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The Spectator - March 17, 2018

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36-page magazine with Toby Young, Ross Clark and Mark Palmer featuring?
Sex ed now
17 march 2018 [ �50
Joanna
Williams
Eton? No thanks
www.spectator.co.uk [ est. 1828
TORY TAX
BOMBSHELL
JAMES
FORSYTH
Putin?s toxic power
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The origin of Civilisation
Steve Bannon
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A dangerous silence
W
henever a Hollywood actress
complains about some lecherous man, there?s blanket coverage. Even our MPs feel the need to tut. So
why, when there are allegations involving
1,000 underage girls abused by child-grooming gangs in this country, does no one turn
a hair? For the most part, the paedophile
scandal in Telford was ignored by the people who should care most.
The BBC, which has devoted hour upon
hour to the #MeToo movement since the
allegations over Harvey Weinstein broke last
year, initially did not even think it worth covering the Telford abuse story on the section
of its website devoted to news from Shropshire, let alone the national news. In the
House of Commons, after the news broke,
?urgent questions? were being asked in the
Commons chamber about the potential bullying of Westminster researchers. The fate of
Telford girls, uncovered by the Sunday Mirror, was relegated to the junior chamber in
Westminster Hall.
It?s true the news has always tended to
focus on the interests and preoccupations of
the powerful and well-connected ? and Telford is a far cry from Westminster. But there is
another reason why the story made no waves.
The alleged perpetrators fit a pattern of
offending which was evident in the Rochdale
and Rotherham scandals: they are predominantly Asian men targeting predominantly
white girls, often in care, some terribly young.
As Alexis Jay wrote in her 2014 report into the
Rotherham scandal, plenty was known about
what was going on; yet ?several staff described
their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being
thought racist; others remembered clear
direction from their managers not to do so.?
The same stories are now emerging about
Telford. One victim has said that she was
raped so often in her early teenage years that
she visited a clinic twice a week for three
years to pick up the morning-after pill. No
one at the clinic asked any questions. It was
easier to turn a blind eye than to confront
the uncomfortable reality.
Following the Jay report into Rotherham
it seemed briefly as if the collective denial
of the exploitation of underage white girls
by Asian grooming gangs was at an end. It
seemed that lesson had been learnt and that
all the authorities involved ? local councillors, police, social workers, MPs, even
the BBC ? had understood that however
racially sensitive an issue, however much
There?s a price to be paid for
ignoring terrible crimes,
whatever your motive
you fear inciting Islamophobia, it?s worse in
the end for everyone to ignore it. Politicians
began to speak publicly about a culture of
sexual exploitation among Pakistani men.
The BBC even made a documentary about
the Rochdale scandal: Three Girls. But then
came the Darren Osborne attack. Osborne
drove his van into a group of Muslims outside a mosque in Finsbury Park and killed
a man. In his trial, it turned out that watching Three Girls had made him angry. Everyone?s original fear came flooding back. Some
stories are too dangerous to report.
But there?s a price to be paid for ignoring
terrible crimes, whatever your motive. Not
only do paedophiles go unpunished and children suffer, but the general population, who
know full well what?s going on, become frustrated and enraged. This gives great power to
populists and racists. As far back as 2004 the
BNP was distributing leaflets talking about
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
paedophile gangs targeting white girls ?
and this at a time when we now know that
the police and social services not far away
in Rochdale and Rotherham were playing
down (or covering up) these very crimes.
The same dynamic plays out in Sweden,
where an unprecedented influx of immigration has meant a rise in gangland violence.
Because the police and politicians refuse
to link the new arrivals with the new crime,
people have started turning to the antiimmigrant Sweden Democrats, who look set
to do well in elections later on this year.
Politicians seldom have problems condemning the activities of white racist groups.
Rightly so. But rape and sexual assault need
to be investigated and exposed, whoever
the perpetrators are. Some politicians have
agreed that the abuse discovered in Telford
is merely an extension of the harassment of
women in general. This is quite untrue. It?s
a highly specific cultural and criminal issue,
with its own discrete characteristics ? a subject that keeps being dodged and, as a result,
keeps coming back. It deserves its own debate
in Parliament, especially because the victims
are those whose voices tend not to be heard.
It would be tragic if Parliament were to
end up discussing the fate of people with
a large social media following while losing sight of girls, often from broken families, who depend more than most on social
services and on the police working as they
should. This subject might be off-putting, difficult to debate and report. But this is why
we have a public service broadcaster, and
politicians. As the Rochdale abuse scandal
ought to have demonstrated, such horrors
will never be addressed if they cannot be
discussed. It would be tragic if Parliament,
and the BBC, with the best intentions, end
up failing the people who need them most.
3
What Russia?s up to,
p12 and p16
Sex in Venice, p48
THE WEEK
3
Leading article
6
Portrait of the Week
9
Diary How California
melts its snowflakes
Douglas Murray
10 Politics An unpromising promise
James Forsyth
11 The Spectator?s Notes
Let?s find the silliest Brexit headlines;
Israel?s long-overdue royal visit
Charles Moore
17 Rod Liddle
A black and white issue
21 Matthew Parris
Life on the edge
24 Lionel Shriver
Housing migrants
27 Letters We still need migrants;
London?s armed drug gangs
28 Any other business
Get ready for the scandal tornado
Martin Vander Weyer
The unsung heroes
of WW2, p37
BOOKS & ARTS
12 Putin?s poison
Russian lies aim to convince the
gullible there is no such thing as truth
Owen Matthews
BOOKS
30 Philip Hoare
Catching Thunder,
by Eskil Engdal & Kjetil S鎡er
16 A very social spy
Encounters with a smooth Russian
Paul Staines
32 Dominic Green
Astral Weeks, by Ryan H. Walsh
18 ?Populism, fascism: who cares??
An interview with Steve Bannon
Nicholas Farrell
33 James Ball
Videocracy, by Kevin Allocca;
War in 140 Characters, by
David Patrikarakos
Patrick Skene Catling
20 The art of the sledge
When does cricketing banter
cross the line?
Simon Barnes
34 Andrew Crumey on mathematics
and quantum physics
22 Poet of the century
Lithuanian visionary Tomas Venclova
Sam Leith
35 Boyd Tonkin
Frankenstein in Baghdad,
by Ahmed Sadaawi
23 Tomas Venclova
?On the Boulevard by Town Hall?:
a poem
Holt College, by Brian Martin
Henry Jeffreys
The Wandering Vine, by Nina Caplan
36 Ysenda Maxtone Graham
Bookworm, by Lucy Mangan
37 Lisa Hilton
Secret Pigeon Service, by
Gordon Corera
38 Jeff Noon on crime fiction
39 Mark Bostridge
In Byron?s Wake, by
Miranda Seymour
Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, Geoff Thompson, Grizelda, RGJ, Nick Newman, Paul Wood, Bernie.
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.
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020 7681 3773, Email: dstam@spectator.co.uk; Distributor Marketforce, 161 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9AP. Tel. 0203 787 9001. www.marketforce.co.uk Vol 336; no 9890
� The Spectator (1828) Ltd. ISSN 0038-6952 The Spectator is published weekly by The Spectator (1828) Ltd at 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP
Editor: Fraser Nelson
4
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Great Boers of today, p17
Pop on a different plane,
p32
Half-baked Hopper?, p42
LIFE
ARTS
40 Interview
Director Ruben Ostlund
Jasper Rees
LIFE
53 High life Taki
Low life Jeremy Clarke
42 Exhibitions
Magritte; Eric Fischl; Lorna Simpson
Martin Gayford
56 The turf Robin Oakley
Bridge Janet de Botton
43 Television
Babylon Berlin
James Delingpole
Opera
From the House of the Dead;
A Midsummer Night?s Dream
Alexandra Coghlan
44 Radio
Podcast round-up
Kate Chisholm
55 Real life Melissa Kite
57 Wine club Jonathan Ray
AND FINALLY . . .
48 Notes on? Byron in Venice
Thomas Marks
58 Chess Raymond Keene
59 Competition Lucy Vickery
Crossword Doc
60 No sacred cows
Toby Young
45 Theatre
The Best Man; Macbeth
Lloyd Evans
44 Live music
CBSO/Ad鑣;
BBC Philharmonic/Gernon
Richard Bratby
There are an awful lot of people
in the UK right now whose
presence here is not ?conducive to
the public good?, beginning with
the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd
Rod Liddle, p17
Battle for Britain
Michael Heath
61 The Wiki Man
Rory Sutherland
Rory Kinnear makes an unlikely
Macbeth. But he?d be ideal
casting as the tetchy manager of
an Amazon warehouse
Lloyd Evans, p45
?We?re just a collection of serfs
? serfs with a higher standard of
living, but you?re still a serf. And
that?s exactly where the modern
state wants to keep you?
Steve Bannon, p18
Your problems solved
Mary Killen
62 Drink Bruce Anderson
Ancient and Modern
47 Cinema
Mary Magdalene
Deborah Ross
Peter Jones
CONTRIBUTORS
Owen Matthews analyses
Putin?s toxic power on p12.
He is the author of Stalin?s
Children, co-wrote the Russian
television series Londongrad,
and is a former Moscow
Bureau Chief for Newsweek.
Nicholas Farrell, who
interviews Steve Bannon,
Donald Trump?s former chief
strategist, on p18, is the author
of Mussolini: A New Life.
He lives in Forl�, Italy.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Philip Hoare?s latest book
is RisingTideFallingStar
(HarperCollins). He writes
about a great sea chase, and
the Ahab of the environmental
movement, on p30.
James Ball, who writes
about social media on p33,
is a veteran of BuzzFeed
and Wikileaks and the author
of Post-Truth: How Bullshit
Conquered The World
(Biteback).
Lisa Hilton, who writes about
espionage pigeons on p37, is
the author of many books of
history and biography as well
as (under the pen name
L.S. Hilton) the Maestra
trilogy of thrillers.
5
Home
heresa May, the Prime Minister, told
the Commons that the chemical that
put in hospital Sergei Skripal, a Russian spy
who had defected to Britain, his daughter
Yulia, and the policeman who visited their
home in Salisbury, belonged to a group of
nerve agents called Novichok, developed
by Russia. She said that Britain must take
extensive measures, should there be no
adequate explanation from Russia within
two days; there was none. Some people
criticised the tardiness with which Public
Health England issued advice, a week after
the crime, to up to 500 people who had
used the same pub and restaurant as the
stricken pair, telling them to wash ?clothing
that you were wearing in an ordinary
washing machine? and to ?wipe personal
items such as phones, handbags and other
electronic items with cleansing or baby
wipes?. Forensic teams in protective suits
worked at the graves of Mr Skripal?s son
Alexander, who died last year aged 43, and
wife Liudmila, who died in 2012 aged 59.
T
p to 1,000 children as young as 11
could have suffered at the hands of
sex gangs in Telford, Shropshire, since the
1980s, according to an investigation by the
Sunday Mirror, which said that ?authorities
failed to keep details of abusers from Asian
communities for fear of ?racism?.? Dame
Louise Casey, who wrote a report for the
government on integration in 2016, said
that a date should be set for everyone in
Britain to speak English. Derryck John,
aged 17, from Croydon, was jailed for ten
and a half years for attacking six moped
U
6
riders with acid while trying to steal their
bikes. The Daily Mirror got hold of a
video showing Jamie Carragher, a former
footballer, spitting at a car next to his and
succeeding in hitting a 14-year-old girl
in the passenger seat; ?It?s not something
I?ve done before,? he said, apologising.
n his spring statement Philip Hammond,
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said
he was at his ?most Tigger-like?, announcing
that inflation was expected to fall to the
target of 2 per cent next year and wages rise
above that level. Public borrowing for 201718 would be about �.2 billion, 2.2 per
cent of national income, down from 10 per
cent in 2009-10. He announced a review
of currency that could see the abolition
of penny and twopenny pieces, and a
consultation on a tax on chewing gum,
crisps and plastic coffee cups. Professor
Stephen Hawking, the physicist, died aged
76. Anthony Lejeune, the journalist and
crime novelist, died aged 89. Sir Ken Dodd,
the comedian, died aged 90; he married
Anne Jones, with whom he had lived for
40 years, two days before his death.
I
Abroad
resident Donald Trump of the United
States sacked Rex Tillerson as
Secretary of State, replacing him with
Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA,
whose post goes to his deputy Gina
Haspel. Mr Tillerson was in Africa when
Mr Trump suddenly accepted an offer
to meet Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North
Korea; he hurried back to learn of his
P
dismissal. Pro-government Syrian forces
advanced into the rebel enclave of Eastern
Ghouta, near Damascus, displacing more
of the hundreds of thousands of civilians
trapped there. Donald Tusk, the president
of the European Council, commenting
on Brexit, told Leo Varadkar, the Prime
Minister of Ireland, during a visit to Dublin,
?If in London someone assumes that the
negotiations will deal with other issues
first, before moving to the Irish issue, my
response would be: ?Ireland first?.?
hina?s National People?s Congress
voted to lift the limitation on
presidents serving only two terms, thus
allowing President Xi Jinping to go on and
on. Major General Ali al-Qahtani (an aide
to Prince Turki bin Abdullah), who died in
custody in Saudi Arabia in December, was
reported by the New York Times to have
been seen with his neck twisted unnaturally,
as though it had been broken, and his body
badly bruised; he was among 200 detained
at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh until
they handed over billions of dollars to the
Saudi government; Saudi Arabia denied
allegations of abuse.
C
enator Shehu Sani revealed that each
senator in Nigeria receives 13.5 million
naira (�,000) a month to use on expenses
of his choice. Onesimus Twinamasiko, a
Ugandan MP, said on television: ?As a man,
you need to discipline your wife. You need
to touch her a bit, you tackle her, beat
her somehow to really streamline her.?
Hubert de Givenchy, the haute couture
designer, died aged 91.
CSH
S
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
ECONOMIC
DISRUPTOR
OF THE YEAR
AWARDS
In partnership with
H
uman progress has depended on
economic disruptors since long
before the advent of the internet. The internal combustion engine was a
hugely significant invention, but motor cars
remained rare luxuries until a disruptor
called Henry Ford perfected the assembly
line that enabled the Model T to be massproduced at a price the ordinary citizen
could afford.
If we define a disruptor as an entrepreneurial business that radically changes its own
marketplace, numerous examples spring
to mind, from the low-cost no-frills airline
to the flat-pack, home-assembly bookcase.
Today?s online auction, home-stay, rideshare and crowd-funding sites have generated markets and money flows that barely
existed before, to the great benefit of providers and consumers. That?s what we mean
by ?disruptors? ? and that?s why Julius Baer
and The Spectator have come together to
present the Economic Disruptor Awards
2018, spotlighting creative entrepreneurship
across the UK.
The good news is that there?s never a
bad time to be a disruptor. But periods of
uncertainty ? when the status quo is more
open to challenge, and consumers are more
acutely aware of choice and value ? can
be particularly fruitful for the courageous,
Martin Vander Weyer
lateral-thinking entrepreneur. David Durlacher, head of Julius Baer in the UK and
Ireland, says the current political landscape,
including the approach of Brexit, ?is encouraging businesses to think differently?, not
least in their willingness to venture into
international markets.
What kind of businesses are we looking
for? Entrants may be digital, and about connecting buyers and sellers; groups with common interests, or businesses to businesses.
They may have physical products or financial ones. They may be farm-based or laboratory-based. They may offer solutions in
healthcare, home energy or environmental
issues that fundamentally improve customers? lives. Or they may be about entertainment and fun.
They may also be relatively new start-ups
or long-established companies that have
evolved in new ways. Julius Baer, founded
in Zurich in 1890 and now a distinctive, fastexpanding player in the UK wealth management scene, has an instinctive sympathy with
businesses that bring new thinking and positive change to established markets.
The Awards entrants will all be innovators, driven by people with real passion for
what they do. They will have the potential
to scale up from local to national and international arenas. And they will come from
every corner of the UK: we?ll be running
regional heats covering the Midlands, the
North West and Wales, the North East, and
Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as
London and the South.
We?ll be working with business networks
and investor hubs in each of those regions
to make sure entrepreneurs know about the
Awards, and we?ll be naming a high-profile
judge for each region to help us select the
final shortlist.
The aim of these Awards is to salute the
UK?s economic disruptors in all their variety and originality. Julius Baer and The
Spectator will be proud to be associated with
all the entrants for these Awards and to celebrate with the winners.
For details of how to enter, please visit
www.spectator.co.uk/disruptor
www.spectator.co.uk/disruptor
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
7
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to explore
further.
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Please quote
G S 22
Douglas Murray
I
f I needed a safe space, I would
nominate California. Against most
odds this seedbed of censorious
liberalism has thrown up the antibodies
to the lurgy it created. Here within a
short space of each other are a group of
leftists and conservatives, religious and
non-religious, all of whom are united in
deploring the ?You can?t say that? culture
which has torn across America and the
West in recent years. The state may still
have the shoutiest students. But it now
also has the best first-responders.
O
n Monday morning in Los Angeles
I go to be interviewed by Dennis
Prager, a devout, Republican talk-show
host. From there I go to the studios of
Joe Rogan, a libertarian comedian and
martial arts expert. They could not be
more different, but both conversations
are equally blissfully free, funny and
enjoyable. The one with Joe Rogan runs
for two hours and is watched by a million
people on YouTube alone. After LA
I head to San Francisco to speak with
some tech types. Silicon Valley used to be
fairly ideologically homogenous. Most
of the people in tech were social justice
warriors or socialists. The bravest might
admit to being libertarian in private,
or having once tried conservatism in
college. But now, like any over-powerful
and expanding institution, the Valley is
producing its first wave of dissidents:
people who are worried at the power
and overreach of the bubble they are in
and do not think the Valley?s job should
be to get us all in line.
to appreciate and enjoy things only in
new, grudge-laden, tightly policed and
essentially racist cultural lanes. To adopt
the vernacular: screw ?em.
I
that it is impossible. Instead I revisit the
National Gallery to look at its Rembrandts.
Later, in front of a Turner, a young black
art history student strikes up conversation
and explains a technical feat in the painting
to me. His enthusiasm, knowledge, youth
and at-homeness in the museum made
me feel immediately more positive about
everything. Everywhere in modern America,
people of his generation are told they have
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W
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
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
ashington DC, by contrast, seems
even more morgue-ish than usual.
I listen, semi-detached, to the hopes and
woes of friends and foes. The Brexit/
Trump connection is overegged, but one
thing they do have in common is that
both continue to produce white-hot rage
long after one might have hoped things
might settle. I watch Vice President
Mike Pence deliver a perfectly decent
address, worship somewhat before the
UN ambassador Nikki Haley, and then
hit the museums. I had hoped to visit
the stunning new National Museum of
African American History and Culture
but the demand for tickets is so great
www.spectator.co.uk/A152A
0330 333 0050 quoting A152A
UK Direct Debit only. Special overseas rates also
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do the overnight from Washington
in order to be back for Jewish Book
Week. Some months ago the organisers
asked who I would like to interview me.
I suggested Fraser Nelson or one of my
other delightful Spectator colleagues.
