spot in the whole place: the shrine to Edward the Confessor, the abbey’s founder. His monument doubles as the altar and, as you kneel and pray, you are surrounded by the tombs of Henry III, Edward III and Henry V. On the two occasions I’ve been, there have been fewer than half a dozen worshippers in the heart of royal and spiritual England. The canon of European architecture has been literally set in stone for well over a century. Go to the Cast Courts of the Victoria and Albert Museum — themselves empty, incidentally — and you’ll see copies of the old favourites, first installed there in 1873: Trajan’s Column; Michelangelo’s David; those Gates of Paradise from Florence. I’m not saying that seeing the copies in South Kensington is as good as seeing the originals. Yet it is time to spread the net wider and diversify the Victorian canon. We may have reached peak tourism — but only in some very small hotspots, and only in very few cities and towns. This summer, it’s time to take your own Not So Grand Tour. Harry Mount is author of Odyssey: Ancient Greece in the Footsteps of Odysseus (Bloomsbury). the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk JAMES DELINGPOLE Why it’s time to stop fetishising experts S omething extraordinary and largely unreported has just happened in a court in San Francisco. A federal judge has said that there is no Big Oil conspiracy to conceal the truth about climate change. In fact, Judge William Alsup — a Clinton appointment, so he can hardly be accused of right-wing bias — was really quite snarky with the plaintiffs who claimed there was such a conspiracy. The case was brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, which have taken it upon themselves to sue the five big western oil majors — Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell — for allegedly engaging in a Big Tobaccostyle cover-up to conceal the harm of their products. Apparently Big Oil knew about the dangers of man-made global warming but went on drilling anyway. So now the two Californian cities are trying to claim billions of dollars in damages to compensate them for all the walls and dykes and so on they’ll have to build to cope with rising sea levels. Nice try. But so far Judge Alsup hasn’t been impressed. He said he had been expecting the plaintiffs to reveal ‘a conspiratorial document’ which proved that the defendants ‘knew good and well that global warming was right around the corner. And I said: “OK, that’s going to be a big thing. I want to see it.”’ Instead, he said disappointedly, all he got ‘was a slide show that somebody had gone to the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and was reporting on what the IPCC had reported, and that was it. Nothing more.’ In other words, this secret knowledge that supposedly only these sinister oil companies possessed was entirely in the public domain. This is a case that should never have come to trial. The fact that it did speaks volumes about the arrogance and complacency of the Climate Industrial Complex after years of promulgating its narrative all but unchallenged. As filmmaker Phelim McAleer, who has been attending the trial, put it: ‘Until now, environmentalists and friendly academics have found a receptive audience in journalists and politicians who don’t understand science and are happy to defer to experts.’ Quite. Consider, for example, the way the BBC has covered the climate scare story all the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk these years. Sceptics such as Lord Lawson, on the rare occasions they are given air time, are treated like flat-earth pariahs. Anyone claiming to be a climate scientist, on the other hand — just so long as he or she is promoting the alarmist consensus — is treated with the kind of unquestioning reverence once accorded to cardinals, archbishops and high priests. But just because these people claim to be experts doesn’t mean their every utterance should be treated as holy writ. This is what the ancients understood when they warned us of the rhetorical fallacy the Appeal to Authority. It’s what Gustave Le Bon meant in his 1895 classic The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind when he warned of the perils of ‘prestige’. And it’s also what the Royal Society was getting at in 1660 when it gave People find it more comforting to take issues such as climate change on trust than do a little digging for themselves itself the motto ‘Nullius in Verba’ — take no man’s word for it. Michael Gove was right, despite all that flak he took: experts aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes, they’re honest enough to admit this. In 2015, the editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, confessed in an article that ‘much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue’. And this wasn’t self-flagellating speculation. His view that ‘science has taken a turn toward darkness’ was supported by copious evidence that many peer-reviewed studies are simply not worth the candle, some because they are merely shoddy, others because they are fraudulent. Not that you’d ever guess this listening to, say, one of Radio 4’s numerous programmes about science. The impression given is not just that scientists are the most amazing, likeable, fun, noble and worthwhile people on earth, but also that they are so high-minded as to be quite incapable of the venality, corruption or bias associated with ordinary mortals. Our culture’s fetishisation of expertise is a dangerous thing, as I tried to explain to the boys Brendan O’Neill and I taught at Radley the other week. Not altogether successfully. One boy in a politics class was absolutely insistent that Brexit was going to be a disaster because all the economists said it would be. So I gave him various historical examples — the 364 economists who wrote to the Times warning against Margaret Thatcher’s fiscal policy; the failure of the immediate aftermath of the Leave referendum vote to conform with all the Treasury’s doomsday predictions — to show they didn’t always get it right. But the boy wasn’t having it. Economists, merely by dint of being economists, knew better about the economy than non-economists, was his view. So great, indeed, was his faith that it quite trumped all real-world evidence. Confronted with such obstinacy, I suddenly realised how easy it has been for ‘consensus’ scientists to promulgate their alarmist narrative all these years. We seem to inhabit a culture where critical thinking isn’t the norm (if indeed it ever was), where people find it more comforting to take complex issues such as climate change on trust than do a little digging and find out the truth for themselves. This is what I so admire about the judge who has been presiding over this Californian court case. Judge Alsup is so determined not to be gulled by faux expertise that before each case, he makes it his business to become a mini-expert himself. While presiding in Uber vs Waymo, he asked for a tutorial on selfdriving car technology. In Oracle vs Google, he taught himself Java programming. In this latest case, he was so well-briefed about the science of climate change that he was able to tick off one expert witness — the Oxford professor Myles Allen — for using a misleading illustration to represent atmospheric CO2. No wonder the alarmist plaintiffs have been so blindsided by this court case. Rarely if ever before has their unearned authority been questioned by a trusted public figure who bothered to do his homework. 25 LETTERS Self-limiting beliefs What makes a boat British Sir: As someone who spent much of his working life teaching at Eton and Harrow, it was amusing to learn from Toby Young (31 March) that privately educated pupils achieve better exam results than pupils in other schools because they came into the world equipped with high IQ genes which, together with parental background, guarantee success, with the school adding little. If only we teachers had known! If genes are as important as Toby, Robert Plomin and others insist, it does ask questions of the drive to improve social mobility. If schools are limited in the difference they can make, do we fuss too much about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ schools? The genetic research Toby quotes implies that pupils with low-income parents tend to have fewer of the high IQ genes and will therefore do less well in exams. But masses of research shows that this belief is itself an important reason why low-income children do less well in schools in Britain and the USA than in the Far East. In China and Japan there is an assumption that all children can do well. Those who are less able simply have to work harder. They do work harder, and these countries have a much shorter tail of poor performance at age 16 than we do in the UK. Barnaby Lenon Oxford Sir: In pointing out that our problem with fishing is that ‘we simply don’t eat what we catch’, Martin Vander Weyer (Any Other Business, 24 March) explains that ‘a high proportion of fish and seafood from British boats is exported to the EU…’. Well, yes — but a high proportion of ‘British boats’ are not British. Many of them are owned by Spanish, Portuguese, Danish or Dutch skippers, so it is hardly surprising if they land their catches elsewhere in Europe. In 1988 the British Parliament passed the Merchant Shipping Act, in which it provided that boats registered as British must be 75 per cent British-owned. This legislation was challenged, and the relevant clause in the Act was deemed invalid as it was contrary to EU law. It is therefore no longer possible to separate British boats from other UK boats which are not British. The Marine Management Organisation confirms that ‘a UK vessel will be classified as any vessel that is UK registered, irrespective of ownership’. Unless Martin can identify British boats from another source, what we need to do before 2020 is to find a way of classifying Mutual flourishing Sir: In portraying global Christianity as a religion of two extremes (‘A tale of two Sarahs’, 31 March), Ysenda Maxtone Graham perpetuates a fundamental error common to all the major churches, namely the polarisation of partisan conflict above the teachings of Jesus. While it is clear that her sympathies lie with the warm inclusivity of a particular brand of Anglicanism, it is worth noting that liberal Christianity is only accepting of those with whom it agrees. The introduction of women to the Episcopacy was delayed in 2012 because there were many in the Church of England who wanted no accommodation for traditional Anglicans, viewing their opposition to the ordination of women as misogyny rather than an adherence to the Apostolic Succession. The resulting settlement and the Five Guiding Principles passed by General Synod calls for ‘mutual flourishing’. This is more in tune with the spirit of the New Testament. When the Apostles complained to Jesus that someone from outside their group was teaching in his name, Christ reminded them ‘whoever is not against us is for us’ (Mark 9:40). Andrew Gray General Synod (Diocese of Norwich) 26 British boats as British and, from that base, seek to build up the numbers of our ‘diminished’ fleet. Ian Campbell Bordon, Hants Unusual evensong Sir: The church at which I attend, in the small village of Coleman’s Hatch in West Sussex, has sung evensong (BCP) once a month, and each month a different anthem is sung (Notes on Evensong, 24 March). For a small village, this must be unusual, if not unique. Godfrey Dann East Grinstead, West Sussex Taki misremembers Sir: Taki’s memory of our interview at his house in New York in 2006 and of what I wrote in my biography of Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel is inaccurate (High Life, 31 March). I wrote down verbatim, in long-hand in a red A4 notebook, everything he told me — the same method I have used for all the thousands of interviews I have conducted for 24 books. I can show Taki my notes. A mark indicates that I reread to him his quote that I used in the book. His row with Conrad Black was not, in fact, about Israel but about his criticism of President Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, the American oil trader. Taki knew that Black was furious. When he was told by his secretary that Barbara Amiel was on the phone, my notes record Taki telling me that he had shouted at his secretary, ‘Tell that fucking bitch that she has no right to fire me.’ I included that in my book and until now Taki has never protested. As he told me in 2006, he then picked up the phone to Amiel and was invited out for lunch — again, precisely what is described in my book. Taki wrongly thinks the book said ‘Barbara Black high-hatted’ him and that she was ‘trying to make trouble’. Instead I described the opposite. I showed how Amiel sought to make peace, which he agrees was the purpose of the call. In other words, my description of his interview was accurate and his memory of what is in the book is wrong. And then he uses his mistakes to disparage my book about Prince Charles. I am puzzled by his conduct. Too many martinis, possibly? Tom Bower London NW3 WRITE TO US The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP; email@example.com the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ANY OTHER BUSINESS|MARTIN VANDER WEYER A US-China tit-for-tat hardly amounts to a serious trade war ‘S tocks plunge as China hits US goods with tariffs,’ said a headline after the long weekend, and the FTSE100 duly dipped below 7,000. But I wonder what a serious trade war would look like — and how markets would respond if the White House and Beijing took the gloves off. Last year, China exported $500 billion worth of goods to the US, while US exports to China amounted to $135 billion. Last month, President Trump announced import tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese steel and aluminium, 10 per cent of the total import bill. China has hit back with tariffs on US steel tubes plus an eclectic product list ranging from aluminium scrap to frozen pork liver, adding up to $3 billion — which, to quote Humphrey Bogart, ‘don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world’. The truth is that Trump’s first move was a shallow bid for adulation from benighted blue-collar supporters — and every wise head in Washington told him it was stupid. China’s response is token tit-for-tat, from a regime that clearly has a more intelligent overview of the benefits of global trade. Collateral losers so far include American farmers and scrap dealers, denizens of Trump’s heartland just as much as the steel workers he claimed to be defending. As for the US stock market, the one factor that should have spooked it in the first place was last year’s coronation of Trump, but during his first 12 months in office, investors showed precisely the opposite reaction; now they are beginning to realise how much damage to their interests he’s capable of causing. Remember Poitiers The French do trade skirmishes better. Back in 1982, France was flooded with cheap Japanese videocassette recorders, until a rule was imposed requiring all such imports to be processed through a small customs office in Poitiers, hundreds of miles from any port, where inspectors felt it necessary to open every box to check that the operating instructions were in French. Despite vehethe spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ment complaints to Brussels and the then world trade regulator, Gatt, the flood was reduced from 64,000 VCRs per month to less than 10,000, and the Japanese company Victor was strong-armed into a joint venture with a French state company to manufacture VCRs in France. It was a lesson in applying ruthless focus, not pointless gesture. Cheminot bashing The French also run better railways, and those of us who look forward to travelling on the SNCF network this summer must wait to see whether Emmanuel Macron wins his battle with les cheminots — the railway workers whose privileges (early retirement, free travel, subsidised housing) he aims to abolish, and whose unions are militantly opposed to other Macron proposals that might lead to competition or any part-privatisation. Their two-days-out-of-five strike launched this week — coinciding with action by Air France workers and dustmen — is unlikely to shake the French President’s determination to advance his reform agenda for the country’s economy. But it may rapidly erode public support for confrontation with the railway workers. Opinion polling so far is closely divided, and union leaders take every opportunity to recall the climbdown by the Chirac-Juppé government in 1995 after a wave of strikes in opposition to changes in public-sector retirement ages. Meanwhile, what our own media have taken to calling ‘Macron’s Thatcher moment’ is also instructive for collectors of obscure French vocabulary. For the right, it’s a symbolic battle against la gréviculture, the endemic penchant for strikes that barely exists anywhere else in the developed world these days; but for the left, it’s merely another outburst of le cheminot bashing. Cream for the alley cat The victory of Melrose Industries in its hostile bid for GKN is, in effect, the passage of an underperforming British business into the hands of a more potent set of British managers, whose quest to extract shareholder value will be tempered by ‘binding commitments’ — extracted at the last moment by Business Secretary Greg Clark — to maintain R&D spending and not to sell GKN’s aerospace division for at least five years. It is a result that offers a better future for GKN’s product specialisms and skilled workers than the alternative, which was to stumble on under an ancien régime who within the same timespan might well have driven the company into the arms of an acquirer with a less impressive track record, or simply into oblivion. So the outrage at the result, much of it politically confected and fuelled by references in BBC bulletins to Melrose as ‘assetstrippers’, was frankly silly. And it distracted attention from another takeover this week — in which an entrepreneurial British business passed into foreign hands without so much as a murmur of doubt or disapproval. This was the sale to CME, better known as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, of Nex, which is the electronic trading business that’s the successor to the Icap money broking empire built by Michael Spencer. The price was a very rich $5.5 billion, and when completed, the deal will net £670 million for the former Tory treasurer Spencer, whose admirers and detractors alike will recognise a description of him quoted in the FT as ‘nimble, like an alley cat’. I’ve known Spencer for 30 years, and don’t begrudge him this lucrative finale to a rollercoaster career. But I suspect too much has been made of the pledge by CME, as a condition of the deal, to make London its European headquarters — offering ‘proof of the City’s attractiveness to foreign investors post-Brexit’. Will that last as long as Melrose’s pledges on GKN? I wonder. And if Nex is an example of London’s cutting edge in fashionable ‘fintech’, why must it find a US owner to secure its future? The currently leaderless London Stock Exchange might have been an obvious bidder, but was nowhere to be seen. 27 BOOKS & ARTS SPRING BOOKS Something in the air Philip Hensher examines the many disparate protest movements in the West sparked by the événements in Paris in 1968 The Long ’68: Radical Protest and Its Enemies by Richard Vinen Allen Lane, £20, pp. 446 ’68 will do as shorthand. Most of ’68, as it were, didn’t happen in 1968. It was, at most, the centrepoint of a long accumulation of radical protest. It began with dufflecoated marches against nuclear war, a wellmannered and respectful movement whose spirit persisted to the end of the decade. (In October 1968, a rally against the Vietnam war finished with demonstrators linking arms with policemen and singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’). It continued into the 1970s with real political violence — the Baader-Meinhof gang and many other groups. It is not very much like 1848 as a year of political upheaval, more the symbolic statement of a large-scale change of mind. That change of mind is probably still happening. Richard Vinen’s excellent, cleanly focused book on the subject makes it plain that the événements of May in France form the central episode. The way that a protest among students spread from institution to institution, and then to trade unions and the entire workforce was something quite new, and baffling. What did they want? Discontent started for particular reasons — a student protest against Vietnam, or, Vinen says, ‘concern about their conditions of study and prospects of getting jobs’, a very un-1968 motivation. Fairly soon, protest seems to have become an end in itself. Some of the workers who went on strike did so without presenting demands. Much of the French establishment had lot of sympathy for the protesters, with the thrilling sight of (not very effective) barricades, chic slogans and the hurling of paving stones. André Malraux, the minister of culture, was having lunch one day 28 with the writer José Bergamín; afterwards, he dropped Bergamín off at the occupied Sorbonne on his way to the National Assembly. General de Gaulle was not one of these, and indeed hardly believed in the protesters’ identity. Two years earlier he had dismissed a report on ‘youth’ in the splendid words: One must not treat the young as a separate category. One is young, and then one ceases to be so...They are French people at the start of their existence, it is nothing special. In May 1968 Danny Cohn-Bendit and the other leaders of the protests would try to prove him wrong. Vinen also addresses the growth and impact of radical politics in West Germany, the UK and the US. The truly significant political event of the year, the Prague 1968 was not always very ’68-ish. It also saw the election of Nixon and marches in support of Enoch Powell Spring and the crushing of Dubcek’s reforms by a Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August, is outside his remit, though it might have provided an amusing counterpoint to some of the radical posturing in the West. The US had two proper subjects for radical protest: Vietnam, and civil rights. These remained largely separate. The president who had succeeded in making the greatest strides in civil rights, Lyndon Johnson, was also the one with the responsibility for Vietnam. Those black men who were the first for the draft in Vietnam were, Vinen says, often surprisingly indifferent to Vietnam as a cause. They were used to injustice. A significant part of the radical black movement that arose around this time was certainly not part of the liberal pro- test movement, and had no intention of placing flowers in the muzzles of anyone’s guns. Some of them were affiliated with the National Rifle Association, and the quasi-Marxist Dodge Revolutionary Movement ‘offered an M1 carbine as a prize in a fund-raising raffle’. They hoped the moment to use it would come. In Germany, everything is overshadowed by the consequences, or pre-shadowed by history. The generation shaped by the Third Reich was very much in evidence; their children were of an age to make their opinions of that felt. One important factor was that 70 per cent of German students were aged between 23 and 30; these were not children, as in the US. Some of them would go on to form the Red Army Faction, or the Baader-Meinhof gang, and murder. There was no particular motivation at work here apart from the Oedipal one, and the intention to shock the elders. One of the most outrageous was the move by some radicals to break with liberal German regret, and say some genuinely vile things about Jews and Israel. A synagogue was firebombed by radicals on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and the BaaderMeinhofs’ lawyer was eventually convicted for Holocaust denial. The British ’68 took a somewhat different form. There was a fundamental division between the working forces and the educational establishment, nicely illustrated by Vinen: at the end of the 1970s, the quarter of a million members of the National Union of Mineworkers contained 15 members of Militant Tendency, nine members of the Socialist Workers Party, and five members of the International Marxist Group. ‘There were fewer Trotskyists in the most important of British trade unions than there were among the staff at North London Polytechnic.’ the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES A barricade of paving stones in the Latin Quarter of Paris, May 1968 By contrast, only 2 per cent of students matriculating at Essex in 1968 described themselves as Labour supporters rather than ‘non-party extreme/moderate left’. The occasional Maoist sociology student who tried to reach out to the labouring classes met with, it is fair to say, a ribald or bemused reception. Perhaps the single most effective limit on student protest was the curious English habit that meant that students lived on campus during term time, and went home to mum and dad during the vacation. A Sussex sociologist — not always, despite the impression, the most radical members of staff — observed that ‘the one redeeming feature of all the unrest is that revolutions always go on holiday’. Vinen very effectively reminds us that 1968 was not quite as ’68-ish as we have come to assume. It also saw the election of Richard Nixon, and some of the largest political marches of the year in the UK were in support of Enoch Powell’s most notorious speech. Best of all, he brings the question of women’s rights and gay people into the argument. ’68 is, if anything, a shift the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk from principle to personal inclination; as the Paris slogan had it: ‘Structures do not take to the streets.’ The significance of personal inclination, however, often seemed to depend on whose personal inclination it was. Radical students at Lanchester Polytechnic thought nothing of shouting ‘Fascist pig! Get her knickers off!’ at a visiting Mrs Thatcher in 1971. Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panthers proposed that rape could be an insurrectionary act. Although feminists were a more significant part of the radical movement than they were of mainstream politics, they could not be guaranteed a warm welcome. The same was true of gay liberation movements, just beginning, and probably hardly recognised by the majority of heterosexual radicals. By the 1990s, the soixante-huitards had achieved the long march through the institutions; some were MEPs, like Daniel CohnBendit, British cabinet ministers, like Jack Straw, or even the leader of the free world like Bill Clinton. Vinen tells the story well — where the borders of his subject lie must have been a challenging question, and we will disagree on his decision to leave the Prague Spring out and include the IRA. He is capable of some puckish humour, including a wonderful photograph of Jack Straw, the student radical, dancing in a dinner jacket with the Duchess of Kent. He also brings up the sociologist Laurie Taylor’s idea that the bank robber John McVicar, having escaped from prison, might go into hiding with him and his radical housemates. ‘McVicar, no doubt feeling that lentil bake and consciousness raising would be worse than prison, sought refuge with his criminal acquaintances.’ When Mrs Thatcher first heard of Cohn-Bendit, she remarked, in a 1968 speech, that she had discovered that at the end of his degree, ‘his examiners said that he had posed a series of most intelligent questions. Significant? I would have been happier if he had also found a series of intelligent answers.’ Those answers came slowly, and are still coming. To have found those questions — if they were questions — was probably enough. 29 BOOKS & ARTS Clouds with silver linings Mark Vanhoenacker Skybound: A Journey in Flight by Rebecca Loncraine Picador, £16.99, pp. 320 Over the years I’ve been in touch with a number of middle-aged professionals who, despite the success they’ve found in their chosen careers, have asked themselves whether perhaps they should have become pilots instead. Among these correspondents (the fly-curious, we might call them), architects make up the largest contingent. It’s hard to know why this might be. But in the absence of a better explanation, I’ve come to enjoy the idea that both pilots and architects have found inspiration in realms that, despite popular associations with freedom, are in fact unusually constrained: by simple or not-so-simple physics by the corporeal realities of humans; by elaborate rules and strict regulations. This ‘bonsai’ description of flight’s wonder — of transcendence arising within an endeavour despite, or as a result of, the extreme limitations imposed on it — is also the best way to understand the pleasures of Rebecca Loncraine’s Skybound. Indeed, she laboured under two additional constraints. First, in choosing to write about gliding, she threw overboard the engines that have powered, and perhaps unfairly dominated, generations of books about flying. Second, her discovery of gliding, and the depths of her love for it, came in response to her battle with cancer, which ended in September 2016, when she was 42. The result of her efforts (and those of her mother, Trisha Loncraine, who shepherded this book to publication) is a particularly lovely and poignant work, and a valuable contribution to the literature of flight from a brave young pilot who will sadly never offer us another. Among the book’s most obvious pleasures are the straightforward descriptions of gliding itself, an activity that, at least on the wings of Loncraine’s clean-lined prose, compares to most people’s experience of flight in much the same way as a beloved old sailing boat a couple of friends might take out on a fine Saturday afternoon compares with an enormous cruise liner. Take, for example, the joyful vitality of her description of thermal lift, one of several kinds of lift a glider may soar on, and the kind that also produces fluffy cumulus clouds. A glider pilot, she writes, may use ‘thermals as stepping stones to travel across the sky, circling beneath one cloud, on the rising thermal of air that is forming it, to gain altitude and then travelling forward to the next cloud, and so on’. This pilot, for one, may never contemplate cumulus clouds again without smiling at the possibility of flying engineless between the pillars of sun-warmed air that raise them, as a frog might leap between lily pads, but ever higher. Indeed, the list of places, creatures and phenomena I won’t think of in quite the same way after reading Skybound isn’t much shorter than the book itself. A good portion of the text is a kind of open-hearted travel writing from above, as the author sails over the Black Mountains of Wales, where ‘a shadow passes briefly across a bit of rough ground and then disappears again, like a half-remembered moment’; Hay When your grandfather, my great grandfather, lay dying the man he had worked for, years ago, sent a cartload of hay to strew in the road under his window, to muffle the sound of wheels going by. Everyone in the village must have seen this time he’d had it. All that good hay just going to waste. I bet the children were longing to go and play in it, the way we always built houses and dens at haymaking. I bet the dogs wanted to roll in it, the horses all wanted to stop and snack. He must have heard the people outside, saying – No, no, come ON, it’s not for playing – walk on, walk on – raising dust in their voices. I don’t know the time of year but he might have picked the first of Spring, like you, blue skies, an open window letting in the sweet smell of last year’s grass, the sounds of animals, and the kindly, frightened whispers. —Sian Hughes 30 New Zealand, where the ‘Southern Alps are like some giant unknowable body’; and the Himalayas, where a ‘lake is a dark silvery plain beneath us’. I’ve been to none of these places, yet I now feel I know them, or can at least imagine them, as I might the faces of characters in a favourite novel. In addition to these landscapes, and their skies and their signature winds, we come to know the community of gliding instructors and enthusiasts who welcomed Loncraine, and whom she embraced. And then there are the birds. Both from the ground and from high in her glider, Loncraine meditates on feathered friends of all stripes: swallows, buzzards, red kites, hawks, eagles and, most memorably, vultures. The role of birds in her book — as teachers, companions and wisdombearing (it’s easy to think) representatives of all that industrial civilisation has taken from us — makes it hard to resist the conclusion that gliding might be the purest form of flight that we can know. Without an engine, after all, the glider pilot has no choice but to seek a particularly close communion with the natural world. It’s a lovely point, and one that Loncraine returns to often, as when she relates the words of a gliding colleague who noted the possibility that vultures, which can spot rising air from the dust and insects that are swept upwards by it, may also use gliders — i.e., us, at our most free — as clues to the location of lift. What a pleasing thought that is. One of the challenges of writing a broadly appealing book about a subject such as gliding is that the author must often craft technical explanations that are simultaneously accessible, precise and brief. A few professional brows may furrow in response to certain descriptions or phrasings, for example about the relationship between a glider’s attitude and its speed (‘I hold the stick in place to maintain speed, or “attitude” as it’s called’). But no one will mistake this lyrical book for a technical document. Indeed, if Skybound is a manual for anything, it’s for how to find lift on the Earth in the face of uncertainties and certainties that are never far from any of us, but which Loncraine was forced to confront at much too early an age. I won’t soon forget her meditations on fear and flight, on home and family, on the scars she spied and circled on the Welsh landscape below her, and on the quasi-medical paraphernalia, such as an oxygen-supplying cannula, that echoed her cancer treatments even as they allowed her to fly ever higher. ‘Learning to fly,’ she wrote, ‘is like asking the universe… to let me go into the world to live and soar with joy and the possibility of death.’ It seems safe to conclude that the universe agreed to Loncraine’s request, and that in return it asked only that she leave us with this remarkable book. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES ries. She has the art of weaving Velázquez’s works — the eggs spitting in oil, the Count-Duke of Olivares on horseback, the tiny princess Margarita in her impossible dress — through the developing relationship, even friendship, of Diego and Felipe. We share with Velázquez the first flashes of inspiration. A dwarf, resting his foot on a snoozing hound: good motif, that. Must remember it. And there they are, dog and dwarf, in ‘Las Meninas’. Felipe IV makes Jay Gatsby look a mean cheese-on-sticks sort of host P-p-p-poor Prince Charles (our future Charles I) turns up, stuttering, and the Habsburgs make jokes about his ‘boyfriend’ the Duke of Buckingham, who wears pompoms on his stockings. Rubens arrives — ‘the famous Fleming’— with his entourage and flunkeys to paint pink, naked ladies, ‘all abandon and inner thigh’. Rubens claps Velázquez on the back and stirs his ambition. The blurb suggests this is a book for readers of Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill. Yes, they are both historical novels about a young man of wits seeking his fortune. But while Golden Hill races over the rooftops with the reader puffing to keep up, Painter to the King is stately, like an infanta in a farthingale proceeding down a long Alcazar corridor. Sackville’s summoning of time and place is exquisitely done, but the effect is less moving pictures than stylish still lives. The Spanish court’s fondness for dwarfs and dogs is captured by Velázquez Tawdry lustre Laura Freeman Painter to the King by Amy Sackville Granta, £14.99, pp. 336 ‘Nine hours,’ boasted my friend the curator about his trip to the Prado. Nine! Two hours is my upper limit in a gallery. After that I’m gasping for the tea room and gift shop. Knowing my lack of stamina, my own trip to the Prado was focused: just Velázquez and Goya. Then lunch. And a bit of Rubens, because that large room of lovely bottoms is so ‘Hello, sailor!’ it would be rude not to look. It helps to have a mind’s gallery of Diego Velázquez portraits while reading Amy Sackville’s novel Painter to the King. Not essential, but definitely enriching. If you haven’t a Madrid mini-break booked, have a nose around the Prado collection online. Sadly, you can’t visit El Buon Retiro, Felipe IV’s pleasure palace outside the the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk city, now mostly ruined and demolished. ‘Dust veils everything,’ writes Sackville, as workmen lay the foundations; ‘these buildings coming out of it like dreams in the desert.’ When the retreat is finished it is all ‘gleam and lustre’, but also ‘tawdry’. Here, Felipe (1606–1665) and his fawning court hunt, play, eat, prance about in their petticoats, giggle at their dwarfs and squander, squander, squander money meant for the army. Felipe makes Jay Gatsby look a mean, cheese-on-sticks sort of host. ‘This long and briefly passing sequinned decade’ is how Sackville describes Felipe’s party years. Painter to the King is her third novel. The first, The Still Point, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; the second, Orkney, won a Somerset Maugham Award. Madrid isn’t Orkney. The 17th-century city conjured up by Sackville is a place of sex, siestas and sanctimonious piety, a city quick to anger and riot. Sackville writes beautifully, imagining the court in painterly detail: its fashions, its stultifying formalities, its hierarchies and petty, poisonous rival- A heartwarming spectacle of desolation Graham Robb The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands by Donald S. Murray Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp. 256 In 2008, the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie characterised the typical exponent of modern nature writing as ‘the lone enraptured male’. This was a more solemn, grownup Basil Fotherington-Thomas, the effete schoolboy of the Molesworth books who prances about in puerile pantheistic ecstasy, saying, ‘hullo clouds, hullo sky’. Ten years on, there is barely a British landscape that has not been visited by the species. He sits in a car until he reaches the chosen spot. Then, winding down the window, stunned by emptiness and silence, he savours the momentary disconnection from global networks. The void is soon filled with childhood memories, poems learnt at school and Wikipedia articles. Wordsworthian plangency is provided by climate change or 31 GETTY IMAGES BOOKS & ARTS Eilean Donan Castle on Skye, with peat bog and marsh in the foreground some ghastly development in the writer’s life — sickness, bereavement, midlife crisis or divorce — which leads him to consider all of Nature as a gigantic emotional support animal. Donald Murray’s spartan trudge through peat bogs and moorland — mostly Scottish but also Irish, Dutch, German and Australian — has not a hint of Molesworth nor even of Wordsworth. Murray grew up on the almost ‘empty’ Isle of Lewis, cutting and stacking the oozing slabs of peat with his father, digging down to the layer of mòine dhubh (‘black peat’), ‘the one closest to coal both in its shade and its heat-giving properties’. With every year that passed, the black tide receded, leaving an ever bleaker landscape of gravel and rock. I was reminded of Ivor Cutler family nature walks in Life in a Scotch Sitting Room: Then Father became instructive: ‘Look, a tree’, he would say, or ‘Look, a patch of grass’. But on Lewis, the woods were swallowed long ago by the bog: Sometimes there were the roots of the old trees that had once covered the island found within the peat there, burnished silver by its oil. One fifth of Scotland is peat moorland. It grows, on average, one millimetre every two years, but it can be destroyed within a few generations or a few days, when the burning of heather flares out of control 32 and whole regions suffer from the reek in which the inhabitants of Highland blackhouses lived: If there was a quick change in wind direction, a gust might send smoke swirling into the kitchen, leaving everyone within range of the Rayburn coughing and spluttering incoherently. As a poet, journalist, teacher and Hebridean, Murray’s raptures are muted and he has a genuine, respectful interest in other people’s lives. Most of The Dark Stuff is based on interviews and conversations with Peat grows on average one millimetre every two years, but it can be destroyed in a matter of days moor-dwellers and historians. Moor history tends to be either sad or horrific: some of the bloodiest battles were fought on moors; deserters and non-conformists fled to them, prisons and lunatic asylums were built on their barrenness. Peat-blades slice into the skeletons of sheep and the mutilated bodies of prehistoric criminals. Misguided reclamation schemes condemned whole communities to years of fruitless toil. Murray is reminded of Robert Garioch’s poem ‘Sisyphus’: ‘Sisyphus, pechan an sweitan, disjakit, forfeuchan and broun’d aff,/ Sat on the heather… houpan the Boss didna spy him.’ These bracingly dismal examples of moorland poetry are one of the delights of this lyrical ramble. A metropolitan reader might find them infectiously depressing, but Murray relishes the heartwarming spectacle of desolation. On a sunny day in the fens of Emsland in Lower Saxony, he longs ‘for rain, a lash or two of wind’. He marches along, ‘recalling the rhythm and words of an old song’: ‘Far and wide as the eye can wander,/ Heath and bog are everywhere./ Not a bird sings out to cheer us./ Oaks are standing gaunt and bare.’ The original song, ‘Die Moorsoldaten’, was sung by German prisoners in concentration camps in the 1930s. They were sent to reclaim the nation’s peat bogs for agriculture. Only here, near the end of the book, does the theme of conservation rise to the surface. ‘Succumbing,’ says Murray, to the Romantic nostalgia for moorland, Adolf Hitler issued an edict in 1941 which called for a halt to the process of ‘desertification’. Murray, too, is ‘tempted’ to ‘preach the gospel of peat conservation’, but he is also sympathetic to islanders who resent official interference with their peat-cutting traditions, knowing all the while that, one day, the peat will run out, as it already has on the Aran Islands, St Kilda and Tiree. The peat-cutters may not need to worry. In Scotland, irreplaceable resources are constantly under threat from off-road vehicles, mismanaged grouse shoots, wind farms which will have to remain productive for hundreds of years to counterbalance the damage they cause to moorland and, of course, roads and parking places for all those lone enraptured males. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Robert Pope, dies unexpectedly, Holmes is appointed literary executor. But the discovery of a cache of hitherto unknown, sexually explicit poems casts doubt on what Holmes thought he knew about his friend, his life in the suburbs, his work and his relationships, particularly those with his wife Jill and with Matt himself. What should happen to the poems? Should they be suppressed? Or should Matt publish and, like Patrick Hemingway, be damned? The extent to which we can ever really know other people — and ourselves — is of course a subject Morrison has written about before, most famously in And When Did You Last See Your Father? In The Execu- How much should details of an artist’s private life inform our judgment of their art? The executor’s song Andy Miller The Executor by Blake Morrison Chatto, £16.99, pp. 291 In 1999, Patrick Hemingway published True at First Light, a new novel by his father Ernest. In his role as literary executor of the late writer’s estate, Patrick edited an unfinished manuscript of some 200,000 words down to a more marketable ‘fictional memoir’ of less than half that length. The book hit the bestseller lists but received largely negative reviews, most notably from Joan Didion in the New Yorker. ‘This was a man to whom words mattered,’ she wrote. ‘His wish to be survived by only the words he determined fit for publication would have seemed clear enough.’ To which the man charged with safeguarding Papa’s posthumous reputation responded, somewhat plaintively: I think it’s a very valid argument. The only trouble is my father did leave the material; he didn’t destroy it. Perhaps he didn’t intend to have it published, but when people are dead it’s hard to know what they want. The setting of Blake Morrison’s new novel is that zone of uncertainty: how can we know what dead people want? Matt Holmes is the deputy editor of the books section of a broadsheet newspaper. When his friend, the moderately successful poet the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk tor he asks not just how much one can know a writer via their work but also, topically, how much we should allow details of an artist’s private life to inform our judgment of their art. Morrison lets the reader be present at the discovery of several different drafts of Pope’s love/lust poems and to accompany Matt as he attempts to understand them, frame them and, in collaboration with Pope’s widow Jill, his agent Louis and editor Lexy, prepare them for publication. At the end of the novel we are given this posthumous selection Love’s Alphabet in full — as the agent puts it: The book. As edited by Lexy. She gets a collection she can be proud of, Jill’s appeased, and we do our bit by Rob… if the response is good we’ll do an expanded version in a year or two. Morrison is of course a gifted poet with a career somewhat more glittering than the fictional dead poet he ventriloquises here. Pleasingly, this means that for the purposes of this novel he has composed good poetry, mediocre poetry and, occasionally, plain bad poetry too, inviting the reader’s complicity in the editorial process of what to discard: I can’t help loving your friends. Sally, Brigitte, Daphne, Cindy — not all at once. But each has been to bed With me. If you knew, you’d call me indiscriminate. But would you want me to sleep with someone you hate? (For what it’s worth, that one doesn’t make the cut.) The Executor is a literary detective story with a decidedly literary twist and a depiction of the sort of competitive male friendship where the demise of one chum serves only to ramp things up a notch. To be appointed literary executor is to be the recipient of a questionable bequest, one involving thankless labour, intense rivalry and inevitable compromise — which may be, Morrison suggests, exactly what the dead want all along. Babes in the wood Julie Myerson The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal Viking, £12.99, pp. 262 Mona — single, childless, pushing 60 — sells wooden dolls made by a carpenter friend, which she delicately costumes from odds and ends of fabric sourced in charity shops. But her business has an odd spin-off: mothers who’ve suffered past stillbirths can come and ‘order’ a lump of carved wood made to the specified birthweight of their dead child. By cradling this weight and imagining the future the baby never had, they work towards a kind of closure. Meanwhile, Mona herself — who grew up in Ireland but lived in Birmingham through the IRA bombings — has a tragedy of her own on which she has little or no closure. Far too few novels feature protagonists who are post-menopausal — and, much to her creator’s credit, Mona hopes and yearns and plans like any thirtysomething. So, despite the fact that alarm bells tend to ring whenever I read about grown women and dolls (only one sad step from soft toys on the bed), I still began Kit de Waal’s second novel and follow-up to her deservedly bestselling My Name is Leon, with hope in my heart. Sadly, it was soon dashed. Almost every aspect of this well-meaning novel is pedestrian and unconvincing, from the sinisterly cultured ‘gentleman’ neighbour, who courts Mona with quips such as ‘sometimes one must act on impulse’ and ‘marrying food with wine is an art’, through to the cluttered monotone of Irish aunts and neighbours, whose only function is to trigger each stage of the flashback-heavy narrative. Bafflingly for a writer whose debut was so acclaimed, de Waal doesn’t seem to have learned the first rule of novel writing: you don’t need to include all that repartee with hairdressers and hotel receptionists. In fact, more than anything, this novel is crying out for a bit of the pace, shape and attitude that comes from being less in thrall to your own inventiveness and more willing simply to edit. It’s a shame, not to say a missed opportunity, because there are potent themes to explore here. I have no idea whether parents really do use shaped wood to grieve stillbirths, but it’s a compelling image and one I was willing to go along with. But these moments aren’t quite well enough realised to incite empathy. Meanwhile, in Mona’s own story, plot twists are slyly withheld, and one’s deliberately encouraged to jump to the wrong conclusion. That’s the second rule I’d have expected de Waal to have learned: you need to leave your reader feeling moved, not with an uneasy sense of being cheated. 33 BOOKS & ARTS Hooked for life Nicholas Shakespeare The Old Man and the Sand Eel by Will Millard Viking, £14.99, pp. 322 In Havana, one week before President Obama unthawed half a century of cold relations with Cuba, I talked to the last fisherman to have known Ernest Hemingway. Oswald Carnero came from Cojimar — where the writer kept his boat, the Pilar — and was one of the villagers to whom Hemingway dedicated his Nobel Prize after publishing The Old Man and the Sea. Carnero had met him in 1950, aged 13.‘He was bringing in a big marlin on his boat. He asked me if I could skin the fish.’ Thereafter Carnero sold Hemingway turtle flesh for soup and ran errands, scurrying back to the Pilar with bottles of White Horse, and going up to his house, the Finca Vigía. (‘Put your feet in the water,’ Hemingway told him, motioning at the pool, ‘Ava Gardener has just swum naked here.’) Hemingway pumped Carnero for details of the Gulf Stream to incorporate in the film of The Old Man and the Sea, about an ageing Cuban fisherman who hooks a giant marlin. ‘I was in the movie. I had to row out in a boat and fish.’ Now aged 79, Carnero was banned even from stepping into a boat without a licence, in case he sailed 90 miles north to Miami — which, from the expression in his landlocked eyes, he felt a powerful tug to do. Will Millard is a BBC documentary maker from the Fens who, like Carnero, has fished all his life. He takes the central drama behind Hemingway’s last novel as the motivation to continue the story from where Papa left off, but from the perspective of an English fresh-water angler. His giant marlin is a small sand-eel in Dorset which he hooks and then loses. In the competitive world of sand-eels, this little lost fish — ‘knocking on the door of one pound’ — was ‘an absolute monster’, and would instantly have gained for Millard a new British fishing record. ‘There are few sensations in life that can match the angler’s immeasurable sense of loss when a big fish slips from their grasp.’ His failure inspires him to go out and find ‘the native, truly wild populations’ of our island’s fish — e.g. perch, carp, pike, eel — and sets Millard on a redemptive towpath that sees him discovering the hidden waterways of Britain. By selecting the most unlikely and, at first glance, most unpropitious beats, he picks up material for a book as delightful and informative as Morten Strøksnes’s Shark Drunk, which tracked that Norwegian journalist’s attempt to catch a Greenland shark. The Old Man and The Sand Eel will be enjoyed by anyone who loves the challenge and mystery of baiting a hook and plopping it into the water, then waiting with every atom of your concentration to feel a responsive handshake from the deep. ‘Fishing by its very nature is prying into a largely unseen world and trying to make a connection.’ Millard is a cheerful version of Cormac McCarthy’s solitary adolescent hero Suttree. His quest takes him to ‘spots where most wouldn’t think to cast a line: tangled underworlds, crumbling docks and urban rivers, the dwellings of the truly abandoned’. Here, in the hardest places to catch them, among submerged tyres and supermarket trolleys, live the best fish. Behind a Watford Gap service station, an 8lb eel. On the Grand Union Canal near Leicester, a recordbreaking tench. From a Cardiff canal, Millard draws a spawn-filled female pike like ‘a precious sword from the stone’. His Arthurian moment is reverently observed from under the bridge by a spliff-smoking boy: ‘I’ve seen some crazy shit down here but I ain’t never seen anything like that.’ No split-cane toff, Millard has little truck with the snobbery he sees exemplified by dainty rodmen like Jeremy Paxman for whom fly-fishing embodies ‘some Platonic ideal’ — when all you’re trying to do is ‘convince a fish that a piece of fluff is worth having’. He writes: ‘If I were allowed to fish using only one method for the rest of my life then the float would be it.’ About his piece of fluff, he’s not choosy, once spending an afternoon fishing with a Pot Noodle. He recommends chicken offal for eels, maggots Romanx We could barely look at each other, Barely acknowledge the embrace, Clinging to each other, almost cringing, Sometimes managing to hold conversation, Despite undertones of embarrassment; But once apart we were at it like rabbits, A Molotov of the romantic and the sexual Ignited our virtual union in the lone world. — Jane Solomon 34 for roach, roaches’ eyeballs for perch — although drawing the line at live ducklings for pike, as favoured by one Welsh fisherman he encountered. In the end, the bait matters less than the attitude of the baiter. A fellow fishing author reminds him: ‘The only unsuccessful fisherman is the one who is not enjoying what he’s doing.’ As with all good fishing books, Millard’s quest ‘to find Britain’s lost waterways’ becomes an excuse to trawl back over his life. The local doctor’s son, he grew up near Ely (named after the eel), ‘where people go mad because of the lack of hills’. He found his sanity, aged five, in floatfishing for roach. His own Papa Hemingway was his grandfather, ‘the greatest of all the great eels in my life’, an engineer on the Thames Barrier who had fished during the ‘Put your feet in the water,’ said Hemingway, pointing to the pool. ‘Ava Gardner has just swum naked here’ Blitz and who taught him the three secrets of angling: ‘Repetition and consistency’, plus ‘any good grandparent’. Their relationship is beautifully drawn, so that Millard’s prose can seem at times trapped in the formaldehyde of adolescence, and perhaps not fearful (enough) of hyperbole — the death’s head moth is ‘the coolest insect that ever lived’; a small shrew sniffing the air is ‘my most exciting discovery of all time’. But his exuberant lightness is deceptive, too. Taught by a master, he knows his stuff. He learns to blend in with his surrounds until, whiskers aquiver, he becomes a part of them, sensible to the shortening days, alert to the sounds of animals emerging from their burrows at night — or, tragically, no longer emerging. The pool frog, the orache moth, the slimy burbot, the water vole — his book is also a passionate quest for what he discovers we are about to lose: one in ten of the UK’s wildlife species is threatened with extinction. One in five of our birds is now on the protected list, but the statistics are direr for fish. By 2010 the Environment Agency had recorded a catastrophic 95 per cent decline in the eel population. Millard brings his discoveries and wisdom, like a catch, back from the towpath. It makes him notice and enjoy life around him, and return to the water refreshed. In his water-based religion, each cast is a secret prayer. Sometimes the exciting pressure at the other end is a sodden suit jacket; sometimes, it’s another huge monster that gets away; sometimes it’s a large carp that he ‘flukes out’ with no waiting or effort; and sometimes there’s no pressure — teaching Millard that it actually doesn’t matter if you don’t catch anything at all, and that losing is ‘an acceptable part of what it means to be a true fisherman, and a better person’. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES Migrating cranes in Vasterbotten, Sweden The incredible journey Oliver Balch The Long Spring: Tracking the Arrival of Spring Through Europe by Laurence Rose Bloomsbury, £14.99, pp. 272 Sweet lovers, Shakespeare reminds us, love the spring. How can they not? All that wonderfully wanton colour, all that sensual fragrancy, all those budding promises of new life. And, lest we forget, all those yummy insects. For birds adore spring as well. Every year, regular as clockwork, hundreds of millions of our feathered friends take flight and head north. To hear their happy birdsong is to know that winter’s lugubrious cloak has lifted and that longer, livelier days lie ahead. No species is more symbolic of the season than the swallow. Before the age of smartphones and calendar apps, we relied on these fork-tailed speedsters to inform us of spring’s arrival. People would stare from their kitchen windows in anticipation. Laurence Rose, a true birder’s birder, still does. For these harbingers of spring to reach our shores is no mean feat. The winter feeding grounds of British swallows lie far south of the Sahara. That means their six-inch, steel-blue wings have to carry them over most of Africa, across the Mediterranean the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk and mainland Europe, until at last, in one final frenzy of flapping, they cross the English Channel. The Long Spring picks up the story from Africa’s north coast. What follows is a bird-hut-hopping journey of epic proportions. Rose travels up through Spain and France, and then home to the UK (he is an RSPB staffer, based in Yorkshire), before heading on northwards, to Sweden, Finland and Norway. For a hungry migratory bird, the journey might take a week. Rose gives it four months. With no nest to build or mate to find, he has time to dawdle. Only dawdling isn’t really his thing. He is forever on the move: jumping on buses, cycling down back-roads, ferrying across fjords, hiking up hills, walking coastal paths, sleeping in forests. As birders go, he exhibits remarkable energy. More remarkable still, however, is the breadth and depth of his ornithological knowledge. Rose knows his birds. I mean, really knows his birds. And not just swallows. Anything with a beak and two wings does it for him. Jackdaws, peregrines, shags, bustards, woodchats, harriers, eagles, tits, storks, cranes (a particular favourite), whooper swans, godwits. You name it, he’s onto it. Binoculars and notebook always at the ready, he misses little and notices much. As a detailed primer to the world above our heads, The Long Spring makes for an inspiring, eye-opening read. It’s so busy up there, so teeming with life. And Rose is as affable and informed a guide as you could hope for. If you ever needed someone to explain the territorial spread of egrets or the sexual politics of male ruff sandpipers, then he’s your man. Nor is it just botanical information that fascinates him. Dotted throughout this revelatory, sky-fixed travelogue are cultural references to birds in folk tales and fables, poetry and song. While Rose generally wears his expertise lightly, he does occasionally stray into twitcher territory. For the average reader, details about the precise frequency of a bittern’s bellow (around 200 hertz) or the springtime changes to a cuckoo’s call (from major third to sharp minor third) feel like more information than may be necessary. Some of the etymological passages begin to weigh heavy too. Keen birders, however, will lap this up. In many ways, The Long Spring is an oldstyle nature book. For one, Rose does not impose himself on his subject, as so many contemporary nature writers do. Birds are not a fig-leaf for his own story. We get glimpses of the author, certainly; his conservation work for the RSPB; his encounters with fellow birders and his views on hunting (evil, malo, mauvais). But this is a man who spent his honeymoon guiding a coachload of birdwatchers. In short, birds are what makes Rose tick, not Rose. Nor does he fall into the new nature 35 BOOKS & ARTS writing’s other trap of fetishising the natural world. Rose may be all about the birds, but he is not ignorant of their context. This is not lyrical escapism. His is a real-world journey, through a city-strewn Europe, where industrial plants impinge on bird reserves and gamekeepers poison eagles. So, yes, he shares his joy at hearing the ‘castanet-clattering’ of nesting storks. But, no, he doesn’t hide his horror at having to visit a nature reserve to see lapwings — something that ‘would never have occurred’ to him growing up in 1960s Kent. Where The Long Spring does seek to mirror modern trends is in the genre’s reputation for controlled, exquisite prose. Here, the bar is frighteningly high. To his credit, Rose gives it a good shot, resulting in some lovely purple passages and colourful descriptors: the ‘velvet-jet’ kites, the ‘loutish’ spotted cuckoos, the angular ibises that ‘look like an alphabet’. But the pressure constantly to enliven and enrich strains the language. His pen, one feels, is struggling against a southerly headwind. Scooby Doo, where are you? Julie Burchill Not in Front of the Children: Hidden Histories in Kids’ TV by Greg Healey New Haven Publishing, £12.99, pp. 256 There are two sorts of people: those who can’t wait to grow up, and those who wish they never had to. It’s fair to say that women figure predominantly in the first group and men in the second, hence the preponderance of male fans of science fiction and fantasy — and dewy-eyed reminiscence about children’s television. I’ve been in many female friendship groups and can’t remember a single occasion on which we’ve sat around thinking about past puppets. On the contrary, the childish things we typically recall are our awful choices of make-up and clothes, and our adoration of the pretty-boy pin-ups in our teenage bedrooms: that is, the things we used to hasten the arrival of longed-for adult life. The internet helps those reluctant to put away childish things just as much as it helps those too shy to have sex with real people. I imagine the Venn diagram of the two types has an overlap the size of Alaska. And it can be no accident that one of the first internet sensations was Friends Reunited, where adults, weary of the drudging, workaday world and their grudging grown-up marriages, could seek out their playground loves and feel young again. There is no end to the online appetite for sweetness of all sorts; websites celebrat36 Making What has gone into this? You hardly know At the beginning what you’ve locked inside The wobbly frame or where the thing will go. It could run off still – might prefer to hide – You don’t know if there’s something there or not. All you can do is keep on building it A sort of home, with shrubs, a garden plot, A shed for secrets and a well of wit. You make a bed, a chair, put in some books, A telescope, with access to the stars, And then perhaps you spot it as it looks Out of this habitat of fourteen bars. One look’s enough sometimes: the spirit dies On meeting even the maker’s gentle eyes. —Alistair Elliot ing nostalgic confectionery flourish, leading to the paradox that middle-class parents communally fetishise the sweets they ate as schoolchildren while treating the confectionery their little darlings might get their clammy paws on as the work of the devil. There’s even a school of writing named after defunct candy; the coming-of-age novel The Queen of Bloody Everything was recently hailed as ‘a wonderful example of Spangles Lit’. Greg Healey writes a column for the gorgeously named Shindig! magazine on this very subject and — perhaps because of the exclamation mark — I was expecting Not in Front of the Children to be a rompish easy read. But this look at children’s television animations from the end of the 1950s to the early 1970s is social history of Parents fetishise the sweets they ate as children but treat today’s confectionery as the work of the devil great depth and erudition; Healey is not messing around when he titles chapters ‘Mr Benn and the Five Stages of Grief’, ‘Mary Mungo and Midge and the New Jerusalem’ and ‘Scooby Doo and Our American Monsters’. Who knew, for instance, that the bowler hat and pinstripe combo of the stereotypical City clerk started life, respectively, as protective headgear for workingclass men in high-risk occupations, and as a way of identifying convicts? Or that the 1954 committee of the Wolfenden Report on sexual offences was asked to refer to homosexuality and prostitution as Huntley and Palmers (after the biscuit manufacturers) in order to spare the feelings of ladies present? Healey is a lovely writer, playful and original: the animated Mr Benn, minus the briefcase and umbrella of the books, he says, looks ‘oddly naked, incomplete and maybe even a little flighty’. Should we be worried that people now find maturity increasingly difficult? Has it something to do with nuclear weapons and knowing we’ll never again have to get out ourselves and defend the realm? Well, the ‘kidult’ has been with us for more than a decade, and though women may complain about male ‘commitmentphobes’ (aka someone who’s waiting for someone he’s really keen on before he gets married), there seem, if anything, to be rather too many children around in the West — especially in restaurants. But there is always the spectre of half a million young Japanese men — hikikomori — who have entirely forsaken adult life for the solitary pleasures of online gaming and pornography. They are an important component in what the Japanese government calls ‘celibacy syndrome’, an imminent national catastrophe which has seen nearly half of their young women as well as more than a quarter of their young men ‘not interested in, or despising, sexual contact’. The Japanese Family Planning Association predicts a whopping one third plunge in the country’s population by 2060. Feminism — often blamed for the rise of the kidult — is hardly a big thing in Japan; but the nuclear bomb certainly was. So, given such extremes in Japan, perhaps we should be keeping a weather eye on our own ‘adultescents’. It’s mind-blowing to think that a fondness for Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds could lead a species to the brink of extinction. But stranger things happen at sea — especially if Captain Pugwash is in charge. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES Jacques Lacan: shrink from hell or the greatest psychoanalyst since Freud? The great seducer Stuart Jeffries Life with Lacan by Catherine Millot Polity, £16.99, pp. 128 Peyrot, the chef at Le Vivarois in Paris, had a fascinating theory of how one of his regulars, the otherwise taciturn psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, communicated. ‘He was convinced that the farts and burps which Lacan, as a free man, did not restrain in public, were meant to signal to Peyrot the two syllables of his name,’ recalls Catherine Millot. A translator’s footnote helpfully explains that in French pet means fart and rot burp. I love this story as told in this beguiling memoir by Lacan’s last lover — and not just because it evokes a time when deference to Gallic intellectuals was such that even their airy nothings were submitted to bravura semiotic analysis. No, I love the story most for the light it throws on the man who some maintain to be the greatest psychoanalytical theorist since Freud but who others have called the shrink from hell. Public farter and unashamed burper, terrifying (to his passengers) flouter of speed limits, shrink who had affairs with patients and ex-wives of close friends, Lacan liked to remind people that his star sign was Aries, the ram. Millot writes that her ram endlessly the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk butted up against what he called the ‘real’, namely that which resisted his desire. That no doubt explains why he was arrested once for barrelling down the hard shoulder of an otherwise congested autoroute after hitherto stationary and angry French motorists swerved into his path to impede his progress. Even though French road users hated him, Lacan was, to Millot, captivatingly lawless, someone who ‘paid no attention to prohibitions or conventions’. ‘He didn’t like Torn between Millot and another lover, Lacan invited both women to join him in a ménage in Umbria closed doors any more than he liked red traffic lights,’ she adds approvingly. Well, nobody does, but only a few people — Lacan, sociopaths — don’t respect them. Millot was being analysed by Lacan in 1972 when she became his lover. He was 70 and she, at 28, younger than his eldest daughter Caroline. Is it unethical, or at least destructive to a therapeutic relationship, for a shrink to seduce his patient? Wasn’t Millot foolish to be captivated by an inveterate philanderer? Is farting in public one of the human rights the French fought for in 1789 or just the hallmark of a very selfish man? Millot doesn’t address these questions head on, but instead disarmingly describes her sense of the headiness of their affair. ‘We became, so to speak, inseparable,’ she writes, and then immediately checks herself: ‘There was a “he”, Lacan, and there was an “I”, myself, who followed him: this did not make a “we”.’ It’s a remark that calls out for a hashtag of solidarity, a #MeToo of women not always entirely unhappily caught up in the slipstreams of great men. Lacan was, Millot writes, what the French call fusionnel — someone who constantly demanded a presence at his side. There is an English word for that kind of guy, too: nightmare. No matter. Millot fell for Lacan because of his ‘straightforward desire that gave him his zest for life and simplified everything’. Early on in their affair, he takes her to Rome, deploying his lawless personality to force his way into closed galleries and convents, vexing gatekeepers and sweet-talking nuns in order to show his new lover art and antiquities. As a fart-concealing, probably thereby deeply repressed, Englishman, I read such passages yearning to be as forcefully antinomian as Lacan and, indeed, wondering how many ex-lovers would be eulogising me in memoirs had I succeeded. ‘All the vanities were consumed in his disdain for everything except the essential,’ Millot writes. ‘Life with him was like a great bonfire, where all false values were burnt away.’ I couldn’t help reading such passages aloud in the sultry voice that another appealing Catherine — Deneuve — brought to her lubricious duet, ‘Dieu est un fumeur de Havanes’, with randy 37 BOOKS & ARTS old Serge Gainsbourg, though that’s probably unfair of me. In any case, Lacan’s desire did not always simplify everything. In the summer of 1973, he was torn between Millot and another lover, called only ‘T’, so he invited both women to join him in a ménage in Umbria. The women declined to take part in this love triangle. ‘It would have taken a strong degree of liking for me to overcome that jealousy whose agonies I knew all too well,’ explains Millot sensibly. But she insists that Lacan was more than a desiring machine, implacably bent on getting what he wanted. In Budapest, she lusts after a pair of high heels worn by a passerby. Lacan immediately scampers after the woman to find out where she bought them. Moral? ‘Putting himself at the service of the desire of the other was part of the ethics of Lacan. For him there were no small desires, the least wish was enough.’ Millot’s elegantly written little volume, winner of the Prix de littérature André-Gide, serves as refreshing antidote to those who pigeonhole Lacan as writer of gibberish and irresponsible id, one who indulged his whims to such an extent that he would see his tailor, his pedicurist and his barber in the consulting room during therapy sessions at which he might punch or pull the hair of a patient. In his textbook on psychoanalysis The Analytic Experience, for instance, Neville Symington refers only once to Lacan, and then only as a case study of the shrink as unwitting hypocrite. Lacan was violently anti-authoritarian and ‘yet when he was in authority over his own society he was enormously authoritarian, seemingly without knowing it’. Indeed, his authoritarian machinations as leader of the L’Ecole Freudienne de Paris figure in Millot’s reminiscences, but glossed as triumphs of his will over humbler beings with, you’d think, less auspicious star signs. Millot decided to write this book when she was the same age as Lacan was when they became lovers, and so she has had time to reflect on her life with the psychoanalyst, who died 37 years ago. Like Edith Piaf, she regrets nothing. Well, not quite. Once, on a trip to London, Lacan, spotting a picture of the Queen, told Millot that she resembled her — quite a disappointment for someone who hoped she looked like Brigitte Bardot. It’s hard not to find Millot endearing, particularly when she tells such stories against herself. On another occasion, a lover whom she replaces tells Lacan snarkily that in his new girl he has clearly found ‘the missing link between human and ape’. Millot, superbly, takes the jibe on the chin. ‘I have long arms and a somewhat protruding jaw,’ she concedes. What did Lacan see in Catherine Millot, apart from a resemblance to apes and queens? He tells her that he has always gone for 30 year olds. The implication is 38 that, for all his philandering, he remained loyally fixated on one woman — albeit the ideal of a thirtysomething — eternally feminine, whose real instances (such as his first lover, whom he met aged 17, and his last, whom he seduced half a century later) serially captivated him as he aged. The book has hilarious moments. In 1976, Millot and Lacan visit the ageing philosopher and former Nazi Martin Heidegger, who has suffered a stroke. His wife insists the visitors don slippers as they enter. Once settled, Lacan launches into a long disquisition on the Borromean knots that, as Millot explains, became such an important feature of his thought. He even produces a piece of paper to sketch his knots, while Heidegger, lying on a chaise longue, like an analysand driven to desperate measures by his babbling shrink, closes his eyes and says not a word. ‘I wondered if this was his way of expressing his lack of interest or whether it was due to the decline of his mental faculties,’ muses Millot. Either way, Lacan (‘not a man to give up’) obstinately carries on wittering about knots until Frau Heidegger, concerned the visit is tiring her husband, ushers them out, not before reclaiming the slippers. Such was the meeting of two great European intellectuals. We will never know, presumably, if Heidegger’s silence implied rejection of late Lacanian psychoanalytical theory, but it is possible. Critics have long suggested that Lacan was a corrupt manipulator, one who in his later years reduced the duration of therapeutic sessions to ten minutes or fewer so that he could maximise the throughput of patients and thereby profit more (he died in 1981, they never fail to point out, a multimillionaire). Millot’s denouement undermines that cynical image. It was through his work in the consulting room with the woman he loved that, ultimately, Lacan got what he didn’t want, an end to their affair. In analysis, she realised that her great desire was to have a child. ‘In the name of this desire, I cruelly separated from him, so as to have a chance of fulfilling it. It was a wrench for me, and an earthquake for him.’ The ram, so used to getting his way, for once could not overcome the real. While he was apparently heartbroken until death, she flourished, becoming both a mother and an eminent Lacanian psychoanalyst. And now she brings into being, like Proust, a past that seemed forever inaccessible: ‘While writing I have rediscovered many bygone days and in sudden flashes of insight, the entirety of his being has been restored to me.’ Minus, one supposes, the farts and burps. An act of piety Brian Martin Census by Jesse Ball Granta, £14.99, pp. 241 Census is a curious, clever novel. It depicts a dystopia with a father and his Down’s syndrome son journeying from town A to town Z taking a census. The father, the narrator, knows he is dying. As a retired doctor he can interpret the fatal signs of his disease. His is a bizarre family; his wife, who has predeceased him, trained as a clown. Condemned to death and left with his disadvantaged son — ‘Our lives, my wife’s and mine, bent round him like a shield’ — he decides to register as a census-taker in an Orwellian state office. He asks questions of those interviewed, to which he sometimes but not always gets an answer The novel becomes a parable, or rather a series of parables, complete with riddles. It explores the nature of the Down’s syndrome son and has its origins in the reallife relationship of Jesse Ball with his dead younger brother Abram, whose photographs appear at the end of the book. How does such a person survive? The answer is: some with difficulty, some with happiness. How do other people react to them? Again the answer is variable: some with love, some with fear and ridicule. ‘It is so easy for humans to be cruel, and they leap at it.’ Such is the lot of the Down’s syndrome person. Ball’s style is spare and simple. It is literal and can be repetitive. He says his novels are purely repositories of thoughts. They are devoid of adjectives. Maybe the intention is to mimic a Down’s syndrome way of talking, direct and without device. Sometimes, though, the style becomes annoying. Yet the progress towards the narrator’s death in a ditch at Z is full of random but pertinent philosophising: ‘I was in a hurry. I was dying; is there any hurry greater than that?’ One of Ball’s influences is the Japanese avant-garde writer, Kobo Abe. Scenes the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk A beautiful enigma Elizabeth Frood Nefertiti’s Face: Creation of an Icon by Joyce Tyldesley Profile Books, £20, pp. 240 Often dubbed the Mona Lisa of the ancient world, the bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti is as immediately recognisable as the pyramids and the Rosetta Stone. Yet almost everything about this sculpture is mysterious at best, or bitterly controversial at worst, from the context of its creation to questions surrounding its acquisition by the Berlin Museum. The cultural and political capital of ancient culture is sharply in our awareness — think of the Elgin marbles or Palmyra — so writing a biography of Nefertiti’s bust requires the author to navigate hotly competing opinions. Nefertiti was queen and consort to Akhenaten, a pharaoh who held power between about 1352 and 1336 BC; Egyptologists call this the ‘Amarna period’ after the new city he founded at Tell el-Amarna. By his fifth year, Akhenaten had promulgated a new religion focused around light. His god, called Aten, was depicted as a sun disc offering life to the king, Nefertiti, their daughters, and through them, to the world. The multitude of traditional Egyptian deities in their animal forms disappeared from official worship, and some were violently suppressed. This affected almost all areas of high culture — art, language and the performance of rulership, including queenship. It was an extreme transformation, and the period incites extreme views in scholarship. Akhenaten has been understood as everything from a scheming megalomaniac to a divinely inspired prophet — even an alien. He and Nefertiti loom so large in our imaginations that we often lose sight of everything else, despite the results of excavations at Tell el-Amarna which reveal much about ordinary life and death in the city. ‘The myths that today envelop the Amarna royal family are,’ Joyce Tyldesley observes, ‘entirely modern ones.’ Nefertiti’s enigmatic bust sits front and centre in this heady mix. Tyldesley negotiates these myths, and the complex, fragmentary evidence that they are drawn from, in a forthright style. She will ruffle feathers in the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ed the bust (although Tyldesley goes on to assume that he did), nor do we know why it was made, what its purpose was, or why she has just one eye. We can’t even be certain that the bust actually depicts Nefertiti: it’s so identified purely because of her flattopped crown. Tyldesley doesn’t offer solutions, but she lays out the arguments for us to make up our own minds, or at least to make us think twice. Nefertiti’s afterlife in the 20th and 21st centuries is a complicated story of Egyptological competition, competing nationalisms, and the power of celebrity. The bust was found by a German Egyptologist, Ludwig Borchardt, in 1912. At this time objects of particular importance found in excavations were meant to stay in Egypt. Borchardt clearly recognised Nefertiti’s significance, but it is unclear whether he deliberately concealed this from the French official responsible for assessing the objects, or whether this official simply did not rate the bust. Should Nefertiti be returned to Egypt? ‘Nefertiti’s bust was not … obviously stolen,’ Tyldesley writes, but admits: Bust of Nefertiti: ‘the Mona Lisa of the ancient world’ ‘Its acquisition was opportunistic to say the least.’ The moral and cultural arguments are complex, doing so, declaring, for example, ‘Akhen- but Tyldesley gives so much of a hearing to aten was not a monotheist’, and disputing the Eurocentric idea that returning the bust the notion that Nefertiti took the throne to Egypt would place it ‘in a sterile culturafter his death. I completely agree, but al vacuum which would exclude her from many won’t; and many questions remain. the modern world’, it made me want to The art of the period communicates its pop her in a suitcase and take her back changes most obviously. Bodies became to Egypt myself. languid, with elongated heads and faces. The modern reception of the bust is, Royal iconography became suddenly inti- for Tyldesley and many of us, bounded by mate: Akhenaten and Nefertiti are shown museums — the ‘modern equivalent of the dandling their daughters, chucking them ancient palaces and temples’ filled with under their chins. Akhenaten is even shown visitors who are ‘a self-selecting elite who munching a kebab (I dare you to find come to admire if not to worship’. Tyldesley a picture of Elizabeth II actually eating). is interested in replication: from accurate But ‘we are seeing style rather than real- reproductions to the sunglasses-wearing ism’; an audience was likely meant to be Nefertitis created by Isa Genzken. But like shocked, or at least jolted. In this context, any icon, Nefertiti has other lives beyond Nefertiti’s bust — with its refined, symmet- the museum. I think of the hip-hop artrical proportions — is hardly extreme: rath- ist Lauryn Hill embodying black royalty er the opposite. Tyldesley offers a nuanced by rapping that she is ‘more powerful than discussion of the making and meaning of two Cleopatras/bomb graffiti on the tomb images in ancient Egypt, including an of Nefertiti’. Or the graffito of the Nefertiti assessment of why we find the bust beauti- bust wearing a teargas mask stencilled on ful in the first place. Cairo walls by the artist El Zeft to acknowlThe story of the bust begins in a room edge the women of the 2011 revolution. of an ancient sculptor’s villa and workshop These hint at what is beyond the dominant in Tell el-Amarna. But, as Tyldesley points Western narratives articulated in this book. out, an ivory horse blinker found in the villa There are always other stories to be told, or is the only evidence associating the work- sung, or graffitied. Maybe after Tyldesley’s shop with a sculptor named Thutmose. We elegant introduction, we will begin to hear don’t know for sure that Thutmose sculpt- and see them. BRIDGEMAN IMAGES encountered on the trip call to mind Edward Hopper’s gloomy suburban paintings. There are allusions to Yeats and Eliot and to the great Christian poet George Herbert. Census is a help to greater understanding and an act of piety. It is a humane, surreal novel that in terms of its own artform embraces, and empathises with, the predicaments of a Down’s syndrome child and his parents. 39 BOOKS & ARTS ARTS The highs and hellish lows of superstructuralism Foster and Rogers wanted to save the planet – in fact, their high-tech architecture did the opposite, says Phineas Harper A mid the thick of the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale dispatched a plea to the Times deploring the lethal conditions of British military field hospitals. Ten times more soldiers were dying from diseases like cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds. Shocked, the War Office commissioned 49-year-old Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design the world’s first prefabricated hospital. Components were manufactured to Brunel’s specifications in Gloucestershire then rushed to Turkey for erection. He took the commission on 16 February 1855 and fewer than five months later, the new Renkioi Hospital could accept 300 patients (2,200 by March 1856). Infection rates collapsed. Nightingale called it ‘magnificent’. The new architecture of prefab had triumphed. Renkioi doesn’t appear in Superstructures, a new exhibition of techno joy-infused architecture at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, though its essence is shared with the buildings which do: off-site fabrication, large volumes enclosed by lightweight materials, a love of engineering, technological innovation — all supporting a social mission. The show, curated by Jane Pavitt and Abraham Thomas, celebrates the heyday of the high-tech movement. For those who enjoy a tensile membrane or tensioning cable detail, it’s a feast of objects capturing an exhilarating moment of, largely British, architectural experimentation marking the Sainsbury Centre’s 40th anniversary. The centre weighs 5,618.6 tons. We know this because when its architect, Norman Foster, took Richard Buckminster ‘Bucky’ Fuller to visit the completed structure by helicopter, the acclaimed inventor asked, ‘How heavy is your building, Norman?’ Foster didn’t know but a week later had made the calculations. That seemingly banal question is at the heart of the high-tech story, which was born in ecological utopianism. In act one, Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw et al launch into the new architectural language with optimistic swagger. Bucky’s calls for designers to ‘do more with less’, and Frei Otto’s Institute of Lightweight Structures, 40 had established the intellectual foundation for an environmentalist form of modernism which accomplishes great spatial feats with remarkably modest means. The superstructuralists’ colourful drawings burst with vivacious depictions of a technological good-life, symbiotic with nature. ‘At the time the concept of sustainable ecological buildings was unheard of outside a fringe of society, which was mostly occupied by hippies and dropouts,’ recalled Foster in an interview. In act two, the superstructuralists conquer the world — Rogers completes the Lloyd’s Building, Foster scoops the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong, then called ‘the Stansted is why smart travellers take the train most expensive building ever built’. Then in the 1990s, act three sees high-tech become the default architectural language of international business. Expressive structural gestures are replaced with ubiquitous glassy façades. There are still some hits, but from its pioneering attempts to connect human and ecological flourishing, superstructuralism morphs into the omnipresent face of the global corporation. Airports in particular have become synonymous with superstructuralism. Offices, houses and museums are built in varied architectural vocabularies, but it’s hard to even imagine a neoclassical airport, such has superstructuralism become the unquestionable orthodoxy of aviation architecture. A generation of boys raised on Airfix models have, as men, designed the world’s major airports — Foster in China, Rogers in Spain, Grimshaw in Russia. Foster’s Stansted, which features prominently in the show, is hailed as a gamechanger. By burying the mechanics, Foster liberated the ground for passengers. The pitch was a spacious day-lit shed, in which travellers would amble through check-in following an intuitive linear route towards the gently ascending planes, visible through the vast curtain wall beyond. The seductive poetics of Foster’s vision have long since been butchered. Now, a maze of duty-free concessions is compressed by a low-hung false ceiling, squeezing passengers through the bowels of Ray-Ban and Toblerone hell. Sphincters of invasive fear-mongering security checks, pat downs and X-ray scans bottleneck travellers into relentless queues. A proliferation of obtrusive signage fails to compensate for the — now unintelligible — layout. Wetherspoons has built a full-size floating faux windmill to facilitate pre-flight boozing. Stansted is why smart travellers take the train. The failure of Stansted is not explored in the exhibition, which focuses only on the first two acts of superstructuralism. It’s perhaps a missed opportunity, as the most challenging questions for high-tech are around the gulf between its ethical beginnings and its latter-day manifestation. It’s a gulf which has led to some absurd hypocrisies. Superstructuralism has become consumed by the very ideologies its founders were trying to subvert — disregard for nature, mass consumption of resources and authoritarian control of movement are all typified by the modern aviation terminal. Foster is a man who uses the word ‘sustainable’ to describe the largest airport on earth with a straight face. It’s a kind of doublethink that is becoming increasingly incredulous. Once the climate movement were mocked as fanciful utopians with farfetched dreams of low-carbon economies and renewable energy. Today that old ecowarrior manifesto feels eminently practical when set against the snake oil peddled by a new breed of space-colonising fantasist. Helium-3 dug from the moon. Minerals extracted from asteroids. Elon Musk mining Mars. Foster + Partners have produced papers on terraforming the red planet with autonomous drones and 3-D-printed lunar bases. In 2014 they completed a ‘spaceport’ for Richard Branson. This is not bold visionary thinking — it is escapism, seductive only to those whose weak imaginations can see no alternative to infinite economic growth despite a finite planet. The legacy of superstructuralism could be so much more than luxury towers and soul-leaching departures lounges. In the early years, its advocates set out not just the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ©FOSTER + PARTNERS, IAN LAMBOT In 1985 it was ‘the most expensive building ever built’: HSBC’s Hong Kong headquarters designed by Norman Foster to redesign buildings, but the construction industry itself. Like in Brunel’s hospital, offsite fabrication and new technology would deliver meaningful social goals through unprecedented construction techniques. Strides have been made, but the buildings of tomorrow will still be made with the tools of yesterday, however futuristic they may look. Around 1.7 million hours of research and development go into launching a new model of Japanese car. With production runs of a million, the R&D cost is just $425 per vehicle, but every customer benefits from the full 1.7 million-hour design phase. A one-off office tower on the other hand can cost hundreds of millions of dollars but, with archithe spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk tects’ fees at around 5 per cent, enjoy just a few thousand design hours. This is the fundamental contradiction of high-tech — they talk of innovation, but their practice is ultimately at odds with the nature of technological development. They claim to save the planet while facilitating its destruction. Bucky’s foundational lessons of ‘Spaceship Earth’ are long forgotten. At the turn of the millennium, German firm CargoLifter was working on a prototypical 550,000 cubic metre ‘AirCrane’ — a zeppelin capable of carrying 160-ton prefabricated building components directly to site. The project was never realised (in fact the hangar was turned into an enormous indoor holiday resort) but hints at the possibilities for the superstructuralists if they can recover their once vaulting ambition. At a public debate in 2009, Foster was unequivocal. ‘What’s at stake,’ he said, ‘is literally our survival as a species. I think that probably we have to get to the point of absolute desperation before everyone is forced to get their act together, and then the agonising question will be did everybody wake up in time, or did they wake up too late?’ Good question, Norman. Superstructures: The New Architecture 1960–1990 is at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 2 September. 41 BOOKS & ARTS THE YOUTUBER Hobbit houses and 3-D homes Since 2006, someone called Kirsten Dirksen has been posting weekly videos on YouTube about ‘simple living, self-sufficiency, small (and tiny) homes, backyard gardens (and livestock), alternative transport, DIY, craftsmanship and philosophies of life’. But don’t let that put you off. Basically, Dirksen makes short films about people’s quirky homes: ‘Tiny Parisian rooftop terrace transforms for work and leisure’, ‘Extreme transformer home in Hong Kong’, etc. Fear not: this not some shoestring Grand Designs. There is little or no enthusing, there are no vacuous summings-up, there is no false jeopardy. The videos vary in length: some of them last for less than ten minutes, others for close to an hour. Many are in Spanish (with subtitles). Occasionally, there are voiceovers, but more often there’s simply the mildly disinterested voice of the person showing Dirksen around their house. ‘And here’s the composting toilet.’ Dirksen, who looks like a stressedout maths teacher, is often in shot, shown filming with her camera, which implies that there’s someone filming her — we occasionally glimpse a man who one assumes is her husband. There are also children, who never seem to age — and who, mercifully, don’t do cute stuff. They’re just kids. If the mere thought of watching people in 3-D-printed solar houses in Seattle fills you with horror, or you are naturally disinclined towards those living in bioclimatic troglodyte homes in France, Dirksen’s home tours are probably not for you. But before dismissing her entirely you should watch her half-hour film about Dan Price’s underground home. Everything about Mr Price and his Hobbit house should be an intense irritation: he plays the handpan, he illustrates his own quirky books and pamphlets, and he uses a composting toilet. And yet the film is so artfully artless, and Dirksen so simply generous in her depiction of Price’s strange life, that what might have been sheer tosh is in fact a portrait full of pathos. If only YouTube had been around when Werner Herzog and the Maysles Brothers were getting going, we’d all have spent a lot less time in arthouse cinemas. — Ian Sansom Radio Communal listening Kate Chisholm To Herne Bay in Kent for the UK International Radio Drama Festival: 50 plays from 17 countries in 15 languages broadcast over five days to the festival audience. It’s an opportunity to find out what radio plays sound like in other countries, but also to experience a different kind of listening. About 25 of us were invited into a suite of rooms furnished with flock wallpaper, floral sofas and armchairs to take us back to the great age of radio listening in the 1950s. A kettle boils in the background; buttered scones on a tiered rack are sitting ready for us to pounce on at the next pause between plays. Melanie Nock and Jonathan Banatvala launched the festival four years ago, surprised by the fact that the UK, the biggest consumer (and producer) of radio plays in the world, didn’t already have its own celebration of this very particular, and very ofthe-moment art form. (Elsewhere in Europe there’s the Prix Marulic held on a sun-baked island off the coast of Croatia, the Grand Prix Nova in Romania, and the prestigious Prix Europa.) It’s not just that with radio drama you can listen for free without leaving home, so it’s very accessible and democratic; it can also be far more adventurous than theatre or film. There’s no need to obey the unities of time and space; we can go anywhere, any time in our imaginations without leaving the room. All that the writers and producers must do is ensure they take us with them, giving us freedom to roam but never letting us lose the thread. Nock, from a theatre background, believes the community aspect of listening should be revived. And it does change the experience. It was weird to hear people around me laughing at the jokes in RTE’s Surviving Ireland drama-documentary as if there was a studio audience, only to realise the laughs were coming from inside the room not out of the radio set on the sideboard. It probably also makes you more open to the unusual, more willing to keep listening, to be taken out of your comfort Klee pigeon shooting 42 zone. But the festival is also intended as an opportunity to bring to the UK plays from across the world. There are prizes for the best short-form and best long-form productions, given by a jury made up of listeners at the festival and chaired this year by Tomas Soldan from Czech Radio, plus an audience prize. On Wednesday we heard plays from Iran, Romania, Denmark and Germany, as well as from the BBC. There’s a real difference in approach, with the plays from central Europe and beyond often more experimental, less intent on narrative, than we are used to. The Lady of Wednesday, for instance, in Persian (we were given scripts in English), about a young man searching to make his dreams come true through the agency of the lady of the well, was fabulous in content and in acting style, like listening to the telling of an ancient fairy tale, each laugh or sob magnified. In contrast, Explosiv from Romania was rooted in the now, set in a high school where a group of ghastly teenagers are surrounded by even more ghastly grown-ups. There could be no happy ending. Plays can be as short as six minutes, which is not something we are used to in the UK, but they can be surprisingly effective. Anxiety, for example, from Denmark and based on a short story written in 1962, gave us in just nine minutes a chilling tale told by four men who meet each day on the same train to work. One morning a stranger is sitting in one of their seats… All the plays can still be heard via the festival’s website (www.radiodramafestival.org.uk) and if you’re very quick you could vote for the play you think should win the audience award as voting closes at midnight tomorrow. There were two new plays on Radio 1Xtra this week as part of the BBC’s drive to reach out to younger audiences (how I wish they could have been broadcast on Radio 4 to broaden that station’s range). Quarter Life Crisis by Yolanda Mercy (and directed by Caroline Raphael) stars Mercy herself as a young black woman, approaching 26, who’s wondering whether she will ever find her way in life, feel grown-up, have the opportunity to break free. ‘Do you have to know where you’re going in life, or is it OK to make it up as you go along?’ asks Alicia. It’s fast, it’s funny, it moves around in time, making the most of the form. Mercy is apparently writing several plays for TV; I hope we don’t lose her voice from the radio. With a Little Bit of Luck by Sabrina Mahfouz (a Paines Plough production) is like a musical for radio, celebrating the emergence of UK garage in the summer of 2001. Nadia has just been offered a place at university, but how can she fund the years of study and keep hold of her boyfriend who tells her that studying is just a waste of time? This is full of clever wordplay, great music, and an alltoo-believable plot. It takes you right inside Nadia’s world. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk JAMES DODDS 11–27 A p r il North Haven Dinghy, America’s first One Design oil on linen 120 x 90 cms 47 1⁄4 x 353⁄8 ins James Dodds saw this boat when visiting the historic Brown’s Boatyard, on the island of North Haven in Maine. James O. Brown, the Boatyard’s founder, had created the One Design in 1884. The family still runs the business, now into its ﬁfth generation. Fully illustrated catalogue with informative text – £15 MESSUM’S 2 8 C ork Street , L ond on W1S 3 N G Tel: + 4 4 ( 0 )2 0 74 3 7 5 5 4 5 w w w.messums.c om BOOKS & ARTS © 2018 CRAXTON ESTATE/DACS Exhibitions Greek idyll Martin Gayford Charmed lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor British Museum, until 15 July In late April 1992, I was in Crete, interviewing the painter John Craxton. It was the week that Francis Bacon died. We heard the news on the BBC World service, and afterwards Craxton reminisced about his old friend. Craxton himself at that stage had almost disappeared into obscurity. He was living in a elegantly crumbly building overlooking the harbour at Chania. It wasn’t grand, but there was a small Matisse cut-out hanging on his sitting-room wall. In recent years Craxton has been undergoing a minor revival. There has been a book, a show at the Fitzwilliam; now this sizable exhibition — Charmed lives in Greece — devoted to him, together with the Greek painter Niko Ghika (Nikos HadjikyriakosGhikas, 1906–1994), and the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. The works on show do indeed have a lot of charm, as Craxton did himself, but the title raises another question. Was his life charmed in another sense? He lived in Greece on and off for decades, and settled more or less permanently in Crete in 1970. In the book accompanying the exhibition, Craxton’s biographer, Ian Collins, notes that in his later years a large black canvas generally sat on his easel, ‘apparently as a deterrence to further labour’. Had Craxton wandered into the land of the Lotus-eaters, which the sailors in The Odyssey found ‘was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home’? During the war — a period not covered by this exhibition — Craxton (1922–2009), was one of the most successful of the group of artists dubbed ‘neo-romantic’, a term he detested. At 19 he was sharing a house with the equally youthful Lucian Freud, each of them working on a different floor. He must then have seemed one of the coming forces in British painting. Craxton’s arrival in Greece brings to mind the plot of a film by Powell and Pressburger — and also Leigh Fermor’s romantically picaresque travels. In 1946 Craxton found himself in Switzerland and was, he told me, ‘about to be shot by the husband of the woman I was staying with because he thought we were having an affair’. (Craxton was bisexual.) At this point, he met the wife of the British ambassador to Athens in a bar. She said he must come with her to Greece; Craxton’s hostess enthusiastically supported the idea. ‘So we set off in a bomber from Milan.’ For a while he lived in the embassy 44 Moonlit Ravine, early 1970s, by John Craxton the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk garage. But Clifford Norton, the ambassador, found him ‘too Bohemian a guest’. So, on the advice of Leigh Fermor — a new friend — he went to live on the island of Poros. ‘It was like striking oil that first summer,’ he remembered, ‘Greece was lovely then, it was a marvellous moment.’ And indeed, those very first pictures were some of the best he did in Greece. It must have seemed a wonderful escape from postwar Britain. But there was an art historical logic to Craxton’s move. Like most British artists of the mid-20th century, he was in awe of Picasso. In Byzantine art he found an analogy to cubism; indeed one of cubism’s roots was Byzantine since Picasso himself had been deeply affected by the Cretan artist El Greco. This connection makes the fractured planes of Craxton’s Greek landscapes seem new and old at the same time. You could say of them what he noted about Byzantine paintings. ‘The rocks are abstracted, but they manage to impose in that abstracted shape the feeling of rock — the essence of rock.’ Much the same is true of Ghika, an artist not much known in this country. In his youth Ghika had studied Byzantine art as well as the art of the Parisian avant-garde. A picture such as ‘Wild Garden’ (1959) blends all of those ingredients: jagged geometry, Matisse-like foliage, and a feeling of the Eastern Mediterranean. Ghika’s pictures sometimes In 1946 Craxton found himself in Switzerland and ‘about to be shot’ upstage Craxton’s at the BM; it looks as if the older Greek artist influenced the younger English one. Another artist was briefly part of this tiny Anglo-Hellenic community. Lucian Freud joined Craxton on Poros in 1946, producing some lovely paintings (some of which would have added another dimension to this exhibition). But later they fell out spectacularly and their later careers, and work, could scarcely have been more different. Freud once professed ‘a horror of the idyllic’, whereas Craxton was described as ‘a self-confessed Arcadian’ (although when I put it to him, he rejected the word indignantly: ‘I never confessed I was an Arcadian!’). But he was a romantic. Many of the exhibits are beguiling, not least Craxton’s covers for Leigh Fermor’s books (the writer is otherwise represented mainly by photographs and documentary material). There is a gentle softness about Craxton’s work: too much charm, not enough truth. The paintings of people — generally young men — have a slightly soppy air. But landscapes such as ‘Cretan Gorge’ (early 70s), halfway between geometric abstraction and the spiky terrain of a medieval Greek icon, are tougher and more impressive. He deserves another look. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Theatre The killer instinct Lloyd Evans Ruthless! The Musical Arts Theatre, until 23 June Miss Nightingale Hippodrome Casino, until 6 May Ruthless! The Musical is a camp extravaganza about ambitious actors stranded in small-town America. Sylvia St Croix, a pushy agent, visits a super-talented 10-yearold, Tina, and persuades her to audition for Pippi Longstocking in a school play. Tina’s mother fears that stardom may spoil her little girl but Tina is finished with childhood. ‘Time to move on.’ The production feels like a zany Spike Milligan sketch with a garish set and overthe-top costumes. Sylvia is played by Justin Gardiner who swaggers about like a crossdressing cowboy in a clingy frock and false breasts. The dialogue, which takes cheap shots at bourgeois morality, may not suit all tastes. Try this. Tina complains to Sylvia that she never sees her father. ‘Why, yes you do,’ blushes her mother, ‘Daddy was here just six weeks ago.’ ‘Was that Daddy?’ frowns Tina. ‘I think so,’ says her mother. For me, that’s comedy gold. For you perhaps, it’s dross. Good actors can find three laughs in that short exchange and the performers here get all three of them. The plot darkens when Tina gives a brilliant audition but fails to land the role of Pippi. Cast as the understudy, Tina murders her rival and becomes the show’s star. This morbid story-line is incredible, of course, but the show’s cartoonish exuberance creates a fairy-tale atmosphere where anything seems possible. The child-on-child murder is balanced by an equally absurd back-story concerning Tina’s mom, Judy, who was orphaned as a kid and wants to learn the identity of her biological mother. Her adoptive mom, Lita Encore, is a heavyweight theatre critic whose venomous reviews have been known to drive performers to suicide. Could Judy be the daughter of a star who vanished after Lita rubbished her talent? The search for Judy’s origins, and for the true identity of Sylvia St Croix, create a sequence of surprises that continues into the second half. By now, we’re in New York where Judy is living in a penthouse, having taken to the stage and become Broadway’s latest musical sensation. Tina shows up, liberated from child-prison, and still determined to succeed. The second act develops into a riot of dramatic surprises and violent mayhem but its logic never departs from the narrative blueprint set out in the opening scene. Not everyone will relish this show’s maca- bre humour, its tasteless gestures and its flouncy, self-parodic acting. I happen to have an appetite for broad, demonstrative and unsubtle comedy like this. And my inner script-doctor appreciated the ingenuity and inventiveness of a plot that takes the audience on a magic carpet-ride from the po-faced suburbs to the heights of Broadway and back. Those who disparage the show’s superficiality are overlooking the fact that its frivolities are underpinned by an immutable human truth: to get ahead in life, or in showbiz, you need a killer-instinct. These characters may be narcissistic boneheads but they’re sincere about their goals, and that makes them work as dramatic figures. Director Richard Fitch has created an outstanding comic company. Kim Maresca is hysterically funny as Tina’s mom and yet she never loses her small-town breeding and dignity. Tracie Bennett (Lita) holds the house in thrall with a song-and-dance routine about a critic who hates song-anddance routines. Anya Evans took the lead on press night which suggests that she’s the Not everyone will relish the macabre humour – I have an appetite for broad, unsubtle comedy like this best of the four kids hired to play Tina. She’s no relation of mine. I wish she were. She’s a star. Tracie Bennett’s career has never matched the size of her voice, and I wonder if a spicier stage name might have helped. This conundrum faces an unknown singer, Maggie Brown, in the wartime musical Miss Nightingale. She’s persuaded by an ambitious producer to adopt a new romantic identity. Rechristened Miss Nightingale, she finds success but gets pregnant and has to reconcile motherhood with her showbiz dreams. The producer, meanwhile, conducts a forbidden affair with a gay Polish refugee. These stories are intended to highlight the troubles endured by gays and lone women in mid-20th-century Britain. Which is fine, but a bit preachy. And the two strands aren’t particularly well integrated. But that’s the only weakness in this eye-catching production written and directed by Matthew Bugg. The multi-talented cast can act, sing, dance, and play numerous musical instruments, and this concentration of talent makes the show feel like it’s bursting to reach a larger stage. The star, Lauren Chinery, is a fabulous discovery. Bugg and his team are already developing new material and they have the potential to create a global export. But they need to find the right script. Inventing a story from scratch is unwise for a company that specialises in song-and-dance skills. They could do themselves a favour by choosing a popular play or book with an established fan-base and a title that everyone recognises. Then the sky’s the limit. 45 ROBERT WORKMAN BOOKS & ARTS Adult treats in RNCM’s Hansel and Gretel Opera Kid’s play Richard Bratby Ariadne auf Naxos Theatre Royal Glasgow, now at Festival Theatre Edinburgh until 7 April Coraline Barbican Theatre, until 7 April Hansel and Gretel Royal Northern College of Music Opera Theatre It’s been a good couple of weeks for cuddly toys in opera. A big floppy Eeyore is the only comfort for 11-year-old Coraline at the darkest moment of Mark-Anthony Turnage and Rory Mullarkey’s new opera. The teenage Composer in Antony McDonald’s production of Ariadne auf Naxos has a Beanie Baby panda as a sort of mascot: a tiny, limp emotional defence against a world that’s about to spin deliriously off kilter. Hansel and Gretel don’t have any toys, but the brattish siblings of Stephen Medcalf’s staging at the Royal Northern College of Music can at least cling to each other as the night closes in. Interestingly, the opera that came across as the most harmless was the only one that wasn’t created for children. Ariadne auf Naxos, then. McDonald has updated it to a country house that looks amusingly like Glyndebourne. Neat idea; and so is the notion of transforming the commedia dell’arte troupe into a team of hipster-bearded performance artists. Smart46 est of all, though, is the decision to make the trouser role of the Composer (Julia Sporsen) a buttoned-up, slightly brittle young woman. At a stroke, McDonald removes one of Strauss’s weaker dramatic contrivances and makes Sporsen’s encounter with Jennifer France’s suspender-clad Zerbinetta into something genuinely transformative. Ariadne as coming-out drama? When the pair suddenly, startlingly locked lips to a cascade of molten harmony (the Scottish Opera orchestra under Brad Cohen sounded like all their Christmases had arrived at once), the audience sighed. But that’s just the Prologue: and having made all these backstage relationships fizz, it’s hardly the director’s fault that Strauss and Hofmannsthal then ditch the whole set-up in favour of an opera seria, rendered with authentically baroque tedium. Mardi Byers did her best as a dark-toned, eloquent Ariadne, but France’s knockout burlesque routine — imagine Dita Von Teese with a silvery high soprano that can slip like oiled silk over even the most sequin-encrusted coloratura — overpowered any remaining drama. Byers’s climactic love duet with Bacchus (Kor-Jan Dusseljee) had the sexual chemistry of a Scottish widow meeting her mortgage advisor. Coraline is altogether more serious, as children’s books can be, although nothing in this touching and often magical opera quite matches the ETA Hoffmann-meetsMR James creepiness of Neil Gaiman’s novel. Perhaps that’s just as well; instead, the libretto focuses on Coraline’s courage, as well as the more humorous aspects of the story. The director Aletta Collins makes playful use of the Barbican’s stage, with Giles Cadle’s sets whirling round to represent the sinister parallel world that Coraline discovers in her parents’ new home. The programme lists two separate ‘Magic Consultants’ and the small boy behind me at one point seemed convinced (if impressively unconcerned) that Kitty Whately’s hand had genuinely been chopped off. Turnage’s chamber-sized score (Sian Edwards conducted the Britten Sinfonia) is unexpectedly subdued, tending towards cor anglais-tinted lyricism over quietly bustling rhythms, with occasional, improbable flashes of colour — an orchestra of mice turned out to be a piccolo-led swing band. But it certainly evoked the story’s overcast atmosphere, and the opera’s final affirmation was skilfully prepared. Whately transformed smartly from the put-upon Mother to the insinuating, increasingly uncanny Other Mother; Alexander Robin Baker’s red-trousered, dad-dancing Father got a lot of laughs, and as Coraline Mary Bevan was a believably bored little girl whose sunny voice and inquisitive nature weren’t remotely cutesy, and who (like the entire cast) made Turnage’s vocal writing sound as fluent as Mozart. Parents, meanwhile, will doubtless mouth a silent ‘thank you’ at the show’s moral that there are worse things in the world than going to school. And if you can’t truly believe that things are going to turn out badly for Coraline; well, that’s never stopped Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel from showing a darker side, and in Medcalf’s subtle and inventive With luck we’ll see this Hansel and Gretel elsewhere: it’s got ‘classic’ written all over it new production the supernatural elements are actually the least menacing (Iain Henderson’s brandy-swilling Witch was pure pantomime). We’re in a Victorian industrial city and the children (Daniella Sicari as Gretel, and the lustrous-voiced Charlotte Badham as Hansel) alternate, as pre-teen siblings do, between kicking, pinching, spite and clinging affection. But while Humperdinck’s music gives us the children’s enchanted perspective, Medcalf repeatedly pulls back to reveal some very adult threats. The forest is a maze of street lamps (Yannis Thavoris did the sets), and Hansel and Gretel think that the lamplighters with their glowing wands are angels. Come dawn, however, when the Dew Fairy (a milkman) gazes down at the filthy urchins huddled on the pavement, we’re a long way from Coraline with her nicely-brushed hair and shiny yellow wellies. Anthony Kraus conducted, the student performances would have graced any professional company, and with luck we’ll see this production (it’s billed as a collaboration with Grange Park Opera) elsewhere, because it’s got ‘classic’ stamped all over it. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Television Friday night refreshment James Walton BBC2 has a new drama series for Friday nights. The main character is a world-weary middle-aged police inspector with an unshakeable commitment to smoking. His work partner is a feisty female officer in her twenties who combines salt-of-the-earth irreverence with being a damn good cop. Between them, they’re investigating the murder of an attractive young woman who their colleagues immediately assumed was a prostitute, and whose death reminds the inspector of a previous investigation that continues to haunt him — which is why his boss is constantly trying to take him off the case. But if this makes you think that The City & The City is yet another identikit crime drama, then you couldn’t be more wrong. The basic storyline may be thoroughly conventional; but only, it seems, as a deliberate counterpoint to the intriguing and highly imaginative strangeness of the setting. Inspector Borlu (David Morrissey) does his policing in the city of Beszel, a place that goes beyond the merely fictional and into the realms of mythical. Its trappings have the feel of Eastern Europe — especially those parts that have resisted a smoking ban — but its citizens speak in English, which they learned from British traders 500 years ago. They write in English too, although with a sprinkling of random accents — as in a poster warning that the secret police ‘löök jušt liké yöu and me’. More mysteriously still, Beszel directly borders another fictional/mythical city called Ul Qoma, and relations between the two are not so much strained as completely forbidden. Any tourists who (inexplicably) visit Beszel must attend a two-week train- Dave Allen’s decline was cunningly signalled by a passing stranger being unable to remember his name ing course instructing them in such local etiquette as never even looking at Ul Qoma, and ideally developing an inability to see it. Unfortunately for Borlu, it now appears that the dead woman was an American student living in Ul Qoma, and his investigation will be a bit tricky without visiting the place. Not, in fact, that the investigation has taken up very much of the programme’s time so far. Instead, it’s been more concerned with slowly establishing its decidedly unsettling atmosphere and pondering the wider issues and implications of human tribalism. All of which might make The City & The City sound somewhat po-faced. But, while that wouldn’t be unfair, it wouldn’t be the whole story either. Faced with such solemn material, some dramas might have been unable to resist throwing in the odd moment of knowing playfulness. Yet, by playing everything so utterly straight, this one unexpectedly turns the po-facedness to its advantage — with its own portentousness worn so unashamedly as to become almost a badge of honour. And at a time when so many TV dramas seem to be timidly second-guessing what their audiences (or commissioners) want, that feels distinctly refreshing. Less impressive was Dave Allen at Peace (BBC2, Monday), which came across more as notes towards a biographical drama than the thing itself. The show mixed scenes from Allen’s life with recreations of his TV sketches and monologues, but neither of these elements quite worked. The lifescenes gave the impression of key events being perfunctorily ticked off from a list (cruel nuns; losing half a finger; changing his name to Dave Allen: check, check and check). The TV bits suffered from the obvious problem that Aiden Gillen as Allen lacked the same comic timing. In any case, the programme often felt like a recreation itself — specifically of those increasingly AITO 5085 ABTA Y6050 Our trips in 2018 include: Expert-led cultural trips from £870. +44 (0)20 3370 1988, firstname.lastname@example.org www.culturaltravel.co.uk Part of the Martin Randall Travel group. All departures guaranteed in 2018 – no minimum numbers required the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Gothic Splendour in France Archaeology in Pompeii Great French Châteaux Sicily: Conquests & Cultures Modern Art in the South of France Achievements of Ancient Greece Flemish & Dutch Painting 7KH5LQJLQ6RˋD The Genius of Spanish Painting Verdi in Bratislava Art in Andalucía The Italian Lakes Cathedrals & Abbeys of the North Power & Patronage in Florence Great Houses of Yorkshire Splendours of St Petersburg 47 BOOKS & ARTS formulaic BBC4 dramas of a few years ago which took a much-loved showbiz figure and showed us the secret sorrow lurking at their core. So it was that the early sightings of Allen’s lovable old dad in full story-telling Irishman mode were soon followed by the 12-year-old Dave looking down into the coffin where his father lay. ‘I’ve got your back,’ his older brother Michael assured him at the funeral — perhaps anachronistically for 1950s Ireland — and seconds later the two were performing in England as a double act. But then Michael disappeared from view while another series of brief scenes did what they needed to and no more. Allen’s glory years, for example, were covered by the BBC’s director-general telling him how good he was. His subsequent decline was cunningly signalled by a passing stranger recognising him but being unable to remember his name. And with that, we returned to the secret sorrow part, as Allen wheeled the by now alcoholic Michael through a hospital where, in an admittedly rather touching scene, their relationship was fully discussed — but still not really dramatised. Of course, it never was going to be easy to dramatise Allen’s entire life in 60 minutes. The trouble with Dave Allen at Peace, though, is that it seemed to take one look at the scale of the task, and more or less give up. Music The sound of Iceland Guy Dammann The lur is a horn, modelled in bronze after a number of 3,000-year-old instruments discovered at various archaeological sites across Scandinavia. Its unrefined yet distinctive sound — penetrating, direct and rough-edged — seems to rise up through the body rather than enter through the ears, like the stirring of a long-forgotten memory. The instrument, whose long neck reaches high above the heads of its players, is the first thing one hears in Jon Leifs’s second Edda oratorio. Two of them intone bare, open fifths, resonating against sustained low notes in the woodwind, rising up through the orchestral texture as it fills out. When the choir enters, they too sing in fifths, lurching from one bare harmony to another, incanting the coming of the Aesir, the Norse Gods. The music is rough and jarring. The world whose creation is being narrated really does sound unready, incomplete. No one has heard this before, a fact which enhances the grandeur of the moment as well as its curiosity value. In Harpa, Reykjavik’s shiny harbour-side concert hall, the main auditorium is packed with an audience 48 of young and old Icelanders eager to hear the sound of where they come from, so to speak. Much of Leifs’s postwar career was dedicated to composing three grand oratorios based on the Edda, the Norse creation legends originally written down in the 13th century by the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson. Leifs’s idea was that the oratorios would together constitute a kind of national monument in sound, articulating the cultural and national bonds which tie this blasted and volatile northern Atlantic rock to the people who walk on it. He knew Wagner’s Ring cycle, of course, but considered it too romanticised. Iceland, according to Leifs, needed its own national creation myth to be set in music that was entirely Iceland’s own. The idea of individual composers creating a musical language capable of expressing an entire nation’s identity is familiar to anyone who has studied the history of music. Ask any Norwegian about Grieg, or Finn Composer Jon Leifs is still best remembered for kicking a radio set to smithereens about Sibelius, they won’t tell you whether they like the music but about how it’s simply a part of who they are. The phenomenon, however, is essentially a 19th-century one, bound up with national romanticism and its entwinement with the birth and expansion of modern nation states before the first world war. Leifs, born in 1899, came rather late to the game. But, then again, so did Iceland. Leifs’s ambition to serve as his country’s national musical figurehead in fact originated while he was living in Germany, where he moved in 1916 to study piano and composition (with Busoni). His subsequent German career was moderately successful, but he gained new creative momentum from visits back home where he used an Edison phonograph to record locals singing folk songs. Like Dvorak or Bartok, Leifs used the basic elements of what he recorded radically to reshape his own musical language, eliminating almost all traces of refinement and adopting a jagged melodic style and an unwieldy harmonic system based on progressions of parallel fifths — stylistic elements, in other words, which for centuries musicians have tried to eradicate. Leifs’s talk of creating a pure Icelandic music played well enough in 1930s Germany, but people were less keen on the resulting music. After the disastrous premiere of his organ concert with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1941, Leifs spent the rest of the war trying to get home. He eventually returned in 1944, via Sweden and a brief period under arrest for suspected Nazi collaborations. Back home in Iceland, he took the musical scene by force. Quite literally. An iras- cible and unsympathetic figure, Leifs is still remembered for kicking a radio set to smithereens on board a bus as a protest against Icelandic radio not paying performance rights. Thanks to Leifs, and the performing rights and composers’ societies he founded, established and ran single-handedly, they certainly pay it now. As a musician, however, Leifs’s force of personality proved less fecund. None of the composers of subsequent generations really absorbed his style, and most of his music went unperformed after his death in 1968. It is only recently, following the efforts of the Swedish record label BIS, that pieces such as Geysir and Hekla — two symphonic poems that attempt to translate the Icelandic landscape into music — have gained wider traction. The Edda oratorios, however, still remained unperformed, largely because until recently Iceland lacked the kind of choral and orchestral institutions capable of performing them. The choral parts are in many respects technically impossible to sing, while the symphony orchestra lacked an auditorium capable of making any sense of the music. While Edda I received its premiere a few years ago, the second part only received its first performance last weekend, as part of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra’s contribution to Iceland’s centenary celebrations (as a sovereign nation; true independence from Denmark came later in 1944). With the performance in Harpa, a building designed to express the young nation’s burgeoning economic and cultural self-confidence, it became possible to ask whether Leifs’s dreams of providing the country with its music might finally be coming to life some 50 years after his death? No, not really. Though always invigorating, Leifs’s music is difficult to like at the best of times. And here, where musical primitivism and brute incantation in Old Norse are pretty much the only game in town, if the opening doesn’t grab you then 90 minutes of doing the same thing won’t change much. But as the names of the gods and their virtues go by, in long lists which lack both poetry and drama, there is a sense of liturgical overload which bullies one into feeling awe at its sheer weight. Awestruck certainly captures the response the audience gave the piece, though relief may also have played a part. Even so, Icelanders are much less interested in their creation myths than their tourist office would like us to believe, and their musical scene has on all fronts moved far beyond Leifs and his by definition parochial concerns. The sense, then, was less one of the rising of a nation’s spirit through its music, than of its indomitable spirit expressing itself through the idiosyncratic creativity of one very forceful individual personality. But perhaps that’s how these things always begin. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk BOOKS & ARTS Oakes Fegley as Ben and Julianne Moore as Lillian Mayhew in Wonderstruck Cinema Plenty to wonder at Deborah Ross Wonderstruck PG, Nationwide Wonderstruck is a film by Todd Haynes and you will certainly be struck by wonder, often. You will wonder at its painful slowness. You will wonder at the way it strains credulity until it snaps. You will wonder if the violins will ever give it a rest. You will wonder if it will ever end. And you will wonder at the ending, when it does finally come, as it is so stupid. So it does not shortchange on the wonder front. Whatever the price of your cinema ticket, you will be getting limitless wonder in return. Haynes is usually such an immaculate, thoughtful, winning filmmaker (Carol, Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine, that Karen Carpenter short told with Barbie dolls — Superstar) that you will also wonder: how could he have helmed such an unholy mess? ‘Is it for children?’, I heard someone ask, hopefully, after the screening I attended. ‘I don’t think it’s for anyone,’ I felt compelled to reply. ‘It’s a fairy tale,’ someone else remonstrated, defensively. But at this 50 point I chose to leave it there, as I did not have the energy for a fight. I’d just given two hours to a film concluding not only with a vast chunk of exposition, but a vast chunk of exposition that entirely failed to add up. And that takes it out of you. As based on the novel for young adults by Brian Selznick, who also wrote the screenplay — so perhaps we can lay some of the blame at his feet — this offers a bifurcated narrative following two 12-year-olds separated by half a century. First, we have Rose (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf and lives in New Jersey in 1927 with her brutal father. She runs away from home, heading to Manhattan in search of Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), the movie star she idolises. This half of the story is wordless and shot in monochrome as a silent movie pastiche, like The Artist. Simmonds, who is a deaf actress is, in fact, wonderfully expressive and compelling and you do wish Haynes had just stopped here, but no. So we also have Ben (Oakes Fegley), who lives in rural Minnesota in 1977 but runs away to Manhattan too. His beloved mother (Michelle Williams) has died and he is in search of his absent father. Ben is not deaf at the outset but he becomes deaf after being struck by lightening, which has to be a blessing, given how his every move is so beset by those violins. Everything happens for a reason, you will have been told at some point in your life, but that doesn’t apply here. For instance, his mother, as seen in flashback, had always refused to tell Ben anything about his father. There has to be a good reason for that, you will think. Mistakenly. I couldn’t even fathom why Rose and Ben had to be deaf. What’s the point? Where were we? OK, so they’re both in Manhattan where they both have cause to gravitate to the American Museum of Natural History. From here on in, they are either walking round the museum, or they are walking to the museum, or are walking from the museum. This offers a ‘mesmerising symmetry’, according to the press bumf, but it is anything but. It is tedious. There is no danger, no excitement, no tension, no drama even. Plus you can’t feel anything for Ben and Rose as they haven’t been awarded any particular characteristics and are purely plot ciphers. Oh, the plot. The plot is so reliant on coincidences and contrivances you’ll want to throw stuff at the screen. We hang on in there, to the extent that we do, to discover how the pair might be connected, and what do you get for your trouble? That chunk of unconvincing exposition. So there is plenty to wonder at with Wonderstruck, including whoever thought it was a good idea. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk NOTES ON … Southend-on-Sea By William Cook ISTOCK S tanding at the end of Britain’s longest pier, on a cold and misty morning, looking out across the Thames Estuary, I wondered, for the umpteenth time: why do people take the piss out of Southend? It’s got no airs and graces. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yet out here, surrounded by still grey sky and still grey water, with only a few seagulls for company, I’m struck by its barren windswept beauty. You’d never guess London was only an hour away. Southend-on-Sea has been a running joke for as long as I can remember. Even the train to London was known as the Misery Line, on account of its endless delays. Yet lately, something’s changed. The railway is vastly improved (quite possibly because the route to Fenchurch Street station is run by an Italian company), but there’s more to it than that. The same thing is happening here that happened a generation ago in Brighton. Young Londoners, priced out of the Big Smoke, have discovered this slightly scruffy seaside town is a fine place to raise a family. I had lunch with local entrepreneur Marc Miller at his latest venture, a posh fish and chip shop called Clarence Yard. Marc spent a million quid on this old bakery, restoring its Victorian brickwork, vaulted ceiling and cobbled floors. It’s a perfect metaphor for Southend’s modest renaissance, a smart Barren, windswept beauty: the town’s beachfront restaurant with a rich heritage that’s still refreshingly down-to-earth. Marc’s family run traditional entertainments around town, including Sealife Adventure and Adventure Island (Britain’s no. 1 free-admission fun park, apparently). They also own Radio Essex, which feels fitting, for Marc is the quintessential Essex businessman — friendly and full of energy, with a keen awareness of the bottom line. After I’d stuffed my face with cod and chips (the mushy peas were delicious), my friend Tracy drove me out to Southend Airport — sorry, London Southend Airport. CEO Glyn Jones showed me round. The airport’s recent history mirrors Southend’s fall and rise, from one of Britain’s busiest airports in the 1960s and 1970s, when Freddie Laker’s Skytrain ruled the skies, to sleepy obscurity in the 1980s and 1990s, and then a revival in the Noughties, when it was bought by the Stobart Group. Stobart has pumped £160 million into the airport, winning awards. Most of the traffic is no-frills — easyJet and Flybe — but if you’re flush enough to have your own aircraft, there’s also a great facility for private planes. Back in Southend, I dropped into the Beecroft Art Gallery, a brutalist hulk that conceals hidden treasures, including a landscape by local lad John Constable. In the basement, the veteran jazz trumpeter Digby Fairweather runs the National Jazz Archive, with monthly gigs amid an eclectic array of jazz curios. I finished my day trip at the Palace Hotel, where Laurel and Hardy once stayed. I’d come to meet Paul Cotgrove, director of the Southend Film Festival (last week in May). Over a pint of bitter, he talked me through this year’s attractions, including an appearance by Robin Askwith. Did you know that as well as those kiss-me-quick Confessions films, Askwith also worked with Pasolini and Zeffirelli? How very Southend. On the train back to London I started wondering: would my wife let me trade in our suburban villa in Ruislip for a Georgian townhouse beside Southend pier? 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Visit www.wilkinsonpublishing.com.au 54 the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Soho House call it ‘affordable glamour’ but it is nothing of the kind, unless you are Swiss. — Tanya Gold, p62 High life Taki New York If Albanian television had shown the programme CBS did last week — with a woman who has sex on camera for a living describing how she had unprotected Bing-Bing with the president — I think even Albanians would feel so diminished they’d move to Kosovo. But this is America, and it’s a woman’s, woman’s, woman’s world! Or perhaps a frontal lobe is missing. The degree of reverence afforded to a porn actress by Anderson (kiss me) Cooper was astonishing. His smouldering gaze of restraint was touching, as was his phony squint of chagrin that no protection was used. See what I mean about moving to Kosovo? But this is not Albania but America, the Home of the Depraved. Newspapers and TV have all become sacred spaces of the sisterhood, no ifs or buts about it, as they used to say in the Bronx. My hero, H.L. Mencken, said something quite different, but that was some time ago: ‘Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.’ Mencken also quipped that, ‘When women kiss it always reminds one of prizefighters shaking hands.’ Great stuff, isn’t it? But I hate to think what these female versions of Vlad the Impaler that are in the news would do to Mencken if he were around today. Never mind. The avenging warriors may be weasel-brained, but they’ve got the major news outlets and all the big city populations behind them. In an editorial the Big Bagel Times thundered: ‘We live at a time when a porn star displays more credibility and class than a president.’ Well, that’s because the Bagel Times prefers someone who has sex in front of a camera for money to The Donald, who I admit has never been accused of having class — except that he has a bit more than the New York Times. The paper can no longer be taken seriously, its animus against anyone white, heterosexual and Christian being so pronounced. Again, never mind. Somewhere in the the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk middle of all the shouting, the Weinsteining of all men, natural law is taking a back seat. Natural law can trace its lineage to the Greeks, Plato and Aristotle, and then to Cicero and on down the line to Montesquieu and Burke. Natural law clashed with natural rights during the French Revolution, and I think the two are clashing once again now that the sisterhood has taken over American media. I hope there will be a reaction to all this, but for the moment it is all one-sided. The next target is Silicon Valley, and this time I’m on the side of the girls. Those girliemen out there have the emotional intelligence of a worm and give nerds a bad name. Alas, though, the ladies have not measured up. Only 12 per cent of computer science degrees in the past decade have gone to the fairer sex, which means, I suppose, that Silicon Valley has turned into a frat house because the sweetie pies have not made the grade. Boo! Down with Sexism! A Bagel Times female blames this under-representation on ‘women’s ideas being more harshly scrutinized’. Better yet, she blames it on ‘Impostor Syndrome’, described back in the 1970s as a fraud-like feeling of not deserving one’s success. Boo! Down with Sexism! Europe mandates quotas in such situations, and that, she argues, is why Europe is doing so much better than the US of A. Nurse, help! And yet a couple of weeks ago the dear old Speccie reviewed a biography of Ada Lovelace, a scientist, who in 1840 became the mother of the computer. So what happened, how come women aren’t running Silicon, and instead inject the stuff into their breasts and lure The Donald to their bed? The sex industry made it much too easy and much too profitable for the fairer sex to find an alternative to doing an Ada and studying their pretty little brains out. Becoming a victim, or spreading one’s legs, is easier and it gets you the benefit of the doubt where the fourth estate is concerned. Mind you, I couldn’t write any of the above in an American paper and not have my house burned down. Thank God I live on the Upper East Side and my building is a listed one with great security. I am surrounded by aspirations and social climbing, women who constantly measure themselves against their peers. They have no time to go and get little Taki, the male chauvinist ogre, or join the ‘pulverise the patriarchy’ crusade. Instead, their biggest problem is how to treat staff. Get too close to the servants and they’ll think one comes from Palookaville. Be too haughty and people will say you’re putting on airs. So what can a girl do living up here? Move to Albania and become a lady overnight. Or have an affair with the 45th president of the United States and become a media darling. Just stop fretting and take it from Taki. Low life Jeremy Clarke My boy rang the other night. He said he and his wife had bought tickets to see Ed Sheeran at the O2 arena in London. ‘How much were the tickets?’ I said. They were over £400 the pair, he said, and I was about to say in a strangulated voice, ‘How much?’ Then I remembered that I had recently added my name to a ballot which, if I am chosen, will vouchsafe me the privilege of buying tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Marseille in June — if Ron Wood lives that long. And some of those tickets are on sale at a similarly exorbitant price. I try not to be a blatant hypocrite when speaking to my son and I stopped myself in the nick of time. However, this Ed Sheeran business was merely a prelude to his telling me that his wife is three months pregnant, and my ‘no hypocrisy’ rule went straight out of the window. Instead of rejoicing as I should have, I said that he and his wife were mad to think of having a baby given their circumstances, and went on to enumerate some of the potential difficulties. This naturally upset him and we ended the call on unfriendly terms. Afterwards I criticised myself for being a sclerotic old fool and wished I could have taken the call all over 55 LIFE again and sounded glad. Then I sent him a text saying this. He hasn’t replied. I’m back in Devon, cooking for my poor old mum, who could beat the prophet Job hands down in an afflictions contest. ‘Guess how much two tickets for an Ed Sheeran concert cost?’ I said one lunchtime to break the silence as she prodded a lump of meat disconsolately around her plate. ‘Ed Sheeran is a pop singer,’ I said. ‘Go on. Have a guess.’ She raised her head and concentrated her mind. I could see the wheels turning. Pop singer. Two tickets. Shocking price. ‘Twenty pounds,’ she said. If I thought that my 61 years had lately detached me from present realities, here was a far worse case. I felt almost youthful and idealistic again. She thought again then threw out the most outrageous price for a pair of tickets to see a pop singer that she could possibly imagine. ‘Thirty pounds,’ she said. ‘Higher,’ I said. She increased her guess by increments of ten pounds until she reached 150, then I told her £400. Her depression deepened visibly. When next I imparted the news about another great-grandchild on the way, she lamented that £400 would be better spent on a new pram — one of those old-fashioned fourwheelers, I suppose she meant. Another silence. When she spoke next it was to articulate something that had been bothering her for a while, or so it seemed. ‘Why don’t you get a job?’ she said. ‘But I’ve got a job,’ I said. ‘Not really,’ she said, ‘not a proper one. What’s France like for jobs? Is there a school near where you go? You could ask them for a job.’ ‘Doing what?’ I said, testily. ‘Janitor? Why not?’ she said. ‘Or they might let you teach the little children English. You’ve got to do something, you know.’ ‘But according to you I don’t speak proper English.’ ‘You don’t. But it still isn’t too late for you to learn.’ I changed the subject. ‘I’ve spent hours making that. Are you just going to push it around the plate or are you going to eat any of it?’ ‘I can’t eat any more.’ ‘But you’ve hardly eaten any of it.’ ‘I’m sorry. I’m not hungry today.’ ‘You weren’t hungry yesterday, either. You’ve got to eat.’ And then I shut up. Why should she eat if she doesn’t want to? She was right about a job, too. Eight hundred panic-stricken words every Tuesday isn’t what most people would call a proper job. In fact most people have told me this. I removed her plate and scraped the contents into the recycling bin and put it in the dishwasher and washed up the saucepans. Then I drove to town. She needed another batch of hearing aid batteries from the health clinic and her pension money from the post office. The post office counter is at the rear of the small Spar supermarket. I collected her money and bought a plain chocolate Bounty 56 bar from Lucy at the grocery till. For Christmas last year Lucy bought me a little plastic megaphone that changes your voice. It has five settings. ‘And how’s your Mum?’ said Lucy. (She looks after hers, too.) ‘Any jobs going Lucy?’ I said. ‘She says I need to get a proper job.’ Lucy rolled her dark eyes dismissively. And it was marvellous how one expressive gesture of a grounded woman behind the counter in Spar could change everything for the better. Real life Melissa Kite The broken mirror lay in hundreds of shattered pieces on my bathroom floor, having fallen off the wall while I was out. I had hung it with one of those ‘easy fix’ sticky-back hooks that don’t require drilling or screws. You know the ones. They don’t damage your walls or your tiles. And they don’t work. The one I used to fix this small, very light mirror above the sink worked for about three weeks. It was so easy I thought I had cracked it. From now on I would do all my DIY with sticky-back hanging hooks. I could probably finish the house by using them if I really put my mind to it. It was easier than trying to learn how to use a drill which always starts off well then halfway through the explanation my eyes glaze over and by the time whoever is showing me gets to the bit about the rawl plug I’m halfway around Aintree in my head, winning the Grand National (again). Anyway, I thought this sticky-back hanging thing was the answer to all my problems. Then while I was out one day it gave up and the mirror fell off the wall and smashed to bits. I came home, stared down at the sharp, glittering pieces and the thought entered my head: thank goodness. Only seven years bad luck to go. Not 47, as I had been assuming. Only I could celebrate breaking a mirror, I realised, as I shovelled up shards of glass. I didn’t even pray to be spared the oncoming misfortunes as that was pointless. They had to come. I wanted to get on with it. I didn’t have long to wait as the next day someone rang to say Tara had been found dead in her field. I raced up there to find her grazing happily. She looked up, chewing a mouthful of sweet spring grass languidly, as if to say: ‘Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ Turns out she had been sleeping, as she is apt to do more and more now, stretched out on the ground with her head lolling backwards, snoring no doubt, but the passers-by can’t hear that. They stand at the five bar gate going ‘Oh! Ah!’ and ‘Poor thing!’ Apparently, one of them pronounced that she had obviously been dead for some time as ‘the corpse has bloated with gas’. Yes, either that or the horse is alive, fast asleep and fat as a barrel after stuffing her evil old face with prime Surrey grass. I had to leave a note on the gate with my number pointing out that the very elderly do tend to sleep a lot, and you could visit an old people’s home if you didn’t believe me, but if anyone was worried they could ring and I would come and check her again, in addition to the three times a day I feed, tend and check her already. Only please don’t go in the field or the poor old dead horse will come very much to life and trample you to death. Hot on the heels of Tara just being asleep, the Volvo went bang. I heard a clank from the undercarriage then a scraping from the brakes. A day later the mechanics declared £1,000 of repairs were needed, including new brake discs, callipers, and a spring for underneath. The hire car was only £25 a day, but after driving it for 24 hours, on day two I only got two minutes down the road from my house when a roar from the back signalled a blow- The keeper has banned me from doing anything except typing this column until further notice out. The tyre was flat, I was stranded in a lay-by just outside the village, and I rang the keeper. ‘You need a cavalcade travelling with you at all times,’ he said, as he pumped it back up and used a bottle of fairy liquid and water to locate the tiny pink prick. ‘You need an ambulance, a recovery lorry, fire, police.’ As he drove me up the road to the hire car company, we saw a van marked ‘Disaster Response’. ‘That’s what I should have on my Land Rover,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said. He sighed, heavily. When he got me home he said: ‘I’m going to wrap you in bubble-wrap. No, I’m going to padlock you in your house. I’m going to lock the door from the outside so you can’t get out unless I say so. I need a rest.’ ‘Can I put the washing machine on?’ I asked. ‘No.’ ‘Can I make some dinner?’ ‘No! I’m not having you making soup, spilling it everywhere and electrocuting yourself with the liquidiser!’ Basically, and I can’t blame him, the keeper has banned me from doing anything but sitting down and typing out this column until further notice. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Wild life Aidan Hartley Laikipia, Kenya Erupe is a Kenyan farmer. He owns a smallholding of a few acres not far from my own place. When we meet our talk is usually about the vagaries that preoccupy farmers: crops, rain, livestock diseases and market prices. On his little patch he built a dwelling from mud and wattle with a corrugated iron roof. Inside, a picture of Jesus on the wall stared down on the poor but growing family, their only possessions a couple of beds, a chair, a radio and some faded photographs of relatives. Outside the hut my friend grew an avocado tree, bananas, a guava and a small patch of blue gums for shade and firewood. Beyond that he and his wife had tilled the soil with jembe mattocks. They planted maize and beans. He had worked all his life for that little farm, toiling as a labourer to save money to buy the land and pay the bride price for his wife, to invest in tools and seeds and saplings. At last he had what he wanted. I believe my friend was as content as Candide cultivating his garden. In late 2016 I came upon him standing in the sunshine. He was shaking like a leaf. I asked what was wrong and he replied that armed men had driven their cattle into his farm and destroyed his crops. They murdered his neighbours, stole the little community’s few cattle and goats. He and his family fled the attack and for weeks they had been refugees in the nearest town, homeless and begging for food from cousins. Together with others I contributed some cash so that he could construct a makeshift shelter to live in. His wife sold goods in the market and he went back to labouring. He must have had some kind of nervous breakdown. Whenever I saw him he stuttered and his whole body shook as he related to me how the gunmen were sitting on his chairs, sleeping in his bed, pissing in his field. He had rescued his family from danger but after all his years of toil they were destitute. Calm returned to his home area a few months ago. The gunmen got off the stolen chairs and disappeared with their cattle, leaving the farm in ruins. This week I met Erupe and found him much more cheerful. Now that peace had returned, I assumed he had resettled at home. ‘We’re still in town,’ he said, the smile gone. ‘I sometimes go home to look around but we must start from the beginning again.’ His mud house had been demolished. The iron roofing was lootthe spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ed together with the mattresses and chairs. ‘Surely you prepared the land for planting this last month?’ He shook his head. ‘You don’t just go like that. You must be cautious. It will take a long time.’ People from towns often do not understand farming and how slow moving it is. When you start farming it will take you a lifetime to get even close to where you want to be, to sweeten land, drain marsh, put in dams, stop erosion, plant windbreaks and paddock open country. There are pastures in England that have been untilled for centuries. It will take a farmer until he’s on his deathbed to get the bloodline of cow he wants, to get the right cycle of crops working on a particular patch of land. The progress is so slow that plans might bear fruit only in future generations. To really take care of it you must own the farm. For one thing you cannot easily bor- There are crazy politicians who think that when you threaten farmers the crops will keep growing and the cows will keep milking row money if the farm is not yours and being heavily in debt is the farmer’s congenital illness. But if you lease or rent the land, especially in Africa, the tendency is to exhaust the soil and hammer the pasture to extract maximum profit, possibly damaging the land in the long-term. And to embark on all the crazy things we farmers dream up you might sell everything you have in the world to sink into new cash-thirsty projects, as we have done on our farm in Kenya. It can become a reckless obsession, yet whether you are a smallholder like Erupe or a big commercial farmer, the life is risky enough without politics and the insecurity it brings. Down in South Africa now they have a President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who promises to ‘make this country the Garden of Eden’ by confiscating farms for political gain and there’s a demagogue in a red beret, Julius Malema, foaming at the mouth. ‘You will see any beautiful piece of land, you like it, occupy it, it belongs to you.’ There are crazy politicians from towns who think when they threaten farmers or attack them that the crops will keep growing and the cows will keep milking. Bridge Susanna Gross It was about 20 years ago that I first became friends with Janet de Botton, and urged her to take up bridge. Although I knew she’d love it, I didn’t hold out much hope that she’d get beyond ‘social’ bridge; the club scene was (and still is) pretty weird and intimidating. But Janet amazed me: as soon as she’d mastered the rudiments, she insisted on coming with me to play for low-stakes at St John’s Wood Bridge Club. I warned her: some of these people aren’t nice, they’ll yell at you. But she came, they did yell, she lost all her loose change — and she still had the pluck and drive to keep coming back. Soon we graduated to higher-stake bridge at TGR’s; then she started playing in tournaments and got a top team together. And now — who would have thought it all those years ago? — she and her team have been selected to represent England in a match against Wales. Her first England cap! I’m proud of her, and rather pleased with myself for setting her on this path. She’s also been lucky in having the brilliant Artur Malinowski as her long-term partner. They’ve grown into a formidable pair, with an understanding and trust that is invaluable at the table. A simple example from a recent rubber bridge game (Janet was North, Artur South): All vul Dealer N z 10 6 yA6 X— w KQ zA9 y87 X7 6 w 10 7 7 5 3 5 pass all pass 8 6 532 N W E S 4 zK y KQ XK J wAJ West 2 2 zQJ 8 4 y4 X A Q 10 8 w9 532 J 10 9 3 9 4 North East South 3w 5X 3X pass 4y 6y Janet pre-empted, East overcalled, and Artur jumped to 4y. 3y would have been forcing so he wasn’t showing extra values, just bidding what he thought he could make. But Janet looked again at her hand — and cue-bid 5X. Artur had complete faith that her bid was based on the Ay and a diamond void — she wouldn’t have bid on with a singleton. Without hesitation he jumped to 6y. How easy-peasy they made it look! 57 LIFE Chess Space travel Raymond Keene No, not the type of space travel allegedly enjoyed by the World Chess Federation president, Kirsan Ilumzinov, during his self-confessed encounters with aliens — rather, the control of space conferred by certain types of chess opening as explained in Opening Repertoire 1 e4 by Cyrus Lakdawala (Everyman Chess). The industrious and prolific Lakdawala presents a smorgasbord of possibilities in an easy-to-learn repertoire for White, predicated on the ambition to dominate greater terrain. Against the Caro-Kann Defence he advocates 3 e5, while in this week’s game (featuring the early frontrunner in the Candidates tournament for the World Championship) Lakdawala recommends the space-gaining 3 e5 against the French Defence, as favoured by the guru of chess strategy Aron Nimzowitsch. Notes are based on those by Lakdawala from his book. This week’s puzzle in fact arose from the 3 e5 line against the Caro-Kann, also advocated by Nimzowitsch. Caruana-Vallejo Pons: Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2012; French Defence 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Qb6 6 a3 Nh6 7 b4 cxd4 8 cxd4 Nf5 9 Be3 Bd7 Black wants to play ... Rc8 as soon as possible. 9 ... f6 is a key alternative, where Black immediately challenges White’s e5-grip. 10 Bd3 Nxe3 11 fxe3 g6 Black’s idea is twofold: to restrict the power of White’s light squared bishop and to prepare to develop his dark-squared bishop to h6, where its gaze fixes upon e3. 12 Nc3 At first sight this looks like a blunder but if Black takes the bait, White plans to build up a huge attack. 12 ... Nxb4 Objectively, Black is still fine after this move, but it forces him to find all sorts of difficult defensive resources. 13 axb4 Bxb4 (see diagram 1) The pin will regain the piece and Black will be two pawns ahead. However, White gains a huge initiative on the kingside. 14 0-0 Bxc3 15 Rc1 Rc8 After this natural move White gets a winning attack. Black should bring his bishop into the defence as quickly as possible with 15 ... Bb4 16 Ng5 0-0 17 Qg4 Bb5 18 Bxb5 Qxb5 19 Rc7 Bd2! 20 Qh3 h5 21 Nxf7 Qe2 22 Nh6+ Kh8 and White has nothing better than perpetual check with 23 Nf7+ Kg8 24 PUZZLE NO. 50 0 White to play. This position is from Jones-Deac, European Team Championship, Batumi 2018. Can you spot White’s crushing breakthrough? Answers to me at The Spectator by Tuesday 10 April or via email to email@example.com. There is a prize of £20 for the first correct answer out of a hat. Please include a postal address and allow six weeks for prize delivery. Last week’s solution 1 Rxg6+ Last week’s winner Jeremy Hart, Yatton, Somerset Competition Carroll in La La Land Lucy Vickery Diagram 1 rDWDkDW4 0pDbDpDp W1WDpDpD DWDp)WDW WgW)WDWD DWHB)NDW WDWDWDP) $WDQIWDR Diagram 2 WDbDW4kD 0pDWDpDW W1WDpDpD DWDp)WHp WDW)WDWD DWDB)QDW WDWgWDP) DWDWDRIW Nh6+. 16 Ng5 0-0 17 Qg4 Badly timed. White is winning if he finds 17 Rb1 and if 17 ... Qc7 18 Rf6! a5 19 Qf3 with an unstoppable attack. 17 ... Bd2 18 Qh3 h5 19 Rxc8 Bxc8 20 Qf3 (see diagram 2) 20 ... Qd8 A losing blunder. Black had to play 20 ... Qc7 when after 21 Bxg6 he has 21 ... Bxe3+! which is a miraculous deflection. After 22 Qxe3 fxg6 23 Rf6 the likely result is a draw. 21 Nxf7 Bxe3+ 22 Kh1 The difference here is that White can simply ignore the bishop. 22 ... Qh4 23 Bxg6 Bg5 24 Bh7+ Black resigns A nice finish. If 24 ... Kxh7 (24 ... Kg7 is met with 25 Qd3 with infiltration to g6) 25 Nxg5+ Qxg5 26 Qxf8 and Black will soon be mated. rhWiWDWD 0WDWgp0W W0pDpDW4 DNDW)qDp WDW)WDW) DQDWDNDW PDWDW)PD $W$WDWIW In Competition No. 3042, a challenge inspired by the American parodist Frank Jacobs’s 1975 version of ‘Jabberwocky’, ‘As If Lewis Carroll Were a Hollywood Press Agent in the Thirties’, you were invited to provide a Hollywood-themed ‘Jabberwocky’ for our times. Jacobs begins: ‘’Twas Bogart and the Franchot Tones/ Did Greer and Garson in the Wayne;/ All Muni were the Lewis Stones,/ And Rooneyed with Fontaine…’, and most (though not all) of you closely followed that template — to dazzling effect. Honourable mentions go to Rob Johnston and Joe Houlihan. Those printed below pocket £25 each. ’Twas Downey, and the Harrelsons Did Cruise and Walken in the Pitt. All Spacey were the Sarandons, And Nicholsons half-lit. ‘Beware the Streepymeryl thing, The wanxome Caine, the gribbled Crowe. And never be caught Willising The frungible Paltrow! Beware the stribulous Dafoe, The Damon frimbling in his Cage, The hot Roth of DiCaprio And Hoffman’s puglish rage!’ The sad youth heard the smurbly words That named his mortal mission thus. His visage paled. ‘Alas!’ he wailed, ‘I am not Spartacus.’ Basil Ransome-Davies ’Twas Gerwig and the Sharon Stone Did Gere and Gambon in the Wiig, All Hemsworth was the McElhone And the Jack Black’s Paul Feig. He took his Vincent Vaughn in hand; Long time the Hanks Defoe he sought — So rested he by the Weinstein tree And stood Wahlberg in thought. And, as in Affleck Firth he stood, The Ethan Hawke, with eyes Broadbent, Came Walken through the Sheedy wood, And Markled as it went! John Wu! John Wu! And Depardieu, The Vincent Vaughn went snicker-snack, With Donnie Yen, and with Sean Penn, He went Gal Gadot back. Rob Stuart ’Twas Affleck and the Kevin Kline Did Depp and Damon in the Gad: All Meryl were the Pegg and Pine, And Elba were the Brad. ‘Beware the Barinholtz, my boy! Avoid the Denzeling Dafoe! Face not the Clooney McAvoy And shun the Ruffalo!’ He strapped his Channing Tatum on, Vin Diesel filling every vein, 58 the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk LIFE And with his trusty Harrelson He Charlized his Chastain. ‘And hast thou slain the Corey Stoll? O Dench, O Cara Delevingne! Give Hanks inside my Gyllenhaal That you are Dafne Keen!’ Bill Greenwell ’Twas glitzy, and the osky crowd Were streeping in the sisterhood, All whiny steins were disallowed, And the hashtags me-tooed. Then through the I-Am-Holier-Wood An inclusion rider flew, Where thesps in cumbered batches stood And signalled their virtù. Beware the spacey male, my dear, The couch that casts, the paw that gropes, Of race- and gender-gaps steer clear, And shun the transey phobes. The thesps in each acceptance speech Ground an afflected axe, But the Trumperwock just gave a screech, And huckabeed his facts. Brian Murdoch ’Twas BrillGig and the carpet red Did spire and spangle with outrage: All vignalling were the walking heads (The moguls manched about offstage). ‘Beware the Grabberwock, metoos, The spooling jaws, the pelvic thrust! Beware the Tubtub bird’s abuse The offered parts which now disgust! For we are armed with mighteous strength Waxed and heeled and sanctified, We’ll make LA like Doris Day All motherhood and melon-pied!’ And thus the Grabberwock was slain, Their retrous joy glibbed unconfined: Fraglitter town is pure again And human nature’s redefined. Paul Carpenter The Weinstein scrumbled through the Wood, His hands were squeezing squirm, He wriggled as he sluthered on A beastly slimy worm. And then behind him came a cry, As Paltrow screeched her pain And Klass and Jolie Beckinsaled Behind him their refrain, He must be stopped, this squelchy squid With slathering tentacles, The Campbell and the Thurman rose And waved their sharpened tales. They scummed the Weinstein over land And to the swarfling sea As the cries enstrafed his cringing soul ‘Me too, me too, and me.’ Katie Mallett NO. 3045: MIND YOUR LANGUAGE Crossword 2353: Too many by Doc 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 12 13 15 10 14 16 17 18 The unclued lights, three of two words and four pairs are of a kind. Elsewhere, ignore two accents. 19 20 11 14 15 17 19 22 24 26 30 33 36 39 40 41 43 44 45 1 2 3 4 22 24 23 25 26 Across Arable plant making money, including capital – a grand (10, hyphened) The occasion, we’re told, for tears (5) Express excitement about the sun at start of evening (7) Sound producer’s good fortune is keeping time (7) Top performer and soothsayer, regularly (4) Manageable while oddly dismissing odds all day! (6) Fit he-man’s out in the pit (9) Knowledgeable fellow has lost his head before (5) Magical beings seeming heartless and troubled (6) Study Latin on express (4) State capital displaying sprite’s painting (6) Receipts still in plant (7) Puffed up during February and March, once (7) Lydia changes her newspaper (5) Gain more information from characters of Eastern Ulan Bator (10, two words) Legal official putting name on seal (6) Irish girl, otherwise called Sandie (6) 21 27 28 30 29 31 35 36 39 32 33 37 34 38 40 41 42 43 44 45 5 Pianist John has to go up to lair (5) 6 Top felon having a just claim is terrible (9) 7 Young girl, despondent, with sickly pale colour (6) 8 Theresa demolished plant (7, two words) 9 Force finial on top of the hospital (5) 12 Trifles are a pound – change one’s diet (10) 16 The koala chewed one ant and beaver (10, two words) 20 European princely dynasty is in France and Spain (4) 23 In torpid lethargy (4) 29 Euphoria when family member runs off (7) 31 Gérard, the French baritone, for example, drinking most of the liqueur (6) 32 Fields entered by sportsmen, finally (6) Down 34 Staggered, but got in line Do these competitors keep (6) to the beaten track? (6) 35 Dispossess European Make notes. Sounds OK conqueror. No alternative! (5) (5) Drunkard’s in attendance – 37 Toyota model is leaving the that’s that (7, two words) plant (5) New type of chain and 38 Reckon Shetland viol is in capes (6) one of its bays (5) A first prize of £30 for the first correct solution opened on 23 April. There are two runners-up prizes of £20. (UK solvers can choose to receive the latest edition of the Chambers dictionary instead of cash — ring the word ‘dictionary’.) Entries to: Crossword 2353, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP. Please allow six weeks for prize delivery. Name Address Email SOLUTION TO 2350: PIECES The unclued lights are classical French plays (‘PIÈCES’) by Corneille (9, 18, 21A), Molière (11, 23, and 21D/29) and Racine (1A, 24 and 25). The highlighted letters reveal the three playwrights’ names. First prize Keith Norcott, Warden Hill, Cheltenham Runners-up David Carpenter, Sutton Coldfield; Paul Davies, Reading, Berkshire You are invited to provide a poem about euphemisms. Email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 18 April. the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 59 LIFE No Sacred Cows Death at a funeral Toby Young S omething very odd occurred at a funeral I attended last week — somebody died. I don’t mean the person who was being buried. They had died a few days earlier, obviously. I mean one of the mourners passed away during the service. That was shocking in its own right, but what made it surreal is that the other mourners carried on as if nothing had happened. The funeral took place in the deceased’s garden, where her family had arranged for her to be buried, and at the conclusion of the service someone announced that wine and food would be served. The 100 or so people in attendance formed a queue at the kitchen door and started chatting among themselves. Meanwhile, the poor woman who had died was flat out on the grass behind them. Actually, that description doesn’t quite do justice to how bizarre the scene was. The woman wasn’t simply lying in a corner of the garden, where she might have gone unnoticed. Rather, she was being attended to by a doctor who was doing his best to resuscitate her. That is, he was performing vigorous CPR in a way which was impossible not to be aware of. Then, after about ten minutes, an ambulance crew arrived and started trying to shock her back to life. It was like a scene out of Holby City, with a What made the situation more surreal is that the other mourners carried on as if nothing had happened paramedic shouting ‘Clear!’ before applying the electrodes. It could not have been more dramatic. And yet no one paid the slightest bit of attention. I can think of several explanations. The first and most important is that there are no longer any clear social guidelines when it comes to death and funerals. Had it been a Christian service, there would have been an obvious authority figure — the vicar or priest — and he would have suspended or postponed the service while he dealt with the crisis. But it wasn’t a Christian funeral. Rather, it borrowed from several religions, including Buddhism, and there was no single person in charge, and therefore no one to take a decision about how to react. You could see people looking at each other, hoping for cues about how to behave and I daresay that if even one person had called a halt to the proceedings and suggested people go home, everyone would have done so. But because no one did — because there is no unambiguously ‘correct’ way to respond when someone dies at an unorthodox funeral such as this — everyone just ignored it. The fact the funeral was taking place in the garden of the deceased, and a gazebo had been erected, also complicated things. It meant there was no obvious place to retire to, away from the body on the grass, as a mark of respect. Had it been in a church or a graveyard, we could have left and gone on to the wake, leaving a group to deal with the unexpected death. True, there was a house, but it wasn’t large enough to accommodate everybody and, in any case, much of the downstairs was occupied by the caterers. The choice was between ignoring the death or asking people to go home and, given the trouble the family had gone to, and that everyone wanted to pay their respects, ignoring it seemed like the lesser of two evils. People might have behaved differently if the woman in question was known to them — if she’d been a member of the deceased’s family, for instance. But it soon became apparent that very few people knew her. She was unaccompanied, too, which is one of the reasons the doctor and paramedics continued trying to resuscitate long after it was obvious she wasn’t coming back. Apparently, medical professionals are obliged to do that, irrespective of how clearly dead the person is, unless they’ve expressed a wish not to be resuscitated — and there was no way of knowing in this lady’s case. This is partly what made the situation so bizarre: the professionals had a clear protocol they had to follow, even though it was patently ridiculous, while the rest of us were hamstrung by a lack of protocol. The upshot was the worst of all possible worlds for this poor woman, whose death and its aftermath could not have been more undignified. Then again, she did die almost instantly, so perhaps it didn’t matter all that much. I’m not sure if the way we behaved was wrong — I’ll have to consult Dear Mary. But the odd thing is that the additional dead body didn’t seem to tarnish the experience for anyone. It was a very good funeral and the fact that no one overreacted to what happened reminded me of the deceased, who would have done the same. Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator. MICHAEL HEATH 60 the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘That’s personal abuse...’ Oh please.. What a pantomime much of the ball-tampering saga has been. Umpires: ‘Oh yes you were.’ Bancroft: ‘Oh no I wasn’t.’ Crowd (watching sandpaper disappear into Bancroft’s jockstrap on a giant screen): ‘Oh yes he was!’ If any more good can come of this saga, it will be to show football that VAR — the video referee system — will only work, and work spectacularly, if the punters in the ground also see the replays. The public unmasking of Australia’s cheating was both wonderful theatre and an absolute guarantee that the episode couldn’t be, er, tampered with by officials for ‘the good of the game’. Let’s hope VAR will be used this way in the World Cup. But don’t hold your breath. Spectator Sport What a pantomime this balltampering scandal has been Roger Alton haven’t seen so many men crying since the end of A Tale of Two Cities at the Scala Cinema in Oxford in the late 1950s. As the credits rolled, stern-faced blokes whipped out their hankies and dabbed their eyes. But by the time the lights went up, the hankies were replaced and upper lips stiffened. These after all were men, many of whom had served in the war. On balance, you feel, that is how men should behave, rather than sobbing uncontrollably with their parents around, like Steve Smith, or — in the case of wee Davey Warner — doing an absurd name, rank and number impression from a prison camp film. All because they had been caught. And then caught lying. I’m not sure how long these Aussie cricketers would have lasted in Revolutionary France. Or indeed in Stalag Luft III. Warner is a man whose idea of sledging on the pitch is swearing repeatedly at players. That’s not personal abuse he says. Yet when an opponent might reply with a passing remark about Warner’s wife, the vivacious Candice, Warner goes ballistic. I he whole Greek drama of the fall of Smith, Warner, Bancroft and Lehmann began last year with the hubris of Nathan Lyon, otherwise seemingly an agreeable bloke, bragging before the Ashes about ‘ending the careers of English players’, hotly followed by the smirking, adolescent behaviour of Smith and Bancroft at a press conference after the Australians had stitched up Jonny Bairstow over the headbutt non-incident. The southern hemisphere summer now ends with several Aussie careers on the line, if not wrecked; a bewildering amount of tears; and a once mighty T I’m not sure how long these Aussie cricketers would have lasted in Revolutionary France team blown apart by the South Africans. We Poms must be forgiven for just a trace of schadenfreude. ith Woods and McIlroy blasting back into form, Spieth and Rose too, this should be one of the most thrilling Masters ever. Only an unlikely Woods win would replace Ian Poulter’s play-off victory in this week’s Houston Open as the golf story of the year. It was a great result, not just because it secured him a place at Augusta, but because after the first round Poulter was in 123rd place. English to the marrow is the chest-pumping Poults — had he been around in the 15th century he’d have been a bowman at Agincourt. Although, of course, he lives in Florida. W he most unfair moment of some terrific quarter-finals in rugby’s Champions Cup was when François Trinh-Duc, the French stand-off, inexplicably failed to make touch for Toulon with just a few minutes remaining and gifted Munster a try — and a victory — the Irish did not deserve. Trinh-Duc, whose sleepy elegance seems to mark out an active boulevardier, had presumably glanced up at the stand as he made the kick and spotted his Toulon girlfriend in the same row as his Paris girlfriend with one saying to the other ‘Quelle?! Toi aussi!!’ Merde!’ The next minute the Munster wing had crossed the line. T DEAR MARY YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED Q. Along with five of my favourite people, I’ve been invited again to what should be an idyllic house party in Scotland this summer. The house, the landscape, the food and the sport could not be better, and our mutual friend is a brilliant host capable of great empathy and wit — 99 per cent of the time. However it is the 1 per cent risk of a glitch that is making me, and the others, wary of accepting. We discover that each one of us has, while staying in this house party, incurred the anger of our host and received a humiliating dressing-down for a very minor misdemeanour. Examples include arriving five minutes late for dinner, leaving a piece of (one’s own) clothing by the riverbank, going into town (in one’s own vehicle) to collect necessary prescription medicine — all these have brought on explosions of wrath. It seems one guest always gets it in the neck. This means that the pleasure is almost outweighed by the tension of waiting for the reprimand. Should we tackle him about these glitches before accepting? Or do they constitute a sort of droit de seigneur with which we should put up? — Name and address withheld A. It sounds like the glitch is hardwired. Instead of tackling him, why not turn the tension into excitement? Conspire that each guest pays £100 into a sweepstake the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk with the agreement that whoever receives the tongue-lashing will sweep all the money. If, as is likely, guests begin to compete to behave badly, you can intervene. Admit to your host that you have been playing up and explain that, although you are all very fond of him, you have agreed that the sweepstake is the best way forward. Q. Years ago a politician gave me his secret for protecting his hands during long days of shaking those of potential voters. Rather than use the fingertip-grabbing approach you describe, he would aggressively force his thumbfinger crotch as far as possible into the thumb-finger crotch of his counterpart. It requires practice and speed but knucklecrushing grips happen when your knuckles are accessible to be squeezed. If you can get your hand far enough into the handshake that you are almost palm heel to palm heel, your own hand cannot be crushed by even the most determined grip. — P.P., New York A. Thank you for contributing this useful suggestion. Q. Gerry Farrell has impeccable taste but when he says ‘top button only is the gentleman’s way’, he must be thinking of a linen jacket, which might typically have only two buttons. On a suit jacket, middle button only is the rule — broken especially by politicians trying to achieve a slimmer look. David Cameron used to do up the top two buttons. — R.J.O., Sittingbourne, Kent A. Thank you for this clarification with which Gerry Farrell agrees. 61 LIFE Food How Soho became so-so Tanya Gold ometimes I fret that Soho House & Co is doing to this column what it does to London. It places its smooth tentacles in my prose and suddenly the column has a pointy beard and is playing table tennis, while doing something monstrous in advertising. But I have no choice. I cannot hide in ghostly seafood bars for ever. (Next time, Bentley’s.) Because now Soho House & Co has invaded Kettner’s, which has duly gone the way of the Odeon West End in Leicester Square, a lovely art deco cinema that these days is only a void. It will become something else — a hotel and maybe a cinema again — but it will remain a void. The transformation of Soho into the kind of advertorial you find in an airport lounge in Dubai goes on. It is flat; a once fascinating pop-up book, closed for ever. If you were a cocaine addict in the 1990s and liked to circle Soho chewing your own lips like a malfunctioning shark, you would pass Kettner’s at least three times before dawn. It is in Romilly Street, a quiet road full of tall Georgian houses haunted by men S The transformation of Soho into the kind of advertorial you find in an airport lounge in Dubai goes on asking schoolgirls for sex in exchange for money. Well, that was my experience but I was only 14 so maybe I dreamt it. The great brick lump of the Palace Theatre is nearby, like Edward VII’s big bottom, but singing. Kettner’s was established in 1867 by August Kettner, who’s supposed to have been Napoleon III’s chef. (I wonder if he hated Napoleon III and ran away to London.) It hosted Oscar Wilde and later became a Pizza Express with cold white walls and black railings, magical and faintly unknowable, like a KFC at the palace of Versailles, or a Burger King in a Dickens novel. But Soho is extraordinary like that, or rather it used to be, before the porn cinema became a steakhouse and the non-porn cinema became a hotel and the district became a theme park for suburban idiots in fashionable sunglasses. Now that Kettner’s belongs to Soho House & Co, it is a restaurant and 33-room hotel with self-declared ‘tiny’ rooms from £255 a night. There is a definite masochistic edge to all incursions into Soho House, which names ‘If you rough up one side, you get a terrific reverse swing.’ its beauty products after cows. This is not funny; it is, for a leisure experience, quite self-hating. Kettner’s has been renamed Kettner’s Townhouse — ‘a home to aristocrats and creatives since 1867’ — and it joins the nearby Dean Street Townhouse, which I like, because it does bacon sandwiches for £6.50 and I once saw Matthew Modine there. Soho House & Co also has members’ clubs in Greek Street and Dean Street, and a bad restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue called Cafe Monico. I like dentists, but I don’t yearn for a world populated solely by dentists. And I don’t yearn for a Soho that is all House because, if it is, what is it for? I also don’t think Oscar Wilde would care to be called a ‘creative’. He is lucky he is dead. Kettner’s was going to be part of Soho House nearby, but the owners changed their minds and kept the name. This, then, is technically a reprieve but now the dough balls have been exiled, what does Kettner’s look like? A brasserie in a labyrinth, is the answer — glossy, soulless, generic. It is slightly art deco, slightly Second Empire, and slightly English country house. Soho House call it ‘affordable glamour’ but it is nothing of the kind, unless you are Swiss. We eat, in a shining parody of a dining room: a fillet of beef, a steak tartare, a steak haché and an omelette Arnold Bennett — haddock and parmesan. It is all sleek but it cannot compensate for the ruin of central London’s most interesting district. Kettner’s lives but only in name. Kettner’s has fallen. Kettner’s Townhouse, 29 Romilly St, London W1D 5HP, tel: 020 7734 5650 MIND YOUR LANGUAGE Your pronouns Jay Bernard won the Ted Hughes Award last week. I managed to hear a snippet of the winning poem on Today and was pleasantly surprised by its poetic quality. My husband was harrumphing a bit because the poet began by saying, ‘Soo… basically,’ and in his opinion went downhill from there, by talking about the poem being an ‘intersectional exploration’ seen ‘through a queer lens’. ‘You used to be she and her,’ Sarah Montague said. ‘Now you’re they and them.’ On Twitter, Jay Bernard told off The Bookseller, for having ‘misgendered me. The press 62 release says “they”, as does my profile. Why do you use “he”?’ The Bookseller changed its copy. I’ve mentioned before the use of they and them when we don’t want to specify the sex of the person we’re talking about: ‘I met an old friend and they asked me for a drink.’ It sits with the British English practice of calling institutions they: ‘I phoned the bank and they were hopeless.’ But to be expected to use a plural pronoun for someone, at the peril of obloquy, is a different kettle of fish. A popular website, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Centre of the University of Wisconsin, explains the need. ‘When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (often all of the above). It is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive,’ it says. ‘Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all, using their name as a pronoun instead.’ How can you tell? Advice for introducing someone publicly (if they haven’t been no-platformed) is to say: ‘Tell us your name, where you come from, and your pronouns.’ It’s not just they. Alternatives to they, them, their include fae, fer, fer; per, per, pers; ve, ver, vis; xe, xem, xyr; ze, hir, hir. Talk about oppressive. Of course, his and her are often not pronouns at all but possessive adjectives (her identity; his fault). In many languages, such as French, they agree with the grammatical gender of the noun they qualify. Jay Bernard would have to say son poème and sa identité, unless the French could be persuaded to rewrite their language specially. — Dot Wordsworth the spectator | 7 april 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Have better arguments. Every week. 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