10 march 2018 [ £4.50 www.spectator.co.uk [ est. 1828 Sex, power and Picasso Writers and their mothers Handling social climbers James Woodall Tibor Fischer Dear Mary Prince Charming Is Mohammad bin Salman too good to be true? By Christopher de Bellaigue THE SPYING GAME BAHRAIN BD3.20. CANADA C$7.50. EURO ZONE €6.95 SOUTH AFRICA ZAR79.90 UAE AED34.00. USA US$7.20. ROBERT SERVICE established 1828 The spying game T he apparent chemical attack on a former Russian double-agent and his daughter in an English cathedral city could be straight from a cold war thriller. Unfortunately, though, the case is not going to be solved in 500 pages — nor will it be solved by July, when the Foreign Secretary has threatened to withdraw a British delegation of dignitaries, if not the English team, from the opening ceremony of the World Cup. It was inevitable, as soon as Sergei Skripal was taken acutely ill on a bench in Salisbury, that fingers would point at Vladimir Putin. He did, after all, pass a law to give the FSB, the successor organisation to the KGB, powers to execute enemies of the Russian state on foreign soil. As Robert Service says on page 20, this form of assassination is entirely in keeping with his foreign policy. And of course there is the case of the Russian dissident and former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after being poisoned with polonium at a London hotel. The nature of the poison — a substance which would be extremely difficult for ordinary criminals to obtain — was widely interpreted as a deliberate calling card of the Russian state. Yet there are reasons for caution in the government’s reaction to the Skripal case. It took years for an official inquiry to investigate Litvinenko’s death, and even then the best it could say was that the Kremlin was ‘probably’ involved. This time, the circumstances are even less clear. There is no obvious motive. Litvinenko was an active dissident who was making trouble for Putin at the time of his death. Skripal, as far as we can tell, has lived a quiet life in Wiltshire since 2010, when he was one of the parties in a ‘spy swap’ between Britain and Russia. Four years earlier he had been convicted of spying for Britain and sentenced to 13 years in a Russian prison. Why should Putin, or anyone else in the Russian state, suddenly want him dead now for anything he did more than a decade ago? Or destroy the precedent that spy swaps should always be honoured? If Russian agents considered Skripal a great danger, they had plenty of opportunities to murder him earlier — or simply to keep him in jail. It would hardly be in Russia’s interest to be seen to renege on a spy swap, which would make co-operation with Britain — or any Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that this attack on Skripal was an attempt to frame Putin other country — less likely in future. What no one outside the security services can say at this stage is whether Skripal has been involved in any underground activity since coming to Britain — nor even whether he has been in contact with MI6 or involved with any private organisation. During the Cold War, Soviet spying was a nationalised monopoly. Along with much of Russian industry, it is now partly privatised. Mafias are also involved. Organised crime is now intertwined with the Kremlin: it is unclear where the state begins and ends. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that this attack on Skripal was an attempt to frame Putin, to provoke the West into an intemperate response. This is what makes life especially difficult for the British government. We don’t treat Italian ministers as complicit in the crimes of the Mafia, in spite of suspicions the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk that they might well have had their fingers in organised crime. (The Slovakian government is embroiled in just such a controversy right now.) It is hard to argue, given that we preach human rights to the rest of the world, that the principle of innocent until proven guilty should not apply as much to Vladimir Putin as to anyone else. If we wrongly accuse him, we risk losing Russian co-operation where we really need it. It is far better that the UK government limits its diplomatic broadsides against Russia to matters over which there is no room for doubt, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the flexing of its muscles involving military exercises over the Baltic. The way to respond on these is to make sure that we retain our military capability at a level to deter Russia. We have sadly failed to do this. Britain and other European nations were too quick to cash in the dividend from the end of the Cold War, to dismantle the defences of western Europe without stopping to ask whether Russia had really changed. We expanded Nato eastwards to the Russian border but in a mainly symbolic, weaponless way which has invited Putin to test our boundaries. The Skripal case must be exhaustively investigated, but we shouldn’t be surprised if the government can make no conclusive findings which would justify retaliation. There is little point in threats that would be laughed off. If Prince William is kept away from the World Cup, it would only serve to underline the paucity of the options open to Britain. If, on the other hand, we are serious about maintaining the strength of Nato we will succeed in deterring Vladimir Putin from trying to pursue expansionist ambitions. 3 Guilty? p20 Seduced by Bruni, p42 Picasso’s girls, p40 THE WEEK 3 Leading article 6 Portrait of the Week 9 Diary Twitter’s parallel universe, Brexitland, Corbyn and Croatia Paul Mason 10 Politics The EU would regret punishing Britain James Forsyth 11 The Spectator’s Notes Poor Cathy Newman, Max Mosley and bringing in voter IDs Charles Moore 17 Rod Liddle The populist revolution has only just begun 18 Ancient and modern The goods of war 21 Mary Wakefield Girls should be taught to spot a wrong ’un 23 James Delingpole What I learned about women from a burst pipe 25 Letters No-booze drinks, university pensions and a defence of Sunderland 28 Any other business Can May be her own housing supremo? Martin Vander Weyer BOOKS & ARTS 12 Prince Charming Is Mohammad bin Salman too good to be true? Christopher de Bellaigue BOOKS 30 David Crane Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age, by Michael Broers 13 A ray of hope The crown prince is the real deal John R. Bradley 32 Jesse Norman Thomas Paine, by J.C.D. Clark 14 Clive James ‘Grief Across the Water’: a poem 18 The real war on women Why are campaigners being silenced? Judith Green Kate Womersley Paper Cuts, by Stephen Bernard 33 Clare Mulley Operation Chaos, by Matthew Sweet Patrick Hare ‘Orchestra’: a poem 20 The Russia problem It’s time to seize control from Moscow Robert Service 34 Sam Leith Enlightenment Now, by Stephen Pinker 22 Two nations In London, dinner parties and murder exist side by side Harry Mount 35 Claire Kohda Hazelton Battleship Yamato, by Jan Morris 24 A very EU coup Selmayr’s astonishing power grab Jean Quatremer 36 Amy Sackville Sight, by Jessie Greengrass Juliet Nicolson Elisabeth’s Lists, by Lulah Ellender 37 Tibor Fischer Writers and their Mothers, edited by Dale Salwak 38 Stuart Evers on first novels C.J. Driver ‘For the One Only’: a poem 39 Sara Wheeler Free Woman, by Lara Feigel Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, Robert Thompson, Nick Newman, Grizelda, Bernie, Adam Singleton, NAF, Geoff Thompson, RGJ. 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: editor@spectator. co.uk (editorial); email@example.com (for publication); firstname.lastname@example.org (advertising); Advertising enquiries: 020 7961 0222 Subscription and delivery 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. 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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 | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk The last word in battleships, p35 What does ‘painting life’ mean? p46 LIFE ARTS 40 James Woodall Peak Picasso LIFE 55 High life Taki Low life Jeremy Clarke 42 The listener Nils Frahm: All Melody Rod Liddle 56 Real life Melissa Kite Radio Carla Bruni; Val Wilmer; Rachel Portman Kate Chisholm 44 Theatre Fanny & Alexander; Harold and Maude Lloyd Evans Why commit to a relationship when Kate Moss could be beckoning from behind the next screen? It’s so much easier to imagine someone’s perfect when you haven’t yet met them. Mary Wakefield, p21 57 Wild life Aidan Hartley Bridge Susanna Gross AND FINALLY . . . 50 Notes on… The Katherine Mansfield House Nigel Andrew 58 Chess Raymond Keene Competition Lucy Vickery 45 Music A short history of French musical decadence Michael Tanner 59 Crossword Pabulum 60 No sacred cows Toby Young Battle for Britain Michael Heath 61 Sport Roger Alton Your problems solved 46 Exhibitions All Too Human Martin Gayford Mary Killen 62 Food Tanya Gold 47 Television Gianni Versace; This Country James Walton One month in Beirut Elisabeth Knatchbull-Hugessen attended 13 tea parties, 60 cocktail parties and 63 lunches or dinners and was served ‘stuffed intestines, yards of them’ as well as ‘rats turned inside out’. Juliet Nicolson, p36 In mid-February, while dressing before dawn, I was perplexed to find a toad in my boot. That, I thought, should not happen for weeks. Aidan Hartley, p57 Mind your language Dot Wordsworth 48 Interview Director Michael Boyd Lloyd Evans 49 Cinema You Were Never Really Here; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story Deborah Ross CONTRIBUTORS Christopher de Bellaigue, who writes about Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on p12, is the author of a biography of Iran’s Mohammad Mosaddegh and, most recently, The Islamic Enlightenment. Jean Quatremer has worked for the French daily, Libération, since 1984 and is the author of several books on the EU. He writes about the Martin Selmayr imbroglio on p24. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Amy Sackville’s new novel Painter to the King comes out next month. She admires Jessie Greengrass on p36. Tibor Fischer, who considers writers and their old mums on p37, is the author of several novels. His new one, How to Rule the World, is published this April. Jesse Norman is the author of the forthcoming Adam Smith: What He Thought, and Why it Matters. He writes about the life and legacy of Thomas Paine on p32. 5 Home S ergei Skripal, aged 66, and his daughter Yulia were found in a state of collapse on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury. Mr Skripal, a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed by Russia in 2006 on charges of giving secrets to MI6; he was deported in a swap of spies in 2010. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said that the incident had ‘echoes of the death of Alexander Litvinenko’. Public Health England threatened food manufacturers and supermarkets with new laws unless they reduced the calories in portions of crisps, pizzas and pies. I n a speech on Brexit at Mansion House (intended, before the snow came, to have been made in Newcastle), Theresa May, the Prime Minister, sought to conciliate members of the government by speaking of compromise and to cheer up European Union negotiators by acknowledging such things as a role for the European Court of Justice in regulating bodies like the European Medicines Agency (which has already decided to move from London to Amsterdam). She repeated that Britain was leaving the single market and the customs union, but said: ‘We may choose to commit some areas of our regulations like state aid and competition to remaining in step with the EU’s.’ On Northern Ireland, she said there would be no hard border with the Republic, and no customs border with the rest of the United Kingdom. She proposed five tests for an agreement with the EU, though it was unclear how they could be 6 applied; one of them was ‘bringing our country together’. I n response to the speech, Jacob ReesMogg, a leading Brexiteer, said; ‘Now is not the time to nitpick.’ Sarah Wollaston, an MP leaning towards the Remain position, said that a rebel amendment to the Trade Bill, on a customs union, would ‘probably be kicked down the road’. EU responses were cool. Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit spokesman of the European Parliament, called the speech vague ‘aspirations’, and came to London for talks with David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, before a vote by the European Parliament in Strasbourg next week. Five days after the speech, when Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was due to give his view of Brexit, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, presented draft guidelines on what the EU would like to see in a trade agreement with Britain after Brexit. Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, died aged 88. Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the clockwork radio, died aged 80. Cumbrian villagers, cut off by snow for six days, burnt furniture to keep warm. Thousands further south were without water after a thaw exposed burst pipes. Abroad T he populist, anti-eurozone Five Star Movement became Italy’s biggest party, with 32.6 per cent of the vote in the general election. It dominated in the south, while the right-wing coalition, with 37 per cent nationally, dominated in the north, apart from the redoubts of Tuscany and the Trentino which favoured the left-wing coalition of Matteo Renzi, who resigned as the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party. Lego’s pre-tax profits fell by 18 per cent in 2017. France decided to make 15 the legal age of sexual consent, which had not been fixed before. P resident Donald Trump of the United States said he wanted steel imports to bear a 25 per cent tariff and aluminium 10 per cent; later he issued a threat against cars made in the EU. Gary Cohn, a leading economic adviser to the President, resigned. Gary Oldman won the Oscar for best actor for his role as Churchill in Darkest Hour; Frances McDormand was best actress for her part in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; the best picture was reckoned to be The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro. K im Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, agreed to meet President Moon Jae-in of South Korea at a summit in April at Panmunjom on the border. Some 90 people were reported to have been killed by Syrian government forces in one day in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. A Russian transport plane crashed on landing at the Hmeimim air base near Latakia, killing all 32 on board. At least 36 proSyrian government troops were reported to have been killed by a Turkish air strike in the region of Afrin, where they had been supporting Kurdish forces. South Africa blamed an outbreak of listeria that killed 180 people on contaminated polony. CSH the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk We search widely. 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Paul Mason A everything west European is an antidote to what they call ‘the Balkan mentality’; plus — as always in eastern Europe — incredibly well-informed academics, in despair at the commercialisation of their once classical education system. F or the young in Croatia, the European Union is not some abstract imposition but a potential source of support for the rule of law, democracy and secular modernity. They cannot understand why ‘E xit from Gravystan,’ reads the masthead of Index.cr, an independent news site in Croatia, where I’ve arrived for something called ‘Philosophical Theatre’. More people left this country last year than were killed in its war with Serbia, and the Index website records the country’s declining population with a continuous rolling tickertape. ‘It’s not just economic migration,’ my driver tells me. ‘Young people are sick of growing up in a country where everything is corrupt and there’s a permanent right-wing majority in politics. They think, if I’m going to do a shit job, I might as well do it in a real country.’ The Croatian National Theatre, an unspoiled Austro-Hungarian relic, is disconcertingly beautiful and packed. The demographic is trendy young people running small businesses, to whom the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 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 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 t the BBC early doors for the Today programme, to preview Corbyn’s speech advocating membership of a customs union. I suggest that ‘this is something Remainers can get behind’, but come off air to a torrent of denialism and abuse on Twitter. In a parallel universe, the people who feel existentially destroyed by being halfway out of the EU would have made this case passionately before the vote, instead of trying to rely on fear and platitudes now. In quick succession, the European Commission drops its bombshell, obliging Britain to impose customs controls across the Irish sea; then Theresa May delivers her speech applying for a kind of off-peak gym membership of the EU. It’s well delivered, diplomatically calibrated, and doomed to be rejected. Again, in a parallel universe, David Cameron would have stayed in office, gone for something close to a Norwaystyle deal, with a cross-party committee to oversee the negotiations. Instead, we’ve got May and a shambles. I arrive at Newsnight’s studio to find the government hasn’t even put up a minister to defend the new position, allowing the sole Tory voice on the country’s flagship current affairs programme to be John Redwood MP, who spins it as a ‘takeit-or-leave it’ ultimatum. It feels like some realism is emerging about Britain’s practical options: it’s either a version of Canada or a version of Norway. The parallel universe does not exist. 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 anyone would want to leave it. But for the elite it’s a source of funding, which pours into projects that often seem to benefit their own electoral base. In a parallel universe, the EU might have tried to build up democracy in Croatia before allowing it to join. Jean Claude Juncker is now busy trying to get Serbia and Albania into the EU, after which corruption and organised crime will be as scandalously neglected as they are in Croatia. In a bar thick with cigarette smoke, I sit with young journalists and bloggers watching social democracy getting eviscerated in the Italian election results. A bunch of xenophobes and political fraudsters are high-fiving each other. Where Italy is heading, Croatia has already arrived. W e drive through a steep valley, blanketed in snow, to Kumrovec — birthplace of Josip Tito. It’s a wellpreserved peasant village from the early 20th century — thatched roofs, basketweaving sheds, blue tits pecking at corn cobs hanging from the eaves of cottages. Tito’s statue is reassuringly life-sized and, like the country he once ruled, un-Soviet. Last year the Croatian government erased Tito’s name from a square in Zagreb — and all commemoration of the country’s socialist past is heavily disputed. Yet some among the young dream that, if Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro eventually join the EU, they can reform a kind of virtual Yugoslavia, just as an economically united Ireland has evolved over time. The memorial in Tito’s cottage is quite restrained: his binoculars and uniform are in a glass case alongside a photograph of his funeral, showing Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and Prince Philip among the dignitaries. It was from here, amid the wine-presses, that a peasant’s son took it on himself to liberate Yugoslavia from fascism. ‘Find me the man who is killing the most Nazis,’ Churchill told the MI6 spy Fitzroy Maclean — and it was Tito. My host invites me to write something in the condolence book — but it is so cold that the pen doesn’t work. What I would have written is: ‘Thank you, comrade, for your heroism during the anti-fascist war, but…’ SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST Paul Mason on Labour and Brexit. 9 POLITICS|JAMES FORSYTH The EU would regret punishing us L ast Monday, Theresa May’s chief of staff talked junior ministers through her Mansion House speech. Gavin Barwell was frank with them. The decision to stay in various EU agencies — and the commitment that UK regulatory standards for goods would remain ‘substantially similar’ to Europe’s — would make it harder to negotiate big trade deals with other countries. But he argued that the trade-off in access to the EU market made it worthwhile. In keeping with the current Tory truce over Brexit, no one in the room dissented. No. 10 believes that maintaining this peace is not just desirable, but essential. Barwell ended the meeting by emphasising that the lesson of Maastricht and Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour over the customs union was that Labour would always take the opportunity to bring down a Conservative government. So the Brexit deal needed to be one that every Tory, from Anna Soubry to Jacob Rees-Mogg, could support. Mrs May’s speech succeeded because no single Tory faction got everything it wanted but most got what they needed. For the Brexiteers, there’s the fact that the UK is legally leaving the single market and the customs union and that free movement will end. The vast majority of former Remainers, meanwhile, are reassured by the government’s effort to stay in various EU agencies and to replicate parts of the single market. On goods, the deal the UK is seeking bears significant similarities to Switzerland’s relationship with the EU. Observing the current Tory mood, one of the Prime Minister’s cabinet allies confidently declared: ‘She’ll be fine as long as she doesn’t do what David Cameron did, and give in.’ Unfortunately, the European Union is about to take a wrecking ball to this carefully constructed compromise. The EU doesn’t much like its deal with Switzerland and is currently trying to pressure the Swiss into accepting changes. The idea of handing that kind of arrangement to the UK — and without free movement — won’t appeal. The UK has at least held some things back for the negotiations. I understand that one paper circulated to senior cabinet ministers in recent weeks suggested that if the EU doesn’t bite on May’s proposals, Britain could offer concessions on immigration in an attempt to make them more palatable. The current indications, however, are that the EU will stick to its position that the 10 UK’s choice is between staying in the single market or a free trade deal like Canada’s. One reason why the EU will continue with this approach is that it doesn’t want an alternative economic model on its doorstep. If it can push the UK into agreeing to follow all the rules of the single market, so much the better. The big question in British politics now is how May responds when the EU rebuffs her offer. She has always resisted the idea of choosing between the Norwegian and Canadian models. But if Brussels forces her to, which path will she go down? Her red lines would suggest Canada but she will come under immense institutional pressure to accept something akin to Norway. Many in government fear there are those in Brussels who want to cut the UK down to a more appropriate size Many in government fear that there are those in Brussels who want to cut the UK down to what they see as a more appropriate size. These forces have been encouraged by the lack of urgency in the UK government’s preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario. The fact that Britain can’t credibly threaten to walk away makes it all too tempting for hardliners on the EU side to punish the UK. You could see this approach in the EU’s draft legal text for the withdrawal agreement. Its language about Northern Ireland was deliberately provocative. One No. 10 source remarks: ‘We know where that came from. There are those in the Commission who want to ramp up the pressure on us.’ But the danger is that the hardliners miscalculate: they push for something that the UK really can’t accept and the talks collapse as a result. The chances of ‘no deal’ are higher than ‘This isn’t vague enough’ generally realised. The two sides remain substantially apart on the Irish question. On Monday, Mrs May suggested the US/Canada border could act as a model. But the Irish have already ruled out this kind of border and it clashes with the UK’s commitment to avoid ‘any physical infrastructure at the border’. The Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney’s dismissal of the idea of exempting small-, micro- and medium-sized businesses from customs checks suggested that the Irish government and the Commission’s real aim is to keep the UK in the customs union and highly aligned with the single market. But it is hard to see how May could present such an arrangement as being compatible with the referendum result. There is also a risk that even if a withdrawal agreement can be reached, the trade talks could collapse if the EU tries to insist on tying the UK into a lopsided agreement. In her speech, May warned that the UK ‘will not accept the rights of Canada and the obligations of Norway’. There is, perhaps, a problem that one of the few beneficiaries of a no deal scenario would be the Commission. It would receive 80 per cent of the tariff revenue if the UK was left trading with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules. This would make a significant contribution to filling the hole left in its budget by Brexit. But those in the EU who would like to push the United Kingdom over the cliff should reflect on what that would mean. Yes, it would deter other countries from leaving but it would also fundamentally change Britain’s relationship with Europe. Either Britain would find an alternative economic model that would be almost the opposite of the European one, or this country would become poorer. In those circumstances, would Britain really carry on meeting Nato’s 2 per cent of GDP target for defence spending? The sterling devaluation of 1967 was rapidly followed by the retreat from east of Suez. This time, economic difficulty could be followed by a retreat from east of Lowestoft. Brexit was Britain’s decision. The EU is right that the onus is on this country to come up with proposals for how a balanced, future partnership could work; and the government has taken too long to do that. But if the EU chooses to make this split as difficult as possible, then it should expect Britain’s view of its broader, European responsibilities to change too. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Charles Moore A lmost eight million people have now watched Cathy Newman’s Channel 4 News interview with Jordan Peterson. This figure must be unique in the history of Channel 4 News online. Only a few minutes were broadcast on the original news programme, but Channel 4 then put out the full half-hour on YouTube, perhaps miscalculating the effects of watching the allegedly ‘transphobic’ Canadian clinical psychologist whose book 12 Rules for Life is selling out. I think what the majority of the eight million appreciate is that Peterson’s performance is noble. He attempts a clear exposition of his views about the differences between women and men. Despite every effort by Cathy Newman, he succeeds. Her method is to try to reduce his nuanced remarks to a hostile caricature, so she begins sentence after sentence with ‘What you’re saying is…’. He is never saying what she says he is saying, and he patiently explains why. It is riveting. I don’t agree with those who say that Cathy Newman is being nasty. There is a moment when Peterson catches her out about what it is to be ‘offensive’ and cries ‘Gotcha!’: she charmingly admits she is flummoxed. Her problem is rather that she is in thrall to certain received ideas and therefore literally cannot understand Peterson. Auden ends his great poem on the death of W.B. Yeats with the lines ‘In the prison of his days/ Teach the free man how to praise.’ Jordan Peterson is that free man. Poor Cathy Newman is the prisoner of the age. P aolo Gentiloni, who may now have to step down since his Democratic party got only 18.7 per cent of the vote in the Italian elections, is the fourth Italian prime minister in a row not to have been chosen by the electorate. Voters have shown a repeated disinclination to support the candidate of Brussels, so Brussels has found ways of imposing one. Italy has not had the prime minister of its choice since Silvio Berlusconi was brought down, with the support of EU leaders, in 2011. After the latest result, when that 18.7 per cent represents the only uncritically pro-EU section of voter opinion, Brussels is in a quandary. Try changed so that parents can be made welfare deputies solely on a calculation of the best interests of the child. They deserve to win. There is a peculiar, though unintended cruelty in the law insisting on your adult autonomy when you cannot attain it — depriving you, as it does so, of the help of those who love you the best. to sustain Mr Gentiloni in some awkward coalition, or suborn one of the other party leaders? I strongly suspect Gigi di Maio, the dapper young leader of the Five Star Movement, of being the EU’s best target. Like Alexis Tsipras in Greece, he could be the anti-Brussels man who then collaborates. He has the air of wanting to be Italy’s Emmanuel Macron. He must have much less chance than Macron, however. Italy has had too many years of hurt. W hen you are an adult, you are rightly responsible in law and in fact for your own decisions. But what happens to those adults who, through no fault of their own, cannot take on such responsibility? I recently heard of a diabetic, extremely fat, mentally handicapped adult in a group home who is eating herself to death because she has a legal right to her money and insists on spending it on vast quantities of doughnuts. No one is allowed to stop her, though she cannot look after herself. Problems often arise about accommodation. If you have learning disabilities, and are over 18, you can be placed under a care regime in ‘supported living’ (or in a home) which is quite unsuitable. Your parents might have no say at all. This happens more often now than in the past because cashstrapped councils want to slough off the cost by sending adults with learning disabilities into supported living, since central government pays for that. The Code of Practice of the Mental Capacity Act permits parents to become their children’s ‘welfare deputies’ only ‘in the most difficult cases’. Yet a vulnerable adult who is not a ‘most difficult’ case could nevertheless be devastated by being wrongly housed. Our friend Rosa Monckton and two other mothers are bringing a test case to the Court of Protection. They want the rules the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk I n the row about Max Mosley and the racist leaflet from the 1961 by-election in Manchester Moss Side, the unnoticed significant fact is that Mr Mosley was the election agent. Under electoral law, being the agent is not a nominal task. The agent is responsible for observing the rules, keeping within the spending limits and for everything published under the candidate’s name in the constituency during the campaign. It is perfectly permissible that the agent might not write the election literature, but impermissible that he not see and approve it, since he is its sole legal publisher. Agent Mosley would have approved the leaflet. All politicians know that these rules are real, so Tom Watson — and the Labour party — will know exactly what Mr Mosley must have done. A nother election rule which matters is that the voter is who he (or she) says he is. In the coming local elections, photo ID will be required in some pilot areas. This has provoked protests from an alliance of several charities and the sinister Electoral Reform Society. They fear that identity checks will put off some poorer voters. They point out that there were only 28 accusations of impersonation in 2017 and only one conviction. This proves little, however, since it is hard to detect electoral fraud if there are almost no checks. In the EU referendum in 2016, I illustrated this problem by ‘voting’ in two places, once casting a real vote and in the other spoiling my ballot to expose how easy fraud was. Rather than acting on the problem, the Electoral Commission condemned me. I can find nothing on their website in which they alert voters for the need for ID. If they were doing their job properly, they would want to get this right. 