They give me Rod Liddle. Dozing on
the plane, after a foul BA dinner and
a beaker of Scotch, my mind throws
up a highly specific nightmare. Before
an impeccably liberal London Jewish
audience, Rod eyes me manically and
? rubbing his hands ? begins with
?So, Douglas, what are we going to do
about the bloody immigrants?? The hall
goes into uproar. Sweating profusely,
I appeal for calm. The event is cancelled.
Of course, on the night nothing of the
sort happens. Though he would hate me
to say so, Rod is the finest interviewer
imaginable. He pushes back at times,
tests, disputes ? and lets me speak.
The packed hall at Kings Place is
appreciative, as is an overflow room
where people have paid to watch a live
relay on the big screen.
N
ext Wednesday (21 March) at
10.30 there will be a memorial
service for Sean O?Callaghan, who died
last summer. Before Christmas a group
of us scattered his ashes in County
Kerry, so this will be an opportunity for
his wider circle of friends, colleagues
and admirers to pay tribute. Among
much else, Sean was one of the bravest
people imaginable. For many years he
worked as an informer at the top of the
Provisional IRA, feeding information
back to the Garda. Through these means
he saved countless lives on these islands.
The UK and Ireland owe him a huge
and slightly unrecognised debt. I hope
anyone who can join us will come to
St Martin-in-the-Fields and show that
even if we can never repay Sean, we can
honour him.
Douglas Murray?s latest book is The
Strange Death of Europe: Immigration,
Identity, Islam (Bloomsbury).
9
POLITICS|JAMES FORSYTH
The Tory tax bombshell
T
he single most important domestic
policy decision that the Conservatives
must take is what to do about public spending. After the snap election went
so wrong last year, many Tories rushed to
blame ?austerity?. Gavin Barwell, now Theresa May?s chief of staff, said this was one of
the principal reasons he had lost his Croydon Central seat. Even the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, admitted that the public was
weary of the long slog to balance the books.
This belief ? that the public has had
enough of austerity ? explains why the
Tories aren?t behaving as governments traditionally do. Normally, they make tough
fiscal choices in the early years of a parliament in the hope of being able to increase
spending or cut taxes, preferably both, as
election day approaches. Instead, the Conservatives are already loosening the purse
strings. On Tuesday, in his low-key spring
statement, Philip Hammond said that if the
economy continued to outperform expectations, then there would be even more money
available for public services.
But better-than-expected growth alone
won?t provide the level of extra revenue
most Tories believe is now needed for public services, and the NHS in particular. There
is now a strikingly broad consensus in the
party that the health service needs substantially more cash. Even Jacob Rees-Mogg,
the driest of those tipped for the Tory leadership, is campaigning for that.
There are three reasons for this consensus. First, the Vote Leave pledge to spend
the �0 million a week the UK ?sends to
Brussels? on ?our priorities such as the NHS?
has turned Tory Brexiteers into advocates
for increased health spending. They want
the extra money to show that the promises
made during the referendum campaign are
being honoured ? and because that campaign taught them just how potent this offer
was. The second is that this winter has persuaded nearly all Tories that the NHS is
operating at close to capacity. Lastly, the
Tories know that Labour wants to campaign
on the NHS more than any other issue at
the next election, so they need a spending
settlement that is a shield against opposition attacks. That means it must be one that
the NHS management will publicly support.
The Tories might not think they can win an
election on health but they know that ? in
the words of one senior No. 10 figure ?
they can?t fight a campaign when it is still a
10
?gaping wound?. Many Tories point to how
their commitment to fund NHS chief executive Simon Stevens?s five-year plan made
health far less of an issue in the 2015 election
than it otherwise would have been.
How to get more money into the NHS?
Well, I understand that No. 10 is becoming
increasingly keen on the idea of a 1p hike
in National Insurance to fund extra health
spending. The idea is for the government to
promise that all of the �9 billion this raises
would go to the health service. I am told that
thinking about this approach is now sufficiently advanced that Tory MPs are being
discreetly sounded out over it.
Strategists in the party believe that this
would give them a story to tell about the
No. 10 is increasingly keen on the idea
of a 1p hike in National Insurance
to fund extra health spending
funding of public services. They also think
it would remind voters that you can?t have
substantially more spent on health, and the
rest, without paying more in tax. This would
draw a clear contrast with Jeremy Corbyn
and John McDonnell?s promises of more
for nearly every public service without
ever making it clear where the cash would
come from other than business, the rich and
clamping down on tax avoidance.
There is a precedent. In 2002, Gordon Brown did the same thing, increasing
National Insurance to pay for extra NHS
spending. At the time it was regarded as a
big political gamble: New Labour was risking its reputation as a party that did not raise
direct taxation. But the move turned out
to be popular. A 1p rise in National Insurance to pay for extra NHS spending would
fit with the Tory rhetoric about a ?balanced
?I?ve invited my parents over
to make them feel guilty.?
approach?. The party?s argument would be
that they put up your taxes a little to spend
a bit more on key services, while Labour
would ?take it too far?, to quote the preferred
Tory attack line, and end up having to hugely hike tax rates.
There are problems with this approach.
The tax burden is already on course to rise to
its highest level in 40 years, according to the
Institute for Fiscal Studies. If the Tories layer
extra tax rises on top of this, it really could
start to have a negative effect on growth.
Indeed, if extra spending on the NHS is to
be paid for by increased taxation, it suggests
that the government doesn?t see room for
spending cuts elsewhere. This is worrying,
given that there is as strong a case for increasing defence spending as there is for health.
The Salisbury attack has served as a
reminder that the UK faces threats from
nation states as well as non-state actors. This
means that our military and intelligence
services must be equipped to deal with two
very distinct types of challenges ? an inherently costly exercise. There is also a strong
case for a ?strategic surge? after Brexit to
show that Britain has not, as its critics
contend, turned inwards.
The other worry is that hypothecation
(specific taxes for specific spending commitments) rarely works, because no government can bind its successors. After all,
National Insurance was initially meant to
pay for a handful of contributory benefits
rather than being another form of general
taxation. Today?s hypothecated rise in NI
could all too easily turn into tomorrow?s
overall increase in the tax burden.
Ultimately, this country needs to decide
what kind of economy it wants post-Brexit.
It is, obviously, not politically viable or even
desirable to try to turn the United Kingdom
into Singapore West. But an ever-increasing
tax burden isn?t healthy either.
The UK should be aiming to become a
more dynamic and lower-taxed economy
than its European neighbours. Combine
that with the jettisoning of the precautionary principle in science and technology
and a commitment to an open, free trading
economy and one can see how Brexit can
be a success. There is a good case for more
money for the NHS. But it must not come at
the cost of all fiscal restraint.
SPECTATOR.CO.UK/COFFEEHOUSE
Hourly updates from Parliament and beyond.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Charles Moore
imson?s Prime Ministers, out this
week, is a crisp and stylish account
of every one of them. I happened to be
reading Andrew Gimson?s admiring
essay on George Canning (PM for 119
days in 1827) just after Jeremy Corbyn?s
parliamentary remarks about the
Salisbury poisoning. The way Mr Corbyn
talked, one got the impression that it
was Britain which had caused Mr and
Miss Skripal to be poisoned. Canning
had a gift for light verse. He satirised
the sort of Englishman who adored the
French Revolution: ?A steady patriot
of the world alone,/ The friend of every
country but his own.? That Phrygian cap
fits Mr Corbyn perfectly. It is constantly,
patronisingly said that young people
don?t care about Mr Corbyn?s consistent
support for terrorists, dictators and
revolutionaries over 40 years, and it may
be true that some of them have been so
badly educated that they do not know
much about the West?s struggles against
totalitarianism. But this story is the key to
understanding Mr Corbyn, and therefore
it needs to be told as urgently as possible
? to prevent him featuring in later
editions of Gimson?s work.
G
alisbury is the model for Barchester
in Anthony Trollope?s novels. They,
of course, are ecclesiastical. The Russian
attempted murders are political. If they
had happened in his time, what a bravura
novel Trollope could have written,
combining Barchester with the Pallisers.
S
n Sunday, my sister Charlotte came
to lunch. Just before she arrived, one
of her family rang to say that an unknown
woman had just knocked at the door,
having come all the way from Russia
and walked three miles from the nearest
town to see Charlotte. We made slightly
nervous jokes about wearing protective
suits before contact. When Charlotte
met the woman the next day, she turned
out to be a marine biologist from the
expedition which recently salvaged Eira,
the lost boat of my great-great-great
uncle Benjamin Leigh Smith?s Arctic
expedition in 1881. She had brought
vodka and chocolates from Russia with
her, and chosen Ben?s 195th birthday
to share them with my sister. She
O
particularly loves Ben for his discovery of
an important colony of ivory gulls. It was a
touching encounter at this time of mistrust.
am watching the controversial
Civilisations series. Much has been made
of the plural in the title, the point being that
Kenneth Clark?s great original, Civilisation,
had the cultural confidence to use the
singular. In fact, as is explained in James
Stourton?s biography, Clark at first wanted
to call the programme What Is Civilisation?,
but realised he could not answer his own
question. He reflected afterwards that
?Civilisation is not a state but a process; and
what I must look for was not civilisation,
but civilisations.? The actual reason for the
programme was that the controller of BBC2
in 1966, David Attenborough (yes, the David
Attenborough), was about to introduce
colour on the channel, and needed to
persuade people to buy the very expensive
television sets required. He thought that
opinion-formers would back colour if there
were a series which ?would look at all the
most beautiful pictures and buildings that
human beings in western Europe created in
the last two thousand years.? It worked.
I
aturday?s Guardian carried a long
interview with Paul Johnson, the
director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
He came across as a well-informed, publicspirited man. He did not come across
as impartial. He seemed a typical social
democrat. He thinks more public spending
is better than less, doesn?t like first-pastthe-post politics because it weakens the
middle ground, and wants tax penalties for
second homes. Above all, he is anti-Brexit:
?The economics are obvious. If you make
trade with your richest trading partner more
expensive, you will make yourself worse
off.? He says there is no economic case for
S
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Brexit, just a ?controlling-immigration
case? (no mention of the key sovereignty/
democracy case). Mr Johnson is entitled
to all these opinions, but he and his IFS
are given lots of BBC airtime as unbiased
experts. Yet they are just as viewy as the
IEA or the Centre for Policy Studies. The
difference is a) that they don?t declare it
and b) that their ?objective? beliefs chime
with those of the BBC. To think that
the case for Remain is an objective one
and the case for Leave isn?t is the most
out-and-out Remainer view of them all.
Neither case is objective, nor should it be.
On its website, the IFS describes itself as
having, during the referendum, provided
?a vital impartial voice in the debate?. It
is bad for our public culture that such
flat untruths can be smugly asserted by
people earning their livings as ?experts?.
he state of Israel is the same age
as the Prince of Wales and yet has
never received an official visit from a
member of the British royal family. This
cannot be true of any other country in
the world which is democratic, a valuable
intelligence and trade partner and has
so many human links with Britain. It has
been a deliberate, shaming omission.
Now, at last, the attitude is changing.
The Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel,
Jordan and the Palestinian territories
later this year. I wonder if this alteration
is related to the impact of the young
Saudi crown prince, who visited last
week. The threat of Iran in the region
has helped remove the long-standing
illusion that the Israel/Palestine question
is the greatest problem in the Middle
East. Israel and Saudi Arabia are now,
objectively if not officially, allies. It is
good that Prince William is going; not so
good if HRH can travel there only on
the say-so of MBS.
T
his column hereby launches a
competition for the silliest headline
claim about Brexit. This week?s example
comes from a press release by Geraint
Davies MP, a member of Parliament?s
Joint Air Quality Committee: ?Joint Air
Quality Report ? half a million early
deaths risked by Brexit.? The prize, by the
way, can be awarded for idiotic headlines
on both sides of the argument.
T
11
Putin?s poison
Russia?s lying leader aims to convince the gullible that there is no such thing as truth
OWEN MATTHEWS
V
ladimir Putin?s spies have a dizzying variety of weapons at their disposal. This week Britain learned of
a new one: Novichok, a nerve agent used in
an attempt on the life of a former Russian
intelligence officer in Salisbury. But Putin?s
real power, far more dangerous than all the
rockets and poisons in his arsenals, lies in his
toxic ability to corrode truth.
Putin lies, barefacedly and repeatedly.
So do his acolytes. Even when the forensic
evidence is massive and incontrovertible,
Putin tells palpable falsehoods with easy
fluency. In March 2014 he insisted that
there were no Russian troops in Crimea,
claiming that ?anyone could buy? Russian military uniforms. Within a month,
he publicly thanked the troops that had
participated in the annexation. With
equal ease, he reversed himself on the
presence of regular Russian forces in
Eastern Ukraine ? after two years of
denying they were there, Putin casually
acknowledged the truth in 2016.
The point is that lying itself is the
message. Putin?s lies are not about concealment but rather about his ability
to assert his power over truth itself. He
says, now, that the Kremlin had nothing
to do with the attack on Sergei Skripal
? and if British intelligence officers
are convinced that the nerve agent used
could only have come from a laboratory tightly controlled by the Russian government, well, that?s their problem. If the British
want an explanation for what happened in
Salisbury ? by midnight on a Tuesday or any
other time ? why would they come to him?
Putin doesn?t need to be honest. He believes
that he controls the truth. He can make his
own reality.
That belief in the ability to control any
narrative simply by deceit is the root of
Putin?s hubris ? and that of the proxies
under his authority but not always his command. The pattern has been repeated with
increasing frequency over recent years:
whether over the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing by a Russian army
BUK rocket, the systematic campaign of
state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes
at the Sochi Olympics, US election hacking
or, now, the attempted murder of the former
military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal.
12
The Kremlin believes that its people will
never be brought to account for their actions.
It doesn?t matter how ridiculous the conspiracy theory is ? as long as it exculpates
Russia. This week the Russian state TV news
anchor Sergei Kisilev claimed that Skripal
was murdered by MI6 in a plot to whip up
Russophobia and boost Theresa May?s flagging poll numbers. Margarita Simonyan,
founder and head of the Kremlin-funded
propaganda channel RT (formerly Russia
Today), wrote a sarcastic post on her Face-
book page imagining ?some special guys? in
the West ?drinking iced coffees and thinking,
what kind of stunt can we pull before the
elections to make Russians dislike Putin??
Does Simonyan really believe what she is
saying? Does Kisilev? Does the foreign minister Sergei Lavrov really believe that he is
speaking the truth when he denies the Assad
regime?s chemical weapons attacks?
It?s a question I ask myself very often in
Russia as I speak to apparently intelligent,
well-informed and worldly Russian officials
who spout unbelievable nonsense. The recent
Oscar-winning documentary film Icarus, an
extraordinary exploration of Russia?s sports
doping scandal, gives an important clue
to what goes on in these people?s minds.
The film?s eccentric hero, Gennady Rodchenkov, was simultaneously head of both
Russia?s anti-doping agency and of its official doping programme. His job was to give
performance-enhancing drugs to Russia?s
Olympic team ? and to help them conceal
their fraud at the highest forensic level. A
fan of Orwell?s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Rodchenkov explains his countrymen?s easy
attitude to lying in terms of ?doublethink?.
To simultaneously hold two entirely contradictory positions in their mind and believe
them both to be true is part of Russian culture, he muses. To lie well is a virtue.
Moreover, the cynicism is so penetrating that most Russians seem to believe that
everyone else behaves exactly as they
do ? but are simply more hypocritical. ?Everybody does it? is the universal Russian justification of last resort,
usually followed by a false equivalence.
?The West kills its own citizens abroad
in drone strikes? in justification of Skripal. ?The West invaded Iraq and Kosovo without UN approval? in support of
the annexation of Crimea. And so on.
The problem for the rest of the world
is that Putin goes much further than just
lying. The Kremlin has actively, through
the concerted efforts of his propaganda
machine, mounted a systematic assault
on the very idea that truth itself can exist
anywhere. For years the Kremlin?s constant message to captive Russian audiences ? and increasingly to western
readers of the tweets and posts created
by its army of trolls ? is that the world
is impossibly complex and unknowable. The
principle is that the West?s ignorance ? or
at least confusion ? is Russia?s strength.
?How do you know?? Putin recently said
of election hacking. ?I don?t know.? That?s
the key to the Kremlin?s message, neatly
encapsulated in the slogan of RT, recently
plastered on the London Underground:
?Question more.? RT?s coverage has become
a notorious home for conspiracy theorists
? including 9/11 Truthers ? and its goal is
precisely to spread doubt. The basic line of
attack is to undermine the idea that news
reporting can be objective, the notion that
politicians can be sincere, or elections honest.
As the Mueller indictment showed, Russian election trolls were equal-opportunity
disrupters, promoting both Bernie Sanders
and Donald Trump on the grounds that both
would be bad for Hillary Clinton and throw
the American body politic into crisis. The
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
EV
EN
T
SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST
Radek Sikorski, Tom Tugendhat and
Owen Matthews discuss Putin?s next move.
Wednesday 18 April 2018 | 7p.m.
Emmanuel Centre, Westminster
SP
EC
IA
L
she?d ?develop proposals? to go after Russian
spies, to freeze assets only if they ?threaten
the life or property? of Brits ? served to
underline how few options she has at her
disposal. The truth of the matter is that there
is actually nothing that Britain alone can do
that will not, at least in the short term, actually strengthen Putin.
Since 2014, Putin has cast himself as a
wartime leader, protecting his people against
successive waves of western aggression and
falsification aimed at keeping Russia down.
He plays the part of a man traduced and
baited by wild Russophobic accusations
? but nonetheless remaining reasonable.
?Listen, let?s sit down calmly, talk and figure things out,? he told NBC. Yet just days
later, Putin made a new (but actually largely
fictional) generation of super-fast nuclear
weapons the centrepiece of his state-of-thenation speech. The calumnies and sanctions
of foreigners are, in this narrative of Putin
as Defender of the Motherland, just measures of his growing power, and of their fear
of mighty Russia.
That fantasy of might has distracted a
lot of Russians from their country?s economic decline. Last year, a study by the
Carnegie Moscow Centre showed how successive waves of sanctions following the
Crimea annexation have depressed Russia?s
economy and locked it into a kind of lowgrowth trap. But economic stagnation has
not dented Putin?s ratings, which stand at
tacit authorisation to these operations back
in 2010 when Skripal and ten other imprisoned US and British agents were exchanged.
He promised that these ?traitors ? would
choke on their 30 pieces of silver?.
But the sheer amateurishness of the
Skripal attack, with such spectacular collateral damage not only to the people of Salisbury but to Russia-UK relations, is more
suggestive of a bungling group of Russian
spooks on a mission of revenge. Novichok
is extremely deadly, easily detectable, easily
identifiable ? the exact opposite of a stealth
poison like polonium, which doctors spent
22 days trying to identify after it had been
used to kill Alexander Litvinenko.
So what next? Britain isn?t really sure:
sanctions have been imposed and the government will have to wait for Russia?s reaction.
Putin might even be right in protesting innocence: one thing he does care deeply about
is giant set-piece sporting events like the
World Cup: he has invested billions to make
it a success. It?s far from clear why he would
tarnish that vast effort to execute a single
retired spy. But the problem with being a
serial liar is that nobody believes you even
when you?re right. In the end, Putin?s culture
of lies is most toxic to Russia?s own interests.
SP
EC
TA
TO
R
Apparently intelligent, well-informed
and worldly Russian officials will
spout unbelievable nonsense
a steady 80 per cent ? higher, in fact than
during the peak of Russia?s oil-fuelled boom
before 2014.
As Putin sails into six more years in the
Kremlin, the West is at a loss for what to do
next. Donald Trump has offered words of
support to Theresa May, but not much more.
She could freeze the assets of individual
wealthy Russians, which would inconvenience some members of the Moscow elite.
But it will not harm the very top satraps of
the Kremlin and its security services. Most
of those have already been forced, both by
earlier rounds of sanctions and by Putin
himself, to either bring their money back to
Russia or bury it deeper offshore.
Mrs May?s security council was told on
Wednesday that Skripal was poisoned in a
way that was deliberate: that the rare nerve
agent used was intended to be a ?calling card?
of the FSB, and that it is pretty much impossible for the poison to have got out without
top-level authorisation.
But there is another, even more worrying possibility that the UK seems to have
overlooked ? that the FSB or GRU or parts
thereof were acting on their own. Not in the
sense of agents going rogue, but more in the
sense that Russian spooks assume a carte
blanche to pursue traitors as they see fit.
And well they might: the Russian parliament
authorised the liquidation of terrorists and
?enemies? overseas in 2006. And Putin gave
A
same principle has long applied to Russia?s
consistent propaganda support for European nationalist movements, from Scottish and
Catalan independence to Brexit.
Cynicism is indeed contagious. Fake news
is the fuel of division and the solvent of democracy. But it would be a mistake, for instance, to
ban RT from British airwaves. The principle
of asymmetric warfare is to goad your stronger opponent into self-defeating acts of overreaction ? and allowing Russia to push us
into censorship would be just such an own
goal. Our own tendency to question our values, our leaders and our news has made a
small space for Putin?s toxic, nihilistic message to take root among the gullible and the
paranoid. But it is important to remember
how small and marginal the real influence of
Russia?s propaganda efforts remains. They
are heinous in their intent, not their effect.
Russian murder sprees in the UK are
a different matter. Theresa May called the
Skripal attack ?an unlawful use of force by
the Russian state against the United Kingdom? and announced 23 diplomatic expulsions to signal Britain?s displeasure. But as
she knows, Russia is likely to expel a similar number from Moscow in the ritual Cold
War manner. Her whole response ? saying
Just weeks after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, join
Andrew Neil and a special guest panel for
an in-depth discussion about Russia?s people,
politics, economy and how the West should
deal with the newly re-elected
Vladimir Putin.
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A very social spy
My dealings with Sergey Nalobin
PAUL STAINES
I
first met Sergey Nalobin in 2012 at Soho
House. He introduced himself, in accented English, as from the Russian embassy.
?On the Ministry of Foreign Affairs orientation course before coming to London, I was
told to read Guido Fawkes blog and Private
Eye. I enjoy yours more,? he said flatteringly (I
publish Guido Fawkes). A PR company had
offered me an irresistibly large fee to give
?a masterclass? to corporate marketing types
in how to use social media. So it was that I
found myself presenting PowerPoint slides
in front of a boardroom of suits ? with one
short, heavy-set, cropped-haired Russian
from central casting sitting right next to me.
Later, over burgers, we exchanged banter. I immediately suggested he was a spy. He
said the Cold War days were over ? Russia just wanted to be friends. Sergey wanted to know how the website worked, how it
was funded, and how I got my information.
He was particularly interested in any gossip I might have about David Cameron and
George Osborne.
After that, I would see Sergey at events
around Westminster. He popped up at any
Tory shindig where he could network. He
had a great, dry sense of humour and was
well aware that anyone meeting him would
suspect him of being more than just an
innocent ?political first secretary?. His Twitter profile described him as a ?brutal agent
of the Putin dictatorship :)? and his feed
was full of selfies with the likes of William
Hague, then foreign secretary, and the current one too, Boris Johnson. His Facebook
photos showed him at a fancy dress party
dressed in a Russian military uniform with
?KGB? written on his hat ? handgun in
16
one hand, the other on a racy girl in stockings and suspenders, who was definitely not
his wife. I once accepted his invitation to a
summer reception at the Russian embassy in
Kensington Gardens, which as well as being
vodka-fuelled fun, was made memorable by
the former security minister Admiral Lord
West chatting up my date.
Very soon afterwards, Guido?s advertising
salesman told me he had sold a four-month
advertising campaign to the Russian embassy.
In fact, he had sold advertising on a string of
political blogs from across the spectrum, and
many of those bloggers went on a freebie trip
He described himself on his Twitter
profile as a ?brutal agent of
the Putin dictatorship :)?
to Moscow. I declined to go, partly because
I did not want to wake up in a hotel room
wondering what had happened the night
before, and worrying if there were pictures.
Another invitation came from Sergey.
Would I speak at the embassy about my
experience of blogging and how to encourage it in Russia? The ambassador himself
would chair the meeting. Naturally, my salesman was very keen for me to accept the invitation. So I did.
The ?Digital Barbecue? took place at
the embassy. I was on a panel with one of
the bloggers who had been to Moscow. The
ambassador, as promised, chaired proceedings. The gilded room was filled with platitudes and there was much nodding of heads.
Then my turn came. ?What can we do to
encourage blogging and new digital media
in Russia?? I was asked. ?Well, the first thing
you could do is stop arresting bloggers and
locking them up??
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a former Downing Street operator, who was now
handling the Russian government account
for Portland PR, putting his head in his hands.
I noticed that Sergey kept a poker face and
took a sip of his cocktail. The ambassador
began to interrupt. ?You should release
Alexei Navalny,? I told him. The opposition
leader was the most famous blogger in Russia and was in jail at the time. ?You misunderstand the situation,? the ambassador told
me firmly. Matters were brought to a diplomatic close quickly.
The advertising campaign was cancelled
shortly afterwards. The Guardian revealed
that some Conservatives had gone on that
Moscow trip. Sergey, they reported, was the
son of Nikolai Nalobin, a KGB general who
went on to be a major figure in the FSB, the
KGB?s successor agency, and was Alexander
Litvinenko?s boss, long before his death by
polonium poisoning. Sergey Nalobin?s brother also worked for the FSB.
Sergey disappeared from my radar after
that. Until, that is, a few years later when ?
on going outside for a cigar ? I spotted his
face at the 2014 Tory summer party, at the
Hurlingham Club in west London. ?How the
hell did you get in here?? I asked him. The
security is extremely tight, and the guest list
closely vetted, because guests mingle with
the PM and cabinet ministers. Gesturing
towards some fellow guests, Sergey replied
with pleading eyes: ?I?m with the Egyptians.?
I wandered back to my table and told my
amused host I thought we had a Russian
spy among us. He pointed out a well-padded man at another table. ?He?s a sanctioned
Russian banker, he shouldn?t be here either.?
Former Putin minister-turned-banker Lubov
Chernukhin?s wife bid �0,000 that night to
play tennis with Cameron and Boris. Sergey
had his ?permission to stay in Britain? suddenly revoked a few months later.
Lord Feldman, who organised that Tory
summer party and raised millions for Cameron, now advises high-paying clients through
Macro Policy Advisors. Russian money is
everywhere. The London Stock Exchange
has over 100 Russian and CIS (i.e. former
Soviet) companies listed with a total market capitalisation of over �0 billion. Lord
Barker, who raised money for Cameron?s
leadership campaign, now chairs EN+, Oleg
Deripaska?s conglomerate recently listed
in London. Deripaska is also advised by
Lord Mandelson. Some Russians hope their
money is buying political influence to avoid
sanctions; some hope they are buying political protection in Britain from Putin.
I heard on the grapevine recently that Sergey is now the go-to guy for digital engagement at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
Moscow. So it looks like my Soho masterclass
has paid off for him.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
ROD LIDDLE
A black and white issue
L
ast time I was in South Africa I spent
two weeks deep in the Karoo, that
desiccated wasteland in the Northern Cape which is home only to a handful of jackals, the occasional springbok and
supporters of the Afrikaaner Resistance
Movement. I had been visiting Orania, a
smallish town in which no black people are
allowed. Set up by the son-in-law of Hendrik
Verwoerd, its existence now is very grudgingly protected by the South African government under regulations which preserve
minority cultures ? ah, the irony.
I was doing a documentary, the gist being:
ghastly, ghastly, racist white people. I have
to admit that I, as a white supremacist bigot,
was a little more equivocal about the issue
than the rest of the crew, which is perhaps
why the programme never got on TV. Even
back then ? this was 2011 ? white farmers
were being driven from their land by the
blacks and fleeing to Zambia, or the UK,
while senior members of the ANC demanded the spilling of Boer blood.
Didn?t the Orania people therefore have
a point, I wondered, even if it was one only
of self-preservation? The point ? a dream,
for some of them ? was to carve out a
new nation for Afrikaaners across a hugely unprofitable swathe of the north of the
country, from Kimberley to the coast. A new
Boer trek, a new homeland. And of course
they would make it work, despite the aridity and the inhospitable landscape, because
when it comes to farming and modernity
they are extremely competent. Racist and
competent, while the blacks were racist
and hilariously incompetent. Orania was
thriving and, like Israel (which is not a bad
comparison), turning the desert green.
Prim, reserved, polite, little kids marched
in line to the schoolroom like creatures
out of a John Wyndham novel, or maybe
an Amish community in the south of Ohio.
In the pleasant and leafy high street, baking in the heat, I spoke to a woman doing
her shopping. She would have been about
80, I?d guess. I asked her if she liked Orania.
Yes, she did indeed. But what about the fact
that there are no black people allowed into
the place? ?That, young man, is the very best
thing about it,? she replied. Horrible old cow,
everybody agreed, viewing the shots later.
By this point the ANC was well on its
way to reducing a country which, during
apartheid, was easily the richest on the continent south of the Sahel (and afforded its
black citizens the highest average wage and
longest life expectancy in Africa) into a
typically corrupt, massively useless, vicious
and racist one-party state which is on the
verge of civil war and where the blacks are
worse off than ever and the whites are being
murdered or evicted.
Hell, only sayin?, you know? That is what
has happened. We may not like to accept
it, but that?s how it is. I believe something
similar happened next door in Zimbabwe,
no? Still, at least in both countries the black
majority are in charge of their destinies and
White liberal self-flagellation creates
misery for all races ? it?s worse,
in its effects, than colonialism
that fact necessarily trumps every other.
There?s nothing quite like white liberal selfflagellation to create misery for all races
? it?s worse, in its effects, than colonialism.
Incidentally, virtually nobody inhabited
the Karoo before whitey got there. The
Afrikaaners have at least as much right to
the territory as the people who have taken
it off them.
The plight of the South African whites
does not much bother us these days. They?ve
got their comeuppance, the bastards, is the
approved view. We prefer to agonise about
the real or supposed privations of people
who fit into our expedient political worldview: the Rohingya, the Palestinians, the
black Africans.
There is another narrative about South
Africa to the one I have presented here, and
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
?Is that Mike Pompeo?s welcome
or leaving card??
a narrative which has almost as much force
and should be heard. That other narrative
is the only one you will hear, pretty much.
Indeed if you were a foreigner and dared to
articulate my narrative, you might well be
kicked out of the country.
Shockingly, almost I might say unbelievably, a Canadian libertarian blogger has
been refused entry to the UK because she
subscribes to the narrative which I outlined
above. Lauren Southern believes that genocide is being enacted against the whites in
South Africa. Any other brand of genocide
and she?d have been courted and asked to
give evidence to a select committee, and
probably be guest-editing Newsnight and
presenting Woman?s Hour right now. She
arrived at Calais, was interrogated and
told: no entry. Two other supposed alt-right
speakers were also denied entry to the UK,
via Luton airport. What the hell is going on?
I rang the Home Office and the only thing
they would tell me is that they considered
Southern?s presence here was ?not conducive
to the public good?. No further explanation.
There are an awful lot of people in the
UK right now whose presence here is not
conducive to the public good, beginning
with the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. She
is palpably no good to anybody. We have
just waved goodbye to a state visit from the
crown prince of Saudi Arabia, whose grim,
totalitarian, misogynistic regime is responsible for a grotesque humanitarian disaster in Yemen and whose country is the no. 1
exporter of Islamic terrorists to the rest of
the world. Over the last 15 years we have
let in Islamic fundamentalists who want
us all dead, racist Palestinians who want
Israel wiped off the map, and all manner of
deranged leftist academics who believe that
the West ? and in particular the UK ? is
to blame for every evil present in the world.
They all got through immigration OK. Most
of them were feted, mainly at the taxpayer?s
expense. What happened to Lauren Southern is, frankly, chilling. Her views are broadly
in line with those of the US President ? and
a fairly hefty proportion of our population, I
would guess. Why has there been no furore?
SPECTATOR.CO.UK/RODLIDDLE
The argument continues online.
17
?Populism, fascism ? who cares??
An interview with Steve Bannon
NICHOLAS FARRELL
W
e are in a hotel suite at the
Park Hyatt Hotel in Zurich when
Stephen K. Bannon tells me he
adores the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
But let?s be clear. Bannon ? as far as I
can tell ? is not a fascist. He is, however, fascinated by fascism, which is understandable, as its founder Benito
Mussolini, a revolutionary socialist,
was the first populist of the modern
era and the first tabloid newspaper
journalist.
Il Duce, realising that people
are more loyal to country than
class, invented fascism, which
replaced International Socialism
with National Socialism. He was
thus able to ?weaponise? ? to use
a favourite Bannon word ? what
the people wanted. Bannon is now
touring Europe to weaponise what
lots of European people seem to
want, which is national populism.
Mussolini was perhaps the reason Bannon granted me an interview. It turns out he likes a book I
wrote about the dictator years ago.
?How many guys have you interviewed who have read your biography?? he asked. ?Am I the first??
Had he really read it? ?I have,
definitely ? I haven?t read all the
old biographies but it?s the only
modern one that treated Mussolini as ? one
of the most important figures of the 20th
century. You put the juice back in Mussolini. He was clearly loved by women. He was
a guy?s guy. He has all that virility. He also
had amazing fashion sense, right, that whole
thing with the uniforms. I?m fascinated by
Mussolini.?
Before going to Zurich, where he had
been invited by Die Weltwoche, the Swiss
magazine, to speak about populism, Bannon
had spent several days in Italy during the runup to the general election on 4 March: ?the
most important thing happening politically in
the world right now,? he told the media.
As if to prove him right, the Italians
duly voted in huge numbers for populists,
18
in particular for the Five Star Movement
(M5S) which got 33 per cent, and its opponents Matteo Salvini?s La Lega, which got
18 per cent.
Bannon defines Silvio Berlusconi?s Forza
Italia (La Lega?s main ally in the Coalition of
the Right), which won 14 per cent, as populist
in order to claim that ?two thirds? of Italians
voted for populist parties and to demon-
?You put the juice back in Mussolini.
He was clearly loved by women.
He was a guy?s guy?
strate that populism in Europe is on a roll.
Or as Bannon told his Zurich audience, ?The
populist surge is not over: it?s just beginning.?
Bannon, an ex-US Navy lieutenant, Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood film producer, is 64 and a practising Catholic and
?Christian Zionist?. He has been married and
divorced three times and has three daugh-
ters. After making money from films, he took
over Breitbart, the right-wing website, and
then in 2016 became chief executive of Donald Trump?s successful election campaign.
He then spent seven months in the White
House as the President?s chief strategist.
He now calls himself ?a firebreathing populist?. For his many
enemies, he is the bitter end. When
he spoke in Zurich to a sellout
audience of 1,500 people there was
a large and angry anti-fascist demonstration outside the conference
hall and riot police everywhere.
According to its opponents, populism is the new fascism. So ? is it?
?This is all theoretical bullshit.
I don?t know. Populism, fascism ?
who cares? It?s a media smear of the
populist movement.?
Donald Trump, I suggest, can?t
be a fascist, as he does not want to
replace democracy with dictatorship, nor is he left-wing, as was fascism.
?The bigger threat we have got
than socialism is state-controlled
capitalism, which is where we?re
headed, where we have big government and a handful of big companies. That?s what you?re seeing in
technology right now with these
massive companies. It?s the biggest
danger we have.
?Listen, I think our problem is [not just]
the cultural Marxist left, but state capitalism
on finance. That?s what we?re fighting right
now.
They absolutely control our borders.
They debase your currency, they debase your
citizenship, and they take your personhood
digitally.
?This is the new serfdom. We?re just a
collection of serfs ? serfs living at a higher standard of living, but vis-�-vis what the
total economic pie is, you?re still a serf, and
that?s exactly where the modern state wants
to keep you.?
Bannon is adamant that populism and
fascism ?are not even related?. ?That?s just
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
a smear. Look at the Gracchi brothers in
Rome, Tiberius and Gaius, the greatest populists we ever had. They were not fascists.
People are naturally not fascist. Come on,
dude, you?ve got to know your Roman history? The brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus ? they?re not fascists, they?re populists.?
That?s quite a highbrow allusion, I say:
isn?t citing Roman history way above everyone?s heads? ?Why? No, you see here?s the
problem. You want to talk down. This is
what?s happening to us. I want to raise the bar
and get back to classical allusions because I
come from a blue-collar family that reads
Plutarch.?
He goes on: ?Lincoln had the King James
Bible, Plutarch?s Lives of the Noble Greeks
and Romans and the plays of Shakespeare,
that?s all he had, that?s what he read nonstop. He didn?t go to 20 years of school, he
didn?t have a PhD in English. In the height
Brexit ?would not have happened?,
he claims, had it not been
for Breitbart London
of our civilisation, in England and other places, working men had reading associations.
Churchill could make classical allusions and
the Labour vote knew exactly what he was
talking about. We?re not going to dumb it
down, OK? I?m not going to let you dumb
it down.?
Britain and Brexit loom large in Bannon?s revolutionary vision. ?Brexit would
not have happened if Breitbart London had
not started,? he claims, referring to the UK
edition of his website which was launched in
2014. ?We were the platform for Ukip ideas,
particularly immigration.?
?Without Farage, you wouldn?t have had a
Brexit. Boris Johnson, that exit campaign ?
he?s a great guy but they were pitching those
complicated rules from Brussels. It didn?t
wash. It was immigration. It was Nigel Farage and the brothers coming in.?
Brexit, in Bannon?s view, is an expression
of national populism. It?s about ?subsidiarity?,
taking power away from the state and giving
it back to the common man: ?You stop ceding
decisions to a scientific, engineering, financial, managerial, technocratic elite, which is
how globalism came about.?
Why does he think the nation state is so
important? ?Because it?s the basic building
block of citizenship.? I tell him I had come by
train from Italy to Switzerland, which is not
in the EU, to see him and no one had asked
to see my passport, thanks to Europe?s open
borders. ?It can?t last,? he says. ?Italy showed
you that.?
The elites ? or ?Davos Man?, as he calls
them ? are afraid of populism because they
are afraid of power going to the people. ?The
biggest panic they?ve got is what happened to
Italy on Sunday, where people stood up and
said, ?Do you know what, we?re not going to
do that any more. That?s what they fear.?