11 The prince of PR... Mohammad bin Salman is not as revolutionary as he seems CHRISTOPHER DE BELLAIGUE T his week, Mohammad bin Salman, also known as MBS, is on his notquite-state visit to Britain. A parade down the Mall and a state banquet could only be afforded to his father, old King Salman, who made MBS crown prince last June and has given him unprecedented latitude to liberalise Saudi society, lock up his enemies and light fireworks abroad. MBS arrived in London on Wednesday fresh from visiting one friend, Egypt’s General Sisi, and will go on to see another, Donald Trump, on 19 March. Theresa May’s aim will be to show that Britain can thrive outside the EU, but she should think twice before co-opting this new strongman who reputedly encourages his courtiers to call him Iskander — the name by which Middle Easterners know Alexander the Great. MBS is an exacting prince, as was shown last November when he locked up much of the country’s business elite in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh and amid allegations of corruption recovered billions of dollars. He has wrested control of public morals from the conservative sheikhs, introduced VAT, cut petrol subsidies, dismantled rules concerning gender segregation and invested some of the country’s sovereign wealth in Uber, the Hollywood movie industry and Neom, a planned $500 billion megacity on the Red Sea described in the literature as ‘an aspirational society that heralds the future of human civilisation’. All the while he is fighting a bloody war in Yemen and diplomatically squeezing the governments of Qatar and Lebanon — though he is being embarrassed in these regional endeavours by Iran. Jared Kushner and David Petraeus are fans of the restless prince. So is Boris Johnson. In a recent interview with Al Arabiya, the Saudi TV channel whose owner, Waleed al-Ibrahim, was among those arrested in November, the Foreign Secretary lauded the ‘very exciting period of change’ inaugurated by MBS. The words ‘arms’ and ‘deal’ did not pass Boris’s lips, nor did he mention 12 the British-made Typhoon jets and Paveway IV bombs doing such a sterling service in Yemen. Instead he stressed his admiration for MBS’s gender policies — under which women will be allowed to drive — and his plans to ‘replenish the aquifers’. Boris, Kushner and the others are not the first westerners to go gaga over an eastern arm-twister. From Muhammad Ali Pasha, Egypt’s reformer for most of the first half of the 19th century (he ended the plague, smashed the power of the Muslim clerics and built canals with Pharaonic disregard for the lives of his workers), to Iran’s Reza Shah (1925-1941) who introduced western legal codes and banned the hijab, nothing warms the western ego like emulation. The trouble is, Mohammad bin Salman’s campaign is even more piecemeal and impetuous than those earlier examples. And it is unmediated by the checks and balances that widen ownership and generate consensus around modern reform projects, whether they happen in a formal democracy or not. As for the 32-year-old princeling, a tad paunchy, his teeth often bared in a smile as dazzling as the taps at the Ritz-Carlton, MBS is an old-fashioned despot whose power comes from his limitless brief and the fact he has demolished the old consensual form of Saudi royal politics (each branch of the family had a share of power, including perks and peculation), and replaced it with himself. For all the triumphalist PR (‘He is bringing change to Saudi Arabia,’ proclaims the advert on pages 26 and 27 of this magazine), MBS is in Britain to save his plan. Barring an implausible long-term rise in oil prices, the kingdom desperately needs foreign investment if it isn’t to burn off its reserves in welfare spending and plunge into a financial crisis. The economy contracted 0.7 per cent last year, while the population grew at 2 per cent. Unemployment continues to rise, in part because of MBS’s success in getting women into the jobs market. And while the prince is the man with ideas, he may also be an impediment to their implementation. Nothing scares asset managers more than asset grabs. Institutional accountability would moderate the stripling’s excesses, but away from dinner at Windsor Castle and dutiful parley with Mrs May at No. 10, the one place where he might actually learn something, the Houses of Parliament, he won’t be visiting. That would mean passing the statue of Cromwell and the rowdier supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament Square; their vocal opposition to civilian casualties in Yemen and executions in Riyadh could be embarrassing. Indeed, MBS’s contact with ordinary Britons is likely to be so fleeting, he might as easily have asked Sophia the robot, an android that was recently awarded Saudi citizenship, to represent him. Ms Robot is to be one of the first inhabitants of Neom. MBS’s hosts hope that while he is in London he will ratify a pending order for some 48 more Typhoons. They would also like him to announce that the planned flotation of Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, will happen on the London Stock Exchange, though New York also has a strong claim. Beyond all this, the trip will be about Iran. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and the United States agree that the Islamic Republic should be destabilised so it cannot range malignantly over the Arab world. They cheered the Iranians who protested in January against the sick economy, and the the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Emiratis have been staunching the flow of dollars into the country, weakening the riyal. Neither Mrs May nor Boris had a personal hand in the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. They are more hawkish than their respective predecessors. That Iran is light years ahead of Saudi Arabia in political culture and technological know-how; that its Shia coreligionists across the region have for years been the victims of Sunni fundamentalism of the Saudi variety; these are unimportant details when set against MBS’s trillions. Towards the end of the Obama presidency, it looked as though America would favour a power balance in the Middle East — as the then president put it, the Saudis and Iranians should ‘share the neighbourhood and institute some sort of cold peace’. Unless Iran and Saudi Arabia tolerate each other’s regional aspirations there will of course be no stability, but Trump, MBS and Benjamin Netanyahu have killed the idea. The US’s policy towards Saudi Arabia was summed up by Philip Gordon, Obama’s former regional point-man: ‘Buy more American weapons, announce investments in the US, pledge to fight Islamic extremism, and, in return, we will give you unconditional support — for your confrontation The princeling is an old-fashioned despot whose power comes from his limitless brief with Iran, war in Yemen, isolation of Qatar, and whatever domestic practices you see fit.’ Now Europe seems powerless to stop the nuclear deal it so carefully put together from unravelling. This will probably happen in May, when Trump, required to extend his waiver of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, declines to do so. That will leave the Europeans to protect the shreds of the deal, which won’t amount to much given that pledges of big investment in the Islamic Republic — the West’s side of the bargain — haven’t been kept. The question for Britain is whether we should edge away from the European posture of neutrality in the Saudi-Iranian conflict and adopt Trump’s policy as our own. It would be the sexier path, to bet on the Saudi enlightenment and make money, but it would also be pusillanimous, cynical and heedless of history. Britain’s policy-makers and businessmen were mesmerised by the last Shah of Iran (Reza’s son Mohammad Reza) in his oil-fuelled and increasingly unhinged final phase. Boris and Kushner love MBS for the same reasons: he buys stuff and is bringing his country into the modern world. But the Shah’s project went to cinders and MBS’s might too. Don’t hug too tight. ... and of progress Actually, the crown prince is the real deal JOHN R. BRADLEY I n an interview this week, Mohammad bin Salman offered an extraordinarily frank assessment of how to combat terrorism. It means rooting out Islamist ideology, he said, as much as sharing intelligence. He presumably would take this blunt message to MI5 and MI6 in his meetings with those agencies, as well as to Theresa May’s National Security Council. This should provide plenty of food for thought to the cynics who argue against being taken in by his much-trumpeted embrace of a more moderate Islam. We have a Saudi crown prince who is being more frank about Wahhabi-inspired terrorism than the British. Just last year, the UK government saw fit to suppress a report that found a link between Saudifunded mosques and Isis-inspired terrorist attacks. It was kept quiet because we didn’t want to upset the Saudis. So not only does bin Salman have a thicker skin than his predecessors, he has inadvertently shone a bright light on the cowardice of our own political leaders. Western intelligence services and top diplomats are in fact already in receipt of a draft Saudi initiative that outlines how Riyadh plans to end the kingdom’s financial support for Wahhabism around the world. This will take place in tandem with eradicating the menace at home. The latter process, of course, is already well under way, with the easing of restrictions governing the segregation of the sexes in public, SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST Christopher de Bellaigue and Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles on the prince’s visit to Britain. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘Nice to see the kids out playing in the snow.’ a massive investment in public entertainment venues, the marginalisation of the religious police and the encouragement of women to enter the workforce. It’s not that a certain amount of scepticism isn’t normally justified — indeed, it’s absolutely necessary — when it comes to the historically double-dealing House of Saud. I know that as well as anybody. Few other Middle East commentators have highlighted more consistently over the past few decades — including in The Spectator — the moral hypocrisy at home and terror-funding abroad that has for so long defined the way the Saudis have done business. And I have long since grown tired of the lofty promises of political reform promised by new leaders after they were handed the reins of power, which invariably came to nothing. With Bin Salman, though, things are different. For a start, he is not spouting reform rhetoric by sucking up to critics in the West, who naively see progress in terms Bin Salman appears to understand that the last thing his country needs is a quick transition to democracy of introducing western-style pluralism and democracy. Thus far, he has made no such commitments. Nor should he do so, at least in the medium term. We in the West are rightly appalled when crazed Wahhabi clerics stand in our midst, calling for the implementation of sharia. But somehow we fail to see the hubris of our own evangelical promotion of an equally alien liberal democracy in their part of the world, not infrequently at the barrel of a gun. As a Saudi commentator recently reminded an intrepid western correspondent, moderate Islam doesn’t mean no Islam at all. And, truth be told, if it is Islam that got the Saudis into the almighty mess they find themselves in, it is probably Islam that will get them out of it. The Arab Spring has shown how choosing the path of pluralistic democracy leads inexorably to chaos and bloodshed, and to the better-organised Islamist parties triumphing at the ballot box, even in historically secular countries › 13 like Tunisia and Egypt. Thankfully, Bin Salman appears to understand that the last thing his country needs is a quick and messy transition to democracy, and that there is a third way open to Saudi Arabia. This is hinted at by the proposed $500 billion mega-city that symbolises the Saudi Vision 2030 plan that Bin Salman has pinned his country’s hopes on for economic transformation. In the promotional videos, it looks like Singapore on steroids. Could it be that Bin Salman has ambitions to be a kind of Arab version of Lee Kuan Yew? He could certainly do much worse than emulate that benevolent dictator, who famously oversaw the rapid transformation of the Asian city state — From Third World to First, as the title of his book had it — by restricting westernstyle democracy, freedom of expression and political participation. During its own momentous period of transition, Saudi Arabia, too, needs political stability and a strong, authoritarian leader, one who is guided by the Singaporean philosophy that political He has the overwhelming support of a youthful population desperate for greater freedoms liberalisation can only happen slowly and in the wake of strong economic progress. The risk of revolutionary upheaval in Saudi Arabia, in any event, is hugely overblown. Unlike Iran under the Shah before the 1979 revolution and Egypt under Mubarak before the Tahrir uprising in 2011, Saudi Arabia does not have a large industrial sector with organised trade unions. Immigrants do most of the crap jobs. Nor does the kingdom have a plethora of political parties, ranging from communist to Islamist. Or a vibrant opposition media. Street demonstrations, workers’ strikes? They are unheard of. The Islamists, rather than waiting in the wings as they were in Iran and Egypt, are on the royals’ pay roll or jailed. There is poverty and unemployment, but the statistics are not too different from what you find in southern Europe. Per capita income is the same as the United States. Nor, more to the point, is Saudi society anywhere near as brutal and cruel as were pre-revolutionary Iran and Egypt. Sure, for anyone who crosses the line of what is permissible, torture can become a reality. However, for everyone else, even seeing a police officer when you are out and about is a rarity. Most importantly, Bin Salman is not hated in the way that the Shah and Mubarak were. In fact, he has the overwhelming support of a mostly youthful population who are desperate for greater freedoms but also, like him, by nature conservative and enamoured of tradition. In short, anticipating a massive backlash is to misunderstand how Wahhabism, like communism in the Soviet Union, has been used in Saudi Arabia to oppress, rather than pacify, the masses. Out14 Grief Across the Water In exile, Ovid wrote his greatest poems About the Art of Love. Back in his prime He was always a head taller than the rest On that score, the most gifted of his era, But not yet quite himself. It took complete Defeat to seal his triumph. Sheer despair Supported by the slow drum-roll of destiny Is what gives his late work its lofty sweep. He’s out of it, and, saying so, he touches On the greatness that Augustus must have wanted To deny him, if the emperor still thought At all about a merely banished pest. Of that we’re sure: that the sidelined poet was A miscreant the emperor wanted punished, If only through neglect. The last great poems About love add up to a stricken plea For attention, and the sad thing is, nobody Is listening out there. Almighty Caesar Is occupied with other things, and at the most Must have given the new stuff a casual glance, Perhaps while Livia peeled him a grape. So what did Ovid do wrong in the first place? Nobody knows. The scholars go on guessing Age after age. By now two thousand years Have gone by and it’s still a puzzle. I Myself, though not a scholar, feel the need To know, if just to know for sure the greatest Poet of his time was sent to languish In the social dead zone of the lower Danube For something worse than talking out of turn: Which is what poets do, and have done always. Nail them for that, you’d have to nail them all. — Clive James side of its birthplace in the central Najd region, the masses never bought into it. I worked as a journalist and editor in the kingdom for three years in the early 2000s, when I was allowed to travel wherever I liked and talk to whomever I pleased (without the usual government-appointed minder). During my numerous trips, from the big cities to the most remote regions, what struck me most, apart from the extraordinary warmth and hospitality of the people, was the remarkable resilience of cultural identities: how they flourish in private and in the local, strongly rooted communities, despite the strange, faceless rule of the Wahhabis over all public life. Today, I am not in the least surprised that the vast majority of Saudis are eager to break free of the shackles. We should back Bin Salman as he guides them away from the Wahhabi nightmare toward a freer and hopefully more prosperous future. John R. Bradley is the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis, published by St Martin’s Press. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk WALKING HOLIDAYS f or d i s c e r n i n g t r av e l l e r s Join our good friend, and passionate Francophile, James Tamlyn, for a relaxed gastronomic walk through the ‘real’ France, which will introduce you to not only the beautiful landscapes, historic châteaux and charming local villages of his favourite regions, but also the finest local food, wine and producers – from truffle-hunters to fromagiers and, of course, winemakers. Each of these holidays consists of a week-long walking party – accommodation is included at charming, hotels and châteaux or private houses – and a two night stay in a Kirker hotel with flights and transfers. The Way of St James A nine night holiday departing 1 September & 8 September 2018 Following in the footsteps of mediaeval pilgrims in the south of France, our St James’ Way itinerary comprises two alternative walks – the first starts in Le Puy-en-Velay and takes the most historic route started by Bishop Godescalc in 951 AD and the second continues from Figeac, finishing in the mediaeval city of Cahors in the Occitane region. Both walks take in countryside dotted with oak woods, fortified villages and dramatic cliffs and accommodation throughout will be in properties ranging from rustic farmhouses to local charming hotels. The final two nights will be spent in Toulouse at the elegant Grand Hotel Opera before flying home. Price from £3,448 per person for a 9 night holiday including return flights to Toulouse, 7 days of gentle walking on the Way of St James, 7 nights accommodation with breakfast and dinner, picnic lunch on each walking day, excellent local wines with each meal and 2 nights accommodation with breakfast at the 4* Grand Hotel Opera in Toulouse. Dordogne & Haut Quercy A nine night holiday departing 24 May & 13 September 2018 This nine night holiday begins with two independent nights in the fascinating city of Toulouse which is located on the banks of the Garonne. You will then head off to the Dordogne and less well-known neighbour, Quercy – two of the most picturesque regions of rural France and epitomised by rolling countryside studded with ancient villages, gentle flowing rivers and spectacular caves – and they are also renowned for some of the finest culinary ingredients in the country. Each day takes you from prehistoric caves, impressive mediaeval châteaux and immaculate towns such as Sarlat, to the unspoilt flora, fauna and handsome local houses of the tranquil Quercy valleys. Our itinerary includes ample opportunity to sample local wines, including visits to two excellent world-class vineyards in Saussignac and Cahors. Price from £3,492 per person for a 9 night holiday including return flights to Toulouse, transfers, 2 nights accommodation with breakfast at the 4* Grand Hotel Opera in Toulouse, 7 days of gentle walking with accommodation in manor houses in the Dordogne and breakfast, lunch (some will be picnics) and dinner each walking day with excellent local wines. Treading the Grape A nine night holiday departing 12 October 2018 Flying to Toulouse, this holiday starts with two independent nights at the 4 star Grand Hotel Opera before joining the walking party for the seven night wine tour. It is a relaxed itinerary that is perfect for expert oenophiles and amateur wine enthusiasts alike, providing an intimate insight into the wine-making process with James and Minette Constant, Master of Wine.You will enjoy visits to a wide variety of vineyards, from small producers to well-known chateaux: highlights include two wine-tastings with Minette, and a visit to some of the world-class wine makers of the region such as Richard Doughty whose ‘Coup de Coeur’ dessert wine has been compared to 75% Yquem and 25% Climens… You shall also enjoy some excellent local cuisine, paired with carefully-chosen wines, and meet a number of wine-makers who will explain some of the finer points of the art and science behind their craft. Price from £3,565 per person for a 9 night holiday including return flights to Toulouse, transfers, 2 nights accommodation with breakfast at the 4* Grand Hotel Opera in Toulouse, 7 days of gentle walking with accommodation in comfortable rural châteaux-hotels, two wine tastings, breakfast, lunch (some will be picnics) and dinner each walking day with excellent local wines. Speak to an expert for full details or a tailor-made quotation: 020 7593 2283 quote code XSP www.kirkerholidays.com 5 1 2 3 4 5 reasons why you should own physical gold... Gold is a safe haven asset Gold is frequently used as a safe haven asset in times of economic turmoil or geopolitical uncertainty. For this reason many advisors recommend allocating around 5% - 15% of their portfolios to gold. Gold has a history of holding its value Unlike paper currency, gold has maintained its value throughout the ages and is an ideal way of preserving wealth from one generation to another. 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The only time you hear the name is in early episodes of Midsomer Murders, the ones produced before they were forced to have black people being killed in a ludicrous fashion alongside the whites, to demonstrate our commitment to equality. It does have an awkward connotation with sex — but then it always did, Roger having been a slang word for penis right back to the 17th century. I suppose it has simply drifted out of fashion, along with common decency, emotional continence and heterosexual marriage. The UK website BabyCentre does an annual poll of the top 100 baby names for boys and Roger did not figure at all. Muhammad came first in two out of the last three years. It is a great shame: there is something steadfast and comforting about the name Roger and it has appealing European roots, deriving from the French and before that, old German, hrod — which does in fact mean steadfast. Perhaps nobody wants to be steadfast any more because it is seen as being a boring quality to possess. Ah well, I look forward to the day when parents will no longer have to agonise over what to call their offspring because everybody will be called Muhammad. Apart from the chicks, of course. But even there I have high hopes that Muhammadette will take off. I don’t think the Italians are looking forward to the day everyone is called Muhammad. Their election results would suggest otherwise. It was, of course, a dog’s breakfast, as Italian elections tend to be (the country being no worse off as a consequence of this tradition). But the Italians voted overwhelmingly for populists and, even more so, populists who are at best sceptical of the European Union. By and large the message was this: if a party is anti-immigration, not too keen on the EU and not liberal, we will vote for it. A caveat: the main winners, Five Star, sometimes show a vague aspiration to be liberal and they certainly at times espouse populist left-wing policies. But they have been fairly outspoken on the issue of immigration, calling for an immediate end to the arrival every week of North African Muslim migrants trafficked over from Libya and the rest of the Maghreb. The party has also previously supported a referendum on membership of the euro. The other big winners were Lega, which is even more reliably anti-immigration and anti-EU, and finally the neo-fascists reconfigured as radical conservatives, Fratelli d’Italia, which doubled its share. All three are avowedly populist parties. The proestablishment liberals were all but wiped out. These election results will have come as a grave shock to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In his new book, Reimagining The people of Europe do not want any more immigration on the scale we have seen in the past ﬁve years Britain, our spiritual guide and leader castigates populism: I hope the Italians feel suitably chastened. But he was far from alone. The morning after the election results came in, a writer at the Times suggested that the first consequence of the outcome would be that all Italian children would immediately die of measles. This interesting hypothesis was predicated on Five Star’s worries about the MMR vaccine. The writer concluded: ‘This cause is dangerous, ill-informed and insular. It flies in the face of evidence, ignores progress and puts others at risk. In that sense it is a perfect reflection of populist parties.’ Well, yes, of course it is. Aside from not liking immigrants, populist parties will kill your children because they are all thick and uneducated. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘Was the lecture cancelled due to snow or snowﬂakes?’ You will have noticed the echo in this arrogance of the stuff which emanated from the liberal elite during our own referendum, and even more so after. The furore which greeted the Italian elections, though, has been heightened by the sudden realisation that 2017 has gone, disappeared — and with it the illusion that after the horrible, terrifying tumult of 2016, things had at last got back on track. The liberal order had reestablished itself. The liberals, with the idiotic Welby among them, were immensely cheered by 2017, primarily by the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential elections, but also by the failure of Geert Wilders to make much of a dent in the Dutch elections, as well as the bloody nose afforded to Theresa May in June of that year. But this ignores the fact that three of the leading candidates who contested the French elections were avowedly populist, even if the eventual winner was merely faux-populist. It ignores the fact that in the Dutch elections the establishment liberals were once again annihilated. And it ignores the fact that the only unambiguously pro-Remain party in England, the Liberal Democrats, managed to capture a total of 12 seats in our own general election. It ignores Angela Merkel’s humiliations and the rise of the AfD in Germany, and the Austrian election results. So the tide had not turned, as they believed. It is still coming in and will be coming in for the foreseeable future. If you think the populist revolution which has gripped continental Europe and the US is finished, think again. It has only just started. An opinion poll back in October suggested that 60 per cent of Italians wanted very tough restrictions on immigration into their country. That is absolutely in line with other opinion polls across Europe. It is remarkable that Europe’s liberal elite has not grasped this fact; even if Merkel has of late. The people of Europe do not want any more immigration on the scale we have seen in the past five years. That is the principal reason they are voting for populist leaders and why they will continue to do so. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/RODLIDDLE The argument continues online. 17 ANCIENT AND MODERN The goods of war The real war on women Why are activists trying to silence my campaign group? JUDITH GREEN F The presenters of the BBC 2 programme on civilisations seem unable to decide what civilisation is. Socrates would therefore wonder how they could make a programme about it. Still, that’s academe for you. Let the Romans help out. First, the root of ‘civilisation’ is Latin civis, ‘citizen’. That implies a law-bound society. Secondly, in his epic Aeneid, Virgil described how Aeneas, fleeing Troy in flames to found the Roman race, consulted his father Anchises in Hades on the future that awaited him. Anchises duly ‘foresaw’ the whole history of Rome down to Virgil’s day, and defined Rome’s mission: the arts and science, he said, were for others (he meant the Greeks), but Rome’s raison d’être was ‘to rule an empire, teach the ways of peace, spare the defeated and overpower the arrogant’. No civilisation, then, without peace — which could be won, in the ancient world, only by war — and the fruits of war, wealth. ‘Law-bound society’, ‘peace’ and ‘wealth’ added up to the conditions under which civilisation could flourish. What then would be its product? Otium, Latin for ‘leisure’. For the plebs, that meant state-sponsored bread and circuses (= circuits, i.e. chariot races). We might call that — within its limits — enlightened social policy. For the educated, otium meant high culture, learnt from the Greeks: the freedom to speculate about the wonders of the natural world, study literature and the arts, argue about e.g. history, ethics, justice and so on; and commission superb works of art and literature. The whole package came under the term humanitas. At this point there will be the usual pious howls about slaves and women and the poor and human rights. But our ‘enlightened’ world still has much to learn here. Even Jeremy Corbyn could not disagree with Cicero that justice arose from ‘love of fellow humans’ or that humanitas demanded that the ‘comfort, safety and needs’ even of barbarians should be respected. Wonderful works of art can, of course, be produced under any conditions. But civilisation is far more than works of art: it includes the best that Man has thought, said and created, and the freedom to engage with and build on it. — Peter Jones H ow hard is it for women to talk freely about sex, gender and the law? Not very, I used to think. I’d heard about a few no-platforming incidents on campuses, where speakers including Germaine Greer were blocked from appearing because of their views. What I hadn’t realised was just how far the problem has spread. In the past few months, I’ve discovered firsthand that political debate is narrowing for everyone — and that fear and intimidation are being used increasingly to curtail free speech. I am one of a small group of women who get together to discuss proposed changes in the law on sex and gender. We’re called Woman’s Place UK. But because of the content of our discussions, certain activists want us closed down. They’re doing their best to make it happen. The managers of the venues we book are harassed, our attendees are abused, our organisers are threatened. For our most recent meeting, held in London last week, we had to disclose the location only a few hours before it started, just to be safe. And it’s all because we want to ask questions about changes which could have serious consequences for us as women, for our children, and for society as a whole. We want to talk about gender and the differences between men and women, and whether or not the law should be rewritten to allow people to change their legal sex more easily. The government says it is committed to making ‘self-identification’ easier. That means whether you are legally male or female is purely a matter of choice. It would be nothing to do with your biology or your socialisation. At present, there are rules: to designate yourself female you need to live as a woman ‘I can’t keep up with how out of date I am.’ 18 for at least two years and have your transition confirmed by a doctor. Some see this as unreasonable, and object to having what they see as a matter of personal identity ‘medicalised’. The MPs pushing for reform hope to amend the 2004 Gender Recognition Act to mean that any man who declares ‘I am a woman’ will have full access to all the rights, protections and places that women have fought for and won over the past century. Some of the momentum for this reform comes from the Women and Equality Select Committee, which is led by the Conservative MP Maria Miller. As well as backing self- It is not bigoted to defend the right of women to have boundaries that protect them declared gender laws, this committee has also proposed that laws allowing some services and jobs to be reserved exclusively for what we call natal-born women should be removed. It was the combination of these two proposals that rang alarm bells for many women. So we started asking questions. Should someone born and raised male, who is therefore reasonably perceived as male, be included in spaces reserved for women — changing rooms, domestic violence shelters and prison wings? How would the changes affect women of certain faiths who rely on single-sex exemptions to enable them to access services they might otherwise have to avoid? Should all-women shortlists (used by Labour and the Lib Dems) be put at risk by including people who are legally male, purely because they say they are a woman? Most transgender people, I am sure, are as decent and kind and open-minded as anyone else. But a small, aggressive group of activists — not all of them trans, by the way — want to establish a new norm of debate: that anyone who disagrees with them, or even asks questions, ought to be silenced, sacked or both. They do this by branding us as ‘transphobic’ bigots, and by going to astonishing and worrying lengths to disrupt our meetings. As soon as Woman’s Place UK the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk announces a meeting, the venue starts getting hassled and harassed — with phone calls and social media messages accusing them of hosting a ‘hate group’ — as if a bunch of women talking about the law are dangerous subversives. But you’d be surprised (or perhaps you wouldn’t) at how toxic the charge of ‘hate speech’ can be. Most of the venues haven’t been swayed, because they believe in free speech. But when there has been the threat of violence and the police have had to get involved, we’ve moved the event. People attending and speaking are also targeted. A common tactic is to send messages to their employers accusing them of transphobia and inciting hatred. Personal details are posted online. At the meetings, we’ve had activists arrive with their faces covered, shouting and swearing at women as they arrive and leave. Some of our conversations are about domestic violence and abuse: they are now held while people outside bang drums, having sworn at the women on their way in. A lot of women are understandably scared. The people who support us aren’t battle-hardened activists but working mums, students, grandmothers and others coming to attending a political meeting for the first time in their lives. Some women have told us they would like to attend but they’re terrified of what will happen if their names are known. Others use pseudonyms. No one wants their employers or family being bombarded with emails and messages calling them a bigot. After all, it is not bigoted to make a distinction between sex and gender iden- tity. It is not bigoted to defend the right of women to have boundaries that protect them. Single- sex spaces are, by definition, exclusionary — the question is where the line is drawn and who gets to decide. Do our meetings ‘exclude’ trans people? Hardly. There are trans people who agree that women-only spaces should be upheld and our rights defended. They have spoken at our meetings. The women worried about these changes in the law come from all parties and none. We don’t want to silence the transgender campaigners who disagree with us: they have every right to be heard. But they have no difficulty with being heard — since wealthy charities, prominent politicians and media figures make their case frequently and loudly, often while calling for us to keep quiet. The people who run the country hear their voices daily. All we ask is that they have the chance to hear ours too. The approach of the people who want to stop us is to attack, slur, abuse, harass, bully — but we’re not going to take it. We find ourselves fighting for the right to discuss our views — and the fact that this is becoming so hard in Britain in 2018 ought to alarm everyone. We have three more meetings scheduled, in Birmingham, Cardiff and Oxford, and there will be more in the pipeline. It’s far riskier than we ever imagined, but we’re going to keep talking. MONDAY 26 MARCH | 8.30 A.M. – 12.30 P.M. 1 WIMPOLE STREET, LONDON W1G 0AE HE LTH SUMMIT 2018 The inaugural Spectator Health Summit, chaired by Alastair Stewart, is a unique opportunity for health and care leaders to examine solutions to some of the toughest challenges facing the NHS and social care. We will discuss the following questions: How can the NHS improve its use of new technology? REGISTER HERE How can we make social care sustainable? In association with www.spectator.co.uk/healthsummit | 020 7961 0044 the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 19 The Russia problem It’s time for May to take back control from Moscow ROBERT SERVICE M ischief and mayhem work better for Russia than steady cooperation with the western powers. This at least is what the Kremlin leadership decided a decade ago, after Putin had accommodated the American wish for an Uzbekistan base for its Afghan war only to find that President George W. Bush continued to criticise him for the brutal way he brought Chechnya to heel. From then onwards he searched for a different frame for foreign policy. This meant reaching out a hand of friendship to China and other developing countries. It licensed Russia’s ministers, especially those responsible for national security, to be as rude as they liked about America. It spelled out that Russia would achieve its re-emergence as a great power in its own chosen fashion. Around the world, Moscow spread its propaganda networks. Russkiy Mir cultural institutes were established. The RT television channel was created. Russia hosted successive Formula 1 grands prix and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and prepared for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Russian ‘soft power’ worked well for the Kremlin until the decision to occupy Crimea shortly after the Sochi Olympic competitors had flown home. As western economic sanctions came into effect, Putin pondered whether to continue with the path he had chosen. From his standpoint, it was a pointless question. The Americans had applied other sanctions after the death in custody in 2009 of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had exposed official malpractices. Putin reckoned that the United States would continue to go after his administration regardless of how cooperative he tried to be. He promoted a paranoid picture of world politics in which the ‘hegemonic’ superpower — America — would always victimise his country. He and the Russian security leaders decided that if Russia wanted respect, it had to be feared. In his second presidential term he signed into law a bundle of vaguely defined measures that endorsed action by Russian secret services beyond the national frontiers. This was little more than a confirmation of past practice. When Putin himself 20 had briefly headed the Russian security service the FSB in 1998-1999, he had boasted to the State Duma of secret operations on foreign soil to punish wrongdoers. Back then, he had limited himself to claiming FSB’s right to engage in extraterritorial activity against Russian economic crime. As president, he widened the scope for such measures. In particular, he aimed to free — indeed to oblige — the secret services to hunt down and destroy terrorists and extremists who worked in groups based outside Russia. The assassination of a Chechen rebel leader, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, in the Qatari capital Doha was the FSB’s work. Putin endorsed this kind of Colonel Skripal lived quietly, never raising his voice or lifting a pen to tear into the Russian administration retribution because Yandarbiyev had been touring the Gulf States to raise money for jihadis in Chechnya. And when in November 2006 the former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko met a horrific death in central London through a dose of polonium210, the finger of blame was pointed again at the FSB. The Metropolitan Police gradually ran down their investigation. Successive cabinets appeared to prioritise attracting Russian money to the City of London. In 2015, as Anglo-Russian relations were going through another of their periodic dips, home secretary Theresa May set up a judicial inquiry. Exhaustive proceedings, some of them held on camera, led Judge Robert Owen to the damning verdict that the order to eliminate ‘So Mr Bond, we’ve been expecting you.’ Litvinenko had ‘probably’ come directly from the Russian president. There have been instant suspicions that the FSB has attempted to repeat its murderous work, this time against the former military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal. As yet these are only suspicions, but naturally the UK counter-terrorism authorities are impressed by the similarity between the outrages of 2006 and the present day. Before we think we have seen it all before, however, it is useful to consider an important difference. Alexander Litvinenko had spent years exposing malpractice in the FSB leadership, including his charge that the Russian secret services were responsible for the 1999 Moscow apartment bombing. This was the bombing that provided Putin, who was prime minister at the time, with the premise he needed to relaunch Russia’s war in Chechnya. Litvinenko also claimed that Putin is a paedophile. It is hard to imagine what more Litvinenko could have said to enrage Putin. By contrast, ex-Colonel Skripal lived quietly in Wiltshire, never raising his voice or lifting a pen to tear into the Russian administration. He served a term of imprisonment in Moscow before becoming part of a multiple spy-swap in 2010 when the Russians traded him for the FSB sleeper ‘Anna Chapman’. Whereas she eagerly became a Russian media celebrity, Skripal laid low. Perhaps the most he did was to continue to supply MI6 with valuable information on the basis of his experience. Putin has made no secret of his hatred of traitors. He himself oversees security policy. If Sergei and Yulia Skripal really were targeted by the FSB, no one can have confidence in any future agreement to live and let live those spies who obtain their freedom by bilateral governmental assent. And if true, it would seem that relatives of traitors are regarded as fair game again (as, for instance, Trotsky’s sons were in the 1930s). Boris Johnson has blustered that we could terrify Putin by withdrawing the English national squad from the Fifa World Cup tournament in Russia. This would be no more than a slap on the wrist. Johnson might usefully consider how, in 1971, his predecessor at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alec Douglas-Home expelled 90 Soviet diplomats for espionage. Icy relations followed, but the British authorities earned lasting respect and Moscow thought twice about offending London. Does London retain a priority for engorging laundered Russian finance in preference to planning for serious potential retaliation? May’s cabinet has talked up its ambition to seize back control of our country’s affairs. Control over the safety of UK residents would make a good start. The Last of the Tsars by Robert Service is published by Macmillan. He is currently writing a book on Putin’s Russia since 2012. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk MARY WAKEFIELD Girls should be taught how to spot a wrong ’un W e are becoming a nation of older mothers. The average age at which a woman has her first child is now 30, a fifth reach 45 without having a baby and the usual busybodies are in a flap. The government, which had anyway decided on compulsory relationship classes, thinks the answer lies in more of the same. If we only explain to 11-year-olds how hard it is to conceive at 40, the creep towards geriatric motherhood can be reversed. Expect your small daughter to bring home fertility awareness posters designed in PSHE, perhaps papiermâché models of a deteriorating human egg. The busybodies aren’t wrong to worry. I first set about trying for a family just as youth was crumbling into middle-age and it was a very boring business. Three years of blood tests, referrals, Harley Street; an endless uncapping of Mont Blanc pens and popping of pills. But in the end, my son. I’m all for sparing future generations this sort of expensive angst, but the more I look about, the more I’m sure the government has it quite wrong about the causes of late motherhood. Girls aren’t clueless about biology. The very same study (by the Fertility Education Initiative) that set off the fuss, also reported that most young people, nine out of ten of them, are already well aware that it’s trickier to conceive over 30. Nor do I buy the usual millennial complaint that they don’t earn enough to support a family. That FEI study found that most women, whatever their income, are keen to have kids before they turn 30. I hate to kick men when they’re down, ducked beneath the parapet for fear of angry feminists, but I suspect the real problem here isn’t ignorant girls but unwilling boys. I have several female friends in their early thirties who’ve wanted a baby for a while. Ninety-five per cent of girls do, says the FEI. The trouble for them hasn’t been the cost of childcare or a demanding career. The trouble has been finding a man who’s even halfway keen to settle down. All my pals looking for Mr Right report identical patterns of behaviour. Dating is now all online. So they scroll through endless profiles and eventually make contact with a promising guy. Cue weeks of pointless texting followed eventually by an actual date. The evening often goes well. There might be a snog, more texting and another date arranged. After that: nothing. The promising man, who’s caught wind of a woman with family plans, submerges back into the internet to scroll through the options again. Why commit when Kate Moss might be beckoning from behind the next screen? It’s so much easier to imagine someone’s perfect when you haven’t yet met them. If online dating turns more men into commitment-phobes, I don’t see why anyone should be surprised. It’s women for the most part who feel the urge to nest and breed — If online dating turns more men into commitment-phobes, I don’t see why anyone should be surprised as we all once quite freely acknowledged before gender became a choice. Most men don’t feel the same need to play house. It took the threat of public shame, fear of God and the censorious tutting of mutual friends to chivy a man towards family life. Online, dating strangers, who’s to see or care? A decade ago, when I was single, I was often kindly set up by my married friends. Among the men on offer was a very particular type of feckless lothario left over from the half-generation ahead, who’d run though the girls in their peer group and were starting on the next lot down. They were handsome in a worn way and image-conscious. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘We’ve got you off your stabilisers — next performance-enhancing drugs.’ They wore trainers with suits, played guitar, and a wise girl steered well clear. These were men who’d been teenage golden boys with their pick of chicks. They’d never grown out of self-absorption, because, I suppose, they’d never had to. Any girl foolish enough to get involved was pulled into orbit around the narcissist, into endless conversations about their progress in life, their neuroses, the meaning of their dreams. The girls imagined they could eventually persuade them to have children. They never could. Where I live, on the fault line between Islington and Hackney, the coffee shops are full of young people, of perfect breeding age according to the FEI, discussing their lives. I sit spider-like and listen, and I’ve found to my slight horror that all the hallmarks of the old feckless narcissist are present in more than half the men I overhear. There’s the over-concern with grooming: hair, beard, tattoos. Then, after they’ve arranged their avocado egg toast and photographed it for Instagram, the endless talk about themselves. They begin: ‘The thing about me is…’ Then there’s no stopping them. Last summer I listened to a good-looking man of 30 talk for over an hour to an older chap who turned out to be his life coach. Our hero wasn’t happy, he said, but why? He’d tried every self-improvement fad going. He had a therapist, a personal trainer, a NutriBullet; he’d downloaded the headspace app… What could be wrong? Why not settle down, said the life coach, have kids? Well, he’d tried, said the man, but every time he looked at his girlfriend he began to agonise over whether she was good enough for him. He’d discussed it at length with her, he said, but he just couldn’t make himself commit. ‘I think the answer is to cut the negativity out of your life,’ said the coach, nodding sympathetically. ‘Do something just for you.’ I have an idea for the new relationship classes. I think it’s a winner. Girls from eight years old, say, should be asked to create a public awareness campaign in PSHE: how to spot a commitment-phobic narcissist. Then posters on the tube maybe: ‘Run. Hide. Tell.’ I genuinely think the government should consider it. 21 Two nations In London, dinner parties and murder live cheek by jowl HARRY MOUNT L ast month, a 17-year-old business student of Somali extraction, Abdikarim Hassan, was knifed to death outside a corner shop, 70 yards from my home in Kentish Town, north London. At that very moment, in a parody of middle-class life, I was having dinner with friends, playing bridge in my flat. Less than two hours later, and less than a mile away, another youth of Somali extraction, Sadiq Aadam Mohamed, 20, was slashed to death with a samurai sword. That same evening, a mile and a half from me, a 17-year-old survived a stabbing and a 24-year-old was attacked, suffering non-serious injuries. Two people have been charged in connection with the killings. It later turned out that Hassan’s brother, Mohamed Aadam, 20, was knifed to death in September. And his cousin Mohamed Abdullahi, also 20, was fatally stabbed in the heart in 2013. And what was the response of Camden Council, the police and local MP Keir Starmer to this murder epidemic? They sent every Camden resident a toothless letter: ‘Youth clubs in the area remain open with increased staffing to support young people… social work teams [will] provide emotional support to children and families affected by these stabbings… We intend to set up a community conversation meeting in your area.’ The letter gave the number of a Somali Youth Development Resource Centre, but it didn’t say that this is overwhelmingly a lethal, mortal problem for Somali youths. That’s the opinion of Ismail Einashe, another Somali who grew up in Kentish Town, or what he calls ‘Somali village’. Like lots of those trapped in this murder epidemic, Einashe was a child refugee from Somalia’s civil war, which has raged since 1986. Einashe left Somalia at the age of nine and grew up in Camden in the 1990s during the first murderous gang wars, when he saw what happened to friends who had spent their childhoods in battle zones. ‘Many of my peers who had arrived in the 1990s graduated into a violent gang culture,’ Einashe wrote in the Sunday Times. In 2006, outside Camden Town tube station, his friend Mahir Osman was stabbed to death by 40 youths with bats, screwdrivers and knives. Twelve years on, and it’s got 22 worse. Knife crime in London increased by 18 per cent from 2016 to 2017. There have been 16 knife killings in London so far this year. The victims are disproportionately male, teenage (five of them) and Somali in origin. Needless to say, none of those victims is a white, middle-aged, middle-class bridgeplayer. And yet Camden Council, Keir Starmer and the police waste thousands of pounds on sending letters to people like me ‘to reassure every resident that the safety of our communities is our highest priority and we are directing all of our attention and resources to keeping you safe’. I know I’m safe. I’ve lived in Kentish Town for 20 years, and no one has laid so I’ve lived in Kentish Town for 20 years and no one has laid a ﬁnger on me. But I didn’t grow up in a civil war much as a finger on me. But then I didn’t grow up in a civil war to the sound of gunfire; neither did I suffer from the gang wars when I first lived in the borough, nor do I in today’s renewed gang violence. I’m completely safe, even though I live at the interface between the two worlds. I buy newspapers from the Saver’s Mini Market on Islip Street, where Abdikarim Hassan was murdered, yards from his home on the Peckwater Estate (named after Peckwater Quad at Christ Church, Oxford, which used to own the land here). On the weekend after the killing, I bought the Financial Times from the Mini Market. By a cruel irony, that FT Weekend’s House & Home supplement featured prop- erty in Kentish Town, where ‘house prices have almost doubled since 2007… [and where] last year, the average cost of a second-hand home reached £805,000’. To be fair to the police, they did place a Section 60 order in Kentish Town after the murders, allowing for expanded stop and searches, resulting in eight arrests and the seizure of knives and baseball bats. Before the order, Camden had been low on the stopand-search list of London boroughs: 12th out of 32, with Lambeth, Westminster and Southwark carrying out the most stop and searches from 2017 to 2018. The overwhelming number of stops across London in that period were for drugs (70,000), as against 20,000 for ‘Weapons, points and blades’. Spells of increased stop and search have been effective in reducing knife crime in Scotland and London, as Munira Mirza, Boris Johnson’s former deputy mayor for education and culture, wrote in these pages last month, just before the Kentish Town murders. Nevertheless, the police are prevented from doing the one thing that such a disproportionate number of killings of Somali youths demands: concentrating on Somali youths in their stop and searches. As a Metropolitan Police spokesman told me this week: ‘Any profiling for stop and search on the grounds of race is unlawful.’ In fact, this would be stop and search based on national origins — Somali ones — rather than racial ones. Refusing to concentrate stop and searches among those communities that are most at risk increases that risk — and wastes police resources that should be focused on the most vulnerable people. When I biked round the Peckwater Estate the weekend after the murder, there wasn’t a single policeman in sight, despite a promise of 24-hour patrols in the letter to me. That letter threw away money that could have been spent on direct policing of those people at risk of violent death. Guns, thank God, aren’t easily available in London the way they were in Florida to Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month. In north London gangland, guns don’t kill people, knives do. And people who carry knives are more likely to be killed by other people with knives. The murder victim at the bottom of my garden had been arrested for carrying a ‘hunting-style combat knife’ at the Notting Hill Carnival last August. Donald Trump’s response to the shooting of schoolchildren — more guns for teachers — is crazy: literal overkill. Our response to the stabbing of schoolchildren — sending out emotional support leaflets and outlawing targeted policing — kills with kindness. Harry Mount is author of Summer Madness: How Brexit Split the Tories and Divided the Country (Biteback). the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk JAMES DELINGPOLE What I learned about women from a burst water pipe ‘I t’s always me who gets the worst of it,’ said the Fawn, surveying the wreckage caused by the burst water pipe. I did not disagree a) because I would have had my head bitten off and b) because it’s true. Though I wouldn’t say I was completely useless: who was the first to spot the water gushing through the ceiling of the guest bedroom, eh? And who was the first to find the stopcock using the time-honoured method of running up and down the stairs for ten minutes screaming: ‘Where the hell is the stopcock?’ But it’s probably fair to say that the Fawn bore — and continues to bear — the brunt of the crisis. In theory a burst water pipe ought to be largely in the male domain. But once you’ve got the man stuff out of the way — move furniture, place strategic buckets, call a plumber and find he can’t come for three days — the aftermath is pretty much woman’s territory. I’m thinking of the business of dealing with the mounds of accumulated sodden linen, plus a weekend’s worth of unwashed clothes; drying the mattresses; airing the rooms; running a household with a crap husband and two useless teenagers when there’s no mains water. For a whole weekend we involuntarily conducted one of those TV-style experiments — the Elizabethan family — in which we had to survive without being able to flush the bogs or wash the dishes or fill the kettle except using water laboriously collected in buckets from our neighbour’s outside tap. This is how it would have been for almost everyone who lived prior to the 20th century. The first flushing toilet wasn’t invented till 1596 — but you only got to use it if you were Queen Elizabeth I. Even the White House didn’t get running water till 1833. Throughout the Victorian era, washstands remained the norm. It wasn’t until the 1900s that individual houses routinely had running water. Can you imagine how tedious it would be having to fill your baths using a succession of water pots heated on the hob? How inordinately tiresome it would be having to rinse the suds from your linen by hand? When you experience it, it does concentrate the mind. ‘Do I really need to use that extra pot for cooking, knowing how much of a pain it will be to wash afterwards?’ you think to yourself. But the most important lesson I learned — or rather had reinforced, for I have never really doubted it — during our weekend without water was simply this: women have had it so much worse than men through 99.9 per cent of history. That’s because, inter alia, all the tiresome chores I’ve outlined above would have been done by the womenfolk, while the men were off out doing man For millennia, the more dangerous and capable half of our species have been held in check with endless chores stuff like hunting, fighting, roistering, adventuring, speculating, inventing, and bringing home the bacon. Throughout history, women have complained about the unfairness of this. If I were a woman, I would complain bitterly about this too. (Not least because if I were a woman, I would have been born with the in-built complaining gene that comes with your two X chromosomes.) But viewed from an evolutionary biology perspective, you have to admit that the Creator or Mother Nature knew exactly what they were doing when they thus apportioned our roles. Why the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk have women historically undertaken all the drudgery? Because — though they’ll never admit it — they’re just so much better at it than men. They know that if they didn’t do these vital household tasks, the tasks would either get done late or done badly or not done at all. And none of these options is acceptable if, as most women do, you care about not living in a house surrounded by filth, about whether or not your husband stinks, and about whether or not your children die of food poisoning. I got a glimpse of these atavistic instincts by observing the behaviour of my children during the crisis. Girl studied the house plumbing plan and researched on the internet to see if there were valves we could use to isolate the broken pipe. Boy, meanwhile, thought it would be a jolly wheeze to collect saucepans of snow — freezing the house as he tramped in and out, leaving the door wide open — and heat them on the Rayburn, as presumably he’d learned from Ray Mears survival documentaries. As I watched all this, marvelling at the manifest superiority of the female species, my warm glow of pleasure at my womenfolk’s wondrousness gave way to a shudder of fear and cold dread. ‘Dear God,’ I thought to myself. ‘What have we unleashed?’ For millennia, the more dangerous, cunning and capable half of our species have been held in check with endless household chores. Yes, they still do them to a degree. But these chores don’t take up anywhere near as much time and energy as they did before we men foolishly invented all those laboursaving devices to free women from drudgery. We thought they would love us for it. But they didn’t. It will take more than a century for that hard-wired resentment gene to evolve out of the female system. And now they have time — oh so much time, except when the pipes burst — to devise ever new ways to plot their revenge for all those millennia of injustice. For the sake of humanity it’s not the atom bomb we need to go back in time and un-invent: rather it’s the Hoover, the dishwasher and the washing machine. 23 A very EU coup Martin Selmayr’s astonishing power grab JEAN QUATREMER M artin Selmayr has always dreamed of being known beyond the Brussels bubble. His wish has now been granted, albeit in not quite the way he might have hoped. It has arrived in the form of a brilliantly executed coup that has handed this 47-year-old German bureaucrat neartotal control of the EU machine. The coup began at 9.39 a.m. on 21 February, when 1,000 journalists were sent an email summoning them to a 10.30 a.m. audience with Jean-Claude Juncker. The short notice suggested urgency — and for such a meeting to be happening at all was unusual in itself. Since becoming President of the European Commission, Juncker has held hardly any press conferences. His news was the surprise promotion of Selmayr, his Chief of Staff, to the position of Secretary-General, in charge of the Commission’s 33,000 staff. The reaction from the journalists present was astonishment. No one had been aware of a vacancy. There was no sign that the 61-year-old Alexander Italianer had been thinking of retiring. But as Juncker announced other appointments, it quickly became clear what had happened. Selmayr had taken control, and anyone who resisted him had been unceremoniously fired. Juncker had handed the keys of the European house to his favourite Eurocrat. Selmayr had served Juncker well — or was it the other way around? Rather than being a regular chief of staff, Selmayr acted like a de facto deputy president. Juncker, who looks increasingly tired and worn out, had been the perfect glove puppet for Selmayr. Juncker was happy to let his Chief of Staff do the work, and happy to thank him by giving him a job of even greater power. In the first few days of his new job, Selmayr has left no doubt about how he intends to rule. Last week, all Commission staffers were sent a letter from their new Secretary-General — something that is, again, highly unusual, as such letters are sent only by the President. In his Urbi et Orbi, Selmayr proclaimed that the EU civil service ‘must not be satisfied with being the machine to run our institution’, which is odd, given this is exactly what the Commission is supposed to be for. But Selmayr declared that the civil ser- 24 vice (or, rather, he himself) would act as ‘the heart and soul of the Commission’. With that sentence, Selmayr reduced the role of the 28 European Commissioners to mere extras. One commissioner who was present at the meeting where Selmayr was promoted later explained to me what happened (he spoke on condition of anonymity, which is in itself telling as he is supposed to be a heavyweight). They were called to a 9.30 a.m. meeting where Juncker presented them with nominations. Selmayr was named not as the Secretary-General, but as the deputy — a post that was known to be vacant. Selmayr’s promotion was unexpected, but Juncker assured them that all was above board. Then came the coup de grâce. Having appointed Selmayr as deputy, Juncker announced that the Secretary-General — ltalianer — had resigned. So Selmayr, having Juncker will be gone next year, so Selmayr needs to line up a docile replacement been deputy for just a few minutes, would take his place from 1 March. ‘It was totally stunning,’ the commissioner told me. ‘We had witnessed an impeccably prepared and audacious power-grab.’ Before anyone else could find out about this unprecedented doublepromotion, an email was sent out summoning journalists to the press conference — where Selmayr was confirmed. A fait accompli. Why are the European Commissioners not making more of a fuss? Perhaps because Selmayr is preparing to give them a special present. Retiring commissioners are entitled to a generous ‘transition allowance’ of up to two-thirds of their basic salary for roughly two years, up to about €13,500 a month. Selmayr now plans to extend this to three, or perhaps even five, years. On top of the extra cash, they’d enjoy a series of benefits in kind: an office in the Commission headquarters (previously a perk to which only former presidents were entitled), a company car with a driver and two assistants. So thanks to Selmayr, a departing European Commissioner might receive double, if not triple, what he or she currently receives. All tax free, let’s not forget. Selmayr’s manoeuvre would not have been possible without the complicity of Irene Souka, the European Commission’s Director-General of Human Resources. She has been amply rewarded for her efforts: last month, her job was extended beyond compulsory retirement age (as was that of her husband, Dominique Ristori, who is Director-General for Energy). Only one mystery remains: why did Selmayr move when he did? Why not wait? Juncker will be President until October 2019: why would Selmayr not stay as chief of staff (or de facto president) until then? Or why not at least spend six months in the Deputy Secretary-General job? One answer is that Selmayr had to move before anyone could work out what he was up to. France, in particular, had its eye on the Secretary-General job, as two of the four great European institutions (the Parliament and the Diplomatic Service) are managed by Germans. Now, thanks to the Selmayr ascendancy, it’s three out of four. Rather a lot. But there’s an even bigger reason for him to have moved. Precisely because Juncker will be gone next year, Selmayr needs to act now to line up a replacement — someone just as docile. And he believes he has found just the man in Michel Barnier. It’s thanks to Selmayr’s patronage that Barnier ended up as the Brexit negotiator in the first place. Selmayr’s next mission is to put Barnier top of the list of the European People’s Party (a grouping of centreright MEPs), which means he’ll be in pole position for the job under the Spitzenkandidat system that Selmayr did so much to set up. Barnier is the ideal candidate because he is (in Selmayr’s eyes), weak, malleable and Macron-compatible. Selmayr is now accountable to no one. Indeed, he has lost no time further consolidating his power. He has moved his office close to the President’s. I understand he will continue to chair meetings in the President’s office and even plans to put the hitherto independent European legal service under his command. So all he needs now is a new president as docile as Juncker has been and he’ll have achieved his aim: before his 50th birthday, and without ever having stood for elected office Selmayr will become the alpha and omega of the European Commission. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk LETTERS Pipeline politics Sir: In his article ‘Putin’s gamble’ (3 March), Paul Wood quite rightly mentions that one of the key reasons why Russia played hardball in Syria was Assad’s willingness to block the efforts of Qatar to build a natural gas pipeline through the country to supply Europe. This would have undermined Russia’s market power in Europe, and weakened Russian leverage over Europe when defending its actions in Ukraine. Some of the strategic issues at play in Syria exist in Libya, but to a lesser degree. Libya supplies Europe with gas from large offshore deposits through the GreenStream pipeline to Italy. Qatar tried for years to get Muammar Gaddafi to agree to its investment in Libya’s gas industry so it could undercut the Russian position in the European energy market. It failed and that explains why it poured money and weapons into some of the forces, notably different Islamic militias, which succeeded in overthrowing Gaddafi in 2011. This gas angle is one which few analysts of Russian strategy on Nato’s eastern and southern flanks seem aware of. When Russia intervened in Syria, it had good reasons for doing so. Francis Ghilès Barcelona not xenophobic philistines. The reasons why the majority voted to leave are complicated, not least being that the economic boom which has benefited the south has done little to reinvigorate the north. London is seen as a remote city-state, within which successive Westminster governments have neglected their responsibilities to the regions. The vote was not anti-European but more anti the EU administration, which is regarded as a self-serving, unaccountable, bloated bureaucracy. I now live in London, a constituent of Jeremy Corbyn, with neighbouring constituencies being those of Keir Starmer, Tulip Siddiq, Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry. In this rarefied milieu, the subject of Brexit is discussed frequently, and in terms similar to those described by Mr Delingpole; yet hardly anyone is able to pinpoint Sunderland on the map. Craig Goldsack London N7 University pensions Sir: Andrew Marr (Diary, 3 March) expresses ‘sympathy for the striking college lecturers’ because ‘they didn’t have big Non-alcoholic? Yes please Sir: I disagreed in the main with Freddy Gray’s observations about non-alcoholic drinks (Spectator Life, 24 February). Without wishing to virtue-signal, upon giving up alcohol for Lent, I found an excellent and economical non-alcoholic beer called Bavaria Premium, which delivers the requisite salty-sweet ‘hit’. Additionally, I feel sympathy for the oft-maligned millennial. They quite understandably want a more grown-up drink than Coke or orange squash but their generation can’t afford to get drunk. Any unwise comments or actions can these days lead to social exclusion or even worse. Di Newman Faversham, Kent Defence of Sunderland Sir: I am a ‘disgusting, drooling, knuckledragging Neanderthal’ from Sunderland and, for once, agree with James Delingpole (‘Will Remainers ever learn to forgive?’, 24 February). I am fed up with the repeated criticism heaped on my home town simply because it was the first place to declare after the EU referendum. People in the north-east are generally kind, straightforward, friendly and funny; they are the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk pensions to look forward to in the first place’. University teachers who complete 40 years of service currently retire on half their final salary. Not only is this indexed annually to inflation, but if their spouse or partner outlives them, they will receive a half-pension for the rest of their lives. I spent 21 years as a university academic. As a result, I now receive a university pension worth some £20,000 — £40,000 if I’d served out my full time. Such a sum might sound like chicken feed to Marr, but it comfortably outstrips the £28,000 national average salary for people who are still working. Peter Saunders Hastings, East Sussex Short shrift Sir: James Clunie (‘Merchants of doom’, 3 March) does a typical whitewash job in defending the indefensible: the shortselling of borrowed shares. I wonder what the many struggling buyers of Persimmon Houses, already aghast at the millions paid out to that company’s directors, think about seeing another £200 million going to City shorters? How can it benefit the owner of a share to see its price artificially reduced? The fact is that the underlying owners of such shares have not knowingly given their permission to have them lent: the question is often buried in the small print. Many fund managers decline to lend shares to this faux market and it is to their credit. So qui bono? The custodians of lent shares pick up a broking fee. Does this go to the benefit of the collective investment? If so, it is arguably justifiable. If not, it is reprehensible. But how many shareholders, asked directly, would give permission for their shares to be used for speculation? It is time the financial regulating authorities had a closer look at the whole contrived share ownership shenanigans. Lord Vinson House of Lords, London SW1 The clap of the owls Sir: Christopher Fletcher (‘Notes on Otmoor’, March 3) refers to ‘the silent beauty’ of short eared owls. He will, however, be startled by a loud clap over his head if he walks anywhere near their nest, as they bring their wings together smartly with extraordinary percussive effect above their body to warn him off. Elizabeth Roberts Scotby, Carlisle WRITE TO US The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP email@example.com 25 He is bringing change to Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman launched Vision 2030 to ĉƎėíƣėėĉŨŝŨśļĉĐļǂėƎƖļǝĉíƣļŨŝɆƋƎŨśŨƣėƖŨĉļíŒƣƎíŝƖįŨƎśíƣļŨŝ íŝĐŨƋėŝƫƋƣķėdļŝİĐŨśįŨƎİƎėíƣėƎƣŨƫƎļƖśɋ #ANewSaudiArabia ǃǃǃɋíėļƖíƫĐļɋĉŨś ANY OTHER BUSINESS|MARTIN VANDER WEYER Can Theresa May really find time to be her own housing supremo? T heresa May has belatedly taken the advice I offered her here last May and named a supremo to tackle the housing crisis — which has been getting steadily worse since her campaign promise to ‘fix the broken market’. But the supremo isn’t Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary who is, the prime minister says, doing ‘incredible work’ in this area; so incredible, she might have added, that she and the Chancellor have had to bin Javid’s more radical ideas. And it isn’t Boris, who was my own cunningly crafted suggestion for the job. No, here’s what she said in her speech on Monday: ‘I’ve taken personal charge of meeting the housing challenge, leading a taskforce that brings together ministers and officials from every corner of Whitehall to attack the crisis on every front.’ Oh dear. We’re back in the Tony Blair mode of ‘eye-catching initiatives [with which] I should be personally associated’. But that can only play badly for Mrs May while her energies are overwhelmingly taken by Brexit. The housing story was barely even making headlines by Tuesday, apart from some mischief-making about a fake-brick lectern that made her look as if she was speaking out of a chimney. But still it’s worth asking: what on earth can central government do to accelerate the number of new homes available at the low end of the price range? In political terms, this is the issue most likely to alienate voters in their late twenties and thirties, who in any previous decade since 1945 would by now be first-time homeowners and thereby natural Tories. They’re currently more likely to vote for the catastrophe of Corbyn, and that’s a big reason why the housing shortage matters to all of us. But are there any quick-fix solutions or has Mrs May set herself up for another failure? Her approach was to take swipes both at developers for ‘land-banking’, or sitting too long on unbuilt sites for which planning has already been granted; and at local authorities for failing to release sufficient land and grant permissions quicker. Was she right 28 in either respect? I asked a veteran housebuilder: ‘We build as fast as we can once we’ve got detailed permission. It’s a total myth that we sit on “consented” land for accounting gains. But there’s a limit to the number of houses we can build and sell in a year on any given site: it might be 100 to 150 — so a very large site will always take several years to complete. The real problem is the time it takes to get detailed permission: never less than two or three years, and on one site in [a provincial city], whose planners have a tremendously difficult reputation, 23 years. In other places — Newcastle, for example — planners are more switched on and we build much faster.’ So one practical answer is to find the most progressive local authority planning departments and make them the benchmark for the most obstructive and nimbyist. The problem is, of course, that the latter are highly likely to be dominated by councillors from Mrs May’s own party. But perhaps not after local elections in two months’ time. Stupid populism On the matter of President Trump’s imposition of a 25 per cent tariff on US imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, I cannot improve on the comments of the sage of Washington, the former Bank of England monetary policy committee member Adam Posen, who called it ‘straight-up stupid’ and ‘fundamentally incompetent, corrupt or misguided’. Indeed virtually all economically literate opinion was united in condemning a move which will hurt America’s steel-producing allies in Europe and South Korea without seriously impeding China’s advance, and will surely provoke a salvo of protectionist responses — contributing to a slowdown of global cross-border trade and investment that has been a visible trend since the beginning of this decade. It’s the kind of bone-headed blue-collar populism embraced by the former Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca in the 1980s when he was briefly touted as a presidential candidate and compared himself to the revolutionary patriot Paul Revere: ‘I’m the only guy on a goddamn horse saying “The Japanese are coming, the Japanese are coming”… And it’s all the fault of the dumb sonofabitch who allowed them into our market free of charge.’ Yes, globalisation leaves its trail of victims; but a tariff war will ultimately be worse for everyone, including the workforce of America’s already diminished steel industry, with whom Trump has no genuine empathy at all. The picture it brings to my mind is of the once mighty Bethlehem steelworks in Pennsylvania that was defeated by global competition in 1995, and whose site is now occupied by an exemplar of the one business sector Trump can truly claim to understand: a giant casino, built to exploit a politically disappointed populace that has been left with no other hope of prosperity. Going Dutch? Unilever, the consumer goods conglomerate formed in 1929 by the merger of Margarine Unie of Rotterdam with Lever Brothers of Port Sunlight, is a model of cross-Channel collaboration that pre-dates the European Union we’re about to leave. So the decision due this month as to whether the group will no longer maintain dual head offices — which means closing London but keeping Rotterdam — will be highly symbolic. If the move not only goes ahead but also entails doing away with dual fiscal entities and dual stockmarket listings, Unilever will henceforth be a wholly Dutch company with UK subsidiaries. That status may afford cost savings and stronger protection against unwelcome takeover bids such as the failed one by Kraft Heinz last year; but it won’t necessarily please London-based investors who like to see giant corporations kept on their toes by fear of predators. And the loss of Unilever’s listing would be a huge blow to the London Stock Exchange, which is more and more desperate to maintain its global status in the run-up to Brexit. Watch this space. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk PRIVATE COLLECTION. COURTESY CORVI-MORA, LONDON AND JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK © LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE Claire Kohda Hazelton describes how the vast battleship Yamato was so bewildering its own crew got lost on board Sara Wheeler follows Doris Lessing from communist pioneer of free love to asexual frump with a bun Tibor Fischer wonders whether anyone has checked out John Ruskin as a fit for Jack the Ripper James Walton hails a comedy triumph set in the run-down council houses of the Cotswolds Lloyd Evans says there’s much to adore about Old Vic’s Fanny & Alexander Deborah Ross discovers Hedy Lamarr invented the technology that forms the basis of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ‘Coterie Of Questions ’, 2015, by Lynette YiadomBoakye Martin Gayford — p46 the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 29 BOOKS & ARTS BOOKS Riding for a fall For five years after Austerlitz, Napoleon seemed invincible. But his relentless victories risked an inevitable backlash, says David Crane Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age, 1805–1810 by Michael Broers Faber, £30, pp. 536 On 20 July 1805, just three months before the battle of Trafalgar destroyed a combined French and Spanish fleet, the Emperor Napoleon ordered his chief-of-staff to ‘embark everything’ for the invasion of England that he had been dreaming of for two years. ‘My intention is to land at four different points,’ he explained to Berthier, ‘at a short distance from one another... Inform the four marshals there is not an instant to be lost.’ While there is possibly no saga in his whole astonishing career — Russia included — that so vividly exposes the curious and almost wilful blind spots in Bonaparte’s make-up, his enemies would have done well to pay closer attention. It is impossible to say if the invasion was ever more than fantasy; but those two years since the collapse of the Treaty of Amiens had not been wasted, and just a month after that letter to Berthier, the Army of the Ocean Coast, which for month after month had been trained and drilled and hardened and forged into the greatest army Europe had ever seen, turned its back on its channel camps and England to march on a world hopelessly ill-prepared to face it. The ‘Army of England’ was no more, and the Grande Armée born. If the ‘good times’, as Michael Broers put it in the first volume of this biography, were behind Napoleon, ‘the years of greatness’ lay ahead. In his St Helena exile Napoleon would always look back on the Civil Code as his crowning achievement, but the Napoleon of legend, the Napoleon who still so violently divides opinion — Hegel’s ‘spirit of the age’ or a Corsican Hitler — will always be inseparably linked with the triumphs of Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena-Auerstedt and Wagram that form the core of this second volume. However it might look with the bene30 fit of hindsight, though, there cannot have seemed anything inevitable about these victories when Napoleon performed his grand pirouette and turned his army towards central Europe and Britain’s Austrian and Russian allies. The aura of invincibility that would soon cloak the Grande Armée was still to be earned in the autumn of 1805, and if Napoleon had the brilliant achievements of the First Italian Campaign and the hype of Marengo to feed off, no amount of propaganda, paintings, lies or self-promotion could disguise the fact that his record was a chequered one. There were the horrors of Egypt and Syria — unheeded warnings of what could happen when armies that lived off the land strayed beyond their natural ‘habitat’ — and more to the point, as Broer insists, Napoleon had never actually commanded a force on anything like the scale now demanded. It would seem, too, that he was genuinely wary of a European war in 1805. But whatever anxieties he did have about the campaign could have lasted no longer than the dazzling enveloping triumph of Ulm, which ushered in a new epoch in European warfare. There is precious little to be said about Napoleon’s military genius — or the wretched and divided leadership of his coalition enemies — that has not been said before; and what is most interesting about Broers’s account is the prophetic shadow it casts over even the most brilliant of Napoleon’s achievements. It probably makes little sense to try to distinguish between wars of security and wars of aggression with a man like Bonaparte; but whether it was manifest destiny or a grimmer necessity that drove him on, the fact was that every humiliation he inflicted on Europe’s royal houses, every crippling indemnity he slapped on a defeated nation, every tax and conscript he extorted from reluctant allies, every annexation and victorious march that took him closer to Alexander I’s Russia, was inviting its own inevitable backlash. Napoleon was hardly the first to try to make his wars pay for themselves, to bleed an empire or subordinate his allies’ interests to his own. But with the issue in 1806 of his Berlin Decrees, aimed at strangling Britain through a continental blockade, he took this to another and dangerous level. It was certainly a measure of his strength in the aftermath of Austerlitz and Jena that he could legislate for Europe in this way; and yet in his determination to bend a whole continent to his will he had set in motion a chain of events that would ultimately doom his family, marshals, armies and resources to a bottomless Iberian sump and set the empire itself on its fatal collision course with Russia. If this was ‘probably the single most momentous act of Napoleon’s career’, as Broers claims, its most pertinent interest for the years covered here lies in the light it throws on a mind ‘becoming habituated to absolute power’. I don’t suppose there are two historians who would agree a timetable for such an inscrutable process, but it is hard not to think that the curious aberrations and miscalculations of these triumphant years — the hegemonic ambitions, the over-extension of his power into southern Italy, the stubborn refusal to see Spain for what it was, the vindictive treat- the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz by François Gérard ment of the Spanish Bourbons, the merciless hounding of the Catholic clergy, the stupidity of his dealings with Pius VII — are all, in their different ways, of a piece with the authoritarian, self-defeating hubris of his Berlin Decrees. In 1810, though, when this volume ends, it would have taken a brave man to predict where all this would lead. Three years earlier, after their Tilsit summit, Alexander had prophesised that Napoleon would ‘break his own neck’; but that was still looking a long way off. A conservative, Catholic France might hate him and his wars for the ‘blood tax’ he extorted, but the conscripts in their hundreds of thousands would still come. Wagram had shown that Austria could learn from the drubbings of 1805, as Prussia would from Jena, but ‘the sun of Austerlitz’ was still high in the sky. Britain lay beyond Napoleon’s reach — Copenhagen had rammed that home — and the Mediterranean was a playground for Royal Navy midshipmen, but north of the Pyrenees Europe at last enjoyed a peace of sorts. It was, as Broers says, a peace of conquest unlike that of Amiens, a peace won at the point of the sword, but however fragile, it was peace. And if, after his divorce from Josephine, Napoleon could not get the Russian bride he wanted, what could better encapsulate the events of these years than the marriage of a Hapsburg princess — the daughter of the humiliated Austrian Emperor, a niece of the guillotined Marie Antoinette — to that ‘force of nature’ and ‘master of history’ that the Revolution had spawned? The old was bowing to the new, the world of the ancien regime to that of dynamic change At the Tilsit summit of 1807, the Tsar prophesied that Napoleon would ‘break his own neck’ and merit, and there seemed nothing that could be done to stop it. ‘The diadem of Bonaparte,’ as an awed Edinburgh Review wrote,‘had dimmed the lustre of all the ancient crowns of Europe; and her nobles have been outshone, and out-generalled and out-negotiated, by men raised by their own exertion from the common level of the people.’ Murat, the son of a Gascon inn-keeper; Ney of a barrel-cooper; Soult the child of a village notary from near Albi; Bernadotte another Gascon raised from the ranks; the mighty Lannes an apprentice dyer from the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Lectoure — the Edinburgh Review was not wrong, and in Broers’s latest volume the magnitude and import of the Napoleonic achievements during these crucial years of French ascendancy gets the recognition it deserves. So does Napoleon himself. What one wants of a biography on this scale is the scholarship without the show, and that is just what Broers delivers. Given, too, that this is a life already running to something over 1,000 pages, he writes with a mercifully broad brush, charting the crucial milestones in the vector — to borrow his own term — of Napoleon’s ‘journey’, without ever clogging his narrative with detail. There will, eventually, be an accounting — moral, historical — to be done, but that belongs to another volume. His business here is to understand Napoleon and not to judge. And if that sometimes makes him more charitable than he need always be — more tolerant of the imperial bling, the ludicrous titles and uniforms, the grubby divorce, the littering of the thrones of Europe with his wretched family, than his subject deserves — empathy, as in his first volume, never gets the better of his critical detachment. This is a biography to trust. 31 GETTY IMAGES BOOKS & ARTS was his notoriety and the power of his pen. The man himself was poorly educated and an early failure; in 1774, at the age of 37, he was sacked from his job at the excise, his second marriage disintegrated and his goods were sold at auction to pay off his debts. He sailed for America, arrived with a severe fever — probably typhus — and began a meteoric rise that took him two years later to the heart of the revolutionary movement. His pamphlet Common Sense, published in early 1776, helped to rouse popular opinion towards independence; Paine himself estimated 120,000 copies were sold in its first three months. Little wonder he believed that America possessed the power to make the world over again. By the late 1780s, Paine was using his literary celebrity in London to promote his Spendthrift and slovenly, Thomas Paine was also a scrounger design for a new iron bridge. of epic proportions. When invited by a friend to Paris for a When revolution began in week, he ended up staying for ﬁve years France, his Rights of Man (1791), initially a counterblast to Edmund Burke’s Reflections, was another huge bestseller, but led to his conviction in absentia for seditious libel. Paine himself was in France, where he quickly fell out with Marat and Robespierre. Thomas Paine: Britain, America and The Age of Reason (1793), his tract against France in the Age of Enlightenment organised religion, was completed in jail, and Revolution and it too sold many thousands of copies. It is quite a story. by J.C.D. Clark Part of the problem was that, as Adams’s OUP, £30, pp. 512 letter suggests, Paine rarely retained the ‘We have it in our power to begin the world confidence of those who knew him. He was, over again.’ Ronald Reagan made this on the whole, a remarkably unappetising most unconservative of lines a leitmotif of figure: a great egoist, he acknowledged no his 1980 presidential campaign, knowing teacher and disavowed the influence of othits radicalism would highlight his energy, ers. He was a spendthrift, of slovenly habits personal optimism and desire for change. and latterly a drunk. As it duly did. He mounted an entirely dishonest camThe astonishing power over words of its paign to discredit Burke, having courted his author, Thomas Paine, persists to this day. hospitality and enjoyed his friendship. He In a letter of 1805, the former president vilified his former patron, George WashingJohn Adams said of Paine that ton. And he was a scrounger of epic proportions; on one occasion his friend Nicholas there can be no severer satyr on the age. For such a mongrel between pig and puppy, Bonneville invited him to visit for a week in begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf, never Paris, and Paine stayed for five years. before in any age of the world was suffered by His star faded during the 19th century, the poltroonery of mankind, to run through but now shines brightly within a modern such a career of mischief. narrative which places him at the centre Yet even Adams was forced to confess: of what he called ‘an Age of Revolutions’, as I know not whether any man in the world a pioneering opponent of religious superstihas had more influence on its inhabitants tion, advocate of universal rights and cosor affairs for the past 30 years than Thomas mopolitan citizen of the world. As such, he Paine … Call it then the Age of Paine. has been feted in a flurry of recent books exploring his life and influence. By that time Paine had long been Into this melée steps the formidable figa household name on two continents, such ure of Jonathan Clark, scholar of Burke and Polemicist of genius Jesse Norman 32 Johnson and author of a brilliant study of English society and the long 18th century. This is not a brief life or coffee-table work, and barely biographical. Rather, it is a very substantial work of historical scholarship. Over 500-odd pages, Clark examines every element of Paine’s achievement and its enshrouding ideology in context. Very little survives his critical eye unscathed. To paraphrase without nuance: Paine is a polemicist of genius, but nothing more. His thought is full of the certainties of simple common sense, but with none of its accumulated wisdom. And it veers around wildly: from being anti-government to proposing a national system of poor relief, from despising hereditary monarchy to pleading vainly for clemency for Louis XVI. He implied he had witnessed the early revolution in France when he had not, and smuggled 6,000 words by his friend the Marquis de Lafayette into The Rights of Man to fill the gap. Scholars may disagree with these judgments. Is it really true that Paine has no worked out theory of rights? Are his ideas on, say, equal citizenship and pensions not of huge interest, coming as they do more than a century before the Lloyd George reforms of 1908-9? Clark insists, rightly, that we cannot judge the past by the present. But without that, we may miss part of Paine’s remarkable continuing appeal. A man, a boy, a bed Kate Womersley Paper Cuts: A Memoir by Stephen Bernard Cape, £14.99, pp. 208 Stephen Bernard has led an institutionalised life. Behind the doors of the church presbytery, at public school, on hospital wards after repeated suicide attempts, in therapists’ offices, at Oxford University — he has sought protection and cure. Some Stephen Bernard can no longer listen to Beethoven or Britten, nor has he ever had a romantic relationship institutions woefully failed, while others revived Bernard from the appalling child abuse inflicted by Canon T.D. Fogarty, Latin teacher, priest and rapist. An account of the open wounds left by years of assault, Paper Cuts is also a memoir about the anxiety of seeking to belong, yet as a survivor never quite finding a part. We follow Bernard for a day, now aged 40 and an Academic Visitor at Oxford’s Faculty of English. He has a looming deadline to finish an article for the TLS. Scenes of his abuse as a boy arise abruptly the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk between breaks from writing, while around town (‘Fogarty’s semen on my back’), remembering elegant friends from youth (‘the boniness and weight of him in me. In me’) and dinner at high table (‘I feel, when I think of Fogarty, paper cuts’). Bernard unsettles his readers’ assumptions about which experiences are quotidian and which exceptional. ‘A man, a boy. A house, a bed. How very ordinary, and extraordinary too,’ he writes. The ‘mundane’ details, as he calls them, of the abuse he and other children suffered, are set against the rarefied privilege of the Bodleian library. Bernard does not ask for straightforward sympathy from us, nor are we permitted to come too close. Paper Cuts demonstrates the ways in which minds are authored by one another. Along with trauma, Fogarty brought classical music, literature, ‘love and the law’ into Stephen’s life, which are now soiled pleasures. Bernard can no longer listen to Beethoven and Britten, nor has he ever had a romantic relationship. As an academic editor, he is influenced by other voices that are long dead. He finds the Augustans — Pope, Dryden, Swift — remedial, and so too are the18th-century newspapers he reads every morning out of habit. But the voices of psychologists and psychiatrists, with their diagnoses and dismissals, have also left their mark. Too many professionals, who were trusted to help, have wanted to ‘build a lie that explains things, that we can all live with’. Bernard’s own voice is itself unstable. Passages of the text reflect his paranoid, manic trains of thought. To temper these instabilities, he is given regular ketamine injections as part of a drug trial for resistant bipolar disorder. Yet still comes the fear that ‘someone, somewhere, has malevolent intent... is planning my destruction’. Despite a proven need for treatment, Bernard is ambivalent about whether medication’s effect is dishonest. If ‘the needle goes in, and the truth comes out’, is truth deserting him or finally being heard? The prescribed sedatives and antipsychotics drown out his delusions: ‘Swallow. The self. In a bottle.’ By following the regimen, he has ‘taken charge... let them take charge’. These nine tablets are a daily reminder that Bernard does not even fully belong to himself. Paper Cuts was written in a mere six weeks. The prose speaks with immense power as testimony, but as a whole, the book does not quite hang together. ‘I wrote it for myself,’ Bernard confesses, ‘but share it with you now.’ Which is why it reads like a therapeutic object. The effect of this is somehow to protect the work from aesthetic evaluation; or at least ensure an audience’s criticism is accompanied by guilt, as if they were challenging a patient. I found the passages intoned with wry humour hardest to read. A ‘good rape’ has ‘a kind of architectural beauty, a musical perfection’, Bernard tells us, that is ‘almost impossible not to admire’. By making us countenance this impossible thought, he risks becoming unlikeable. However, he quickly retorts: ‘I am not here to be liked, but to be believed.’ It is a relief to be granted permission to acknowledge dislike. Crucially, this is not the same as disbelief. Paper Cuts is a timely reminder that public anger and censure of a crime is not necessarily accompanied by warmth towards its victim. And neither must it. The text has achieved its end when Bernard finds repose on the final page, reassuring himself as if still a child — ‘Sleep now, sleep. Rest, rest.’ Delusions of the deserters Clare Mulley Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers and Each Other by Matthew Sweet Picador, £20, pp. 352 ‘Keep my name out of it’, was the fairly standard reply when Matthew Sweet started researching the story of the GIs who deserted from Vietnam. People’s concern, it turned out, however, was not about being associated just with desertion, but with a more complex story of duplicity, abuse and insanity. Over time, the American Deserters Committee (ADC), the welfare group established to support the deserters in neutral Sweden, developed into a series of increasingly militant organisations. These were then infiltrated by the CIA. Sweet tracks the changing nature of desertion ‘from an individual act of conscience or cow- the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ardice to a political step that GIs could take together’. But as he tries to unravel the role of the CIA and chart the changing beliefs, aims and acts of the deserters, their supporters and leaders over the following decades, his book morphs into something more nebulous. ‘Often, while writing this story, I felt as if I were recording a series of dreams,’ Sweet admits, before reporting a confession of confusion by one of his interviewees, Michael Vale, a former leader of the ADC. ‘Matthew, to tell you the truth,’ says Vale, ‘what exactly and specifically this book of yours is about still eludes my grasp.’ To write ‘exactly and specifically’ is a tall order when telling a story about people motivated by paranoia and delusion as much as politics and ideology. The CIA’s aptly named ‘Operation Chaos’ was launched as a counter-subversion project to gather intelligence and break up the ADC’s offshoots as they spread internationally, or at least silence them by letting them know they were under surveillance. Unfortunately, this effectively fed the activists’ paranoia and sustained their conspiracy theories. By the end of the book, the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme has been assassinated; a prime suspect has been murdered; the American successor of the ADC has developed into a global private intelligence agency; and its leader, the extraordinarily unstable Lyndon LaRouche, has been pilloried on The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live for believing that Queen Elizabeth II controls the world’s drugs markets. What started off as a small anti-war movement had evolved, without intelligent design, into an independent, international fascist front, advocating, among other things, increasing weaponry in space. Attempting to steer a navigable path Orchestra The music slides, conveying some Lewdness connived at by the brass, The chuckle of the timpani. Out in front the solo dances, An elite naughty girl twirling Her dress. Quickly they encircle her, Endorsing her pretty gestures. The men in black and white rehearse Their private feelings musically, Sitting up straight meanwhile like children In ranks across the stage, behaving While the music obliges them. A massed school photo with one girl, All thinking of her. None looking. — Patrick Hare 33 BOOKS & ARTS through this chaotic history, Sweet has written in a Quest for Corvo style, making appearances throughout as he chases up leads. This allows for a light touch as he reports on meeting Vale, ‘his face as cracked as a late period Walter Mathau’; decries the ‘sadly inappropriate name’ of Eleanor Hug; or interviews ‘a neatly dressed octogenarian with a Peter Lorre giggle’. In fact the book is full of neat lines. Clandestine leaflets produced to guide men through the system are ‘Baedekers of desertion’; Stockholm is ‘the Casablanca of the Cold War’; and anti-imperialist youths march through Sofia ‘looking optimistically into a headwind’. But Sweet’s tone doesn’t always hit the mark. The wife of a deserter is described as ‘warm, intelligent, a responsible adult’, not a comment Sweet felt compelled to make about any of the men. There are also numerous asides to illustrate the difficulties involved in tracing this story, ranging from Scandinavian myths and Sherlock Holmes to the Victorian Crystal Palace dinosaurs. In a story as complex as this, such diversions are not always helpful. Yet this is a serious book, exploring some little-known history. In this age of fake news, which can so easily solidify into fake history, it is important that such stories are put on record, and we are indebted to Sweet for the extent of his research. The political progeny of the ADC took various different names and forms. Some people associated with them died in difficult circumstances; some persist with their delusions to this day. For a while LaRouche was delighted to have engaged with the Reagan administration, and repeatedly stood for president. Later he was convicted of fraud and given a 15-year sentence. Others involved eventually stepped away and rebuilt their lives. Cliff Gaddy, who deserted from a US Army Security Agency base in 1970, and may or may not have been a CIA plant all along, left Sweden just after the assassination of Palme, and joined the Washington think-tank the Brookings Institute. He later co-wrote an influential book about Vladimir Putin with the Anglo-American foreign affairs specialist Fiona Hill, named last year as Trump’s chief strategist on Russia. ‘What had any of it meant?’ Sweet asks, before considering whether, having become ‘enmeshed in the events of this book’, he himself is complicit in some way. This is a history filled with paranoid people loyal ‘to causes that were mad, meaningless and immoral’. Yet Operation Chaos also highlights the potential reach of charismatic, manipulative leaders who, even when they have a preference for fantasy over reality, can still attract huge support, divert state resources, and influence the international political agenda. 34 Getting so much better all the time Sam Leith Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Stephen Pinker Allen Lane, £25, pp. 576 Steven Pinker’s new book is a characteristically fluent, decisive and data-rich demonstration of why, given the chance to live at any point in human history, only a stonecold idiot would choose any time other than the present. On average, humans are by orders of magnitude healthier, wealthier, nicer, happier, longer lived, more free and better educated than ever before. Moreover, as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure noted: ‘Bowling averages are way up, minigolf scores are way down, and we have more excellent waterslides than any other planet we communicate with.’ Some of the many graphs in this book slant from the bottom left towards the top right, showing the rise of Good Things, and some of them (charting the decline of Bad Things) go the other way. But the gist of all of them is that something brilliant has been happening over time, and since the 18th century it has been happening very fast. It was pretty crap being alive in the 16th century, even if you were, say, the King. Nowadays, most poor people live better than even the potentates of old. Is this obvious? Not as obvious as it should be. Various cognitive quirks (Pinker’s academic specialisms are brain science and linguistics) incline us to gloom. The ‘availability bias’ means that if we’ve read about a bad thing recently we’ll overestimate the likelihood of it happening to us. Pessimism — possibly an adaptive trait, since you can’t be too careful — is baked into our worldview. Our news cycles run in hours rather than decades, and our news values (it bleeds, it leads) favour gloom and doom. Catastrophists and Jonahs — the people Pinker calls ‘progressophobes’ — make the intellectual weather. As he puts it ruefully, a pessimist sounds like they’re trying to help you; an optimist sounds like they’re trying to sell you something. One of the most interesting things in his book is his emphasis on what economists call a Kuznets curve: a rebuke to the linear simplicifications of progressophobes who see industrialisation as heralding doom to the environment and devil-take-the-hindmost plutocracy. As industrial capitalism works its magic, inequality increases... but in due course goes down again: once lots of people are wealthy, they start to take an interest in education, social welfare nets and so forth. Likewise with the environment: society makes a great leap forward by belching coal smog and poisoning rivers... but once people are rich they start to take more interest in not choking half to death every time they step out of the front door. (I simplify a little.) Pinker was annoyed when, in response to his previous book The Better Angels of Our Nature, about the historical decline of violence, critics sneered that he was being ‘Panglossian’. As he rightly points out, Dr Pangloss’s claim that we are in ‘the best of all possible worlds’ was — in context — the creed of a pessimist: he was saying that humans have no right to expect better of a world ordained by the Almighty. Pinker’s case is the opposite: we can and should believe in progress, and we can show it has been achieved, but we shouldn’t be complacent. In order to keep the trend going in the right direction we should keep taking the medicine that got us this far. This medicine, he calls ‘Enlightenment’ — and his book is a robust defence of the values that characterised it: reason, science, humanism and progress. These are under threat from populists, authoritarians, command-and-control socialists, antivaxxers, postmodernists (everyone seems to hate postmodernists these days) and the noplatformers of Generation Snowflake. He also admits that the threat of nuclear annihilation and/or the complete collapse of the earth’s ecosystem would put a black fly in his chardonnay; but he sees these as problems to be solved rather than apocalypses meekly to be submitted to. But what does he mean by ‘Enlightenment’? Historians would cavil — and have cavilled — that there was no single Enlightenment. Here was something that happened, over more than a century, in several different ways in several different countries, and it didn’t come out of nowhere. There were commonalities — a disregard for arguments from religious or political authority; a strong interest in the use of reason and, associated, the scientific method — but to present it as a unitary and unproblematic thing is to produce a bit of a straw man. Pinker’s Enlightenment — which skates a bit around the theism of the main thinkers of the period, for instance — presents, as per his title, a rather now-inflected version of the Enlightenment. But none of those objections do much damage to Pinker’s argument: they simply query the way he has framed it. He could just as well have made a case that democracy, market liberalism, free exchange of ideas, Popperian science, human-rights universalism and a secularisation of the public sphere have made the world a much better place for humans to live in, whether or not you want to call them ‘the Enlightenment’, and that we should have more of them. No argument there. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES The Yamato wheels in a tight curve in an effort to avoid aerial bombardment Going down in glory Claire Kohda Hazelton Battleship Yamato: Of War, Beauty and Irony by Jan Morris Pallas Athene, £14.99, pp. 112 In April 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato — the largest and heaviest in history — embarked upon a suicide mission. The ship sailed to Okinawa, where a huge American assault was taking place. Under extensive enemy fire, it sank, as was expected, to the bottom of the Pacific. With it, it took 2,280 of its crew. Survivors’ accounts exist and continued to be taken until very recently. They describe seamen lost even on board, unable to find their living quarters because of the sheer size of the vessel; arrows painted on decks to indicate the direction of the bow or stern; and the testing days before what the crew knew would be the battleship’s last mission. Jan Morris, however, does not include the human stories of the Yamato. Rather, in this illustrated essay of sorts, she follows the ship’s journey from a distance. She has us watch with her, from somewhere above the ship — perhaps like gods — as it sits in wait off the Mitajiri shore, and from ‘across the darkening water’ as it prepares to set out on its final journey. Rarely does Morris venture on board; while she speculates about the tiny details of the ship and conjures a sense of something that can only be described as its character, she does not linger on the moods or emotions of the crew. The book, however, is no less human for it, since Morris’s tremendous skill is in breathing life into — and making it possible to empathise with — the inanimate: buildings, cities, ports and, this time, a ship. The Yamato, built at Kure, on the Inner Sea of Japan, at the end of the 1930s, was a heavy, solid, angular and ultimately brutal machine, weighing 65,000 tons, and measuring, in length, 263 metres. It was armed with nine 45 Caliber Type 94 naval guns, six 155-millimetre guns, 24 127millimetre guns and 162 25-millimetre antiaircraft guns. It was the most powerful warship ever built — ‘the ultimate battleship’ Morris writes, charmingly (and briefly) shedding her usual elegance. A similarly laid-out Japanese ship shows weapons on vast mounts dwarfing the crew, who are gathered for a group photograph. Yet, for all of its bravado, the Yamato was not simply a brutal thing, but a beautiful one, as described by Morris. It is a beast, alive and with a destiny: a whale — ancient in its design and purpose — on a mission to beach itself; a ‘tiger on a leash’ while it waits to set sail; and, then, a ‘tiger, unleashed’ when under attack, ‘tormented by insufferable insects in hopeless conflict’. Its end is not a sinking, but a suicide. At this book’s close, when Morris writes of the 1985 discovery of the Yamato’s wreck at the bottom of the Pacific, we imagine, instead of corroded metal, the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk eroded bones — such is the power of the imagery. The Yamato is a symbol. We begin in Morris’s own study where, on her desk, are models of the English Prince of Wales, the German Bismarck and the Yamato — together, ‘the last word in battleships’. ‘They emblemise for me,’ Morris writes, ‘the extinction of the imperialist ideology, the right of one community to lord over another, a notion which the battleship was a prime executor of.’ But the Yamato, especially, and its sinking — which took place so close to the end of the war — had significance all over the world, not only in Japan. Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, the official historian of the US Navy, wrote that it had ‘a sentimental interest for all sailors — when she went down, five centuries of naval warfare ended.’ That the Yamato was Japanese is incidental to this book. Morris is interested not in the cultural idiosyncrasies of the Japanese or of their weapons, but in the global nature of both. The Japanese are consequently not exoticised or dehumanised (which they often are and have been), or made to seem different to any other fighting force at any other place or time. They are, simply, people under orders, as people have been for millennia. Morris makes universal (or, at least, more familiar to the West, specifically) the Japanese experience of war — while barely discussing it directly — by telling the story of the Yamato through various paintings (‘Washington crossing the Delaware’ by Emanuel Leutze; ‘Guernica’ by Picasso), and through pieces of classical music (Chopin, ‘with his streaks of something dark among The Yamato’s crew were often lost on board, unable to ﬁnd their quarters for the sheer size of the vessel the ecstasies’ accompanies the Yamato while it waits by the Japanese shore; Sibelius, Wagner, Mahler, as it approaches its destination in the night). This is a book that does not see enemies, allies, victors or losers. Rather, the Americans and Japanese ‘contribute’ to a ‘frenzy’; they do not strike each other but are themselves struck by ‘Chaos’. There is a photograph that encapsulates perfectly Morris’s immense powers of description and evocation. In a birds’-eyeview shot of the Yamato evading enemy fire, the ship lifts the surface of the sea into one, curving, white crest, as a whale might. Were we not to know the subject, we might suspect that it was a majestic, living, breathing animal, putting on a show for the people flying over it. In this book, which is as romantic as it is informative, written as a poet might write about his or her muse, Morris gives the pronoun afforded to all sea-vessels, ‘she’, new weight and meaning. 35 BOOKS & ARTS A time for reflection Amy Sackville Sight by Jessie Greengrass John Murray, £14.99, pp. 198 The precarious stasis of late pregnancy offers the narrator of Jessie Greengrass’s exceptional first novel a space — albeit an uncomfortable one — for reflection. She sifts through her own immediate and past experience: caring for her dying mother in her early twenties; her relationship with her partner Johannes; her childhood; the birth of her first child. This fragmented narrative is intercut with the stories of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, the inventor of the X-ray; Sigmund and Anna Freud; and the 18th-century anatomist, surgeon and empiricist John Hunter — along with other brief cameos from the history of science, from the Lumière brothers to the engraver Jan van Rymsdyk. These figures are not quite fictionalised; the narrator is always present, reminding us that this is partly guesswork, that there are experiences she ‘can’t imagine’. And yet, through a kind of sleight of hand, and with the aid of what is evidently meticulous research (as conducted by both narrator and author), these scenes from the past are vividly realised. Admirers of the titular short story of Greengrass’s collection An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It will find much to enjoy here. Greengrass was a student of philosophy, and this is a profoundly and unashamedly philosophical book. What ties these disparate historical figures together, and to the narrator’s own project, is the endeavour to place faith in ‘the promise of the simplifying power of explanation, sight’; to find meaning, structure, permanence, by making ourselves ‘transparent’ or ‘explicit’ to ourselves, whether through the revelation, by X-ray, of ‘all that would not rot’, or through the scrupulous rigours of analysis. Doctor K, the narrator’s formidable psychoanalyst grandmother, believes in our ‘capacity to trace our lives backwards and pick the patterns out’. We might think this is precisely the task that the novel is enacting; but it is as much about the failure to do so, to ever be able to ‘look hard enough’. If all this sounds rather chilly or abstract, it isn’t. The narrative is (painfully, funnily) rooted in the quotidian. The banality of bereavement is felt in the demands of the deceased’s dishwasher, and radiators, and boiler. The bizarre bodily, emotional and intellectual estrangement of pregnancy — ‘a kind of fracture, the past lost and the future suddenly made opaque’ — is subject to the same unflinching and visceral analysis. The prose is unsentimental, measured, breathtaking in its elegance, but never 36 precious or mannered. Paragraphs over several pages, page-long sentences, move with extraordinary cadence towards devastatingly bathetic or utterly heartbreaking conclusions. Physical contact is upheld as a means of genuine connection with another human being; a way for the narrator to be ‘less apart’, and to find ‘[her] place, and where its edges are’ within her family. Touch, as a way of knowing, is set against the primacy of the visual, of ‘seeing’ as ‘understanding’. Other people are as unknowable to us as we are to ourselves, but these brief moments of intimacy go some way to compensate for the gaps between us, the physical barriers — the skin, the cell-thick placental membrane that separates a child from its mother, even in the womb. And the book is also about, in part, the necessity of that separation; the ongoing and ever-unfinished coming into being of a person. It brings all these things together, loosely and delicately, in a way that is unexpectedly and remarkably moving. Listing or sinking? Juliet Nicolson Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender Granta, £16.99, pp. 336 The arrival at a new foreign posting for a junior diplomat’s wife in the first half of the last century was no glamorous picnic, as she grappled with a ceremonial sword in a golf bag, three months supply of toothpaste, a crate of hot water bottles and enough safety pins for every emergency. Born in 1915, and having lived in Brussels, Paris, Latvia, Persia and China as a diplomat’s daughter, Elisabeth Knatchbull-Hugessen, aged In one month in Beirut Elisabeth attended 13 tea parties, 60 cocktail parties and 63 lunches or dinners 24, married Gerry Young, a man from her father’s profession. With marriage she continued the familiar routine of packing and unpacking, and arriving at, and departing from, different countries. As the unpaid ‘two-for-the-price-of-one’, she accompanied Gerry on postings to 1940s Spain during the aftershock of the Civil War; to Beirut in 1944, riddled with Anglo-French tensions; to exotic but politically riven Rio in 1947; and finally to the glamour of Paris in 1956. Each country involved adventure, unpredictability, hurdles imposed by new languages, danger and the tedium of official sociability. One month in Beirut she attended 13 tea parties, 60 cocktail parties and 63 lunches or dinners and was served ‘stuffed intestines, yards of them’ as well as ‘rats turned inside out’. At times she encountered heat, cold and bedbugs and a sense of shifting identities, of not knowing where she truly belonged. Throughout this two-decade-long peripatetic existence Elisabeth made lists in ‘a small red-brown, marbled hard-back journal’, fulfilling ‘the human impulse to seek order and clarity through the act of writing things down’. These lists in Elisabeth’s neat handwriting, reproduced throughout the book in facsimile, form the spine of Lulah Ellender’s biography of her grandmother, a story of vulnerability, resilience and love, quietly and beautifully told. Each list represents a significant marker of a moment, of shifting priorities, of the ebb and flow of the private and the public life of a grandmother who died 15 years before Ellender was born. Lists, as Ellender points out, have always ranged from the practicality of grocery shopping to profundity, as when we ‘lasso our grief, madness and dreams with neat lines’. Elisabeth makes lists of wedding presents; of ‘things’ that once belonged to a much-loved but tragic, complex brother; lists of clothes to pack for new, tiny children; lists of close friends to contact in times of great need; Christmas presents lists; lists of eggs laid by ambassadorial chickens; a list of recipes headed ‘simple cooking’; and a list written after the birth of a baby when she was suffering from severe, undiagnosed postnatal stress headed ‘Things that worry me’. And within this process of making order out of confusion, rationalising loss, helping memory not to slip through the gaps, ‘a form of autobiography’ is slowly revealed. Although the challenges and stuffy monotony of diplomatic life are enlivened by the humour of the captivating Elisabeth, she is also tossed by a sequence of emotional waves that threaten to submerge this gutsy, buoyant woman. Post-natal depression, homesickness, alcoholism, homosexuality, sibling suicide and her own mental instability all ripple around her and occasionally threaten to submerge her. As Ellender researches, uncovers, interprets, comments and responds to the life of her grandmother with uninhibited insight, she also finds herself working out her own place within this narrative. Early death has straddled two generations of women, and Ellender is suddenly confronted by the realisation that a hereditary gene may bring illness into her own life and that of her children. It is here that the real poignancy and originality of this book emerges: not so much in the backward look at a past generation living in an apparently rarefied world, but in the stark immediacy of the present as the threat of the cancer that Ellender’s adored mother Helen has been suffering for a while begins to accelerate. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk They fill you with the faults they had Tibor Fischer Writers and their Mothers edited by Dale Salwak Palgrave Macmillan, £19.50, pp. 257 You attempt to write a review with a stiff dose of objectivity, but it’s hard not to start with a degree of fondness for an anthology put together by a magician who has performed in North Korea. Dale Salwak also has a sideline as a professor of literature at Citrus College in Los Angeles, and Writers and their Mothers is a collection of 22 pieces he has edited, by novelists, poets and literary critics, some biographical and analytical, some autobiographical. In his introduction, Salwak makes reference to an assertion by Georges Simenon that writers are ‘united in their hatred of their mothers’, an assertion, I’d suggest, that tells you much more about the whoremongering Simenon than about writers in general. The first contribution is Hugh Macrae Richmond’s ‘Shakespeare’s Mother(s)’. It makes sense to start with the boss, but I would have thought that a showman like Salwak would have played a stronger opening card. Richmond’s reflections are a respectable, if a slightly index-like run through of Shakespeare’s works, which does remind one that Shakespeare was much better at women than Marlowe or Jonson — which is perhaps why he’s no. 1. However, Richmond indulges in the almost inevitable academic overreach. The fact that Shakespeare married a woman eight years older than himself ‘suggests front reveal that Walt Whitman was close to his mother and that Robert Lowell definitely wasn’t. Rita Dove provides a brief cheatsheet to her poem ‘My Mother Enters the Work Force’. There are some distinguished families here, such as the Lindberghs and the Updikes, although in the latter’s case I suspect many readers will pay more attention to the references to John than to his long-suffering wife, in the tribute from their son, David. The novelists in the collection tend to come out best. Margaret Drabble has a highly entertaining examination of Samuel Beckett’s friction-filled dealings with his mother, whom Drabble believes ‘forged his genius’. That may well be true, but I’d maintain Joyce was nevertheless the greatest influence on Beckett’s style, simply because he didn’t leave his disciple anywhere else to go but Waiting for Godot and First Love. There are strong autobiographical submissions from Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Catherine Aird and Tim Parks. McEwan really vivisects himself and spills his guts in his portrait of his mother in ‘Mother Tongue’ (something that will doubtless provide fodder for doctorates in decades to come). Both his mother and his ‘wicked stepmother’, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, get a sympathetic write up from Martin Amis, a chronicle that at the same time unfurls a great deal about himself ILLUSTRATION BY WALTER PAGET/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES Just as her grandmother’s lists created structure in the rootless life of a diplomatic wife and mother, so the gradual creative process of writing this book becomes a receptacle in which Ellender can store and secure her own thoughts, and especially the precious but potentially evanescent memories of her mother. As the chances of Helen’s survival recede, and as her life unravels ‘in increments’, the book of Elisabeth’s lists becomes for Ellender ‘an essential companion, something to protect me’ while her fear of loss is ‘like walking along a rotten wooden bridge suspended over a raging river’, the edges of her life ‘blurry and uncertain’. But, she says, ‘I can’t look away now.’ As she perseveres with a story that travels between past, present and future, it is Ellender’s own courage at confronting and living through these painful truths that makes her book so powerful and enriching. John Ruskin as a boy, seated beside his mother, listening to the sermon acceptance of female superiority in sexual relationships’. For all we know, Shakespeare might have been pulling some heavy 50 shades action on Anne Hathaway, or indeed Elizabeth I. I’ve never had much time for John Ruskin’s writing, but his life was a hoot. Anthony Daniels explains that ‘he lived with his mother most of his life, until her death aged 90 in 1871.’ Ruskin was famously subjected to divorce proceedings on the grounds of non-consummation and when he ‘was lodged as a student in Oxford, his mother took lodgings herself on the High Street, to which her son repaired each evening, until he left the university’. Has anyone checked out John Ruskin as a fit for Jack the Ripper? Am I alone in this? Is it just me? I simply can’t bear to read anything more about Sylvia Plath’s life. Ever. Under any circumstances. Just leave the poor woman alone, no matter how well you do it, Adrianne Kalfopoulou. Similarly, we may be reaching peak Larkin, as even in the slick account by Philip Pullen of Eva Larkin, we get more about Larkin and Monica Jones, who are shaping up to be the new Ted ’n’ Sylvia of poetry exegesis. Further investigations on the poetry the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Has anyone checked out John Ruskin as a ﬁt for Jack the Ripper? and Kingsley. Catherine Aird summons up the harshness of the war years, and as you would expect from a crime writer, has a marvellous anecdote about her mother meeting a complete stranger in the street, who is wearing what are indisputably her mother’s clothes. Tim Parks closes with ‘Her Programme’, a description of his mother’s funeral service. It’s certainly the most powerful piece in the collection, one that is very moving and that gives a distinct sense of his mother’s character: a narrative that manages to be both visceral and artful. Writers as a group are, typically, overendowed with ego and willing to commit almost any transgression for a good sentence or line; so it’s heartening to see how they are generally cowed and humbled by maternal love, and are grateful for it. 37 BOOKS & ARTS First novels Shadows of the past Stuart Evers The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton Granta, £12.99, pp. 368 Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi Oneworld, £14.99, pp. 443 Peach by Emma Glass Bloomsbury, £12.99, pp. 112 The Shangri-Las’ song ‘Past, Present and Future’ divides a life into three, Beethovenunderpinned phases: before, during and after. Each section turns in on the next, binding them together with devastating effect. It is one of the oddest and most radically structured moments in pop, and one that came to mind when reading these three very different debut novels. With similar temporal concerns to the LieberButler-Morton lyric, each traces the implications of past action on the present — and how these in turn could shape the coming years. The future is most notably explored in Danny Denton’s brilliantly conceived The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow, a polyphonic trawl through the murky waters of a permanently raining Irish dystopia. The plot, in precis, looks suspiciously conventional: a teenage runner for a crime syndicate decides to escape a life of violence, rescue his daughter from the head of the family and fulfil the promise he made to his now-dead girlfriend. But what could have been a standard-issue, sub-Clockwork Orange tale of unlikely redemption becomes a daring and tightly orchestrated story of myth, narrative and love. The prose is a firecracker in the cloudburst; sentences twist one way and the other, Joycean wordplay meeting street slang and invented parlance. But Denton’s ability to create a fully rendered cityscape and a varied series of communities is equally impressive. His drowned Dublin is authentic and meticulous, cinematic and sensuous; his characters, whether fleeting or part of the principal cast, are rounded, full and bloodied. And while this is a violent, unforgiving novel, its tender For the One Only As we walk, she says she hears waxwing, fieldfare and redwing; you seldom see them now, she says, but, if you listen, you can hear them sing. Above, the clouds accumulate to what may yet become a storm. The brambles stretch across the path to slow us down. We’re coming closer every day to where things end, that gulping beast which swallows everyone as if we didn’t matter in the least. And who’ll go first, you or me? Me, who worries if you go alone to town? You, afraid I might indulge (old fool) in this or that, too much, too soon? Think of something else, you say, something nice. The oaks have held their leaves later than the ash, though colours merge – and somewhere far away a raptor grieves. — C.J. Driver 38 depiction of friendship and family help counterbalance the unremitting darkness of the future. Hope, Denton implies, is always there, no matter how grey the sky. If hope underscores The Earlie King, then fear is the primary driving force of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu: specifically, of the long arm of the past on the shoulder of the present. In 1750, on his way to pay homage to the new leader of the kingdom of Buganda, Kintu Kidda commits a murder that will curse generations of his descendants. Epic both in intention and execution, Kintu contains a vast number of characters, avenging ghosts and portentous visions — and, in Uganda, there is no shortage of history to navigate. But though one might expect Idi Amin to feature prominently, Makumbi resists the temptation. Amin is there (just as the Aids epidemic, colonialism and tribalism are all present and correct) but only in as much as his regime weighs on the characters’ lives. It is just one of many judicious narrative decisions that gives Kintu a sense of purpose. Some sections are weaker than others; Book I, for instance, focusing on the original Kintu Kidda, seems airless and hidebound with research. But the final coming together of the entire Kintu clan, arrived at with precision and intricacy, makes for a satisfying and thoughtful denouement. While Denton and Makumbi play fast and loose with time, Emma Glass’s Peach unfurls in a more constricted framework. It opens in the aftermath of an attack on the narrator, Peach, and closes a few days later at a family gathering. What happens between these events — and how Peach deals with her assault — is related in an urgent, rhythmic unspooling of language. Internal rhymes, alliteration and onomatopoeia dominate the short, insistent sentences, suggesting a woman recreating the world entirely from words that immediately present themselves to her. This improvisational style comes with many pitfalls, which Glass generally dodges, only fleetingly hitting a discordant note with an overstretched motif or bout of alliteration. Peach’s voice is unsettling, idiosyncratic and discomforting, as well as being moving and utterly absorbing. Glass never quite lets the reader settle on what is actually happening (or what has happened) and what is Peach’s invention. The latter’s infant brother appears, literally, as a jelly baby; her boyfriend is part-tree; her biology teacher a blob of custard; only her parents, a hilarious pair of libidinous solipsists, appear as conventional human beings. This sense of radical domestic fantasy gives the novel a raw power, as well as provoking multiple interpretations. It may occasionally confound, but Peach is a bold, memorable novel — gripping, strange and utterly singular. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES Doris Lessing in her mid sixties Flitting from flower to flower Sara Wheeler Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing by Lara Feigel Bloomsbury, £20, pp. 336 ‘I am interested only in stretching myself, in living as fully as I can.’ Lara Feigel begins her thoughtful book with this assertion by Anna Wulf, the protagonist of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, and it rather sums up the whole endeavour of the volume. Feigel weaves close readings of Lessing’s prose, both fiction and non-fiction, with accounts of her own self-stretching. Feigel, an academic, had read Lessing as an undergraduate, but, returning to her in her thirties, she discovered in the books a stimulating discussion about ‘how as a woman to reconcile your need to be desired by men with your wish for sexual equality’. She is particularly interested in the way Lessing ‘placed sexual fulfilment at the centre of women’s lives’. There are big questions here. Lessing, says Feigel, ‘had allowed me to see my own sense of the inextricable nature of body and mind, of the personal and political, as the basis for thinking about life’. She follows Lessing geographically — to Zimbabwe, for example — and in her pursuits, including ‘brushes with adultery’ and psychoanalysis. (Ronnie Laing naturally steps on stage.) In Los Angeles, Feigel interviews Clancy Sigal, with whom Lessing had a serious love affair. He once said, ‘compared to her writing, cooking was her real genius’. Philip Glass, with whom Lessing worked and on whom she had an unrequited crush, refuses to meet the author. So she goes to hear one of his operas instead. Feigel ranges over the prose, the letters and diaries (many in a Sussex archive), and the life of her prey. Descriptions of the farm in the Banket District of the maizegrowing region of Lomagundi where Lessing grew up in what was then Southern Rhodesia are wonderfully evocative. Feigel understands the importance of specificity: we hear Lessing’s father’s wooden leg banging as he climbs up and down mine shafts in a futile attempt to find gold on his land. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk She examines how Lessing ferried ideas about how to be a free woman into her fiction. Other writers pop up, notably D.H. Lawrence, though concerning identity rather than being a woman.Through it all Feigel reflects Lessing’s ideas back on herself. ‘In order to be truthful,’ she writes, ‘and therefore in order to be free, I had to expose, both in person and in print, the side of me that was dislikeable.’ That is brave. The arrangement of material is roughly chronological, from Lessing’s childhood, through two marriages, the move to London in 1949, communism, a 30-year dalliance with Free Love (Lessing said she liked ‘flitting from flower to flower’), Sufism and the post-menopause adoption of an identity of asexual frump with a bun. I only knew Lessing personally in that latter role and, reading this book, I’m sorry I missed the earlier years. Then, of course, the call from Stockholm. Regarding the communist interlude, Lessing reluctantly left the Party after Hungary, but she didn’t give up on it altogether for several years. There is much debate over her famous decision to abandon her first two children. Feigel is even-handed, citing all that Winnicottian nonsense about ‘maternal ambivalence’ (the concept isn’t nonsense, but Winnicott’s opinions were). Is it wrong, she asks, ‘for writers to claim a special privilege when it comes to maternal ambivalence?’ Yes, in my view, it is wrong, but Feigel does not trade in glib answers. Everything is this book is seriously handled. Through Lessing and other writers, for example, Feigel traces the evolution of attitudes to mothering. Orgasms feature quite a bit. Some readers might feel less information would have been preferable. In discussing the slow disintegration of her own marriage, Feigel describes an episode when her husband withdraws from coitus at the crucial moment against her wishes because he doesn’t feel ready to have another child with her. Is this information for the public domain? Of course, she is following Lessing, who, in her autobiography and in her fiction, did not shrink from such details. Remember Anna Wulf describing her period at wearying length in The Golden Notebook? Feigel’s previous books include The Bitter Taste of Victory, about love and art in the ruins of the German Reich. She is an accomplished writer, and able to acknowledge the ‘patchiness’ of Lessing’s prose, while freely admitting that her relationship with the novelist has amounted to an ‘obsession’. Free Woman is not a biography, but the same artistic process is at work: as a biographer, you think you are going to possess your subject, but they always end up possessing you. It’s fertile ground, and Feigel a fine explorer. I really enjoyed this book. 39 BOOKS & ARTS B ARTS Année érotique James Woodall on Picasso at his creative – and carnal – zenith 40 y 1930, Pablo Picasso, nearing 50, was as rich as Croesus. He was the occupant of a flat and studio in rue La Boétie, in the ritzy 8th arrondissement, owner of a country mansion in the northwest, towards Normandy, and was chauffeured around in an adored Hispano-Suiza. He stored the thousands of French francs from the sale of his work in sacks deep inside a Banque de France vault, like a ‘country bumpkin who keeps his savings sewn into his mattress’, someone once said. Married since 1918 to one of Sergei Diaghilev’s ballerinas, Olga Khokhlova, Picasso was coming to dominate the art world in a manner no painter has before or since — including, increasingly and importantly, New York. But by mid-1931, he had worries. After the pioneering profligacy of his cubist period some 15 years before, followed by the gigantist neoclassical works of the 1920s, he had begun to sculpt — as a hobby, really — and was no longer painting with quite the verve and daring of his twenties and thirties. This, of course, is relative. An astounding ‘Crucifixion’ of February 1930 and his jagged ‘Seated Bather’ from later that year are, by any standards, masterpieces. But he was, in his own mind, in hiatus. Picasso was pursued throughout his long life by a pathological dread of death, specifically of dying before he had created what he considered a proper legacy. It was the Picasso paradox: turning 40 in 1921, his fame and earning power were assured and growing. Yet as the 1920s wore on he became highly acquisitive, a hoarder, terrified of not doing enough and being returned to the abject poverty he’d suffered in his early Paris years. In 1930, moreover, his mother had been robbed in Barcelona of 400 of her son’s artworks, a miserable episode that would drag on for eight years, and which saw Picasso frequently attacked for self-publicity and for keeping his mother in penury (he didn’t). His wife Olga, meanwhile, was sliding into mental decline, her marriage to the demonic, dismembering artist characterised from the mid-1920s by rows and hysteria, her physical health undermined by frequent gynaecological haemorrhaging. As his sixth decade approached, something flipped in Picasso. He would stop at nothing either to renew himself or get richer. The signal public event of 1932, the year being celebrated at a monumental Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern — an expanded version of a recent four-month hang at Paris’s Musée Picasso — was the first major show of his career. ‘Why,’ Picasso was reported as saying in mid-June of that year, ‘should I deny myself the joy of seeing once again everything that I produced over a third of a century? So here I am, reinvigorated and full of life, taking care of an exhibition of my works for the first time [at Paris’s Galeries Georges Petit], like a lad of 20. It feels as if I’m witnessing a retrospective vision of myself ten years after my death.’ Reinvigorated and full of life he certainly was. An unslakeable thirst for work lies behind Picasso 1932 — Love, Fame, Tragedy. Along with numerous drawings, prints and bits of sculpture, he produced 64 individual paintings in his 51st year. He knew his worth. Three months into 1932, a 1906 canvas, ‘La Coiffure’, sold in Paris for a then record 56,000 francs (£200,000 today). (By the mid-1930s, the vast wads of cash in the bank vault required more than one strongroom.) The milestone birthday on 25 October 1931 released in him energies that would have been startling enough in a lad of 20. Here, right from the start of 1932, are serene, voluptuous portraits of a woman sleeping, resting, reading and dreaming. With a phallic brush, Picasso obsesses repeatedly over a classical Greek-like female head; sensual, octopoid, with frondlike limbs; spherical breasts and enfolding vaginal apertures — to say nothing of bulbous penile rods and shafts. The oneiric images are set sometimes on a beach but most often in an interior. In the frame there is frequently a mirror, an armchair, a plant. Chasing girls was another of Picasso’s weapons against death Most of the pictures pulsate with sexual adventure and bodily contentment. One, ‘Bather with Beach Ball’, shows the same woman as a kind of pneumatic angel, reaching athletically for the moon. It’s one of the seminal oil paintings of the 1930s. All are probing, radiant works. What of sex? Tellingly, the Musée Picasso show’s subtitle was ‘Année érotique’. At the start of 1927 the then 45-year-old artist had spotted the blonde 17-year-old MarieThérèse Walter in a Paris street. He simply picked her up and announced they were going to do ‘great things together’. She’d never heard of him, so to convince her Picasso marched her to a bookshop where various volumes about him proved that he was a famous artist. Five years later she had become his regular model, muse and mistress. She lies plumb at the heart of the Andalusian’s 1932. Outwardly, he and Olga lived a life of conjugal parity. In Paris they attended opera premières and concerts, though not, interestingly, the vernissage on 16 June of Picasso’s first retrospective. It’s probable that the shock for his wife of being confronted by so many concupiscent images of Walter would have caused ‘an ugly scene’ claims Picasso’s biographer John Richardson. It’s also likely that Olga knew about the girl by that point. For their assignations in Paris, painterly and sexual, Picasso had rented a Left Bank flat. He also had her stay frequently — when the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk PRIVATE COLLECTION © SUCCESSION PICASSO/DACS LONDON, 2017 Cherchez la femme: ‘Reclining Nude (Femme nue couchée)’, 1932, by Pablo Picasso Olga was absent — at the unheated country mansion, Boisgeloup. There, plump and formally dressed, Picasso behaved with his family ‘like a quintessential bourgeois husband and father’, Richardson writes, ‘the antithesis of the priapic polymorph he would turn back into, after his wife and child returned to Paris’. He was also chasing girls in Paris. It was a habit from his promiscuous youth: another of his weapons, now, against death. Little about the girls in question is known, though one was a Japanese model, of whom two portraits were made in the summer of 1932. Olga put an end to the affair, something she never attempted with Walter. Picasso was insatiable. In company, Richardson observed, ‘everyone had to be seduced’ by him. ‘He’d imbibe all that stolen energy and stride off into the studio and work all night. I can’t imagine the hell of being married to him!’ It wasn’t all sex for the 50-year-old, though there was clearly lots of it, matched only by the unremitting pace of work. Darkness descended at year’s end, when Picasso produced the most astonishing series of prints and drawings of the crucifixion, inspired by Grünewald’s late 15th-century ‘Isenheim Altarpiece’. These clattering, boney pictures cover substantial wall space at Tate Modern and seem to stand as a corrective to the lush sensuality that has gone before. Picasso sensed that every carnal pleasure is inevitably, existentially, followed by mortal pain. Everything must end; this he painted throughout his career. The ‘tragedy’ of Tate Modern’s title refers in part to Walter losing her beautiful tresses in late autumn 1932 after swimming, or possibly kayaking, in the Marne. She caught a spirochetal infection from rats in the river. For Picasso, who produced a the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk number of haunted pictures of his girlfriend being saved from the water, this too was an end. A spell was broken. Nonetheless, within two years she was pregnant by him. A girl, Maya, was born in September 1935 (and is still with us). Picasso then took a new lover: Dora Maar. Shrewdly, Tate Modern has mounted a detailed show that displays this half-man half-monster at a creative zenith. Picasso was drawing on his brilliant past while laying foundations for an even more extraordinary future. His 20th-century masterpiece ‘Guernica’ lay five years away. But as picture after picture at Tate Modern shows, Picasso at 50 felt younger than ever; and, one might add, hornier. The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy is at Tate Modern until 9 September. 41 BOOKS & ARTS THE LISTENER Nils Frahm: All Melody Grade: A Here we are in that twilit zone where post-techno and post-ambient meets modern classical, a terrain that has its fair share of tuneless charlatans and chancers. Frahm is not one of those. There are of course the repetitive synthesiser arpeggios familiar to anyone who has had the misfortune to sit in some achingly hip Dalston café: slightly too many for my liking on ‘#2’, which Frahm may consider the centrepiece of this album. But the German is obsessively attuned to nuance. Beneath those Glass-like riffs there is plenty going on: descant melodies, counterpoints burbling up out of the ether. He stretches himself, too, using wordless vocals on ‘The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched’ (yes, the titles are almost all unforgivable) and elsewhere trumpets and marimba. Fortunately for the listener, though, he is still in thrall to the acoustic piano, the instrument that brought him to prominence. On his recent UK gigs he performed one piece, from the 2011 album Felt, by hitting the piano strings with toilet brushes, a rather arch nod to Henry Cowell. Here, instead, he plays the piano by pushing down the keys with his fingers, as you’re meant to, on the beautiful ‘My Friend The Forest’ and ‘Forever Changeless’. These impressionistic little tunes manage to be sparse and romantic, the kind of thing Erik Satie might have come up with if he was idly tinkling at the piano while waiting for his Morrison’s Signature Range cauliflower cheese to microwave. That’s just fine by me. Yes, Frahm is clever with textures. But as the title implies, it’s the melodies which drag you in. — Rod Liddle 42 Radio Ladies first Kate Chisholm You can’t move for women’s voices on the airwaves at the moment — Julie Walters on Classic FM leading off its new big series on turning points in music. Kate Molleson and Georgia Mann joining Sarah Walker and Fiona Talkington on Radio 3 (which this week also gave a big nod to female composers such as Amy Beach, Florence Price and Sofia Gubaidulina). Emma Barnett spicing up the political interview on Radio Five Live. It feels a bit like tokenism, too much too late. As if it’s going to make up for all those centuries of men in the driving seat of life. But the effect of hearing women’s voices almost whenever you switch on is like drinking fresh lemonade on a hot day, slightly acidic but invigorating. Take Carla Bruni on Radio 2. Not exactly a feminist icon. And to begin with her latenight series on Wednesdays, Carla Bruni’s C’est la Vie (produced by Paul Smith), was all a bit soupy as she talked about falling in love with her husband Nicolas Sarkozy. I never expected to last the full hour but found myself drawn in by Bruni’s intimate way of talking as if to me alone, her connection with the microphone, her voice so soft and sultry. She brought a completely different tone to the nation’s favourite station. It was like being taken direct to Paris. Her choice of music was not exactly eclectic, and her own tracks featured perhaps a mite more than was necessary (including a rather ghastly version of Tammy Wynette’s great anthem ‘Stand By Your Man’). But she did also give us Jacques Brel, Françoise Hardy, Leonard Cohen and of course Serge Gainsbourg (so overrated). It’s impossible not to succumb to her deftness of touch, her straightforward love of harmony and melody; nothing jars, no hard feelings. It’s as if in the world of Bruni nothing bad ever happens, which in these times is infectiously refreshing (although next week she is focusing on melancholy). Along the way, we heard about her meeting with Bob Dylan a few years ago. He gave one of his harmonicas to Sarkozy. ‘I don’t know why he gave it to my man. But I tell you it went right into my pocket as soon as I got into the car.’ A meeting between Bruni and Val Wilmer, the music journalist, photographer and historian, whose work was featured on Sunday night on Radio 3 (produced by Steve Urquhart), would be something to witness, Bruni, I rather suspect, being minced by Wilmer’s sardonic tongue. Wilmer became one of the foremost chroniclers of AfricanAmerican musical culture through her writing about the great black jazz musicians of the 1960s and 1970s. Her working life began aged 14 when she took a photograph of Louis Armstrong at London Airport. She got into jazz when she stumbled across Ray Charles singing ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ on Radio Luxembourg while sitting at the kitchen table revising for exams. It was, she says, ‘The most arresting, dramatic sound I’d ever heard.’ She had grown up singing ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ in the school hall. From that to Charles was, she says, ‘quite some leap’. As a teenager she wrote to the musicians she liked listening to, mostly black, and through the letters she received back from them she found stories which she began sending to music magazines. Memphis Slim had a meal with her family in Streatham; so did Charlie Mingus. All because of her letters. At the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1969, the journalist Richard Williams remembers how Wilmer was greeted as a friend by all the members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. To get the stories she later told in books such as As Serious As Your Life she didn’t, she says, ‘ask complicated questions’, but simple things like ‘Where did you get your saxophone?’ or ‘Who did you play with first?’ Not for the first time, but still a rarity, Composer of the Week on Radio 3 featured a woman, Rachel Portman, best known for her film scores (she was the first female composer to win an Oscar, for Emma in 1996). In conversation with Donald Macleod, Portman revealed how for her first commission she had just three-and-a-half weeks to provide 45 minutes of music. Recently she’s been studying psychotherapy and sees a link between her two professions: ‘Whenever I’ve been working on a project I’ve really had to understand a character, a world, a place. You have to really attune to it… to someone’s psyche.’ The music we heard was fantastically varied, with great textures and a variety of instrumentation (for the film of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, she was told by the director not to use any western classical instruments). But what really cut through the airwaves was her account of moving with her two young children to LA while working on a film. One day she came back and realised the house had been broken into. She called the police who entered the building but soon came out ashen-faced. ‘There’s a body in the pool,’ they told her. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk laurence edwards The maquettes All Roads, 2012 Loaded, 2012 IYVUaL¶UVVMHZLYPLZVM __JTZ 1À__ À8 ins IYVUaL¶UVVMHZLYPLZVM __JTZ À8 x 491À4 x 161À8 ins Sylvan Study, 2017 Chase, 2009 IYVUaL¶UVVMHZLYPLZVM __JTZÀ8_1À x 11 ins IYVUaL¶UVVMHZLYPLZVM __JTZ À8__À4 ins 14 March – (noon) 6 April These maquettes are works of real artistic intimacy and power – as working studies they have the gift to reveal the artist in the act of making creative decisions, sometimes trying risky ideas – which means they are communicating an exciting, personal SHUN\HNLUV[X\P[L[OLZHTLKPHSLJ[\ZLKI`ÄUPZOLKSHYNLZJHSL^VYRZ After winning a Henry Moore Bursary, the Angeloni Prize for Bronze Casting and an Intach Travelling Scholarship, in the summers of 1989 and 1990 Edwards travelled to 0UKPH HUK 5LWHS /L SP]LK ^P[O MHTPSPLZ ^OV OHK ^VYRLK MVY NLULYH[PVUZ HZ JHZ[LYZ O\UNYPS`WPJRPUN\WHO\NLNYHZWVM[LJOUPX\LZM\YUHJLJVUZ[Y\J[PVUHUK\ZLVMTH[LYPHSZ Fully illustrated catalogue with informative text – £15 inc p&p. 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.mes sums.c om BOOKS & ARTS Theatre Save the children Lloyd Evans Fanny & Alexander Old Vic, until 14 April Harold and Maude Charing Cross Theatre, until 31 March Fanny & Alexander opens like a Chekhov comedy and turns into an Ibsen tragedy. Ingmar Bergman’s movie script, adapted by Stephen Beresford, has been directed for the stage by Max Webster. The children, Fanny and Alexander, belong to the famous Ekdahl acting dynasty who live in Bohemian chaos. Their home is full of jokes and pranks and sophisticated merriment, and the family business is overseen by their grandmother (Penelope Wilton), who runs their theatrical affairs with a benignly imperious eye. Then disaster strikes. The kids’ father dies of a brain haemorrhage while rehearsing the Ghost in Hamlet. Their mother, Emilie, is comforted by the sinister Bishop Edvard who marries her and moves the children into his chilly episcopal palace. It’s like I’d hesitate to take a youngster to this production because the editing has been botched a prison camp with nice oak furniture. Meals consist of dry bread and mulched turnips. This diet suits the bishop’s crippled mother who wears aviator sunglasses and sucks up her gruel with accompanying Dyno-Rod noises. The effect is comic and disgusting but also genuinely terrifying because the bishop is a certifiable psychopath. He wants to control everyone around him because he can’t control himself. When Alexander commits a footling offence the bishop thrashes him savagely and forces him to express thanks for his punishment. Meanwhile, the Ekdahl relatives plot to spring the children from captivity. Their plan falters. More twists follow. There is much to adore about this show. Tom Pye’s painterly sets look marvellous. Penelope Wilton and Michael Pennington are on great form as a pair of elderly lovers. And the tale is deliberately calculated to appeal to adults and children alike. Grown-ups will be deliciously horrified at the contrast between the warm-hearted Ekdahls and the brutal asceticism of Bishop Edvard. And the role of Alexander (amusingly played by Misha Handley on press night) is a gift for any 11-year-old. He opens the play with a jokey monologue and he gets to rant and rave, and even to swear vulgarly, at the adults who terrorise him. And yet I’d hesitate to take a youngster to this production because the editing has been botched. Serious cuts 44 Shall we dance: the cast of Fanny & Alexander at the Old Vic are needed. The show runs to three-and-ahalf hours (including two thumb-twiddling 15-minute intervals), which places it well beyond a child’s endurance. Harold and Maude is a 1960s relic written by the late Colin Higgins who directed the hit movie 9 to 5 starring Dolly Parton. This sketchy effort belongs to his apprentice years. The tale opens with Mrs Chasen, a moneyed New Yorker, trying to find a bride for her handsome but idle 19-year-old son Harold. She uses a computerised service to select suitable women but Harold sabotages every date by attempting suicide in front of his prospective girlfriend. This is a covert nod to Harold’s homosexuality. Ignoring his mom’s dynastic yearnings, Harold strikes up a Platonic friendship with Maude, a dotty Austrian countess who enjoys climbing trees, liberating zoo animals and attending the funerals of people she’s never met. She’s 79 and she offers Harold a moral education. Life is about embracing fresh experiences, she says, it’s about building bridges and destroying the fences and walls that separate people. The play has many of the faults, and some of the virtues, of the 1960s. It’s disorganised, childish, a little preachy at times, far too ready to forgive its own failings, and conspicuously self-deluding. Maude may be a charming old dear but she’s also a thief. She keeps a set of purloined master-keys in her skirts which she uses to steal cars whenever it suits her. The script asks for all kinds of off-beat flourishes: musical solos, har- the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk MANUEL HARLAN here from Sheila Hancock as the whimsical drifter Maude. Mrs Chasen, a sort of muted Lady Bracknell, is performed by the excellent Rebecca Caine whose dictatorial manner conceals real warmth and humour. Joanna Hickman, brilliantly funny, plays the full harem of comic girlfriends spurned by Harold. The costumes by Jonathan Lipman are a sumptuous collection that do ample justice to the multicoloured hippie aesthetic. Had I put money into this show I’d be in two minds about it. Delighted at the better-than-expected results and yet dismayed that I’d thought it worth bothering with. Music Gallic pieties Michael Tanner monised songs, exploding cupboards and strange sound effects, including a policeman who barks like a seal. These tricky details, potentially ruinous, are done very stylishly and the piece has a commendable integrity. It succeeds in capturing the crazed optimism of the 1960s when youngsters in the west seriously believed that universal happiness, like technological innovation, might not just be attainable but inevitable. Maude embodies that aspiration. Director Thom Southerland deserves top marks for delivering an excellent version of a wonky script. The first half is too slow and Harold’s failed suicides become drearily predictable. But the action in the second half is crisper, much funnier and full of good surprises. There’s excellent work My two attempts to see Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at the Guildhall School were frustrated by the weather. Forced back on to my DVDs and CDs — vinyl, even — I took the opportunity to survey some of the manifestations and investigations of religious feeling in 20th-century French music. I began with Vincent d’Indy’s Fervaal, an opera he composed in 1895 which used to be referred to as ‘the French Parsifal’. Refreshing my memory of the plot by looking it up in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, I was struck by the writer’s insistence that, while the work is heavily influenced by Wagner, ‘[d’Indy] had a better sense of dramatic pacing than Wagner, and more essential humanity’. That sent me back to my private recording of Fervaal, the only one there’s ever been, and two hours of mild amusement at the flagrancy of d’Indy’s indebtedness to what all Frenchmen were by then calling the wizard of Bayreuth, and my fairly strong boredom at how little purpose he put it to. The French were naturally better at being decadent than anyone else, but though the phenomenon fascinates as a concept, decadent art itself soon becomes a bore, as no one shows more conclusively then Huysmans. The atmosphere of sickly revulsion from the flesh and the appeal of Catholic ritual at its most ornate was something that French composers, in the main, reacted against too little and too late. Even such a genius as Debussy, who wrote no music of, or about, religious feeling except for Le Martyre de Saint-Sebastien, was deformed by these sentiments. He was aided by the text by d’Annunzio, and you can’t get more gamey than that. The result (I love the fact that Ida Rubinstein was to dance the title role, but was banned by the Archbishop of Paris from doing so because she was not only female but also a Jew) is Debussy’s dreariest score, which could nev- the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ertheless only have been composed by a genius misusing his gift. Aside from trying to enjoy being wicked yet somehow holy, French religious music of the last century tended towards gentility and threadbare consolation as manifest in Fauré’s Requiem and even more so in his disciple Duruflé’s work of the same genre. That is until neoclassicism came to the rescue. Poulenc, though hardly a revolutionary figure, still creates a considerable, and positive, impact with his own religious works, which can be exultant, as in the exhilarating Gloria, or as anguished as the Four Motets for a Time of Penitence. When it comes to his largest work, Dialogues des Carmélites, he is treading a tightrope, and induces the feeling, at least in me, that if he falls off it will be into either Catholic campness or mere bathos. When a production of it succeeds, as several that I have seen do, it is one of the most moving of 20th-century operas, deserving of a far higher reputation than it tends to have. How many passages in opera of any time are more harrowing than the prioress’s death agonies and vastation? The affection that Poulenc shows for Sister Constance’s inability to be as How many passages in opera are more harrowing than the prioress’s death agonies and vastation? grave as her calling requires, and Blanche’s perpetual anxiety, often bordering on hysteria, seems to me to be at least as genuine as anything in Britten’s operas. The final scene, with the swishing of the guillotine and the progressive reduction in the number of singers, if done with simplicity, provides a conclusion that manages to be moving without any bid to shake us to our foundations — in other words, not German. No one will be converted to Christianity as a result of listening to the Carmélites; that isn’t its point. But it emphatically does not exploit religious feelings in the way that, say, Suor Angelica does. For a French opera that is not only about religion but is itself a religious act, we need to go, obviously, to Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise. I count the four performances I have been to, three in San Francisco and one at the Proms, as among the most momentous in my musical life. Here, at last, is a work untouched by doubt, insistence or sentimentality. It’s only a pity that its demands are so extreme, in terms of the number of performers required and the stamina too, both sides of the footlights. Yet at a time when people flock to endless operas by pretentious minimalists, and ones that make equal material demands without making any spiritual claims — which are, in fact, negations of the spirit — couldn’t this uniquely uplifting opera have more than the once-in-a generation airing that is its present fate? 45 BOOKS & ARTS All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life Tate Britain, until 27 August © THE ESTATE OF MICHAEL ANDREWS Exhibitions Faulty connections Martin Gayford In the mid-1940s, Frank Auerbach remarked, the arbiters of taste had decided what was going to happen in British art: Graham Sutherland was going to be the leading painter. ‘Then downstage left, picking his nose, Francis Bacon sauntered on. And the whole scene was changed.’ But how did it alter? What happened to figurative painting in London in the decades after Bacon exploded on to the scene? This is a question with which All Too Human at Tate Britain grapples. It is an old problem. When in 1976 R.B. Kitaj proposed that there was an important group of figurative artists at work here, a ‘School of London’, he defined them as ‘a herd of loners’. Some, but not all, drank together and socially — at least until they fell out, which often occurred spectacularly if Bacon was at one of the parties. But artistically, for the most part, they were sui generis. Consequently, the exhibition is full of odd couples and incompatible pairings. One half of a gallery is hung with pictures by The exhibition contains magniﬁcent pictures, but ill-assortment runs through it like a leitmotif Michael Andrews and the other with works by Kitaj himself. These are two idiosyncratic figures, both of whom are, in hall-of-fame terms, pending. Kitaj’s reputation plummeted after a misconceived retrospective in 1994, and the disproportionately violent critical response that followed. Michael Andrews, in contrast to the abrasive and articulate Kitaj, tended to fly beneath the radar when he was alive, and was accorded a fine posthumous exhibition at Tate to which unfortunately almost nobody came. Only now is the idea dawning that he might have been a truly important figure. And so might Kitaj, after all. It must have been tempting to put Andrews and Kitaj together. A text on the wall points out, correctly, that they both owed something to Bacon. But in practice, Kitaj’s tendency to bright, slightly bilious colour and jangling compositions fights with Andrews’s elusiveness and subtlety. Even when painters have a real affinity their works may not help each other. William Coldstream was a highly influential teacher of, among others, Euan Uglow, whose works are hung beside his. But this juxtaposition obscures the individuality of Uglow, who evolved into an extraordinary 46 ‘Melanie and Me Swimming’, 1978–9, by Michael Andrews amalgam of Coldstream, Piero della Francesca and the White Knight from Alice (his models would pose, often very uncomfortably, amid plumb lines and contraptions of his own devising, designed to aid precise observation of their bodies). Still, there is a strong connection between Coldstream and Uglow. But putting the young Lucian Freud in the same room with them is just misleading. It is true that Bacon, after he and Freud had quarrelled, delighted in describing the latter’s work as ‘the very epitome of the Euston Road School’ — that being the label given to Coldstream and his followers (Bacon meant this as an insult). But though Freud also worked from close observation of a model, he was interested in matters such as their mortality, the impact of their presence and what was ‘going on in their heads’, which didn’t concern Coldstream and Uglow at all. Nor did Freud have much to do with Bacon aesthetically, close friends though they were for 25 years. Freud invariably worked ‘from life’ — in front of the subject; Bacon virtually never. Bacon habitually used photographs, Freud hardly at all. And neither is there much connection with Francis Newton Souza, an Indian painter who moved to London in 1949, who gets a room to himself (though some strained links are suggested). Souza’s work looks closer to Parisian art brut than anything else done in London. The most convincing pairing is Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, but even then only in their earliest years. After a while quite distinct painterly personalities emerged. This is perhaps why the subtitle of the show the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Uglow and Andrews among them — is not yet in. Bacon liked to point out that time is the only great critic, which lets the rest of us off the hook — at least a bit. Television Fashion victim James Walton — ‘a century of painting life’ — is so vague. ‘Painting life’ could mean anything. Although the exhibition contains many magnificent pictures, and draws attention to some unjustly neglected figures, ill-assortment runs through it like a leitmotif. It begins, reasonably enough, with Bomberg and Sickert — who really did have an effect on what came later in London – but also unexpectedly throws in the Russian-French-Jewish Soutine. It is good to see a group of younger painters in the last room — Jenny Saville, Celia Paul, Cecily Brown and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye — as a sort of coda. But you can’t help noticing how different they are. Of course, the arbiters of what is happening in art, including Tate curators, often get it wrong. The final verdict on many of the artists in All Too Human — Kitaj, By common consent, including Bafta’s, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was one of the best TV dramas of 2016. Produced by Ryan Murphy, it laid out the story in a beautifully clear, largely chronological way that made us appreciate, all over again, just how strange the whole O.J. business was — not least thanks to the wider social forces at work. Now, we’ve got The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (BBC2, Wednesday), also produced by Ryan Murphy and also tackling an event from the 1990s that manages to seem both shockingly particular and neatly revealing of more general trends. At which point, all similarities end, because here Murphy (who also directed the first episode) takes a far more fragmented and less viewer-friendly approach. The show hops backwards and forwards in time, showing us scenes and several unnamed minor characters that are yet to be linked, and for quite long stretches it appears perfectly content to leave us somewhere between intrigued and baffled. Last week’s first episode, for example, began with a long, pre-credits sequence that intercut scenes of Versace’s highly agreeable life in his (literally) gilded Miami Beach villa with regular sightings of a handsome young man beside the ocean, alternately reading a history of Vogue and fondling a gun. The man then headed to the villa, saw Versace returning from a morning stroll and shot him dead. The sequence certainly established the programme’s ability to blend sumptuous visuals with the slow cranking-up of something very sinister indeed. But it also demonstrated an equally characteristic willingness to be deliberately enigmatic about what on earth was going on — and, more specifically, why. Two episodes on, and we’re not much the wiser. We do know that the killer, Andrew Cunanan, had already murdered four men when he arrived in Miami Beach a few weeks before Versace’s death in July 1997. Yet, the details of his background, crimes and motives still remain distinctly mysterious. Admittedly, Cunanan was a fantasist, a compulsive liar or both, telling different people different stories wherever he went. Nonetheless, the drama could presumably have set at least some of the record straight by now. So why hasn’t it? The reason, I’d suggest, is a pretty good one: to make us realise that, when it comes to a man as the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk weirdly malevolent as this, being somewhere between intrigued and baffled is an entirely justified response. Meanwhile, the snapshots of Cunanan’s past also served as snapshots of gay life in the late 1990s, a time when a treatment for Aids had finally been found, and when, it seems, the obvious sense of relief was combined with a feeling of mild incredulity, as people slowly recovered from a collective trauma. For their part, Versace and his partner Antonio were faced — perhaps not uniquely — with the choice of whether to throw themselves cheerfully into their old promiscuous ways or to opt for cosy monogamy. Despite the strength of the individual scenes, Darren Criss’s fantastically unsettling performance as Cunanan and an impressive supporting cast — including Penelope Cruz as Versace’s sister Donatella and Ricky Martin as Antonio — it’s clear that for viewers of The Assassination of Gianni Versace a certain degree of patience will be required. Luckily, those very same things also give us enough confidence in the show to believe that our patience will ultimately be rewarded. The spoof documentary This Country began last year on BBC3 (it still exists, A handsome young man beside the ocean alternately reads a history of Vogue and fondles a gun apparently), where it became such a deserved word-of-mouth hit as to earn itself a BBC1 slot, albeit tucked away after Match of the Day. Now, it’s back for a slightly more prominent series on BBC1 — and, if Tuesday’s episode is anything to go by, poised to take its rightful place as an all-conquering comedy triumph, rather than a cult success. The setting is the Cotswolds, but very possibly as you’ve never seen them before: not the backdrop to some lush Sundaynight heart-warmer, but a place of run-down council houses and overwhelming boredom, where the people we meet lead lives that the average Beckett character might consider a bit uneventful. The show is written by Charlie and Daisy May Cooper, a brother and sister who themselves grew up in the area and whose motives here seem to be a winning mix of defiance, vengeance and reluctant affection. They also star as the young cousins Kurtan and Kerry, who hang out together a lot because… well, what else would they do? Almost every line Kurtan and Kerry speak is a miraculous fusion of the inadvertently comic and the inadvertently tragic — and all without a trace of writerly condescension. In lesser hands, the result might be almost too bleak to bear. In the Coopers’, it not only turns out to be one of the funniest things on television, but at times comes inexplicably close to the joyous. 