Bannon is not too fussed about left and
right. He likes anger. He likes Beppe Grillo?s
techno-anarchist Five Star Movement
because ?they are kinda making it up as they
go along?.
?They started off as a pure protest vote: we
want to stop the crony capitalism. The combination of a permanent political class in bed
with the banks and in bed with the corporations that basically gutted the Italian people
? we want that stopped and the first thing
we?ll do is break up the politicians.
?Anger is a great weapon. That?s why Grillo was brilliant. They?ve come from nowhere
to 33 per cent of the vote. It?s amazing. And
by the way, they?re internet-based and on
very little money.?
e?re running out of time. Bannon has
places to go and people to see, the
global national populist revolution to fight.
?This is called capitalism, man, they?ve got
you on the clock all the time,? he says. We
rattle through the last questions.
Can the West live with Islam? ?Yes. Islam
not only will survive, it can have a place in
the West and there is nothing about banning
Muslims. Now the radical jihadist part ? the
supremacist Islam part ? is a different deal,
but no, we can live with Islam, we?ve got to
live with Islam.?
Does he miss the White House? ?No, not
at all. I hated every day. I?m not a staffer.?
Why is he in Europe? ?I?m here to observe
and learn. The 2014 elections in the European Parliament, then Brexit, taught me so
much that had to do with the populist revolt
in the United States, and I was able to apply
some of those lessons. I?m learning so much
about populism.?
Bannon is reluctant to talk about his former boss, the US President. Will Trump be
impeached? ?That?s a ridiculous question ?
no, he?s not going to be impeached. President
Trump is going down the path of fulfilling
now that he has pivoted back to economic
nationalism: he is going to hold the House
W
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
in 2018, pick up a couple of seats in the Senate, and he is going to run again and win with
over 400 electoral votes.?
When did he last speak to Trump?
?I can?t say that.?
Does he speak to him at all?
?Our lawyers talk because it?s the middle
of an investigation. I don?t talk to the President.? Why not? ?Because it?s better that we
don?t chat.?
So it?s nothing personal then?
?Absolutely not, I have great admiration
for the President. I like Trump a lot ? he?s a
good man, he?s a great guy.?
Isn?t Trump a sexual molester? A Weinstein? ?No, that is totally ridiculous.? Bannon adds that, after the infamous Billy Bush
?Grab ?em by the pussy? recording of Trump
came out, he advised Trump not to apologise.
?It?s locker-room talk,? he says, which is the
line that Donald Trump famously used to
defend himself after he had apologised.
He?s leaving.
What about the matriarchy, I ask. ?I got to
go,? he says. ?Isn?t your politics all just about
male insecurity?? I ask. He stops.
?The Time?s Up movement is coming to
the heart of the structure of global society
because all global society is built on the
patriarchy: Confucian society, the societies
in Africa, the societies in the subcontinent
of India, and the Judeo-Christian West, that?s
just a fact, OK, and that is why this thing is
like the French Revolution. I?m not opining
whether it?s right or wrong.?
Does he want women to stop working
and make babies? ?Women should do whatever they want, like my daughter went to
West Point and served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq. We have an economy where if
a woman wants to stay home and be a mother, she ought to have that opportunity. But
it?s 100 per cent on what young women want
to do, and they should be able to have every
opportunity to do everything they want to do,
including serving in combat, which I?m a big
believer in.?
What about guns?
?Guns are not a problem.?
But Donald Trump appears to be proposing some measure of gun control. Would he
accept that if Trump delivered the economic nationalism he pines for? Would he swap
some gun control for strong borders?
?No, that?s ridiculous ? I don?t agree with
any stop on guns. It?s not a gun issue, you
can?t fold on guns ? you can?t. You British
don?t like guns, that?s the problem.?
rom Zurich, Bannon went back briefly
to Italy, and from there to France, where
he shared the stage with Marine Le Pen in
Lille at the annual congress of the Front
National. ?What I?ve learned is that you?re
part of a worldwide movement that is bigger
than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than
Hungary ? bigger than all of it,? he told the
audience. ?And history is on our side.?
F
?If you?re going to identify as a woman
can you at least make a bit of an effort??
19
The art of the sledge
When does cricketing banter cross the line?
SIMON BARNES
?G
ood morning, my name?s Cowdrey.? England batsman Colin,
later Lord Cowdrey, to the Australian fast bowler Jeff Thomson.
?That?s not going to help you, fatso. Now
piss off.?
Lord, who wrote those lines ? was it
Oscar Wilde? No雔 Coward? Woody Allen,
maybe? Or was it just a primordial example
of sledging: the art and science of the cricketing insult?
Sledging is hot again as the Test series in
South Africa against Australia reaches new
heights of bad vibes. And when we?re getting
moral lectures from David Warner ? the
Australian player who thumped the England player Joe Root in a bar for the unforgivable sin of wearing a joke wig on his chin
? well, we know we?re faced with one of
those fascinating moral puzzles.
Sledging? Etymology: an Australia cricketer was rebuked for swearing in front of a
woman: ?You?re as subtle as sledgehammer,
mate.? By extension the word became a slang
term for on-field abuse of your opponents.
Cricket takes a long time and there are
lots of pauses. There?s plenty of time for conversation. Cricketers have used words to put
each other off since time and cricket began.
It?s not exactly legal, or exactly illegal. And
certainly it?s accepted.
But here?s a rum thing: you can play a
game and you can break the laws, and it will
be wholly acceptable to all concerned ? so
long as you don?t go too far. And yet what
is too far? No one ever knows for sure: but
here is Warner, a cricketer with a history
of unruly behaviour, outraged because he
believes the sledging from the South African
Quinton de Kock was morally wrong.
Worse, it was ?vile and disgusting and
about my wife. It was out of line.? You mean
that ever-shifting line that separates good
from evil? Or the one that separates my
boys from your boys?
It was during that Cowdrey series of
1974-75 that sledging really hotted up. ?We
more or less invented the sport nigh on 50
years ago,? wrote Peter FitzSimons in the
Sydney Morning Herald of the Warnerde Kock incident. Sledging ? in the modern sense ? began as a calculated assault
20
on effete Poms, and it played very well. It
wasn?t like anything they were used to. And
it became a tradition: the great New Zealand
batsman Glenn Turner said, ?When you come
back from Australia you feel like you?ve
been to Vietnam.?
Sledging was more or less formalised
under the captaincy of Steve Waugh, who
referred to the practice as ?mental disintegration?. It was a phrase that neatly silenced
the complainers: if you objected, it was
because you couldn?t take it. You weren?t
tough enough, you weren?t man enough.
England cricket, at a historic low and
reduced to copying everything Australian
There is perhaps one genuinely funny
sledging story, and most people who
follow cricket have heard it
cricketers did, took on sledging in the belief
that tough words make you a tough person.
Anyone who has played top-level cricket,
or who, like me, has covered a lot of international cricket, gets used to the question,
?What?s the funniest sledging incident??
There aren?t any. Not really. Broadly speaking, sledging comes in two forms.
It?s usually aimed at the batsman, since
the fielding side outnumbers the batters
on the pitch by 11 to two. The first form is
directly addressed to the batsman: ?You can?t
play, you?re useless, swear swear swear.?
Or as the then Australian captain Michael
Clarke said to the England batsman ? and
hard-sledging bowler ? Jimmy Anderson:
?Get ready for a broken fucking arm.? The
other, fractionally more subtle, is intentionally overheard by the batsman: ?Put the next
one up his nose, Jimmy, he?s running scared,
swear swear swear.?
There is perhaps one genuinely funny
sledging story, and most people who follow
cricket have heard it, so skip this bit if you
know what Eddo Brandes, the stoutish Zimbabwean, said when the Australian bowler
Glenn McGrath followed up a fizzing delivery with the question: ?Why are you so fucking fat??
?Because every time I fuck your wife
she gives me a biscuit.? I should add that
Brandes no longer tells the story: McGrath?s
wife died of breast cancer and it?s not funny
any more. Real life has always had a way of
making sport look a bit silly.
Sledging rows are part of cricket?s routine, and they?re always about where that
ethical line is drawn. The Australian player
Andrew Symonds, a man of Caribbean
ancestry, was incensed when the Indian
bowler Harbhajan Singh called him a monkey. But no: he had misheard. Singh had
used the Hindi expression teri maa ki. Which
means motherfucker. Harbhajan?s threematch ban was rescinded.
That?s really the level on which sledging
operates. Insults are OK, except that some
insults are not. The allegation is that de
Kock?s words to Warner concerned a tenyear-old scandalette affecting his wife
Candice, n閑 Falzon, a former Ironwoman
? maximum distance ? triathlete. We?ll
leave it there, I think.
Though Warner didn?t. He appeared to
square up to de Kock on the stairs leading
to the dressing-rooms after the players had
come off the pitch, and was restrained by his
own players. Security camera footage was
then released to local media, presumably to
beef up the story at the expense of Australian morale.
There is hardly any space left to point out
that the South African fast bowler Kagiso
Rabada has been banned for the final two
matches of the series for giving the Australia
captain Steve Smith an over-exuberant
?send-off? ? that being a form of gloating
after a batsman had been dismissed.
So what is acceptable in sledging? What
is unacceptable? At one stage all sledging of
the directly insulting kind was on the wrong
side of the line; now taking it and dishing it
out is part of being tough. Warner has never
been a conscientious objector in any sledging war? but now he?s the injured innocent:
a man more sledged against than sledging.
Cricket is a fierce and passionate drama:
that?s kind of the point.
Heigh-ho. ?One becomes moral as soon as
one becomes unhappy?? That?s not Warner,
by the way. That?s Proust ? � la recherche du
sledge perdu?
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
MATTHEW PARRIS
Lake Turkana, Kenya: postcard from the edge
A
s I write, a great gale is blowing in
from Lake Turkana. The dry hills
on the other side, always faint, have
disappeared. Sheets of warm rain lash our
tent, rollers crash on to the white sandy
shore, huge pelicans struggle against the
wind, the flamingos are gone, and fishermen like thin black sticks ? Lowryesque ?
from the Turkana tribe can be seen streaking up the beach ferrying equipment from
their now-beached wooden fishing canoe to
a clump of doum palms where they?ll shelter.
But nobody is cold. The lake feels like a
tepid bath when we swim (where humans
fish, the Nile crocodiles stay away), while
the air temperature has plummeted within
hours from about 45?C (113?F) to more like
a muggy English summer. These windstorms
(though not the rain) are common on Lake
Turkana. In this part of far-northern Kenya
the average annual rainfall is 110mm (less
than five inches), but the region?s oven-like
heat meets the sharp cooling effect of this
huge body of water to produce great blasts of
wind. Readers of my generation will remember this lake from geography lessons as Lake
Rudolph: the largest permanent desert lake
on the planet, some 150 miles long, 20 to
30 miles wide, and the northernmost of the
string of great African lakes along the thousand-mile trench of the Great Rift Valley.
And by far the most remote. Two superrich Americans arrived by helicopter last
night; we got here by flying from Nairobi to
the airstrip at Lodwar, then bouncing down
to the lake along a sandy track past the tiny,
beautiful wicker huts of the Turkana people: about two hours in a hardy Toyota Land
Cruiser painted in the milky green that gives
the lake its other name, the Jade Sea. You
could drive up from Nairobi past Mount
Kenya but you?d need two days; and a driver trying to reach Nairobi has just returned,
reporting impassable conditions. The dreadful road down from Ethiopia would take
longer. From Somalia is too dangerous.
There are no hotels in the European
sense. Our lakeshore resort, Lobolo Camp,
is really a tented lodge, shockingly comfortable, an oasis of good food, whiskies-andsodas and friendly service, but the only place
of its kind. They sent the Land Cruiser for us,
and the whisky.
I?ve always wanted to come here. I thirst
for desolate places and natural wonders, and
Lake Turkana is both. Why a vast lake in a
bone-dry desert? There remains uncertainty. Turkana is fed overwhelmingly from one
large permanent source, the Omo river flowing down from the Ethiopian highlands, but
there are no visible outflows from the lake. Is
evaporation the only leveller? Why, over the
millennia, Turkana has not become a giant
version of the Dead Sea is a mystery. Though
slightly saline, it?s not noticeably brackish:
more like fresh water with a pinch of washing soda. I dislike the taste but many Turkana
people prefer it.
A second mystery is the level of the lake.
This has risen and fallen over the centuries;
We saw the skeleton of a mammoth,
a giant fossilised tortoise and the
remains of a now-extinct crocodile
but a widely expected drop arising from an
ambitious (I?d say reckless) new system of
dams, hydroelectric plants and irrigation
schemes on the Omo river above the border with Ethiopia does not seem to have
occurred on any scale. Why not? My own
theory is that Lake Turkana is the visible surface of a vastly bigger subterranean sponge,
whose aquifers ? in or out ? remain imperfectly charted or understood.
Crossing is an extraordinary experience.
On our second day here we reached the
eastern shore after a three-hour, high-speed,
outboard-motor-powered ride in a blast of
warm spray. The trip was organised by Joyce
Chianda-Scheuerman, the African widow
of the Dutchman who, with her, created
Lobolo Camp. Joyce now runs the lodge with
warmth, discipline and passion. She accom-
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
?Mum, Dad, what?s civilisation??
panied us on our crossing, organising a second boat loaded with ice boxes, meals and
beer. The sun had dropped below the greengrey lake horizon and night had fallen as we
were guided in to the far shore: a strange
lava-strewn semi-desert where the archaeologist Richard Leakey and the Kenyan
museums service maintain a small research
establishment, Koobi Fora. We slept there
among the desert roses ? to my mind the
most beautiful plant in creation, bright blossoms springing from fat, grey wood.
For nearly 50 years Leakey and his colleagues have been scrabbling and scrutinising the earth and lava-ash strata above the
lake shore, sifting for the remains of human
and animal populations that once thrived
here. Joyce had organised ground transport,
and next morning we lurched into a full
desert further north along the shore, to a
site where we saw the unearthed 1.7 million-year-old skeleton of a mammoth-like
elephant; and then a giant fossilised tortoise;
and the remains of a now-extinct crocodile.
There was not a living soul along this desert
shore, just a hot wind, merciless sun and a
weird sense of being transported back millions of years.
From Lobolo Camp a day later we were to
drive up the western shore to the site where
the Kenyan archaeologist on Leakey?s team,
Kamoya Kimeu, discovered the near-complete skeleton of a human-like boy (dubbed
?Turkana Boy?) who by the banks of a driedup river mouth had died, wounded, some 1.6
million years ago. Man or animal? The best
example of our immediate hominim ancestors so far found. That night we watched a
dance by Turkana men and women in splendid tribal dress: the leanest, sparest, blackest and most sinewy human beings I have
ever seen. I thought their thin limbs, narrow
chests, snake-like hips and jet-black glistening bodies a more beautiful example of the
human form than any ideal that western art
(or western gymnasia) can produce.
Lake Turkana did not disappoint. This
was not a sponsored trip ? we paid our way
and it was hardly cheap: thus uncompromised, I can recommend Lobolo Camp. Go.
But go only if desolation is your thing.
Lake Turkana is life at the edge. As I write, I
don?t ever want to come home.
21
Poet of the century
Lithuania?s Tomas Venclova saw the modern world take shape
SAM LEITH
T
he first book that Tomas Venclova
read in English was Nineteen EightyFour. Not a bad start in the language,
given his future career. Venclova is less
well-known in the West than his late friends
Joseph Brodsky and Czes?aw Mi?osz, but
he?s something like their Baltic equivalent: a
dissident poet of international standing, who
spent many of the years of his home country?s Soviet occupation in exile in the US.
He describes Nineteen Eighty-Four as ?a
very important book in my life, and the one
that taught me the most about the Soviet system?. A passage he says made ?a very strong
impression on me? comes in an exchange
between Winston Smith and his interrogator O?Brien. Winston asks O?Brien: ?Does
Big Brother exist?? ?Of course he exists. The
Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment
of the Party.? Winston presses: ?Does he exist
in the same way as I exist?? O?Brien replies:
?You do not exist.?
The story chimes with a sense of erasure in many of Venclova?s poems. ?Henkus
Hapenckus, In Memoriam?, for instance ?
a poem inspired by the memorial notice to
an imaginary person, attached to impossible birth and death dates, in the window of
a funeral parlour in the Lithuanian city of
Kaunas ? opens in the English translation:
?Only a true nobody can manage/ to shoulder the weight of non-existence.?
?I invented this person, Henkus Hapenckus, who never existed, and an entire
universe for him,? Venclova says. ?He could
be anybody. Because almost every kind of
existence in the Soviet Union amounted to
non-existence.?
Venclova?s artful, frequently formal
verse plays in that area where the metaphysical and political overlap ? the nothings of Wallace Stevens?s ?The Snow Man?,
perhaps, meeting the nothings of O?Brien.
?Those things ? those kinds of non-existence ? they are in a sense overlaying each
other and having something in common,? he
says. ?More than one of my poems is about
those overlapping sorts of non-existence.?
Venclova himself is nothing of a nobody.
His country?s most celebrated literary
figure, he has translated Eliot, Frost and
22
Auden into Lithuanian as well as Mandelstam, Rilke, Cavafy, Pasternak, Baudelaire
and others. He?s an emeritus professor in
Russian literature at Yale, and in a new
book of conversations, Magnetic North, he
sets out his own story, including friendships
with Brodsky, Mi?osz, Anna Akhmatova,
Nadezhda Mandelstam, Alexander Ginzburg and Boris Pasternak.
Lithuania, 100 years old this year, had a
particularly grisly 20th century ? occupation by the Soviets, then the Nazis, then the
Soviets again ? and, having been born in
1937, Venclova lived it. His fellow-travelling
?Poetry always means more in
eastern Europe or Russia than it
means in England or France?
father was nomenklatura under the Soviet
occupation; his mother was temporarily
imprisoned by the Nazis when Venclova was
just four. ?My childhood,? he says, ?was in a
sense corresponding to the historical changes in Lithuania.?
As a 19-year-old student, he became
involved with dissident writers? groups. ?For
us,? he says, ?the 1956 uprising was the formative experience of our lives.? The earliest
poems he keeps in print date from 1956, and
concerned that experience, and his first samizdat pamphlet was called ?Pontos Axenos?
(?A Sea of Troubles?). ?It was pretty obvious
?A final request? Can I check
my phone one last time??
that if you wrote for ordinary publication,
the poetry would not be poetry: full of compromises, full of lies ? a fake poetry. So you
wrote whatever you wanted to, just to keep
it in your desk. Then samizdat started.?
He refused to deny being a disciple of
Pasternak when denounced at a meeting of
the Lithuanian Writers? Union and went on
to wage what he?s called a ?private war? with
Soviet totalitarianism. There followed two
decades of bans, purges, interrogations and
blacklistings until in 1977, with the sponsorship in the US of Czes?aw Mi?osz, Venclova was allowed to emigrate to the States.
Andropov is now known to have supervised
the order personally, ordering that his fate
?in the long term will be determined by his
behaviour while abroad?. He had no expectation of returning to his homeland.
One of the quirks of eastern European culture is that it is poets and artists who
have often been the public faces of resistance to totalitarianism. Brodsky, as Venclova
recalls, said that had he sneaked back into St
Petersburg incognito, the fa鏰de of the Hermitage would have jumped off the building and scurried to dob him in to the KGB.
Venclova said much the same of Vilnius.
The Anglophone world (at least since
the days of Milton) has been a place where
?poetry makes nothing happen? (as Auden
wrote in his elegy for Yeats ? a poem Venclova translated into Lithuanian).Venclova
says, ?Poetry always means more in eastern
Europe or Russia than it means in England
or France. I wrote once that in the West, poetry mainly survives on the university campus,
and in our countries it survives mainly in the
prison camps. This is the difference. They
managed to establish such an unshakeable
system that every living word ? not only
but especially the poetical word ? worked
against it. Every thing else was false.?
He says the fuss over the publication of
Dr Zhivago would be unimaginable in the
West: it was ?not a counter-revolutionary
novel ? it?s partly about religion, partly
about love, partly about the October Revolution, and Pasternak was not entirely an
enemy of the October Revolution?. But it
was intolerable because ?it was something
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
alive, something written according to someone?s individual understanding of things?.
Venclova met Pasternak: ?He was very
young, seemed very alive. He was 70 and had
terminal cancer, but nobody knew it at the
time. We left his dacha, and I told my friend:
?He will live to 100. He?s so young, so active,
so lively, so witty and so on.? He died half
a year after that.? He adds: ?I was and still
am in love with his early poetry. It?s inimitable. I translated some of it into Lithuanian.
My female friend told Pasternak, ?Here?s
a young fellow who has translated some of
your poetry.? ?Don?t do it!? said Pasternak.
?It?s nonsense! Very pretentious. If I wrote
something valuable, it is Dr Zhivago.? I liked
this poetry much more than Dr Zhivago. I
was too shy of course to say it.?
He recalls Akhmatova as ?very reserved,
very proud, a difficult sort of person?; Brodsky as ?extremely charismatic, incredibly
witty? scattering good jokes; Mi?osz ?a bit like
Pasternak: youthful, active, but he had something Pasternak never had. Pasternak was a
man of the city and Mi?osz was a man of the
village, an agrarian ? he always insisted he
was just a Polish-speaking Lithuanian?.
As a Yale professor, and someone who?s
lived through regimes of actual censorship,
how does Venclova see the free-speech wars
playing themselves out on American university campuses? ?I am strongly for one sort of
worldview and strongly against another. But
I don?t believe in censorship. Half of my life
I lived in a country that has very strong censorship, and the other half I lived in countries that had almost no censorship. And I
can tell you for sure that this type of country is much preferable. The truth and liberal
worldview will always win, even if you are
not promoting it in any way. From a pragmatic point of view it is always better.?
I ask Venclova too ? as a national of a
country that was as keen to join the EU as
mine is to leave it ? how he reacts to the rise
of populist nationalism and Brexit. He says,
?That is terrible and very dangerous, especially for such countries as Lithuania. The
big countries could survive ? but Lithuania
is small. We have lots of so-called Eurosceptical people who would like to destroy the
EU. For Lithuania that would be the end.
That means coming back to the pre-war situation, and everybody knows how it ended.?
How does Venclova, gloomy over Trumpism, Putinism and nationalisms, see the
future? ?I am a historical optimist,? he says.
?Which means I think everything will end
well, but I will not live to see it. This is the difference between the usual optimist and the
historical optimist.? He pauses: ?My Ukrainian friend says he is an apocalyptic optimist.
He thinks everything will end well ? but
nobody will live to see it.?
On the Boulevard by Town Hall
You are indistinct, but the setting?s explicit:
gas-meters, coal fumes, the narrow kitchen?s
stench, cracked pavements, sparrow fleets,
the baroque bedecked in clouds and pigeons.
Here, almost a half-century ago, I entered
the universe you had managed to fashion
out of rare, leftover scraps of childhood ?
bas-reliefs, cushions, poverty and porcelain.
My hand once sought your rustling clothes.
I stared past the gaunt skin reflecting upon
the floral tablecloth. Even then, the peonies
foretold your future: the abandoned garden
that you now inhabit. Others sit in the caf閟.
For them, our century?s shorter than a minute.
The boulevard is clear, and the future?s arrived ?
when it shouldn?t have. You?re no longer in it.
? Tomas Venclova
FROM THE JUNCTION: SELECTED POEMS, TRANSLATED BY ELLEN HINSEY, CONSTANTINE RUSANOV AND DIANA SENECHAL (BLOODAXE BOOKS, 2008)
You can watch a video of Tomas Venclova
speaking about his life and work at this link:
https://vimeo.com/258418996.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
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Wednesday 28 March, 7 p.m. Westminster
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23
LIONEL SHRIVER
Mass immigration drives the housing crisis
E
ver since Theresa May?s clarion address
of the UK?s housing shortage (and how
many successive PMs have embarked
on the same brave heave-ho?) countless
comment pieces have addressed the real
problem that drives the disjunction between
supply and demand. Nimbyism. Complex,
protracted planning permission. Developer land banking. Rich Chinese and Russians
investing in unoccupied properties as threedimensional bank accounts. Excessive protection of green belts. Second homeowners.
Empty properties the state should confiscate. The catastrophic sell-off of social housing. A wilful confusion about what the word
?affordable? means.
Yet when two statistics are out of whack,
it behoves us to look at them both. All the
above dysfunctions regard supply. Which
suggests there?s something awkward about
looking instead at demand.
At a Radio 3 Free Thinking event last
weekend, I all but came to blows with my
panel?s ?rational optimist?, who believes that
continued human population growth will
be both modest and benign. The moment
I mentioned the inevitable pressures on
Europe of mass migration, the poor gentleman exploded, as if I?d tripped the pin on one
of those grenades cropping up on the dodgier streets of Sweden. Something about how
we screwed up in Libya, and the needs of the
NHS? Give the guy this, he did rouse righteous applause from the great and the good
progressives who attend events at the Sage
Gateshead in Newcastle.
But let?s look at this housing business. It
took half a century for the UK population
to rise from 50.3 million in 1950 to 59.1 million in 2000. During that period, the foreignborn population rose from 4.3 per cent to 8.8
per cent ? so a measure of that increase was
already accounted for by newcomers. After
an inflow historically unprecedented for this
country, this brief century alone has seen the
UK population shoot up to 65.6 million (as
of January 2017), 14 per cent of whom were
foreign-born as of 2016. We?re now adding
another half-million every year. According
to the Office for National Statistics, the UK
population is set to cross 70 million by 2029;
Migration Watch places that watershed even
24
sooner, in 2026. That?s only eight years from
now. While demographic predictions are
notoriously undependable, near-term projections tend to be more reliable.
Oxford demographer David Coleman
estimates that 85 per cent of the UK?s population increase from 2000 to 2015 is explained
by migrants and their children. All these new
people have to live somewhere. The pressure
on housing, among many other social provisions, is intensified by the fact that on average
foreign-born mothers have more children
(2.06 in 2016) than women born in Britain
(only 1.75). Fertility among foreign-born
mothers has certainly dropped. Yet the high
proportion of incomers in their reproductive
Do I sound bigoted?
People can be bigoted
but facts can?t be
years means the absolute number of babies
with foreign mothers continues to rise. Thus
the ONS asserts that in England and Wales in
2016 a staggering 28.2 per cent of births were
to foreign-born women, ?the highest level on
record?. In 1970, that figure was 12 per cent.
We?ve heard about Britain?s recent ?minibaby boom?, but its primary cause isn?t
native-born women hitting up the NHS for
IVF in their forties and having triplets. It?s
not appreciably caused by immigrants from
eastern Europe, either. As of 2011, mothers
born in Poland averaged 2.1 children ?
while mothers born in Pakistan had 3.8, and
mothers born in Somalia had 4.2. So even
Brexit ? assuming it actually happens, and
actually curtails freedom of movement (ha!
on both counts) ? may not appreciably constrain foreign increase.
The housing crunch is further complicated by the fact that so many immigrants settle
in the southeast, where residential shortages
are keenest. The population of Greater London in 2017 was 8.8 million, a rise of 400,000
over the previous five years. Greater London housed only 7.1 million people in 1997,
when Blair opened the gates to permanent
visitors. That?s 1.7 million more residents in
two decades ? an increase of over a quarter, two-thirds of which occurred in only the
last ten years.
As of 2016, only 45 per cent of the capital was white British. An astonishing 58.2
per cent of births in London were to foreignborn mothers. (In the northwest London borough of Brent, 76 per cent of births were to
non-UK-born women.) While over a third of
the babies born in England and Wales had at
least one parent born outside the UK, in London that figure was 66.6 per cent: two-thirds.
Hey, I know all about the fact that immigrants to the UK take up space, because I am
a UK immigrant. Both Americans, my husband and I occupy a three-bedroom Georgian house that has thus been removed from
the stock available to the folks who were
born here. Next door to us lives a large family of Nigerians with numerous other compatriots eternally coming and going, who may
or may not be accounted for by officialdom.
Indeed, most immigration statistics are
untrustworthy ? because they?re too low.
London Councils chairman Merrick Cockell
told the BBC back in 2008, ?London?s population is growing at an even faster rate than
these figures suggest because official data
has failed to properly account for the complexities of migration and population churn.?
A Westminster City Council spokeswoman
chimed in, ?The statistics leave out a massive
?hidden? population and mean that local
authorities are constantly short-changed by
government as they still provide vital services to these people but receive no government
funding for them.?
With all immigration figures, round up.
Government has a) no idea how to track
people with every motivation to keep off
the radar, and b) every motivation itself to
underestimate an unpopular social phenomenon, with a range of adverse consequences,
that it cannot seem to control.
Do I sound bigoted? People can be bigoted, but facts can?t be. The UK?s housing
crisis rests hand-in-glove with mass immigration. Without a doubt, nimbyism, arcane
planning permission rules, Russian oligarchs
? all that ? make the situation worse. But
effectively, even if Theresa May improbably
abracadabra?d 1.5 million additional homes
into this country by 2022, as pledged in the
Tory manifesto? They?d be built for foreigners like me.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
TRADE MUST
COME FIRST
Ten steps to promote trade and increase exports:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Establish a UK Ports and
Logistics Brexit Task Force
comprising representatives
from Government and
industry to develop (or
enhance) arrangements to
help minimise the impact
of potential intermittent or
ongoing disruption at certain
ports resulting from the
UK's exit from the EU.
Review the strategic and
public bene?ts of reducing
the UK?s dependency on
the Port of Dover for the
movement of UK-EU trade
in goods over the long term.
Amend the Government?s
approach to transport
investment appraisal by: (a)
including explicit recognition
that encouraging trade
and exports is a strategic
priority; and (b) capturing
the full economic bene?ts of
increased trade and de?cit
reduction. (An approach
which should also be adopted
by Government-funded
bodies such as Network Rail
and Highways England).
Establish an overarching
?Trade First Review? to align
wider Government policy with
the aim of encouraging trade
and increasing exports.
Use the ?Trade First Review?
to provide a framework for
determining which pieces
of EU law it would be
desirable to retain, amend
or remove following the
enactment of the European
Union ( Withdrawal) Bill.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
Introduce or reinforce
mechanisms to make sure
future policies and decisions
remain aligned with the aim
of encouraging trade and
increasing exports.
Remove the EU Port Services
Regulation from UK law at
the earliest opportunity.
Work with the sector to make
sure UK ports and logistics
lead the world in maximising
the ef?cient use of transport
infrastructure and optimising
global supply chains.
Develop a Free Port policy
to strengthen the UK?s ability
to attract investment in new
manufacturing as part of
the Government?s Industrial
Strategy and combine Free
Ports with Enterprise Zones
to create Super Enterprise
Zones at or near UK ports
where appropriate.
Work proactively to market
development sites at or near
UK ports to potential inward
investors overseas.
abports.co.uk
LETTERS
Growing our own
Sir: Rod Liddle is clearly right that ?the
people of Europe do not want any more
immigration on the scale we have seen in
the past five years? and that this is one of
the reasons for the rise in the populist vote
(?The populist revolution has only just
begun?, 10 March).
However, the people of Europe do want
more cleaners, fruitpickers and vegetable
harvesters, not to mention care home
workers, paramedics, nurses and doctors.
We in the UK need more teachers of
science, maths and languages.
It?s unforgiveable that no politicians
of any party have pointed out that if we
don?t have enough children of our own
and educate them to the highest global
standards, starting about 20 years ago, in
about a year these workers will have to
come from further afield than the EU.
Helen Style
Richmond, Surrey
Sunderland bloat
Sir: Craig Goldsack (Letters, 10 March)
writes that the people of Sunderland?s vote
to leave the EU was ?not anti-European
but anti the EU administration? regarded
as a self-serving, unaccountable, bloated
bureaucracy.?
?Self-serving? may or may not be true,
but the EU Commission is accountable to
the Council of Ministers of which the UK
has been a member over the past 40 or
so years. And when it comes to ?bloated?,
Sunderland can show the EU a clean pair
of heels. The EU Commission employs
some 25,000 bureaucrats for 500 million
citizens; one for every 20,000. Sunderland
City Council employs some 7,000 for
175,000 souls; one for every 25.
I am sure that the good people
of Sunderland are not ?xenophobic
philistines?, but were they well informed?
Leslie Buchanan
Barcelona
that at least some fund managers made
money in the Carillion debacle.
Doug Shaw
London W14
Why not in our back yard?
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer asks ?What
on earth can central government do to
accelerate the number of homes at the
lower end of the price range?? (10 March).
He goes on to suggest identifying and
lauding progressive planning departments
to combat Nimbyism.
What about lauding a modest role for
local co-operation between communities
and enlightened local landowners?
Shouldn?t all communities be encouraged
to find ways to provide housing for their
young residents? What is needed, especially
in rural areas, is to adapt the planning
?roadblocks? constructed over decades,
and encourage local initiatives. This will
increase the number of homes in places
where they are most needed. Democratic
local approval will counter nimbyism.
David Dilly
Brill, Bucks
Caught short
Sir: Lord Vinson recycles the same old
arguments about the short-selling of
borrowed shares (Letters, 10 March). I was
one of several hedge-fund managers invited
in January 2009 to help the Treasury Select
Committee with their, er, enquiries: had
short-sellers forced HMG to be the buyer
of last resort of banks? shares?
There was no case to answer and the
committee piped down when Sir Paul
Marshall said that blaming short-sellers
was ?like blaming the passengers in a bus
crash?. Frankly, Lord Vinson should be glad
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Peril in the parks
Sir: Close to Harry Mount?s patch in
Tufnell Park (?Two nations?, 10 March),
weaponised Somali drug gangs now ?own?
Finsbury Park. Terrified locals are being
driven out of their homes. Occasionally,
lightly manned police vehicles shoo the
hoodlums beyond the traffic barriers
which border our streets. But the gangsters
immediately regroup on the next parallel
street. Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Cressida Dick has few resources to contain
violent criminal disorder such as that
which spread like wildfire in August 2011.
Nonetheless, she must deploy enough
armed ?snatch squad? riot police to pincer,
chase and arrest escaping drug gang
members. Openly displayed ineffectualness
is not a solution.
Simon Couzens
London N4
Desperate measures
Sir: I would like to propose two new
scientific units of the kind mentioned
by Rory Sutherland (?Why I?m not on
board with quiet carriages?, 3 March).
The Kuenssberg, as a measure of political
hyperbole and its inverse proportion to the
actual reality of the situation, viz. cliff edge,
cabinet mutiny, red lines.
And the Harrabin: a measure of
the (almost infinite) capacity of the
BBC correspondent to unquestioningly
broadcast any old guff supporting the
relentless march of climate change. This
frequently becomes ?the dog ate my
homework? school of journalism.
Richard Clayton
Edinburgh
Ale Mary?s
Sir: Andrew Marr was correct to point out
that St Mary?s, Primrose Hill, is desperately
short of cash (Diary, 3 March). I wonder if
I might draw attention to one of their more
ingenious fundraising ventures.
Since last year they have been brewing
excellent beer in their crypt with all
profits going towards youth work. There
are five varieties available, including an
Abbey-style ale to make monks proud.
This fine addition to London?s continually
expanding craft beer scene deserves more
recognition.
Jon Frank
Greenwich
WRITE TO US
The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street,
London SW1H 9HP
letters@spectator.co.uk
27
ANY OTHER BUSINESS|MARTIN VANDER WEYER
Advice from the Institute of Directors:
be prepared for the scandal tornado
A
s ?business lobby groups? go, the
Institute of Directors has always
struck me as worthy but unexciting:
a more authentic voice of mid-sized corporate Britain than the fat-cat smugfest that is
the CBI; a fount of sound advice on governance, gender equality and ?mental health at
work?; and a handy Pall Mall watering hole
for business folk up from the provinces. But
as the storm of revelations about personal
behaviour topples one pillar of respectability after another, the IoD has suddenly been
reduced to reputational rubble following
allegations of racism and bullying against
its chairman, Lady Judge ? who resigned in
fury last Friday, shortly after being suspended by the IoD?s Council.
American-born Barbara Judge, a lawyer
who has held a vast number of boardroom
jobs, is well known to be a formidable operator. The Spectator was once offered an interview with her in her capacity as chairman of
the UK Atomic Energy Authority. I sent our
most debonair contributor, Elliot Wilson ?
the Roger Moore of business journalism, you
might say ? to see whether he could charm
her into saying anything off-script. He found
her impeccably briefed but unsmiling in her
high-backed chair and starched ruff. ?Frostier
than a Siberian morning?, he told me; in print
we called her ?a cross between Marie Antoinette and Jessica Tandy?.
But whether or not that characteristic
hauteur has contributed to her nemesis, the
IoD?s handling of her case has been catastrophic. Director-general Stephen Martin
(who secretly recorded a conversation that
was used in evidence against Judge) deserves
a special prize for empty hyperbole: the episode, he announced, ?marks the start of a
new era for the IoD where we are freed?
to share our learnings from this difficult
challenge?. More telling was the resignation,
alongside Judge, of the IoD?s respected deputy chairman Sir Ken Olisa, a tech entrepreneur who also happens to be the first black
Lord-Lieutenant of London: he called the
process leading to Judge?s suspension ?fatally
flawed? and ?a personal vendetta?.
28
Meanwhile, what?s left of the IoD?s
Council must be wishing it knew of a nearby institute that could offer urgent advice on
governance and mental health for organisations in meltdown. And every other corporate body in Britain that thinks it might ever
have witnessed a whisper of inappropriate
language or behaviour should run a weekly
exercise, like a fire alarm test, rehearsing for
when the scandal tornado strikes.
Old-fashioned City spectacle
In a takeover joust between a British engineering company whose roots go back to
the Industrial Revolution and a bunch of
1980s-style corporate raiders, you might
expect this column, on past form, to take the
side of history. But in the case of GKN and
Melrose, I was inclined to go the other way.
Yes, GKN is a last stronghold of researchbased UK manufacturing in the defence,
aerospace and automotive sectors. But its
management seems to have been adrift for
some time and its response to the bid ?
involving taking an axe to its Brush engineering arm and selling a majority interest
in its auto-parts division to Dana of the US
? smacked of desperation.