47 BOOKS & ARTS His dark materials The director Michael Boyd may be drawn to nightmarish and morbid themes but Lloyd Evans finds him surprisingly cheerful NTI MEDIA LTD/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK If you wanted to cast someone as Spooner, the literary vagrant in Pinter’s No Man’s Land, you’d struggle to ﬁnd a closer match: director Michael Boyd H e looks like an absent-minded watchmaker, or a homeless chess champion, or a stray physics genius trying to find his way to the Nobel Prize ceremony. He’s in his early sixties, tall and stooping, a bit thin on top, wearing a greatcoat and a crumpled polo-neck jumper. A blur of whiskers obscures the line of his jaw. He has a bulbous, Larkinesque skull and battleship-grey teeth; and if you wanted to cast someone as Spooner, the literary vagrant in Pinter’s No Man’s Land, you’d struggle to find a closer match. This is Michael Boyd, former director of the RSC, who was knighted in 2012 for services to drama. We meet in a dressing-room in a west London studio where he’s rehearsing the Cherry Orchard for Bristol Old Vic. He has deep roots in the Russian theatre. After graduating in the 1970s, he studied directing at the Malaya Bronnaya Theatre in Moscow before taking up a post as assistant director at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. Yet he has never before directed Chek- 48 hov. He dislikes seeing the plays done in a ‘floppy-hatted English style, all atmosphere, not properly rooted in place’. During his earlier career, when he ran the Tron Theatre, in Glasgow, he found ‘there was no need to programme Chekhov, I was happy to let others do it.’ He rates the play as Chekhov’s finest and he likens it to Lear. ‘Each author puts humanity to the most extreme test. Under the most extreme sandblaster that he can produce, he winnows humanity to the bone. The poetry of the writing is spare and simple — in the same way that Picasso gets to the root of humanity and, with a very few gestures, captures what it’s like to live in a human skeleton with a beating heart and living muscles.’ Unsurprisingly, he was given an open brief by Tom Morris who runs Bristol Old Vic. ‘Do it the way you want it,’ was his only instruction. I ask for some rudimentary details about his approach. Will it be in period or contemporary costume? He pretends, perhaps playfully, that he hasn’t yet finalised this decision, and he changes the subject by telling me about a version of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country staged in Russia. ‘I was invited to the dress rehearsal, which began informally with the cast in jeans and opennecked shirts, very relaxed behaviour. But as the plot intensified, the actors started to put on parts of their formal costumes. The lovers got trapped, and so on came the corsets and the wigs and they ended up in period costume, as if they were in prison. There was one actor, very bald, who looked absolutely trapped in his wig. I thought, “this is genius!” But then I went to the first performance, and it was in period dress from the word go.’ He got into directing by accident or perhaps by instinct. As a student actor he had far stronger opinions about the production than the rest of the cast. ‘I was perhaps quite annoying,’ he admits. He can detect signs that an actor has potential as a director ‘if they come up with great ideas in rehearsal or offer advice to less experienced cast members’. He says the best actors ‘are their own the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk best editors, able to get under the skin of the character, and make choices at high speed’. I ask about the changes he’s witnessed over a 40-year career in the theatre, and he assumes (wrongly) that I’m fishing for good news. ‘Actors and directors are more likely to come from a wider variety of backgrounds so there are more voices, more stories being told. And theatre has very nimbly absorbed influences from other creative forms — from art, from sculpture, from film, — so the level of visual skills is terrific.’ It takes me quite an effort to coax him on to negative territory. ‘The slightly toxic obsession with celebrity culture is not always a benign influence,’ he says. And he talks of over-conceptualised shows in these terms. ‘The problem with some productions is that you feel this isn’t telling the story, it’s telling the story of its own theatricality.’ He mentions the Arts Council’s budget and the cuts to regional theatres that started to bite deeply after 2010. But even there he finds cause for optimism. ‘It’s made them focus on different ways of appealing to their community.’ His schedule is booked up for at least two years. He recently directed a macabre comedy, The Open House, at the Print Room in Notting Hill. In 2020 he’ll revive his production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Boyd ﬁnds cause for optimism even in Arts Council cuts to regional theatres Onegin at Garsington. This autumn he’s directing a new show, The Circle, at the Dorfman. It’s a musical based on a David Eggers novel about a digital future in which the social-media giants have merged into a vast, oppressive monopoly. He seems drawn to nightmarish and morbid themes in drama, and he talks of The Cherry Orchard as a dystopian vision of the terrible changes that were about to engulf Russian society. ‘There’s a tremendous sense of new money taking over. The cherry trees will be chopped down and replaced with a great new estate. So the play is about how to bring about change in a deeply unequal world, and how to cope with that change.’ He says this resonates with today’s political culture. ‘In the play you hear the voice of the disenfranchised knocking on the door and threatening privilege in a way that liberalism is under threat, or is reported to be under threat, throughout the western world.’ He says this reflects ‘the conversation around privilege [that is] going on throughout the UK.’ The play may even foment discussions about Britishness. ‘What is Britain, what is Englishness, after Europe?’ He seems closely engaged with UK politics and he describes our current socioeconomic structure as ‘skew-whiff’. He’s aggrieved by ‘obscene bonuses’ and by the income gap between the chief executives and the auxiliary staff at large firms. His solution is redistributive taxation which he says, perhaps optimistically, must be ‘done cleverly’. I ask if he favours a maximum wage? ‘Yes’. My next question is easy. ‘More or less than what you earn?’ ‘Oh, more,’ he shrugs, ‘and a damn sight more than I earned at the RSC.… Millions!’ Oddly, he seems Mandelsonian in his attitude to the accumulation of large personal fortunes. Then the crunch question. ‘Will Jeremy Corbyn win?’ ‘I hope so.’ The Cherry Orchard is at Bristol Old Vic until 7 April. Cinema Hammer horror Deborah Ross You Were Never Really Here 12A, Nationwide Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story 12A, Key Cities You Were Never Really Here is a fourth feature from Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar, We Need to Talk About Kevin) and the first thing to say is that it is exceptionally violent. I don’t say this disapprovingly but if your threshold for violence is as low as mine — I incurred a paper cut the other day and passed clean out — it will prove an 89-minute ordeal. Still, it has been described as ‘the Taxi Driver for the 21st century’, if that is of help while you’re bracing yourself for the next hammer blow. Personally, I found it of no help at all. Also, it’s untrue. The film stars a bulked-up Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a tortured hit man, and it opens as it means to go on. That is, not prettily. Joe is in a Cincinnati hotel room with a plastic bag over his head self-asphyxiating, although whether this is auto-erotica or a suicide attempt isn’t made clear, just as little is ever made clear. It’s horrific to watch, as the bag sucks in, blows out, sucks in, blows out. But then he rips it off — thank God! — and moves on to his next task, which is washing a bloodied hammer. (Oh.) He’s concluded a job, we can assume, and exits the hotel’s back entrance where an attacker seems to be lying in wait. But you don’t mess with Joe. Crunch! That’s the attacker, getting a headbutt for his trouble. Next, it’s back home to Queens, where Joe lives with his mother (a fabulous Judith Roberts) and is hired for his next job: finding a senator’s missing 13-yearold daughter. (Always a missing child; never a missing cheesemonger.) Joe seems to specialise in rescuing sex-trafficked girls, and this one is holed up in a Manhattan brothel, which he enters politely, after wiping his feet. Nope, out comes the hammer. He loves a hammer, does Joe. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Based on the novella by Jonathan Ames, the film has the casual, sadistic violence of a Tarantino film, but none of the narrative inventiveness, as far as I could fathom. Or narrative clarity. I was often muddled. It is aggressively non-expositional, with sparse dialogue and no back story beyond Joe’s hallucinatory flashbacks, which are often bewildering. (I think I got his violent upbringing, but a dying child’s foot twitching in the sand?) I don’t wish to be spoonfed, but the violence is gratuitous unless there’s sufficient psychological ballast to help us understand, connect, perhaps sympathise. That just does not happen here. It does come with a terrific Jonny Greenwood score that replicates, presumably, the brutal jangle in Joe’s head. Phoenix is a powerful presence, and there’s some wonderful cinematography, but it’s hardly genre-busting. Joe is the damaged loner we’ve seen umpteen times before. And it’s hardly Taxi Driver, as I never felt it was say- This has the casual, sadistic violence of a Tarantino ﬁlm, but none of the narrative inventiveness ing anything beyond violence begets violence, so here’s 89 minutes of it, and a tooth being extracted with pliers. And now Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a documentary about the one-time Hollywood star — the most beautiful woman ever, according to Mel Brooks. It’s a proper story alright, and a fascinating one, and you don’t have to brace yourself for hammer blows, which is always a relief. The film covers her Austrian childhood, her several marriages, her career (the first on-screen orgasm; uppers and downers from MGM) and… and… what else? Drums fingers. Has a think. Oh yes, she was always scientifically minded, and during the war invented ‘frequency hopping’, which would keep the enemy from interfering with a ship’s torpedoes. Although it was never taken up by the American navy (stupidly), it has since formed the basis of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and all the other stuff we have today. ‘A crime-fighter by night’ is how one current Google employee describes her. So there’s that but, as written and directed by Alexandra Dean, this is just as much an essay on beauty. How no one will take you seriously when you have it but, even so, when you lose it, so painful. I felt her pain more than I ever did Joe’s. When Hedy Lamarr could no longer be Hedy Lamarr she became a recluse, and if you watched HBO’s Feud, you’ll know this happened to Joan Crawford too (and Garbo, I suppose). I was minded of Joan Collins who once said: ‘The problem with beauty is that it is like being born rich and getting poorer.’ Better, perhaps, to be born poor and stay poor. I may well be living proof… 49 NOTES ON … The Katherine Mansfield House By Nigel Andrew GETTY IMAGES O ne of the more surprising attractions of Wellington, New Zealand’s small but perfectly formed capital city, is what might be described as England’s farthest-flung literary shrine — the Katherine Mansfield House. The author’s birthplace and childhood home, this modest house in the relatively plush suburb of Thorndon is open to the public — and who could resist the allure of a building described by Mansfield as ‘that awful cubbyhole’, ‘the wretched letter box in town’ and ‘that horrid little piggy house which was really dreadful’? She also described the place as ‘dark and crowded’. Dark it still is, and horribly crowded it must have been. In the five years the family occupied it, three generations lived together in this two-storey Victorian minivilla — Katherine (née Kathleen Beauchamp) and her two sisters (more siblings were to come), her banker father, her mother, her maternal grandmother and two young aunts. Visiting now, it’s hard to imagine how they all fitted — and all too easy to share Katherine’s claustrophobia. The house, built of New Zealand timbers, was restored in the 1980s and returned to its former layout, with original features preserved or faithfully reproduced, and some Beauchamp furnishings reinstalled, along with family possessions, pictures, and Katherine Mansﬁeld (1888-1923) in about 1920 a Katherine Mansfield archive. The result is a convincing recreation of the kind of gloomy, cramped domestic setting the rebellious, artistic, self-dramatising Katherine would have found intolerable. Images from her early years there crop up a lot in her short stories, especially the later ones where she returns to — and to some extent reconciles herself to — her New Zealand roots. It seems you could take the girl out of Wellington (or rather, she took herself out as soon as she was able, helped by a generous allowance from her father) but you couldn’t take Wellington out of the girl. The early years, the home ground, are always in some way fertile soil. In Mansfield’s case, it was the death of her beloved brother Leslie in the Great War that turned her stricken mind back to scenes from her early years in Wellington, which inspired some of her finest short stories (‘At the Bay’, ‘The Garden Party’, ‘Prelude’, etc). In these works she took a very European form, transported it to the alien soil of New Zealand — and created some of the most brilliantly effective stories of the 20th century. Reluctant Kiwi and eager exile though she was, you could say that in her writings New Zealand (and Wellington in particular) first became a locus of world, rather than provincial, literature. Katherine was very fond of flowers — her writings are full of them — and the gardens of her childhood home have been restored and replanted, very pleasingly, with 1890s favourites. When I emerged, blinking, from the house, I walked round to the small back garden, loud with the chirring of cicadas — and there was a Monarch butterfly feeding on a tall viburnum. The majestic butterfly seemed every bit as exotic and out of place in suburban Wellington as the young Katherine Mansfield must have done. Travel AUSTRIA VIENNA CENTRE self catering apt: writer's country style home in peaceful Biedermeier cloister. Sleeps 2/3. Tel 0043 1 712 5091; firstname.lastname@example.org FRANCE 23 LUXURY PROPERTIES to rent for one week or more in south-west France, Provence and the Côte d'Azur. 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Promoter: The Telegraph Bespoke, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0DT. ‘Ruth Rogers is married to Richard Rogers, creator of the Queen’s angriest ever public facial expression’ — Tanya Gold, p62 High life Taki Gstaad The muffled sound of falling snow is everpresent. It makes the dreary beautiful and turns the bleak into magic. Happiness is waking up to a winter wonderland. From where I am, I can’t hear the shrieks of children sledding nearby but I can see the odd off-piste skier and the traces they leave. I can no longer handle deep snow, just powder. But I can still shoot down any piste once I’ve had a drink or two. For amusement I listen to the news: flights grounded, trains cancelled, cars backed up on motorways, people stocking up on food and drink as if an atom bomb had been detonated over the Midlands. In Norway it snows every day of the winter and half of the days of autumn and spring. The last time a train was cancelled there was during the German invasion in 1940. Switzerland was neutral during the war, hence the trains have always run on time and still do, even though it snows almost as much here as it does in Norway. Go figure, as they don’t say on Virgin’s inefficient, slow, extremely crowded train services. The white blanket that covers us makes you want to get out and exercise. Throw snowballs, run up a steep hill, schuss down a mountain, get drunk on the terrace of a sleepy inn and then ski down bleary-eyed. What I haven’t done enough this year is cross-country skiing. The reason is easy to guess. The sport has caught on around these parts as fat rich people try to lose weight. The young and the fast skate cross-country. I am a traditionalist, which means I ski the old-fashioned way, with skis on a trace. The trace is more often than not blocked by the obese. About five years ago, a ghastly man had stopped on the trace and was on the phone. As I was getting near, I yelled at him to clear the path. He seemed shocked and continued with his conversation. So I pushed him out of the way and you can guess the rest. Mind you, snow in the city is less fun. It turns to grime quicker than you can say Harvey Weinstein. But when it first falls it beautifies any city, including Belfast on a Sunday evening. Nothing, however, gets close to Dagenham, where the bores that rule our lives nowadays told children not to touch the snow. That was as ludicrous as the French forcing a man who wolf-whistles at a babe to pay a €350 fine. Just think of it, dear readers. The bores who rule us advise our kids not to touch snow, and fine those who like to whistle at girls more than the cost of a medium-priced hooker. These are the same punk-bores who demand a second referendum, or heap abuse on the Donald because he’s crude but is getting the job done. This week I’m going down to Zurich to hear a speech organised by Weltwoche — the Swiss version of The Spectator — given by Steve Bannon. He has asked to meet me afterwards and you will be the first to know what he and your correspondent had to say to each other. Zurich at night can be fun because it’s in the German- outrage, and the more anguished the handwringing, the greater the concern for material rewards. All these Remainers and Trump haters really want is moolah, and by advertising their wares on television and in various articles they hope soon to be in Gstaad enjoying themselves in the sun and snow. But I’m not so sure I’ll be rubbing shoulders with them. An incident took place at the Eagle Club this week, one that proves gentlemen and lowlifes do not mix well. I shall wait to see the results, and if cowardice prevails, you will be reading about it in these here pages. As the late, great Nigel Dempster used to sign off: watch this space. Low life Jeremy Clarke I’m looking forward to getting drunk with Steve Bannon after he and I break bread speaking area of Switzerland, not Frenchspeaking Geneva, the EU-arse-licking part. I’m looking forward to getting drunk after he and I break bread. In Greek tragedy, Cassandra’s role was to utter unutterable woe. As a child I regarded her as rather a comic figure and her announcements of unmitigated grief preposterous. A reminder: I was a child. Now the Fourth Estate, especially in America, has become Cassandra-like. What is more, her load of perpetual terror fills the networks and the pages of newspapers, not to mention those other horrible platforms Twitter and Facebook. (Neither of which, God forbid, I have ever used or begin to know how to use.) Separating what’s true from what is not has become increasingly impossible as the media bias against Trump has spiralled out of control. False rumours and outrageous speculation are dressed up by papers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post as authoritative by citing ‘sources close to the President and White House insiders’. These ‘sources’ are totally and completely made up and then presented as facts by editors higher up the chain. This has been going on since day one. The Donald, of course, does not help his cause by ratcheting up the volume. Never mind. The louder the screeches of the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Earbuds in. Speed walking to Grant Lazlo’s ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’. A corridor, a left fork, a moving walkway, a rack of free newspapers — from which I extracted an Evening Standard without stopping — and here, sooner than I’d imagined, was Gate 52. It was a quarter past five in the evening. The Gatwick to Nice easyJet flight was scheduled to take off at 17.40. Looking through the plate-glass windows, I could see that all vestiges of snow had disappeared from the runways, which were dry and lit by evening sunshine. The cross-country journey to Gatwick last Wednesday had begun at 9 a.m. in a blizzard in Devon. The taxi driver — pressed shirt and tie, Remainer convictions of evangelical proportions — was breezily confident we’d make it through the country lanes to the railway station without a problem, which we did. The train from Plymouth left on the dot and arrived at Paddington half a minute early. I spent the three pleasant hours in between staring out of the window at a deserted, frozen countryside waiting for Aslan’s return. The Bakerloo line was subject to ‘severe delays’ but my arrival on the southbound platform coincided with the rolling thunder of an approaching train. At Victoria, snowfall somewhere south of London had 55 LIFE put the Gatwick Express rail service into a turmoil and the platform noticeboards were ominously blank. However a passing train driver confidentially advised me that ‘the red one over there is probably going soon’. So I went and sat in it, the only passenger on a train 200 yards long. The doors closed almost immediately and the train moved off, albeit at a cautious walking pace. Gatwick, miraculously, was snow-free. Aeroplanes were landing and other aeroplanes were taking off. In spite of the apocalyptic travel and weather warnings on my phone throughout the day, I’d done it. The thought of being catapulted above the capital’s freezing chaos, then swinging southwards and stepping out two hours later among the Emperor palms and black Mercedes taxis of Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur was an attractive one. I celebrated it with a scoop at the bar. The young easyJet woman at gate 52 had not yet begun to check passports and boarding passes. A queue formed. Grant Lazlo’s ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ gave way to His Royal Highness Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Mr Perry was having a party and planning the guest list. The World Bank was going to be there. I scrutinised the faces in the queue. They expressed a mixture of relief and exhaustion, presumably as mine did. I extracted my passport and got my boarding pass up on my phone. Seat 23E. A middle seat again. No matter. It was a short flight. When the trolley came around I’d have a Bombay and Fever-Tree and be thankful. Now the easyJet woman was speaking on the phone. Usually there were two members of staff checking passes. Maybe she was reminding the other one that it was time she was here. Another minute passed. Come on! I thought. Then she called for attention and addressed the queue. She had a piece of paper in her hand and referred to it. Calling for Speedy Boarders and those with young children, no doubt, I imagined. Bloody Speedy Boarders and their complacent faces, I thought, pushing themselves to the front and being curtseyed to. But no. Judging by the horrified faces in the queue, she had not been calling for Speedy Boarders. It must have been something else. What could she have been saying? Prompted by a cruel, insane or nationalist whim, had she perhaps read out Max Mosley’s 1961 by-election campaign leaflet for his Union Movement candidate word for word? Then, as Mr Perry urged his party guests to bring plenty of weed, everyone suddenly surged past the desk without having to show anything, and many of us sank down into the fixed rows of extra-hard seats reserved for those passengers who aren’t Speedy Boarders. Many, I sensed, were sitting down to help them absorb a shock. I unpicked the earbuds from my lugholes, turned to the woman sitting next to me and asked her what was 56 going on. ‘Cancelled,’ she said brightly. ‘Bad weather over France.’ ‘Come far?’ I asked her. ‘Only Chichester,’ she said. A Frenchman was giving vent to a torrent of his language’s limited range of obscenities, aimed at no one in particular. The easyJet woman was explaining and being listened to with interest and politeness. I screwed my earbuds back into my earholes. Then we were shepherded along more corridors, then through immigration and before long I was back outside in the chaotic toilet that is Gatwick airport railway station. The lady announcer was telling passengers about one cancelled train after another. ‘This is due’ — then a pause, as though she was consulting a list of excuses — ‘to snow’. Real life Melissa Kite ‘I bet Brian May isn’t lying on his back in a field shelter wondering how long it’s going to take for the snow to cover him and whether the horses will just poo right on top of his frozen head,’ I thought. Then, groaning in agony, another annoying thought surfaced in the annals of my resentment banks: ‘I bet Ricky Gervais hasn’t just schlepped a 30-litre container of water from his upstairs shower to a field of horses because the troughs are frozen and not refilling.’ Basically, it was tormenting me almost as badly as the pain in my wrenched back thinking about all the lefties applauded as ‘animal heroes’ at stupid awards ceremonies, just because they’ve posed, gurning, with a picture of a badger (not a real badger because that would eat their hands off). ‘Where are all the so-called animal heroes when it’s time to schlepp water to livestock in winter? ‘And why am I thinking all this when I’m lying on the ground in a field unable to move?’ I shifted around so I could get my hand in my pocket. My phone wasn’t in it. ‘Fine, so the phone is in the car. And the car is on the horizon, five acres away on the track. And it’s 3 p.m., and the farmer has just driven past in his tractor on his way home. And no one else is coming to this field until tomorrow. And I can’t move.’ These are the thoughts that run through your head when you’re not an ‘animal hero’, comfy at home in your celebrity mansion, admiring the lefty awards on your mantel- piece for cuddling pictures of badgers, toasting your warm lefty toes by your roaring lefty artificial real flame-effect fire… ‘Stop! Stop thinking about Brian May and Ricky Gervais. You need to deal with that resentment and move on. You’re going to freeze to death! Think! What are your options?’ A few hours earlier, I had filled the container in the shower and heaved it down the steep stairs of the cottage. I had loaded it into the Volvo and driven it to the field. I had humped it out of the car into a wheelbarrow and wheeled it to the camel tubs in the field shelter, where I hoped the water would stay thawed longer. All had been going fine, until I tried to tip the barrow up with the uncapped container on the edge and misjudged the angle. The precious water splashed clear of the tub. So I grabbed the container, lifted and twisted round at the same time and a muscle deep in my lower back went ping. The pain tore through me. I fell to the ground gasping. After a few minutes, I looked round. Grace and Tara were happily munching their hay. ‘They might notice me later, or possibly not. I’ll be covered in snow soon, with these drifts coming sideways into the shelter. Even if they do notice me, it’s not as though they’re going to go for help like Lassie.’ I tried to move and the pain sliced through me like a knife. I tried to roll. Holy cow! I didn’t have even an inch of movement in me. The sky darkened. The snow enveloped me. ‘I have two options. I can lie here and die. And the worst bit about that is I won’t get an Even when I am dead Rod Liddle will slag me off for not liking wolves award. And even when I’m dead, Rod Liddle will slag me off for not liking wolves, and for being upper middle class, which would be bearable if it were true. Stop! I need to get over it. Option two: I flip over, somehow, and crawl on my front to the car — about an hour away, I reckon, if I take the straightest route, through that pile of poo. ‘Option three? Come on, there has to be an option three.’ Think Bear Grylls. Use what you have…. And then I realised. The ice! I reached out into the water tub and smashed what was left of the frozen remains with my gloved fist. Then I pushed a shard of ice inside the waistband of my jeans. ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ I yelled like Meg Ryan. The pain melted away. After five minutes, my lower back was sufficiently frozen to allow me to get to my knees and there I performed my emergency back realignment manoeuvre. One knee up, one on the ground, tip the pelvis, and bingo. ‘Come on!’ I cried triumphantly, straightening slowly through the agony into an the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk upright position. With another chunk of ice wedged inside my pants I was able to tip the fresh water into the tub so the horses had a drink, then I limped back to the car. ‘I’m just so humbled to receive this… and from Brian! Stop it, you fool. It’s never gonna happen.’ Wild life Aidan Hartley Laikipia Off Madagascar the other day the Indian Ocean gave birth to a little storm called 11S. As its gyre turned clockwise over the sea, 11S gained momentum until it was a huge vortex of thunder and lightning christened Tropical Cyclone Dumazile. Like a naughty lover yanking away the shower curtain so that everything in the bathroom is sprayed with hot water, Dumazile pulled the entire weather system of mainland Africa eastwards. The effect was to suck the clouds from the steamy jungles of Congo’s river basin across the equator and dump their entire contents over our farm in highland Kenya. There was I enjoying the dry season. ‘How’s the farm?’ asked people through February. ‘Dry,’ I said. Around this time of year I always say, ‘It’s dry.’ My teenage children get bored of hearing me say it and roll their eyes. ‘Yes, Dad, we know.’ I secretly enjoyed the dry season. It reflected my mood after three tough years. Prolonged drought suited me. I had even given up alcohol. Every damn thing in my life was dry. The rain chart I have obsessively compiled over 14 years shows we have a seven per cent chance of rain in February — and it had not even drizzled a millimetre since November. Everything was heat, dust and blue skies. Strange birds arrived from the north, as they always do in this season. The land was tawny and dead. We were using the drought to get jobs done, furiously building new fences and preparing a new field for alfalfa. The dams were empty, ready to be dredged out. Boniface fired up the tractor and was excavating a new irrigation reservoir. For months the land had been asleep, our tropic winter. In mid-February, while dressing before dawn, I was perplexed to find a toad in my boot. That, I thought, should not happen for weeks. In the valley the wait-a-bit thorn suddenly blossomed white and fra- grant, always a harbinger of rain. A gang of elephant burst through the perimeter fence and went about smashing trees for a few days before moving on south. They never come before time. Bee-eaters appeared in the garden tree branches and tortoises began copulating loudly under the bedroom window. Dragonflies started pointing east as they hovered over dwindling bodies of water, preparing for their mysterious jetstream migrations to India. Mud tunnels of termites zigzagged across the ground, millions of capillaries bursting alive on the desiccated dead soil. All these were signs of impending rain but the satellite maps of Kenya showed not a cloud, not a drop of rain until April. I chuckled at the mistakes Nature was making, knowing that the drought would continue. Storm 11S was still off out in the ocean somewhere. At that stage Dumazile was just a twinkle in Neptune’s eye. And yet the sausage flies were buzzing against my desk lamp at night! The euphorbia trees had burst into flower! Looking back, I am always amazed at it all, the way the signs tell you what’s about to happen long before technology can. On the last day of February the sun came up and as usual the cerulean skies had not Bee-eaters appeared in the branches and tortoises began copulating loudly under the bedroom window a fragment of white in them. ‘Dry,’ I said. Early afternoon I noticed a few clouds — and then suddenly there it was, the scent of rain. In Laikipia the ‘petrichor’, a lovely word suggesting the blood of the gods full of ambrosia and nectar, is a smell that is so delicious after drought that you drink it in. It is so fleeting and impossible to apprehend, yet one of the loveliest you can know. It came to me long before I felt even a droplet of rain fall on my head. After tea dust devils rose up off the land. Clouds appeared out of nowhere, changing from white to grey to dark blue. Storm dragons leered down out of the great mass, lightning, thunder — and the cumulonimbus split open and columns of water splashed down. These were high-budget special effects. Everybody on the farm was running around clearing drains, ditches, gutters and furrows, trying to make water go where it should into tanks and reservoirs. Splashing around in mud and rain trying to make water go down the channels you want it to has to be among the most enjoyable of all activities. Dams swelled, the house thatch leaked, and all was wet and dripping and sodden. As night fell bullfrogs assembled choirs. Every wild animal brayed or roared in the dark. That was a week ago. It is still raining, as Cyclone Dumazile runs giggling towards the Antarctic Ocean. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Bridge Susanna Gross I’ve never forgotten a conversation I had some years ago with the talented, blunttalking Norwegian player Espen Erichsen. We were discussing the dangers of getting demoralised at the bridge table. You make a couple of idiotic mistakes, your confidence takes a knock, your judgment grows cloudy, and soon you’re playing worse than ever. We’ve all been there. Well, not all. Espen is a top professional: he would never succumb to those sort of emotions. But he recognises them in others. And far from expressing any sympathy, he gave me a piece of advice which I must say took me aback: ‘When a man is down, you must kick him.’ I suppose that’s what you call the killer instinct, and it’s what makes champions. But Espen shows no mercy even when his opponents are waving the white flag; he just can’t help himself. I recently played in a match against him, and our team was losing heavily. By the time the last board came, we had no chance. That didn’t stop Espen taking time to inflict the maximum possible injury: Dealer South NS vulnerable z A7 5 3 yK 9 8 5 XKQ4 w6 2 z 84 y Q J 10 6 X 10 7 6 2 w9 8 5 N W E S z Q10 9 y A7 4 X9 8 5 wAK West North Pass 2NT* pass 4z (*Jacoby raise) zKJ y32 XAJ 3 w Q J 10 7 43 6 2 East South pass 1z 3z Espen’s partner led the yQ. I won with the yA and played a spade to the ace and another spade. Espen won and started thinking. Many people would lazily switch to the wQ — giving me time to establish the y9 for a diamond discard. Not Espen. He played West for the only useful card he could plausibly hold: the X10. At trick four, he returned a low diamond. West’s X 10 forced dummy’s XQ, and when West gained the lead in hearts, a diamond return …well, all I can say is ouch! 57 LIFE Chess Berlin Raymond Keene This weekend the Candidates tournament commences in Berlin to decide the challenger who will face Magnus Carlsen for the world title in London later this year. The favourite is Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, with a rating of 2814, and this week’s puzzle shows a sample of his trenchant style. Although he is not the highest-rated, my money is in fact on triple Olympiad gold medallist Levon Aronian (2797), who is capable of reaching great heights when on form. The rest of the field, in rating order, is as follows: Vladimir Kramnik (2800), Wesley So (2799), Fabiano Caruana (2784), Ding Liren (2769), Sergei Karjakin (2763) and Alexander Grischuk (2767). #RONKCN5JORě: Gibraltar Masters 2018; English Opening EG0EF0HH This early advance of Black’s f-pawn demonstrates that the British grandmaster was in an aggressive mood. 4 g3 0EFGThis response is the natural reply to White’s break in the centre. F0GAlso possible is 6 ... exf3 7 dxc6 bxc6 8 exf3 when White has slightly better prospects since he will be the first to occupy the e-file with a rook. Ì0WG FWGI(see diagram 1) Not only does White lose a tempo with this advance he also potentially disrupts his own king’s flank. 8 Bh3 is more sedate and more normal. 8 ... Bc5 9 Qb3 Nf6 10 3D0FJPlayed not so much as to launch an attack but to prevent the black queen from landing on h4. 11 ... a6 12 Qb3 e3 Sacrificing a pawn temporarily but Black swiftly regains it. 13 Bxe3 Bxe3 14 fxe3 fxg4 15 0G0H$IE-J$H Short continues in buccaneering style. With the text move he clearly has a piece sacrifice in mind. Safer, though, is 18 ... Qe7 19 d6 cxd6 20 cxd6 Qe6 when White’s passed d-pawn can be contained. Ì0I$IJ(see diagram 2) 20 ... Nxh5 The point of Black’s previous play. After the alternative of 20 ... Bf7 White continues with 21 h6 when the prophylactic measure he introduced with his 11th move is suddenly converted into a weapon of attack undermining Black’s king’s PUZZLE NO. 496 White to play. This position is from MamedyarovSavchenko, Moscow 2015. White’s forthcoming tactic led to a decisive material gain. What did he play? Answers to me at The Spectator by Tuesday 13 March 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. .CSěVGGL¥SSOĚTěKON 1 Nf6+ .CSěVGGL¥SVKNNGR Tim Leeney, Hartfield, East Sussex 58 Competition Six plus Lucy Vickery Diagram 1 rDb1kgn4 0p0WDW0p WDWDWDWD DWDP0pDW WDPDpDPD DWHWDWDW P)WDP)W) $WGQIBDR Diagram 2 rDW1W4Wi Dp0WDW0p pDWDWhbD DW)P0WDP WDWDWDpD DQDW)WHW P)WDPDBD DWIRDWDR flank. 21 Nxh5 Rf2 Black has offered a piece to stir up various threats. Sadly, the concept is not fully sound and Aronian now presses home his advantage by means of a careful consolidating network of defensive resources. 22 Bf1 Qf8 23 Ng3 Qxc5+ 24 Qc3 Qe7 25 e4 Qg5+ 26 Kb1 Qf4 27 Ka1 Rf8 28 Rg1 The only possible danger for White is that Black somehow energises his kingside pawns. However, Aronian’s careful play ensures that this never happens. 28 ... Rf7 G3IÌ$E4F3DD0H This creates a mate threat on f8. 32 ... h5 Ì3G4HÌ$G4J$H$WH Ì$WJ$WG$I$WI4WIJ Ì3D$ĚCELÌRGSKINS W4bDW4Wi 0p1WDp0B WDWDpDW0 DWhWHWDW WDW$W)WD DW)WDWDW PDQDW)P) DWDRDWIW In Competition No. 3038 you were invited to provide a (longer) sequel to the six-word story ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. Long before Twitter, so legend has it, Ernest Hemingway crafted this mini masterpiece in response to a bet that he couldn’t write a novel in half a dozen words. This turns out to be a load of old cobblers — at least according to Frederick A. Wright who, in a 2012 essay, concluded that there was no evidence that Papa was responsible for the story. In fact, versions of it had been in circulation from 1906 (when Hemingway was seven years old). Regardless of who wrote it, the six-word story seemed to capture your imagination inspiring sequels that ranged far and wide, from Scandi noir to Conan Doyle. The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £30. ‘They bought it,’ said Myra. ‘Them,’ corrected Frank. ‘No, no, the idea. They fell for the suggestion that the littl’un was dead.’ ‘You don’t say.’ ‘So,’ Myra continued, ‘if we want to get shot of the car, say…’ ‘…we suggest that family tragedy is behind it! Brilliant! Both owners have lost a leg in a car crash! Sale!’ ‘Better a train crash, Frank. Don’t want them suspicious.’ ‘For sale: a garden, never glimpsed.’ ‘Blindness has struck! Not a dickybird, a tragedy, lawn untrodden! Ker-ching!’ The postman’s rap was vigorous: he had sacks of cheques for them, a measure of local, national and even international sympathy. And the cards, pastel pinks and blues, so sorry for their loss. Their judge (who may or may not have been called Hemingway) was a literature graduate. ‘Implication is not actuality,’ he insisted. ‘Keep your millions.’ It was the begging letters that finished them. Bill Greenwell I know golfers with every iron who never put in a round and gourmets whose kitchens are equipped with everything but food. Yet when I tell people that my wife and I have all the trappings of a child without the thing itself, they edge away. Those unworn baby shoes started it. The advertisement was the first thing to interest my wife after we’d decided that our respective jobs running children’s charities would leave us no time for a family. If I wasn’t enthused at first — romper suits and feeding paraphernalia hardly excited paternal instinct — I came into my own decorating the nursery and choosing toys and games for the cupboard. People think we miss a lot but we’ve had tremendous fun buying a bucket and spade for the seaside, tickets for the pantomime. ‘And Christmas?’ people ask, gingerly. The presents pile up, beautifully wrapped yet unopened; it’s better to give than receive. Adrian Fry the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk LIFE She passed the card across the desk. It wasn’t the kind of small ad to start a customer stampede. But so what? I was paid to investigate, not secondguess a client. Especially when trade was slow. ‘You say this was written by Hemingway?’ I asked. ‘That’s what I want you to prove.’ ‘It’s typed.’ ‘He used a typewriter. I looked it up.’ ‘I can see there’s no throwing dust in your eyes, Mrs Arbogast. To level with you, it’s a tad out of my usual line —’ I stopped because her hands had begun raiding her purse. Her fingers crept out full of folding money. She was a rich lady with a holy wish and I needed my phone reconnected. I could play her along, concoct a report and make two people happy. Face it — push come to shove, not even a principled PI can be moral every time. Basil Ransome-Davies D.I. Lund surveyed Nyhavn from the discomfort of an Ektorp Valhöll chair in her dark Trolles Gade flat. One candle lit the gloom, which was decidedly un-hyggelig. Nielsen’s bleak, menacing Fifth Symphony compounded her feeling of foreboding. Even her Carlsberg tasted bitter. Outside, it was snowing heavily. The sky was black. What did it all mean? Notes selling unwanted baby shoes, Lego models of Kierkegaard, bodies mutilated…? Her mobile rang. It was Knut Knutsen. ‘Need to see this, Ma’am. We were ordering back the tide. Found another body.’ ‘Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark,’ Lund muttered, not for the first time. ‘No feet?’ She knew the answer. ‘No legs neither,’ double-negatived Knutsen. ‘But there’s more…’ Lund arrived at the Bridge, smiling grimly at probably the ugliest duckling in the world. Then she saw the body. Of course, no need for baby shoes. ‘It’s…!’ she gasped. ‘Yes, Ma’am. A little mermaid.’ David Silverman They were the woman’s choice, as soft and pink as the satin men use for coffin linings. These are things of death, he told her. They are not for learning about the hard earth, how to walk tall and understand how the earth moves. They are not for learning cojones. She had looked away at that. He flicked his line over the water. It was good fishing. When he went home with his prize the shoes would be gone. She would have the money. Then she would cook and play with the child. She could play with the child until he was ready to walk with his strong bare feet, this child of his loins. Perhaps tonight they would move the earth. It was not a big fish but it would do. He thrust it at her. The shoes, she said. You know your child, she is a girl. Remember. D.A. Prince Crossword 2349: Novel by Pabulum Clockwise round the grid from 3 run the names (7,4,5,6,8,8,5,6) of four characters in a novel followed by the initials of its author. Two pairs of unclued lights (20/39 and 11/26) each combine to form an anagram of the novel’s title. #EROSS 8 Aged saint keeps working a long long time (5) 9 Weed with shoot and bit of leaf (7, hyphened) 10 Tattoo’s ending as spectators exit (7) 12 Digest fish with butt of wine (4) 14 In Gabon Herbert developed bleaching agent (10) 15 Fat Inez reduced after plain cycling (8) 18 One fifth of journos worry about columns (5) 19 Utterly trust vacuous boy on oath (7, two words) 22 Put up with trendy nationalist (3) 25 Newspaper exhausted one (3) 29 Dropsy made earl ill (5) 31 Run with youth through most of Norman city (7) 32 Restore sausage I left around (5) 33 Joints of lanky me (not athletic, I) (8) 34 Short-lived heroes bumped both sides off in battle (10) 36 Rat from part of Oxford? (4) 37 Game cop after illicit drug (7) 38 Print of waterfall over canal (7) 01%4'#6+8'52#4- In honour of Muriel Spark, born 100 years ago, you are invited to provide a poem entitled ‘The Ballad of [insert place name of your choice]’. Email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 21 March, please. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk &OVN 1 Scholar gives beetle a collection of anecdotes (7) 2 Weird rich European (4) 3 Awfully ill Angelo takes drug for disease (10) 4 Up in court camel hides head (turned over beast’s home) (7, two words) 5 Commercial a flawless person almost saw (5) 6 Mineral occurs again in Delaware (8) 7 We make reparation in pound notes (7) 13 Communist up close to China (5) 16 Trim cardinal somersaults (3) 17 Lampstand in tin with bizarre lead support (10) 21 Meal with water and small whisky virile guy snubbed (8) 23 Magnifying glass Hank talked about (5) 24 Ukrainian lass meets poetic Eve (7) 27 Mister in woman’s clothing leaving America (3) 28 Nupe sprinkled revolutionary sugar (7) 30 Maiden more meek wants husband who speaks softly (7) 33 Mac’s outstanding sons ground oats (5) 35 Celebrated mouth organ (4) A first prize of £30 for the first correct solution opened on 26 March. 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 2349, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP. Please allow six weeks for prize delivery. Name #FFRGSS 'MCKĚ 51.76+10616*'0#/'1(6*')#/' The unclued entries are all names for pontoon; extra words in 27, 31, 33, 34 and 36 needed the letters S, G, O, U, R to become WHIST, BRIDGE, SOLO, AUCTION, CONTRACT. Auction, auction bridge, bridge, bridge whist, contract, contract bridge, solo, solo whist and whist are all card-games listed in Chambers. PONTOON is a BRIDGE. (KRSěPRKYG Rhiannon Hales, Ilfracombe, Devon 4TNNGRSTP John Renwick, Ramsgate, Kent; R. Dickinson, Lewes, East Sussex 59 LIFE No Sacred Cows We’re being destroyed by tribalism Toby Young A my Chua’s latest book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, is a difficult read for anyone who is concerned about the current state of British politics. Chua is an American law professor and her previous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was about the effectiveness of the Asian approach to bringing up children. In that book, she praised her own parents for giving her a sense of pride in her Chinese heritage, claiming that one of the reasons Asian-Americans are more successful than other ethnic groups is because they feel that to fail would bring shame on their community. In Political Tribes, she takes a different tack, arguing that the ascendancy of identity politics on the right and the left of American politics is threatening to destroy the Republic. Before discussing the rise of tribalism in the US, she devotes a chapter to Hugo Chavez’s electoral success in Venezuela and attributes it, in part, to the fact that he wasn’t a member of the country’s light-skinned social and political elite. For years, educated Venezuelans maintained that racism didn’t exist in their country because everyone is a mestizo — mixed blood. However, that ignores the fact that Venezuelans of African and indigenous heritage are, for the most part, poorer and less successful than Venezuelans of Euro- Politics should not be about an ‘in group’ trying to shame members of an ‘out group’ pean heritage, a form of hierarchy known as sociedad de castas. Chavez succeeded because he was a rarity in Venezuelan politics, a darkskinned candidate. He had, in his own words, a ‘big mouth’ and ‘curly hair’, which he liked to draw attention to because they proved he had African ancestry. Chavez won the presidential election in 1998, and the three subsequent elections, because he rejected the myth that Venezuela was a multicultural paradise and looked and spoke like the vast majority of the electorate. He was victorious because he took on the liberal elite, exacerbated simmering racial tensions and mobilised the silent majority by appealing to their sense of tribal identity. Chua argues that what happened in Venezuela is now happening in America, with Trump galvanising the white majority instead. And just as Venezuela is now teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state, America could go the same way if this tribalism is allowed to go unchecked. Chua has plenty of bad things to say about Trump, but she also blames the politically correct professional class for creating a cultural climate in which white people increasingly feel as if they have no choice but to embrace the identity politics of the progressive left. Imagine you’re a white working-class American who is constantly told that it’s OK to feel proud of your racial identity if you’re non-white, but if you’re white you should ‘check your privilege’. Sooner or later you will reject that message and embrace a political candidate who tells you to feel the same pride in your heritage as the other races do. Chua’s analysis is hardly original — conservative voices have been decrying the decline of universalism in American politics for decades — and it’s difficult not to see it as excessively alarmist, particularly if you read it alongside Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. Chua ignores the part that Chavez’s socialist policies played in destroying the Venezuelan state, as well as Pinker’s charts and graphs showing how life is slowly getting better for the mass of ordinary people. The Republic will probably survive Trump’s presidency. But as an explanation of why American politics has become so sectarian and polarised, Chua’s analysis feels spot-on. And it is increasingly relevant to our politics as well. Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who has exacerbated the rise of identity politics on the British left in spite of being white, male, heterosexual and privileged, and the EU referendum, the UK has begun to fracture into a welter of warring tribes. That’s the context, I think, in which I was recently attacked by Labour MPs and their outriders in the media for being a ‘misogynist’, a ‘homophobe’ and, bizarrely, ‘despising working-class children’. As Chua says, politics should not be about an ‘in group’ trying to de-legitimise and shame members of an ‘out group’ by calling them names. Rather, it should be about the clash of ideas — about justice and fairness and the trade-off between freedom and equality. And the more tribal our politics is, the less rational and enlightened public debate has become. Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator. MICHAEL HEATH 60 the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk something called a ‘therapeutic use exemption’, which is cycling’s equivalent of a sick note. But if you use a sick note at work when you aren’t sick, that is effectively cheating. And if a top cyclist uses a TUE to take triamcinolone and he wasn’t especially sick, isn’t that the same? (Wiggins insists he was prescribed triamcinolone based on medical need but records weren’t kept so we can’t know.) Wiggins and Brailsford may have played within the rules, but if this stuff is so dodgy why isn’t it banned? That way they wouldn’t have to worry about crossing any ethical line. They have known this is a big problem: when the story about the mysterious ‘jiffy bag’ delivered to Wiggins first started to break, Brailsford offered the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton an incentive not to publish. ‘If you didn’t write the story, is there anything else that could be done?’ Brailsford asked. Spectator Sport Knighting Wiggins so early was just asking for trouble Roger Alton T he incomparable Roger Bannister, whose passing marks the end of our links with a vanished age of sporting innocence, could have been knighted in 1954, such were his achievements in that year. He was eventually knighted 21 years later, in 1975: he could have been knighted for services to medicine or athletics, or both. We have started to play fast and loose with knighthoods. Bradley Wiggins and David Brailsford were both knighted at the end of 2012, the year of the London Olympics and Wiggo’s epic win in the Tour de France. Not looking such a bright idea now though. Wiggo and Brailsford are perfect examples of the rule that sports people shouldn’t be knighted while still on active duty. It’s just asking for trouble. Sport has always been about rules and laws; now it seems to be about ‘ethical lines’, too, more particularly the one that Wiggins crossed by getting pumped full of a steroid called triamcinolone just before the 2012 Tour and apparently on several other occasions. This was permitted under T If you use a sick note at work when you aren’t sick, that is effectively cheating he Australian cricket team’s vicecaptain, David Warner, would never be described as the world’s most likeable person. Warner’s latest stramash was with the normally sleepy-eyed Springbok Quinton de Kock, who had said something disobliging to Warner towards the end of the first Test in Durban. Warner had to be restrained in the tunnel by his teammates, which wasn’t a bad idea as in the CCTV film of the incident Faf du Plessis, the Boks skipper, emerges in his towel looking fit and extremely ready for action. Faf and the boys have probably drunk protein shakes bigger than Davey Warner. What this preposterous fracas reveals is a deeper problem for Test cricket: scarcely anyone was watching in the ground, and if there is one thing top sports people don’t like it is performing to an empty house. If the players were bound up in the action, they wouldn’t be messing around with handbags in the tunnel. Test cricket must watch out: there’s trouble ahead. And it’s not David Warner-shaped. N ext year will be a good time to be the best rugby team in the world. New Zealand are in decline, Australia aren’t that good, South Africa are in turmoil, Wales are only close, Scotland are fun but erratic and France are, well, France. That leaves England and Ireland in a great position to pick up the pieces in Japan. England have been winning, but not smashing teams; there are selection issues and the opposition are beginning to work Eddie Jones out. That leaves Ireland: solid, together and an easy selection choice from two provinces, plus Ulster and Connacht. Ireland will win the World Cup not because they are outstanding but because they are heading in the right direction at the right time. If I am correct, they will beat Wales on Saturday and England the week after. But let’s see. DEAR MARY YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED know that if some friends I knew better (and liked more) had asked for the same details, I would have handed them over without a murmur. What should I do? — Besieged, Derbyshire Q. Recently I held a party at which some people were meeting each other for the first time. One socialclimbing couple, who I do not know well and invited only to pay them back for their own recent party, subsequently emailed to ask for the contact details of the most influential and elevated of my acquaintance. I resisted replying, but then they emailed again suggesting that they hold a dinner and invite my social lions, along with my husband and myself. I am feeling somewhat under siege, as well as mildly outraged. But I A. The social world would lose all momentum if ‘climbers’ were unable to pick off the most elevated new people they meet at someone else’s house and invite them to their own. There is no crime in climbing itself — the climbees can always say no. What would be a breach of etiquette, though, would be to invite the new people without inviting the host who first introduced them. Since the climbers intend to invite you and your husband as well as the social lions, it would be absurd for you to withhold the contact details requested. First, as a courtesy, run their request past the prominenti in question. the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Q. Following the discussions in The Spectator (by Messrs Jones and Sutherland) about quiet carriages on trains, might I suggest a simple remedy: Isolate mini earplugs (costing about £25) reduce noise by approximately 30 decibels and are favoured by professional musicians. — K.K., Canterbury, Kent A. Since you are known as a distinguished commentator on both music and new technology, readers are well advised to google the tidily sized product in question. Q. My 34-year-old daughter has a new boyfriend who is not on social media. He’s not on thepeerage.com either. I do not want to be a helicopter parent and she would be furious if she thought I was snooping, but obviously I would like to do a bit of due diligence. What do you suggest, Mary? — Name and address withheld A. You can’t research online. If you know people in his Venn diagram, you can only find this out through industrial chatting and throwaway lines which prompt people to reveal more — e.g. ‘Are you talking about the John Smith who went to Oxford, who’s in his thirties… really goodlooking and brilliant?’Response: ‘No. I didn’t mention John Smith. The only John Smith I know is that fortune-hunter who keeps trying to pick up heiresses at the bridge club.’ Unless you have reason to believe he has unsavoury intentions, you should stay out of it. Don’t make the mistake of going on Linked In. The system will alert him that you have been researching him. 61 LIFE Food Italian without the heat or drama Tanya Gold J illy Cooper’s fictional hero Rupert Campbell-Black has ‘never been to Hammersmith’. I have but I wish I hadn’t. I love the Westway because it takes you away from Hammersmith. Even so, it possesses the River Café — it is not a café — a famous and influential Italian restaurant. It was ten when Tony Blair came to power, but inside it is as if he were still here, playing air guitar while chatting about PPP. It is inaccessible, taunting its clientele to go to Hammersmith. It feels as if it takes more than an hour to get to the River Café from anywhere that is not Hammersmith. How do they get there — by helicopter? There is a heliport at Battersea but what then? The 295 bus, apparently, and then a short walk. Or you could go on the way to Heathrow airport, as recommended, in all seriousness, by a guidebook. You wouldn’t know you weren’t in an airline lounge. Or you could go by boat, if you are Cardinal Wolsey. The River Café was founded by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray. Ruth Rogers is married to Richard As far as restaurants go, the River Café is important, and it knows it Rogers, the architect responsible for the Millennium Dome and, therefore, among other things, the creator of the Queen’s angriest ever public facial expression. To celebrate the River Café’s 30th birthday last year, Lady Rogers gave an interview in which she said: ‘I don’t get angry with people who don’t know what asparagus is’. Which I think means she does. To be rich and have a social conscience is a terrible fate. The lefties who loved her have gone. Her values dangle on a string. Lord Rogers built this house. He took an oil storage facility called Duckhams — tall and brown, in brick — and made a ‘canteen’ for the architects in his nearby practice. It is tall and light, with huge windows and blue windowsills. The river here is interesting to look at: late middle-aged, brown and wide, with nothing to enchant it. Henley is behind us and the Tower is yet to come. It looks bored. It knows it is in Hammersmith. Inside, it is calm, clean and soothing and it doesn’t feel like an Italian restaurant at all. How could it when there is no heat, and no drama? It feels like an architectural practice that serves poised and expensive food. There is a large clock on the wall, for control of time, and a long, clean open kitchen. Here, in the mad words of another guidebook, ‘knighted creatives’ dine. But not by themselves; there aren’t enough of them. That gave me hopes of Ian McKellen, but he isn’t here. I thought I saw a famous footballer — dining with his publisher? — but I can’t name him. If it looks and feels familiar, it is; everyone has copied the River Café. Thus it is judged a success. The baskets of carrots clinging to mud in Shoreditch; the heartless renovation of industrial buildings; Google HQ; Heathrow Terminal 5; CBeebies — they are all, oblivious or not, descendants of the River Café. The food, too, is influential; there were never so many oversized pepper pots in suburban Italian restaurants after 1987. It is as if they were taken in the night. As restaurants go, it is important, and it knows it. You could stir the hubris with a stick. So we eat calm, controlled Italian food — excellent tagliatelle al ragù (with rabbit, veal and pancetta) and nothing else. I’d rather go to Italy, which is slightly more accessible than Hammersmith. I think again of Jilly Cooper. She is a woman moved to create fairylands, and Ruth Rogers does the same. But it’s a tight, cracked fairyland selling £19 plates of pasta, and in Hammersmith. Still, the river washes on. The River Café, Thames Wharf, London W6 9HA, tel: 020 7386 4200. ‘He had a pretty good run.’ MIND YOUR LANGUAGE Wrap up warm In June 1873, Oswald Cockayne shot himself. He was in a state of melancholy, having been dismissed by King’s College School, after 32 years’ service, for discussing matters avoided by other masters when they appeared in Greek and Latin passages, ‘in direct opposition to the feeling of the age’. No improper acts had occurred. Cockayne was a clergyman and a pioneer philologist whose pupils included the great W.W. Skeat and Henry Sweet. His father’s name was Cockin. Perhaps he had changed the spelling to avoid offending the ‘feeling of the age’. The word 62 cocaine was not invented until 1874. But the Land of Cockayne was a medieval fantasy world of pleasure. Cockayne, as an early amateur of philology, had his weaknesses, yet his edition of a 10th-century manuscript is still quoted more than 150 years after it was published in 1865. He gave it the title Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft. Leechdom is ‘medicine’, but I don’t know that starcraft was ever used for ‘astronomy’ in Anglo-Saxon England, and wortcunning for ‘knowledge of herbs’ seems to be his invention. You can see the manuscript online, nicely written in a square minuscule: just search for British Library Royal MS 12 D. Anyway, in the Oxford English Dictionary one quotation from his edition is Bewreoh the wearme. Bewreoh means ‘wrap up’, and the is ‘thee’. So we have been saying ‘Wrap up warm’ for a thousand years. Every time the weather man or woman says ‘Wrap up warm’, my husband calls out ‘Sleep tight’. When it was cold a week ago, he called out quite often. Most wives would have found it annoying. Not I. He was right to notice the infantilisation: we must be told to button up our overcoats when the wind is free. Secondly he was right to imply (if he meant to) that both warm and tight in those contexts are adverbs. It is no crime to say ‘Sleep tight’, ‘Sit tight’, or ‘Wrap up warm’. The same applies to loud and clear, thick and fast. It can be raining hard or blowing hot and cold. I’ve mentioned before (21 July 2012) that adverbs need not end in -ly. Don’t shout at weather forecasters on that account. — Dot Wordsworth the spectator | 10 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 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) Keeping your nose in front - that’s the FP CRUX European Fund - agile active asset management. The same team that manages the CRUX European Special Situations Fund manages the CRUX European Fund. They are quick off the mark to spot investment opportunities and are consistent in their active management approach. This highly qualiﬁed and experienced team align their investment aims with those of their clients by investing in the funds that they manage. Consult your ﬁnancial adviser, call or visit: 0800 30 474 24 The team has a long track record of delivering positive returns. They invest for the long-term, never wavering from their investment principles and always standing by their convictions. 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