You might not want every company to be
as hard-nosed as Melrose, on the other hand,
but it?s good to have corporate catalysts that
exist to ginger up the slackers. Melrose has
a proven record of extracting value from
acquisitions and looked unlikely to inflict
more radical surgery on GKN than GKN
was in effect proposing for itself. Support
for GKN from the Unite union and Labour
MPs such as Jack Dromey, claiming to speak
for ?the industrial interests of Britain?, merely encouraged Melrose?s supporters. And
despite the defence angle, no overwhelming
case was made why business secretary Greg
Clark should intervene to block the takeover
of one UK company by another.
But this week?s increased and final offer
from Melrose, at �1 billion in cash and
shares, met a mixed response. Only one institution, Aviva, spoke in favour. The price hike
did not look decisive. This has been an enjoyable battle of City spin versus counter-spin.
But canny investors know hostile takeovers
have a habit of disappointing in the end, and
look set to shun this one. Let?s hope GKN
goes on to sharpen its performance without
hollowing itself to self-destruction.
Goldman?s heir
It?s always useful to know who?s next in line
to run Goldman Sachs, the much-feared
US investment bank, because it also tells us
who?s likely to run the world?s treasuries and
central banks in a few years time. Current
chairman Lloyd Blankfein reportedly plans
to step down this year. At a time of squeezed
profits and regulatory pressure, the succession race was between co-presidents Harvey
Schwartz , an ex-nightclub bouncer from the
trading floor, and David Solomon, a more
polished banker whose hobbies include yoga
and fine wine. Schwartz?s retirement now
leaves Solomon sole heir, perhaps presaging
a less fearsome Goldman ahead. But a footnote to this story is that Solomon recently
suffered the theft of $1.2 million worth of
wine by a ?former personal assistant?. That?s
a lot of wine to lose: Goldman shareholders
will hope he keeps a tighter grip on risk than
he did on his cellar keys.
Splitting the Pru
Another historic City name reinvents itself.
Prudential, founded in 1848, is splitting off its
insurance business in Asia, the US and Africa while creating a separate company, M&G
Prudential, to offer savings and investment
products in the UK and Europe. Both will
remain headquartered in London, and both
will be big enough for membership of the
FTSE100. So there should be no loss of jobs
or critical mass in the City as a result of the
demerger ? which will make better use of
the Pru?s capital and give it more strategic
thrust in high-growth insurance markets. If
there?s a downside to the demerger, I haven?t
spotted it.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
� ERIC FISCHL. COURTESY OF SKARSTEDT
?She and Her?, 2017, by
Eric Fischl
Martin Gayford ? p42
Boyd Tonkin meets
Frankenstein?s monster in a
truly horrifying new guise
James Ball wonders how
the 200 million videos
available daily on YouTube
can be monitored
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Andrew Crumey welcomes
a new comic-book style
visualisation of cosmic ideas
James Delingpole finds
Babylon Berlin so brilliantly
addictive he advises not to
start watching it
Deborah Ross struggles to
understand why Jesus didn?t
whoop and dance on being
resurrected
Richard Bratby is beguiled
in Birmingham by a duet
for crash cymbals
29
BOOKS & ARTS
BOOKS
Pirates of the
Southern Ocean
Philip Hoare describes a thrilling game of cat and mouse through
the storms and drift ice of the high seas off Antarctica
Catching Thunder: The Story of the
World?s Longest Sea Chase
by Eskil Engdal & Kjetil S鎡er, translated
from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley
Zed Books, �.99, pp. 391
Sea Shepherd is a radical protest group made
famous ? or notorious ? by the American
cable TV series Whale Wars and by the support of numerous Hollywood celebrities and
rock stars. Having previously concentrated
on obstructing whale-hunting from Japan to
the Faroe Islands, it now focuses on other
devastating acts of marine plunder.
In Catching Thunder, written with Sea
Shepherd?s active co-operation, the Norwegian journalists Eskil Engdal and Kjetil
S鎡er tell the story of a 10,000-mile sea
chase, lasting 110 days, in which the organisation sought to bring to justice a Spanish
vessel illegally trawling for highly endangered toothfish in the Southern Ocean.
The result is an uproarious adventure ?
one predicated on the protestors? ferocious
sense of moral rectitude.
Sea Shepherd is run with Ahab-like persistence by Paul Watson, a Canadian who
left Greenpeace in 1977 when he decided
they were not hardcore enough. I happened
to be in Hobart, Tasmania in December 2009 when their vessel the Ady Gil ?
a contraption that would have looked more
at home on a Batman set ? was readying
itself for a mission which would end in disaster the following month, when it was rammed
by a Japanese whaling ship, the Shonan
Maru 2. Renowned for being vegan eco-warriors, the young crew might have been getting
ready for Glastonbury as much as preparing
for inevitable confrontation on the high seas.
I met one adherent who seemed wild-eyed
with his cult-like mission. ?He?d take a bullet
for Watson,? I was told.
Later, in 2016, I was sent on assignment
to interview Watson at the Cannes film
30
festival. I?d already encountered him in
Paris the previous year at the CO21 climate
conference, where he told the audience, in
a chic hotel, how his life had changed after
he?d looked into the eye of a hunted whale.
It was mesmerising. He makes no bones
about his courtship of celebrity, believing in
any means necessary to his end.
Hence his provocative appearance
at Cannes. His fearsome vessel the Sam
Simon, moored offshore, was painted in
grey camouflage style, with the addition of
shark-like teeth to the prow. As I boarded
by rope ladder, I was told by the captain,
with some satisfaction, that a police launch
had just visited, after complaints from local
hoteliers that the ship?s presence was upsetting their guests.
Watson, a buccaneering presence, was
keen to show me the watch Pierce Brosnan
had given him, and to boast about sending
Pamela Anderson to lobby Putin over the
export of whale meat to Japan. This was
world politics as a movie cast; and indeed
Watson presides over his organisation ?
and over Catching Thunder ? as though he
were a mastermind from a James Bond film,
directing from afar in his places of exile; or
a maritime version of Julian Assange or the
Scarlet Pimpernel ? a righteous fugitive
from erroneous justice.
Sea Shepherd?s story has already attracted literary attention. In his lively book
Blood and Guts, published in 2014, the
Australian writer Sam Vincent acted as an
embedded journalist on one of the organisation?s anti-whaling missions, during which
his eyes were opened to a certain Conradian
craziness, evoking shades of Martin Sheen?s
character, Captain Willard, in Apocalypse
Now. (In a neat case of typecasting, Sheen
himself is a prominent supporter of Watson,
and one of Sea Shepherd?s vessels is named
after him. During a stand-off with Canadian sealers in 1995, Sheen kept the sealers at
bay in an hotel, allowing Watson to make
his escape).
Last December, Sea Shepherd more
or less gave up the fight against the Japanese whale hunters, frustrated in part by
their military technology. Watson declared:
?We have an obligation to our supporters
that if we cannot be successful in intervening directly, then it would not make sense to
send a vessel.?
Peter Hammarstedt, captain of their
ship the Bob Baker, agreed: ?We were
active in the Southern Ocean for ten years
and saved more than 6,000 whales. We
also have many other critically important
campaigns to run elsewhere in the world?.
It is one of those campaigns that Catching
Thunder charts.
In April 2016, the Bob Baker ? a former Norwegian whaling ship, bought for
Sea Shepherd by the Australian TV presenter and animal rights activist after whom
it is named ? set off in pursuit of a renegade Spanish fishing boat. The Thunder
was longlining in the Southern Ocean for
toothfish, an endangered species which, if
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
SIMON AGER
Left: The Bob Baker trails the Thunder
through six-metre swells, and (above) the
Thunder sinks
ordered in a restaurant, as the authors note,
would be comparable to eating a panda cub.
Despite international bans on the practice,
and a series of Interpol notices for its arrest,
the Thunder, along with a significant number of other fishing vessels, continued to
flout the law. Hence the resulting cat-andmouse chase in which the two vessels ?
protestors and pirates ? covered 10,000
miles and three oceans, using radar, international communications and their physical
presence to confront one another in seriously hazardous seas.
The book?s short chapters read like
urgent frontline bulletins, as reconstructed by the authors. Unlike Sam Vincent in
Blood and Guts, Engdal and S鎡er were not
aboard the vessel to tell the story but conducted detailed interviews with the protagonists after the event. They also carried out
their own background work into the shadowy ownership of the illegal fishing trawlers
making vast fortunes out of toothfish ? one
operation earning 17 million euros in just two
years. The Thunder?s owners are traced to
Galicia, and to what is portrayed as a Span-
ish mafia that blur their illegal catches with
suspicions of drug-trafficking.
With its punchy presentation and layers
of pop culture and celebrity, Engdal and
S鎡er?s account is almost edited for social
media ? the Thunder even recognises the
Bob Baker from Whale Wars. Half way
through the marathon, Hammarstedt (who
is given to quoting classical authors to
Ordering Patagonian toothfish
in a restaurant would be comparable
to eating a Panda cub
encourage his crew), contacts the Guinness
Book of Records to lodge a world record
for the pursuit of a poacher. And in one of
his erratic and excited press releases, Watson declares that, in the absence of support from the Australian or New Zealand
authorities (both of which accuse the campaigners of endangering their own crews?
lives, as well as those of their target?s),
?Sea Shepherd is the only sheriff in town?.
How long will either ship last in the
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
chase? Fuel and food supplies are limited. Eventually, the Thunder makes for
port ? in Equatorial Guinea, whose
regime appears positively disposed to
such piracy. A tense stand-off ensues and
the Thunder sinks rapidly. The Bob Baker
and Sam Simon rescue all 40 of its crew,
but suspect the captain of having scuttled
his ship in order to destroy any incriminating records.
Engdal and S鎡er are energetic writers
with a sense of pace and cinematic detail;
indeed, in the process of translation into
American English (complete with authorial interventions such as ?this shit is for
real?), their story cries out for a film crew.
But although Catching Thunder is an exciting read, it is overshadowed by the real story
set up by Sea Shepherd, its supporters and
detractors. How do we deal with the greatest crisis facing the world ? the imminent
threat to its fragile environment, especially
now that democracy seems to have become
distrusted or even outmoded? I?m not sure
that Paul Watson has the answer. But then,
as he?d say, does anyone have a better idea?
31
GETTY IMAGES
BOOKS & ARTS
Van Morrison ? in another time, another place
Ankle-deep in LSD
Dominic Green
Astral Weeks: A Secret
History of 1968
by Ryan H. Walsh
Penguin, �.99, pp. 368
?And this is good old Boston/, The home
of the bean and the cod,? John Collins
Bossidy quipped in 1910, ?Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots/, And the Cabots
talk only to God.? Also home, in 1968, to
Mel Lyman, a folk musician turned LSD
guru who believed he was God, and to
Van Morrison.
The music business abounds with stories
about Morrison being grumpy. In my experience, he?s perfectly reasonable. You?d be
grumpy if your job obliged you to consort
with thieves, liars and drummers who can?t
keep time. You?d be especially irritated by
people asking how you wrote Astral Weeks.
Sensibly, Morrison explains that Astral
Weeks was written by a different person
living, as its title song says, ?In another time/
In another place.?
That time was 1968, the place Cambridge, Boston?s university town. The circumstances were that Morrison and his
32
girlfriend Janet Planet had decamped from
New York following contractual difficulties
involving the breaking of an acoustic guitar over Morrison?s head and the peppering of his hotel room door with bullets. In
December 1967, Morrison?s producer, the
Mob-friendly Bert Berns, had died of a
heart attack. Morrison?s contract passed to
Carmine ?Wassel? DeNoia, an associate of
the Genovese crime family.
Morrison had split from Them and
scored a solo hit with ?Brown Eyed Girl,?
but he had visa troubles as well as business problems. The record labels were chasing psychedelic rock ? heavy metal was
slouching towards Donington ? but Morrison was writing jazzy acoustic songs:
?I?m nothing but a stranger in this world/
Got a home on high.?
Cambridge is now a placid university
town and hi-tech hub. In 1968, the whole
of Boston seems to have been ankle-deep
in LSD. The ?secret history? exhumed by
Ryan H. Walsh is a forgotten freak scene.
Researching this book, Walsh found himself inhabiting ?an upside-down, hallucinogenic version of the metropolis? he knows.
Beacon Street, once a Jamesian parade of
redbrick townhouses and now expensively
dull, was a student ghetto. Roxbury, now
a gentrified inner suburb, was so decayed
that Mel Lyman?s acid-addled followers
were able to buy up a whole street.
Lyman locked troublemakers in the
basement and reprogrammed them with
?guided? LSD trips, but he never went the
full Charles Manson. There was no killing
spree, only a free sheet called Avatar and
a music venue called the Boston Tea Party.
The Velvet Underground became regulars.
In Cambridge, Morrison assembled a
small acoustic group and created the template for Astral Weeks; his flautist, John
Payne, was related to Robert Lowell. MGM
tried to capitalise on the scene by hyping a
?Boston Sound?. Walsh, tracking down a live
tape from 1968, confirms that Astral Weeks
was the real Boston Sound.
The 1960s were what Gershom Scholem
would have called a ?plastic hour? in American history. The talking-to-God weirdness
crystallised in California, but the countercultural reaction had begun in Boston in the
days of the Cabots and Lowells. As Henry
James?s satire of the table-tapping utopianism in The Bostonians suggests, Brahminic
Boston pioneered ?self-actualisation?. The
first yoga studio in America was in Cambridge; William James discusses its teacher,
the Hindu nationalist Swami Vivekananda,
in Varieties of Religious Experience.
The local Blavatskyites identified
Vivekananda?s akasha with their ?astral
plane?. Walsh notes Morrison?s interest
in the third-generation Theosophist Alice
Bailey, who inspired another record that
broke the Pop mould, the Velvets? White
Light /White Heat. Has the protagonist
of ?Astral Weeks?, a dreamer recollecting
experience in innocence, caught a whiff of
Boston occultism?
Another time, another place: the real
magic happened in New York. Joe Smith,
the Warners executive who had signed the
You?d be grumpy if your job obliged
you to consort with thieves, liars and
drummers who can?t keep time
Grateful Dead, heard Morrison?s demos.
He sprung Morrison from his contract by
handing $20,000 in cash to some Italian
American music lovers in an abandoned
warehouse. In three sessions in October
1968, Morrison recorded a masterpiece,
using hired New York jazzers and his Cambridge flautist, John Payne.
Walsh leads the Boston band Hallelujah the Hills. He has written a splendidly
half-cracked cultural history, free of theoretical frottage and vivid with psychedelic
colour. Great music speaks for itself, but
Walsh?s findings confirm that Morrison was
just passing through, nothing but a stranger
in tripped-out Cambridge. It makes sense.
Astral Weeks, the vinyl image of that plastic hour, is Pop?s greatest record because it
isn?t Pop at all.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Pandora?s Box
James Ball
Videocracy: How the Tube is
Changing the World... with Double
Rainbows, Singing Foxes and Other
Trends We Can?t Stop Watching
by Kevin Allocca
Bloomsbury, �, pp. 320
War in 140 Characters
by David Patrikarakos
Basic Books, �, pp. 320
On 25 April 2005, Jawed Karim sent an
email to his friends announcing the launch
of a new video site ? intended for dating
? called youtube.com. Within 18 months,
the site was being used to view 100 million
videos a day. Last year it had more than a billion users, watching five billion videos every
day, with creators uploading 300 hours of
video to YouTube every minute.
Given this almost incomprehensible
scale, it?s fitting that the word Videocracy ?
the title of YouTube Head of Trends Kevin
Allocca?s history of the site ? evokes the
idea of an authoritarian dystopia. Like any
approved account from such a regime, its
analysis never strays far from the realms of
the vapid or tepid.
YouTube, and the democratising wave of
social network websites that rose alongside
it, has had many positive influences on the
world, which Videocracy describes at length,
if joylessly: creators could bypass middlemen
and gatekeepers; remix culture could flourish as an artform in its own right; and people with niche interests that would never be
served through mainstream television could
find something to please them.
Videocracy speaks of these millions of
flowers blooming, and claims it?s the audience that now decides what becomes popular ? but what is always curiously absent is
YouTube itself. No mention is made of the
slice of revenue it takes for every video it
airs, or of the way the site singles out potential stars and partners with them.
Similarly, as the book turgidly lists the
upsides of YouTube?s role on the internet,
its downsides are glossed over. In 2010,
Antoine Dodson gave a furious account to
local television news about how an intruder had broken into his family?s home and
attempted to rape his sister. The footage
was remixed on YouTube into an autotuned song, which immediately went viral.
Recounting the incident, the book merely noted that Dodson was eventually able
to use ?his cut of the proceeds? to move his
family to a ?safer home?.
YouTube has been shown to air adverts
ahead of extremist clips; to air videos showing parents exploiting their children for
views and for revenue; to show acts of playground bullying to the world; and to be
painfully slow to take action when its handpicked stars use racial slurs in their videos.
If YouTube deserves praise for the good
its platform has enabled, it also deserves
scrutiny for its evils; and those who have
worked for it should be able to offer introspection and reflection on both. Discussion of even the YouTube algorithm, which
Allocca reveals can select 200 million different videos every day to show to different
users on their homepage, depending on their
preferences, is rendered invisible in his telling of the company?s history ? once it?s been
referenced as trivia, the book moves breathlessly on to its next topic.
Nowhere does this approach jar so much
as when Allocca handles YouTube?s role in
conflict, describing poignantly how footage
from first the crackdown on the Iranian
Green Movement, then the Arab Spring,
found its way to the site and was viewed
by him and his team. The book admits that
some violence published on the site is then
spread and distributed further even after
the initial uploader ? who often put the
video online in a shocked state ?requests
otherwise, but offers little in the way of
reflection or insight.
YouTube has been shown to air
videos showing parents exploiting
their children for revenue
The inherent instability of new media,
for good or ill, is far better dealt with in
David Patrikarakos?s War in 140 Characters,
which reflects on how social media has been
used by governments, terror groups and citizens alike to shape perceptions of conflicts
across the world.
Constructing the idea of Homo Digitalis ? the new generation of always-oninternet citizens ? Patrikarakos shows that
as governments manipulate social media for
their own strategic ends, they are unleashing forces they have little ability to control.
As Russia pushes propaganda in the interests of its uneasy truce with Ukraine, he
argues, so does it fuel calls at home for the
enemy to be ?crushed?. As Hamas stirs up
anti-Israeli sentiment on the internet, so too
does it encourage ever-increasing calls to
?exterminate? Israel. Social networks have
power, as do nation states and terror groups.
But as each exploits the other, they risk
unleashing extremes which could bring the
entire edifice down on them all.
Against such a backdrop, Videocracy
could have served as a warning, or as a guide
on how best to shape the forces the internet
has let loose and heightened. Instead, it?s a
relic of another era when the online world
was the ?and... finally? segment of a news
broadcast ? the simple place described
in the book?s subtitle: ?Double rainbows,
singing foxes, and other trends we can?t
stop watching?.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
An unprincipled Principal
Patrick Skene Catling
Holt College: An Oxford Novel
by Brian Martin
Arcadia, �99, pp. 254
?Dreaming spires?? Yes, but sometimes
there are nightmares. Brian Martin, awarded
the MBE for services to English literature,
is at home in Oxford, where he spent most
of his career teaching, and seems to know
all about the professional and psychological complexities of the university. Holt College, his fourth novel, written with dedicated
probity and Baedeker thoroughness, is a suspenseful tragedy without a hero ? just a few
men and women who mean well. Concerned
with the administrative deliberations and
manoeuvrings of the fellows of a respected,
ancient college, the story serves analogically
to show how an unscrupulous individual of
obsessive ambition and manipulative cunning can turn even the most idealistically
conceived democracy into a dictatorial hierarchy. All fellows are created equal but some
can become more equal than others.
The villain of this fluently readable piece,
one Willoughby Morris, is the elected Principal, Holt?s first among equals, who contrives to dominate the fellowship?s formal
and informal proceedings, with the support
of two subservient cronies, the Senior Tutor
and the Bursar. They are useful in committee meetings, and crucially influential in the
seven-man finance committee, in which Morris needs only one of the four other votes to
manage affairs to his advantage.
The novel?s narrator, Johnny James, a fellow in economics and an omniscient observer and commentator, with an immaculate
code of collegiate ethics, reports all the
details of Morris?s fatal decline. In his orderly
private life, Johnny conducts his courtship of
Estelle Treisman, a teacher of English, with
the exquisite politesse of a sensitive garden lover, music lover, gourmet and oenophile. He nobly accedes to Est?s every wish.
They do not occupy the same bed until she
announces that she is ?ready?.
Johnny?s romanticism contrasts vividly
with his revelations of the Principal?s wickedness. Morris is unfaithful to his wife, and
pads his expense accounts, especially when
travelling abroad. His awfulness is portrayed
with skill and obvious gusto: ?As well as being
a leading scientist at the top of his discipline,
he was an irresistible social animal... a master
at disguising his motives.?
Most of Holt?s fellows are apathetic. Very
few are as conscientious as Johnny in exposing the Principal?s malfeasance. But assistance comes from the university?s newspaper
and the national press, which deplore false
bookkeeping, and from classical nemesis.
The moral is clear: to maintain the integrity
of a democracy, all voters should vote.
33
BOOKS & ARTS
Jigsaw discussion, from Clifford V. Johnson?s The Dialogues
The cosmic made comic
Andrew Crumey
The Dialogues: Conversations
About the Nature of the Universe
by Clifford V. Johnson
MIT, �.95, pp. 230
Weird Maths: At the Edge
of Infinity and Beyond
by David Darling and Ahnijo Banerjee
Oneworld, �.99, pp. 272
Beyond Weird: Why Everything
You Thought You Knew About
Quantum Physics is Different
by Philip Ball
Bodley Head, �.99, pp. 370
We all know that physics and maths can be
pretty weird, but these three books tackle
their mind-bending subjects in markedly contrasting ways. Clifford V. Johnson?s
34
The Dialogues is a graphic novel, seeking
to visualise cosmic ideas in comic-book
style. Darling and Banerjee?s Weird Maths
is a miscellany of fun oddities, ranging from
chess-playing computers to prime-counting
insects. Philip Ball?s Beyond Weird argues
that we?ve got quantum mechanics all
wrong: it?s not so weird actually, but quite
sensible. All three books do a fine job for
their respective audiences. Just make sure
you know which target group you?re in.
The Dialogues is a sequence of illustrated conversations, often between pairs
of youthful and attractive characters, scrupulously diverse in race and gender, who
happen to meet in a caf�, gallery or train
carriage, and find themselves talking about
physics. Perhaps ?The Lectures? would be
a better title, since one interlocutor is the
expert, while the other is an interested lay
person whose role is to feed questions at
appropriate intervals.
The author shows himself to be a highly
talented graphic artist as well as being a dis-
tinguished theoretician, and while the pingpong chats may be somewhat lacking in
narrative drive, they do provide a platform
for some admirably lucid explanations of
topics such as Maxwell?s equations or Einstein?s cosmological constant. Not the kind
of comic book you roll up in your pocket,
but a weighty hardback that would grace
any coffee table.
Weird Maths is more traditional in concept, but remarkable for being co-authored
by a 17-year-old maths prodigy and the
popular science writer who has helped nurture the lad?s talent. The chapters cover a
range of topics; and while higher dimensions, probability or code-breaking may
be familiar to fans of the genre, others are
delightfully abstruse. I especially enjoyed
the section about ?Ramsey theory?, which
produces numbers too big to write down
in any conventional way, instead requiring entirely new notation and giving rise to
contests to see who can come up with the
largest non-infinite number. If you think
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
that adding one to your opponent?s offering would be sufficient, you ought to read
this book.
Weird Maths is a step up from The Dialogues in technical detail, but still perfectly
suitable for light dipping, and surely destined for many a geek?s loo shelf (mine, for
instance). With Philip Ball?s Beyond Weird
we get into something far meatier: the
philosophical problems of quantum theory. Ball?s book is aimed at readers already
familiar with the idea that particles can be
in two places at once, or that a cat in a box
can be simultaneously alive and dead, or
that our alter-egos exist in parallel worlds.
His aim is to argue that all those statements
are false, or at any rate are misrepresentations of what the equations really mean.
Rather than being in two places at once,
a particle such as a photon may be found in
whichever place you look for it, as experiments have shown. Schr鰀inger?s Cat can
be in quantum limbo only until its atoms
interact with its environment, which happens long before anyone looks inside
the box. As for the ?many worlds? theory
beloved of science fiction aficionados and
cosmologists including Stephen Hawking,
Ball considers it a worse headache than
the one that its inventor, Hugh Everett,
was trying to solve: the issue of ?wave function collapse?.
Beyond Weird is structured as a succession of myths needing to be busted, but the
book is not negative or even especially controversial, instead presenting an excellent
account of modern quantum theory and
the efforts being made to harness its effects.
Among the most newsworthy of these has
been the development of ?quantum computers?, which according to one interpretation would work by running simultaneous
calculations in parallel worlds. Ball throws
doubt on that view, saying instead that
no one can quite decide exactly how they
would work, or indeed whether they would
be any better than a conventional computer, except for performing a few specific tasks. As for quantum teleportation,
achieved so far only for single photons,
Ball says:
When newspaper stories tell you that using
it as a handy means of human travel is ?still
a long way off?, what they mean is that the
fantasy has become confused with the reality.
What all three books illustrate is the
great variety that now exists in popularisations of physics and maths, both in technical level and mode of presentation. What
they share is a sincerely didactic aim. Stupefied wonder is all well and good, but science isn?t a magic show, and each of these
authors is intent on showing exactly how
the tricks are done. Which you might prefer is a matter of how much you?d like to
know, and how much effort you?ll feel willing to put in.
A thing of shreds
and patches
Boyd Tonkin
Frankenstein in Baghdad
by Ahmed Sadaawi, translated from the
Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Oneworld, �.99, pp. 272
On the wall of her tumbledown house
in central Baghdad, an elderly Christian
widow named Elishva has a beloved icon of
St George with his lance raised. She chats
with the saint like an old friend, but wonders why, in the picture, he stays frozen midthrust and why ?he hadn?t killed the dragon
years ago?. As her ravaged city suffers an
interminable ?binge of death and devastation?, Elishva frets that ?everything remained
half-completed?, three years after the AngloAmerican invasion of Iraq in 2003. During
the blood-soaked interregnum, which continues to this day, monsters breed.
Out of this limbo of unfinished business, from a people suspended in agony
between present and past, life and death,
Ahmed Saadawi has wrenched a fable that
puts a cherished Romantic myth to urgent
new use. In 2014, this novel won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (the ?Arabic Booker?). With Baghdad still scourged
by sectarian violence, it now appears
in Jonathan Wright?s salty, pacey translation. In their bicentenary year, Mary
Shelley?s scientist and his creature will take
plenty of contemporary spins. Surely, no
updated journey will be more necessary
than Saadawi?s.
He tells a nightmarish, but horridly hilarious, tale of a vengeful ghoul stitched from
the body parts of victims daily slain by limbshredding suicide bombs in a city that reeks
of ?smoke, the burning of plastic and seat
cushions, the roasting of human flesh?. Our
cut-price Dr Frankenstein is the junk dealer Hadi, who lives next door to Elishva in
a ramshackle ?Jewish ruin?. Saadawi gently
reminds us of the Jews who fled Baghdad,
and the Christians fleeing now ? Elishva?s
scattered family keep in touch via Father
Josiah?s cellphone. ?Decades of disaster? have
hollowed out this city?s soul.
From the dismembered chunks he scavenges, Hadi builds his ?composite of victims?
? called Daniel after the son Elishva lost to
Saddam?s tyranny. Animated by the soul of a
hotel guard killed in an explosion, Daniel (or
?the Whatitsname?) goes on a Schwarzenegger-style rampage. It, or he, pursues rough
justice for Baghdad?s unnumbered corpses, ?seeking to avenge their deaths so they
could rest in peace?. Not without vanity, the
Whatitsname comes to believe that ?I?m the
only justice there is in this country?.
Journalists, such as the harassed
Mahmoud whose misadventures supply a
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
slightly convoluted sub-plot, hype the celebrity terminator. Devotees worship him as
?the face of God on Earth?. The creature runs
out of obvious targets because ?the criminals
and victims were entangled?. Brutal civil war
transplants guilt into innocence ? and vice
versa. Meanwhile, Brigadier Majid and a
hush-hush unit devoted to weird crimes and
?superstitious rumours? (he employs a pair
of squabbling astrologers) struggle to track
down the undead enforcer.
Sinister, satirical, ferociously comic but
oddly moving, Frankenstein in Baghdad is
a bit of a patchwork creature in itself. Its
twin limbs of grotesque fantasy and grainy
realism don?t always march in sync. Yet the
myth holds firm, and the metaphors strike
hard. The Whatsitsname becomes an image
of ?whatever lurked in people?s heads, fed
by fear and despair?. British and American readers, whose politicians helped
hatch Iraq?s latest monster, will find its
face in here.
In vino veritas
Henry Jeffreys
The Wandering Vine:
Wine, the Romans and Me
by Nina Caplan
Bloomsbury Continuum, �.99, pp. 333
Taste has a well-noted ability to evoke
memory, so it is curious how infrequently most wine writers mine their pasts for
inspiration. You wouldn?t think that some
had ever fallen in love, read a novel or
even got drunk. Instead they obsess over
scores, sulphur and diurnal temperature
variation. Thank heavens for Nina Caplan,
who brings a bit of hinterland to this often
dry subject in her weekly New Statesman
column.
Characteristically, The Wandering
Vine, her first book, is about much more
than wine. It?s a heady blend of travel, literature, memoir, history and what I can
only describe as psychogeography, though
don?t let that put you off. The publishers
have given the book a whimsical cover,
which is misleading, because this is not a
lightweight read. Caplan has set herself a
daunting task, to examine identity, belonging, the legacy of the Romans, the expulsion of Jews from Europe and her own
family through the prism of wine.
She is a member of those two great
wandering tribes, the Jews and the Australians, and she uses the vine, carried around
the world by the Romans, as a metaphor
for immigration and rootedness. Wine is
central to her life, something she inherited
from her late father.
In the course of her travels, Caplan
opens various bottles of wine her father
left her, some wonderful, some not so,
35
GETTY IMAGES/ FROM THE AMPHITEATRE HOUSE, MERIDA, EXTREMADURA, SPAIN
BOOKS & ARTS
again France is not a safe home
for the Jews. Instead she retreats
into abstraction: ?I wonder aloud
what the difference is between the
frequently toxic nostalgia of retrograde nationalism and the purifying movement towards more
natural winemaking.? Surely a
perfect moment for Paul Whitehouse to pop up and say: ?Anyone
fancy a pint??
There?s so much thought here
that at times Caplan could have
done with an interlocutor (or
a good editor) to bring out her
points and tame her penchant for
abstraction. A lot of arguments
are left hanging in the air. It?s a
shame, because when she does
think more empirically, the book
comes to life. A meeting with Beltran Domecq, who speaks like an
Englishman despite being born
into an originally French family
in Jerez, makes her point about
immigration and rootedness far
more eloquently than pages of
theorising. She writes beautifully
about wine; one she describes as
a ?blackberry and granite viennoiserie? which is about the best
A Roman mosaic showing the crushing of grapes ?
description of a cool climate syrah
but we don?t know what the wine tasted like
I?ve read. And when she returns
to her own family, that?s when the
but all of them enable her, despite being writing catches fire.
an atheist, to commune with him. These
The Wandering Vine has a depth and soul
intensely personal moments are by far the lacking in most wine books. If Caplan occastrongest parts of the book.
sionally overreaches herself, then that is,
Her wanderings begin in England and I suppose, a tribute to her ambition. The
take her to France, Spain and Italy; she route is sometimes rocky and the destinameets winemakers and looks for evidence tion not always clear, but Caplan is never less
of the Roman occupation and a lost Jewish than a thoroughly engaging guide.
Europe before the expulsions in the middle
ages. It struck me quite early on that wine is
not the easiest way to get in touch with the
Roman past. Their legacy is all around us, in
our languages, laws and most strikingly in
the great engineering feats like the arena at
N頼es. We can read Tacitus and he speaks Bookworm: A Memoir of
to us across the epochs, but wine, so good at Childhood Reading
evoking memory, is useless here because we by Lucy Mangan
don?t know what grapes the Romans would Square Peg, �.99, pp. 321
have planted or what their wine would have
tasted like. This leads to clunky moments in After three hot-water-bottle-warmed
which Caplan tries to link present day viti- evenings of highly satisfying bedtime readculture to the ancient past. One winemaker, ing, I can confirm that, even in a world
frustrated with Caplan?s musing about the where Francis Spufford?s superb The Child
Romans, says: ?We don?t know about them that Books Built exists, we need this new
memoir by Lucy Mangan, about her child? those traditions were lost!?
Europe?s tumultuous present is the hood of being a bookworm. It?s enchanting.
Where Spufford mined the depths of
backdrop to her travels, but beyond mentions of Catalan nationalism Caplan never his childhood anguish in his urge to get to
makes anything explicit. This gives the book the bottom of his pre-adolescent craving
an appealing timelessness and, let?s face it, for escape into ?the Forest?, ?the Island?,
who wants to read another rant about Brex- ?the Town? and ?the Hole? (as he named the
it? But it also seems perverse that Caplan four varieties of childhood fantasy), Mancan wander about France saddened by his- gan just grabs us by both hands and takes us
toric anti-Semitism without noting how once for a whirlwind romp through her antisocial
Yet more ponies for Jean
Ysenda Maxtone Graham
36
childhood in a happy family home in Catford ? where, if anyone was looking for
her, she was probably to be found exactly where she had been eight hours before.
?I didn?t need parenting,? she writes, ?just
feeding and rotating every few hours on
the sofa to avoid pressure sores.? Banned
from reading books at the breakfast
table, she just read and re-read the cornflakes packet.
I?ve heard it said of certain people that
their energy would be enough to power
the National Grid. The comic energy in
this book is of that sort. It?s a force. Clearly, Mangan?s physical energy as a child was
severely lacking. All she wanted to do was
not talk to anyone and devour the complete
series of whichever book she was currently
reading, be it The Famous Five or MillyMolly-Mandy. Going to school was a terrible
shock: up till then, as she writes, ?you?ve just
been a soft, larval mass of love for books and
reading. Now, through repeated exposure to
Other People, you begin to acquire a carapace that will both protect you and alienate
you from them.?
Perhaps some kind of energy transfer
has happened, and she?s managed to harness those two decades of unspent physical
energy and unleash it in comic energy form.
The vigour of her prose forces us to take
notice, to be fascinated by her parents and
by her non-reading, fresh-air-loving younger sister, and to enter briefly but deeply into
the world of every book she enthuses about
? even A Pony for Jean, Another Pony for
Jean, More Ponies for Jean, and Jill?s Gymkhana, books that Mangan dubs ?bran-mashbased adventures?. ?Being a bookworm does
not mean being a good reader,? she stresses.
She had a total craze for Enid Blyton, blind
to the literary flaws of an author who in
one year churned out 37 books. Blyton, she
writes, ?was a great de-baffler and balm to the
soul? ? and who cares if she only ever used
a handful of adjectives, the main two being
?queer!? and ?rather queer!?
Mangan informs us that her mother
?will die if she ever has an unexpressed
thought?. Her father ?will die if he ever has
an expressed thought?. A Jack Sprat of a
marital situation, but it worked. Her father
was the one who brought books home
for Lucy on Friday evenings: the nourishment she craved, to supplement her mother?s Findus Crispy Pancakes served with
?whaddyawantchipsormash? and gravy.
O t h e r p e o p l e ?s e n t h u s i a s m c a n
become irritating if it goes on for too
long, and this book contains torrents of
the stuff; but Mangan does her enthusing so freshly and unpompously that it?s
fine. She sweeps us up, for example, in her
adoration of Dickon in The Secret Garden (?a proto-sexgod?); so overwhelming
was the effect of that novel on her that she
actually started trying to do some gardening. ?My mother was thrilled. I was doing
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
something.? But she soon gave up, as
everything took far too long to grow.
As well as being a strong liker, Mangan is
also a strong disliker. One of her pet dislikes
was the convention of reading books aloud
in class, each pupil reading in turn: ?murdering books aloud?, she calls it, since no one in
the history of classroom reading-aloud has
ever fallen in love with the book in question. Quite the opposite. She also dislikes
Babar (?honestly, whose first thought when
they pitch up in an unimagined, unexplored
city is to buy a suit of clothes??) and found it
impossible to get through the Ladybird John
Wesley. She doesn?t like introductions: ?Why
would I read about the book when the actual book was there waiting to be read a few
pages on??
A good question, and an example of how
this book puts its finger on things many of
us have thought but not said. So uninhibited
does Mangan become with the unleashing of
her thoughts that she can descend into disarmingly ?modern? usage, such as ?FFS? and
?Sometimes you?ve just gotta take a break
from it all, y?know??
The question is, will her son Alexander
(now aged six) become a bookworm like she
was? The signs are not looking good. Mangan worries for her son?s generation, who
live ?in an age that measures attention spans
in nanoseconds?.
On a wing and a prayer
Lisa Hilton
Secret Pigeon Service: Operation
Colomba, Resistance and the
Struggle to Liberate Europe
by Gordon Corera
Collins, �.99, pp. 326
Operation Columba was one of the most
secretive arms of British Intelligence during the second world war. Between April
1941 and September 1944, its agents made
16,554 drops over an area stretching
from Copenhagen to Bordeaux. Amongst
Columba?s successes was the mapping of
Belgium?s entire coastal defence system,
67 kilometres worth of priceless, minutely detailed information. Columba was the
province of a specially created Secret Service division, M114 (d), which received its
first message from occupied Europe on
10 April 1941. The correspondent ended
his message stoutly: ?I am, and will always
remain, a Frenchman.?
That spirit of defiance, expressed
by an ordinary, anonymous citizen who
risked his life to send his communication, encapsulates the sense of danger,
drama and poignant humility which Gordon Corera brings to his extraordinar-
ily well researched history of Columba?s
operations. The unit?s agents were pigeons,
and in Secret Pigeon Service Corera succeeds admirably in detailing their hitherto
unsung contribution to the Allied victory.
Unlike many other branches of espionage, pigeon intelligence has failed to
attract a glamorous legend. No Fleming
or Le Carr� has immortalised the service
of birds whose homing instinct, so usefully exploited by Columba, remains to
this day scientifically inexplicable. Pigeon
communication has an honourable history: the Baghdad caliphate made use of it
in the 12th century, the Reuters news service began with avian couriers, and the
besieged citizens of Paris employed it during the siege of 1870.
Nonetheless, there remains something
Pooterish about the lowly pigeon, that
whiff of suburban pathos upon which the
comedian Graham Fellowes capitalised
so brilliantly in his spoof 1998 Eurovision entry ?Pigeons in Flight?. Corera?s
attempts to inject jeopardy into his narrative can sometimes result in rather touching hyperbole ? William Osman, one of
the brains behind Columba, possessed an
ambition which ?would drive deep fissures
within the pigeon world?, a world often
?riven by bitter infighting?.
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the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
37
BOOKS & ARTS
group, which is the focus of the book, Leopold Vindictive, in fact requires no such
window-dressing. Led by the Catholic
priest Josef Raskin, the group succeeded
in using pigeons dropped by the RAF in
a mission of pride and subversion which
produced essential information for British
forces, but which ultimately cost three of
them their lives.
A talented artist, Raskin had worked
as an observer during the first world war,
sketching maps of enemy positions. This
skill, and the exquisitely tiny handwriting he had perfected as a missionary in
Shanghai, enabled Leopold Vindictive to
condense pages of intelligence into folded
documents the size of postage stamps, carried in cylinders attached to the pigeons?
legs. Raskin?s intelligence and gift for
improvisation gave the reports their precision, but the courage of the other members of the group, the Debaillie family,
also gleams from the pages. Anne Sebba?s
excellent 2016 study, Les Parisiennes, highlighted the importance of women?s role in
covert resistance; here Corera pays tribute
to Marie and Margaret Debaillie, whose
talent for everyday espionage proved
essential to Vindictive?s success.
Pigeon communications had a 12 per
cent success rate, which despite MI6?s sniffy attitude to ?the Columba racket? was no
worse than many other methods. One of
the surprises of this book is its revelation
of how haphazard, not to say shambolic,
were the intelligence services? preparations in the run-up to the war. The sheer
speed of the Nazi Blitzkrieg across the
Low Countries found them hopelessly
unprepared; MI6 in Brussels hurled their
teleprinter out of the window to prevent
documents falling into enemy hands, while
agents took turns to guard a bonfire of
intelligence with the single office Luger.
In comparison with the average period of
return for an agent report at the mid-point
of the war of four months (by which time
information was frequently superannuated), pigeons were fast ? Columba could
turn round a drop in just 36 hours.
Columba?s success provoked surreal existential questions at the end of the
war. The Parliamentary sub-committee
on pigeons was wound up in 1950, but not
before a vigorous debate as to whether
pigeons ought to be awarded medals, like
guard dogs. Since pigeons were following
instinct, the Air Ministry suggested, could
they be considered brave? Their champions countered that pigeons could choose
to overcome risk and that therefore
their ?voluntary determination? was worthy of decoration.
Inevitably, there is a risk of bathos in
recounting Columba?s history, and Corera does not always avoid it. Yet his meticulous unravelling of the workings of the
secret pigeon service makes his book a
38
significant, if idiosyncratic, contribution to
military history. And at its heart is an element which grander accounts of the war
often overlook. Groups like Leopold Vindictive represented the silent thousands
whose small acts of resistance, at the risk
of their own lives, contributed immeasurably to victory. Whatever the status of
the pigeons? instinct, that urge to return
home, and the human hope it represented, takes on a peculiar resonance when
measured against the enormity of the Nazi
war machine.
Crime
Unusual motives
for murder
Jeff Noon
Donald E. Westlake wrote crime books
that were funny, light and intricate. Help
I Am Being Held Prisoner (Hard Case
Crime, �99) was first published in 1974.
The protagonist is Harold K黱t. (That
umlaut, as you can imagine, is very, very
important.) In reaction against his name,
he?s become a serial prankster. After one
of his jokes goes badly wrong, he ends up
in prison. Here he falls in with the Tunnel
Gang, a group of inmates who use a secret
tunnel to escape into the nearby town. But
they only go there for a few hours at a time
before returning to prison to serve out
their sentences.
K黱t strolls around town, chats to
locals, even falls in love, and then heads
back to his cell. It?s a perfect life. But then
the gang decides to rob the nearby bank
and K黱t is embroiled in the crazy scheme.
Westlake piles on the jokes, but there?s a
serious heart to the story: a hapless and
essentially innocent man, forced to play a
double-bluff game, holding both his fellow
prisoners and the authorities at bay. The
brilliant Hard Case Crime imprint specialises in new books written in the noir tradition, as well as tracking down lost classics.
This is a fine example of the latter.
William Boyle?s Gravesend (No Exit,
�99) is a tale of revenge. Ray Boy Calabrese is released from prison 16 years after
his actions led to the death of a young man.
Conway d?Innocenzio is the victim?s brother. Driven by desires he can barely contain,
Conway stalks Ray Boy and threatens him,
but is shocked when Ray Boy asks to be
killed: he?s suffering from too much guilt
to carry on with life. A pitiful game ensues,
against a villain desperate to be murdered,
and a potential avenger who can?t quite
bring himself to do the act.
Dismal and poetic by turns, the book
peels back the skin of Brooklyn, a place
offering little hope of escape. Stories inter-
mingle at crooked angles, never quite leading to the expected conclusions. It?s a bold
approach, lovingly written. Perhaps the
best character is Allessandra, a down-atheel actress who?s returned to her home
town after failing to make it big in Los
Angeles. Her broken dreams infect the
plot between the two men in a very interesting way. I found the ending too despairing by far, but others might well revel in
this depiction of life at its grimmest.
Penguin have been publishing new
translations of Georges Simenon?s Maigret novels for a few years now, and the latest, by Howard Curtis, is Maigret?s Travels
(Penguin, �99). Millionaire David Ward is
found dead in his bath in a swanky hotel.
Only a few hours earlier, in the same hotel,
a countess has attempted suicide. Are the
two incidents connected? Maigret follows a
dogged path, from Paris to Nice to Geneva,
out of touch with the international jetsetters
and the film stars he?s forced to mingle with.
He has to learn a new set of rules about
privilege and the expectations of class, and
how these different values can lead to unusual motives for murder.
The Maigret novels are stories of
everyday dread. Love is seen as an
unequal exchange between business partners, where ex-husbands and wives vie
for the spoils left behind by the dead.
Simenon writes dispassionately about passion, using Maigret?s eyes as a camera; yet
his dour view of life is offset by glimpses of
human kindness. These books are ideal for
a train journey, as long as you don?t mind
seeing your fellow passengers through the
author?s lens: everybody?s out for what
they can get; everybody?s a slave to hidden desires.
Simone Buchholz?s Blue Night (Orenda, �99) introduces Chastity Riley, a former state prosecutor in Hamburg, recently
demoted to a witness protection officer.
She?s assigned the case of an anonymous
man attacked in the street and now under
police guard at the hospital. Riley gains
the confidence of her charge and finds
out that he?s involved in some way with a
new drug called krok, a deadly concoction
that?s killing young people. Riley travels to
Leipzig, following the drug trial.
Blue Night has a unique style: fragmented, flitting from subject to subject.
It flirts with the avant-garde. Riley lives
life to the full, boozing and balling, but
something is missing; this gives the book
a yearning quality amid the hangovers and
the tangled sheets. I don?t know how long
it took to write, but it?s feels as though it
was dashed off in a few days. That?s a good
thing: witty, overly cynical in places, yet
always shot through with a love of the city
and its denizens. This is a punk rock album
translated into a hard-bitten tale of low life
scum and a lone officer. Fierce enough to
stab the heart.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
In Byron?s Wake: The Turbulent
Lives of Lord Byron?s Wife and
Daughter: Annabella Milbanke
& Ada Lovelace
by Miranda Seymour
Simon & Schuster, �, pp. 547
It?s more than 160 years since the death
of the computer pioneer Ada Lovelace,
Charles Babbage?s ?enchantress of numbers? and self-proclaimed ?bride of science?.
Not the least of Lovelace?s fascination is
the way in which her reputation and the
claims for her significance have fluctuated
so wildly during that time.
She?s been hailed for her understanding of the potential of Babbage?s unbuilt
Analytical Engine and for her far-reaching vision of the role of the technology of
the future. This has unfortunately led to
her being credited with everything from
the invention of the CD to the foundation of Silicon Valley. Alan Turing, no less,
called one of his basic principles after her
? ?Lady Lovelace?s Objection? ? deriving from her crucial insight that artificial
intelligence cannot originate anything.
In the late 20th century, the US Department of Defense named a programming
language in her memory, while one of
Tom Stoppard?s most engaging creations,
Thomasina, in his play Arcadia, an illfated, mathematical prodigy, was apparently inspired by her.
At the other end of the scale, Ada?s
mathematical skills have been widely denigrated. She?s been dismissed as a charlatan
and for being as mad as a hatter. She?s also
been resurrected as a character in ITV?s
execrable drama series Victoria.
Recently, a small group of Oxford
mathematicians and historians of mathematics analysed Lovelace?s surviving
papers, specifically the correspondence
course she took with one of the leading
mathematicians of the 1840s, Augustus de
Morgan. They reached the conclusion that
while Lovelace showed plenty of potential
as a mathematician, her true strength lay in
her extraordinary capacity to take on large,
over-arching ideas and interpret them not
only boldly but imaginatively. Among her
many mercurial talents, Lovelace possessed the gift of what she described as
?the combining faculty?, the ability to see
points in common ?between subjects having no apparent connexion, & hence seldom or never brought into juxtaposition?.
Miranda Seymour agrees that it is not
Ada Lovelace?s skills as a mathematician
that matter, but rather her visionary words,
100 years before the birth of electronic
self to good works to stave
off the imputations of incest,
sodomy and infidelity that
surrounded her husband?s
name. Seymour has mined
the Lovelace-Byron papers
in the Bodleian extensively,
though so much has been
destroyed that still she peers
through a glass darkly.
Nevertheless, she has
made some interesting discoveries. She paints a dark
portrait of Ada?s disintegrating marriage to William
Lovelace, evidently hoping
we?ll be alert to the Byron
DNA in Ada?s remark to her
husband that ?I want my cock
at night to keep me warm?.
She tells the incredible story
of Ada?s repeated pawning
of the Lovelace diamonds to
finance her gambling debts,
which would give Trollope?s
Lizzie Eustace a run for her
money. And she writes well
and innovatively about Ada?s
examination in her final
years, before her death at 36,
of the way in which raindrops
refract sunlight.
The problem is that Ada is
such a beguiling personality
that one grows to resent the
way Lady Byron?s self-righteous benevolence keeps cutting across the pages. There?s
a sense too in which Seymour?s book, clogged with domestic minutiae, presents an outdated model for the
consideration of such an important female
scientific figure. Florence Nightingale,
another woman whose work was underpinned by an adolescent study of maths,
is mentioned, but only as a family friend
(it?s disorientating to be told that Nightingale?s wartime hospital at Scutari was in the
Crimea rather than Turkey). Nightingale?s
maths was more utilitarian and less abstract
than Lovelace?s, but there are some significant links: an early interest in optics and a
connection to Mary Somerville, while William Farr, Nightingale?s long-time collaborator in statistics, praised Lovelace 20 years
after her death for her ?surprising knowledge of analysis?.
What Seymour?s book lacks most of all
is more of a cultural context in which to
place Ada Lovelace. Yes, her interest in the
imagination may stem from her existence
?in Byron?s wake?. But what about Coleridge?s theories of the imagination in his
Biographia Literaria? She must have read
them. At the end of this book, I longed to
release Ada Lovelace from her father?s
shadow and to unknot her from her mother?s apron strings.
GETTY IMAGES
Princesses of
Parallelograms
Mark Bostridge
Portrait of Ada, aged 20
computers, about ?a new, a vast and a powerful language?. In her ambitious, and at
times somewhat ungainly, dual biography
of Ada and her mother Lady Byron, the
power of Lovelace?s imagination and her
Annabella devoted herself to good
works to stave off rumours of incest and
sodomy surrounding Byron?s name
belief in a ?poetry of mathematics? is seen
as a direct inheritance from Ada?s father
Lord Byron.
Born in 1815, while Byron was downstairs in their Piccadilly home knocking
tops off soda bottles with a poker ? misinterpreted by the rest of the household as
the sound of gunshots ? Ada was Byron?s
only legitimate offspring, the ?sole daughter of my house?, as he apostrophised her in
Childe Harold. Brought up in the custody
of her mother Annabella, the young Ada?s
interest in maths was encouraged partly to
ensure that she didn?t turn out to be a poet
like her father.
Seymour?s book is essentially a study
of two reputations, the mother?s as well
as the daughter?s. Annabella devoted her-
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
39
BOOKS & ARTS
PHOTO BY PHILIP ROCK/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES
Discomfort and joy: the director Ruben Ostlund, whose films are funny but subtly savage
ARTS
Wild at heart
Ruben Ostlund?s films scrape away the veneer of liberal civility to
reveal our true animal nature. Jasper Rees meets him
T
here is a culty YouTube video shot
three years ago on the laptop camera
of Ruben Ostlund. It shows the film
director listening live as the nominations for
the Academy Awards are announced from
Los Angeles. The tension mounts as they
approach the foreign film category. Alas,
Force Majeure from Sweden isn?t nominated. Ostlund disappears off screen to sob and
mewl. This year, there was a sequel to the
video, but with a happier ending: the director?s latest film The Square was nominated
for an Oscar.
These mini-movies, like the rest of Ostlund?s oeuvre, are funny but subtly savage.
He is a provocateur who trades in discomfort. You watch with your toes knotted.
In Play (2011) a group of black teenagers
inflict psychological torment on two white
40
kids and (to complicate things) an Asian.
In Force Majeure (2014) a man on a skiing holiday flees an avalanche, shamefully
abandoning his family and earning the vituperation of his wife. And now there?s The
Square. It tells of Christian, the tall, dapper and handsome Danish director of a
museum of contemporary art in Stockholm
(played by Claes Bang), who helps thwart
a mugging, only to discover that he?s been
pickpocketed. His quest to retrieve his
mobile phone, which lures him into a world
of migrants and beggars, strips away his
self-image of liberal civility.
The Square did not win in Los Angeles a
fortnight ago, but it is well worth catching.
The title alludes to an art work that issues
a challenge to gallery-goers and, by implication, the film?s audience. Anyone stand-
ing within its perimeter enters into a social
contract to interact with whoever else they
find there.
?I compare it to a pedestrian crossing,?
says Ostlund. ?It?s a new way of trying to
remind us all of certain humanistic values.?
Put like that it sounds wearyingly worthy.
The film is anything but. A rib-jabbing satire on western decency, its first germ was an
unsuccessful bank robbery that took place
in Sweden in 2006. Ostlund was fascinated
by the prevalence of the so-called bystander
effect, which inhibits onlookers from reacting to such scenarios if others are present:
no one intervened, even to help children in
the path of danger. He reconstructed it in an
11-minute one-take film called Incident by
a Bank which won the short film award at
the Berlinale in 2010 and can be viewed on
Amazon Prime.
?When you read the court files, the
bystander effect was super-strong. People
didn?t interact even though they were very
close. Then my father told this story about
how when he was six he got his address tag
tied round his neck and they sent him out to
play. So the attitude changed. At the same
time criminality had actually decreased in
Swedish society. It was our paranoia that
had increased.?
The Square opens with a journalist
(played by Elisabeth Moss) challenging
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
A scene from The Square
Christian in an interview to defend some
art gobbledygook found on the museum?s
website. Ostlund lifted the execrable text
from an email sent by a fine art professor at
the University of Gothenburg, where Ostlund also teaches. ?I thought it was hilarious. I have still not asked for permission. It?s
pointing out a certain kind of art movement
that Goldsmiths was quite responsible for.
It?s like a wet blanket over students at art
schools. It?s taking away so much energy.?
Much of the art discreetly parodies the stylised debris one encounters in such museums.
And a puffed-up artist called Julian, played
by Dominic West, is specifically modelled on
Julian Schnabel.
Christian later sleeps with the journalist
? the sex is shot from frank, participatory
angles ? and, in an excruciating scene,
refuses to let her dispose of his condom out
of an inchoate fear that she will steal his
sperm. Like much in the film this incident
was lifted from actual experience, not Ostlund?s own but a friend?s ? although he
admits that Christian, who practises spontaneity in the mirror, is partly a challenging
self-portrait. (They both have floppy hair.)
The burglary sting that opens the film
was based on a scenario in which Ostlund
was dragged into defending a woman under
threat from a man in the street. Like Christian, he enjoyed an intense burst of adrena-
line. ?I was feeling really really proud. Then I
went to my office and saw this man sitting on
the bench crying and the woman was trying
to comfort him. It was something so much
more complex.?
In order to promote the concept of the
square, the museum hires a pair of fatuous
publicists who recommend an attentionseeking video in which a blonde child is
blown up. A YouTube sensation becomes
that weird marketing oxymoron, a disastrous
success. ?The provocation is aiming to show
Human nature is conditioned by
unconscious impulses that go far
deeper than learned social rubric
how the media is falling straight into the trap
of people doing cynical things. The absurdity
that we have a humanistic art piece that we
are promoting by doing a completely cynical
video.? Ostlund stopped short of having the
words ?allahu akbar? accompany the explosion. ?I don?t want to give oxygen to a certain
kind of conflict.?
The message of Ostlund?s films is that
human nature is conditioned by unconscious impulses ? tribal, territorial, primordial ? that go far deeper than learned
social rubrics. This is most overt in the
scene featured on the poster advertising
the film, which shows a man stripped to
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
the waist moving among swankily dressed
museum donors at a gala dinner. He is a
performance artist called Oleg who imitates primate behaviour (played by Terry
Notary, who has monkey credits in Kong:
Skull Island and the Planet of the Apes
films). Having driven off the alpha male
played by Dominic West, he embarks on a
rape before the men in black tie ferociously restrain him.
?I wanted this fancy audience to have to
deal with him,? says Ostlund. ?Terry was so
good that when he came out after a screening in Austin at the Fantastic Fest the audience was really really scared. A pregnant
woman told the media that she didn?t trust
the festival to take care of her security.?
This is who we really are, Ostlund?s films
say ? Moss?s character even keeps a pet
chimp. In Force Majeure the protagonist?s
personality crumples when he realises he?s
simply not who he believes he is. Christian?s odyssey is a little less traumatic, and
he is no less comic than anyone else in a
film that targets society rather than individuals.
?I think all the characters are more or less
making a fool of themselves,? says Ostlund.
?We have to dare to look at ourselves and
see how ridiculous we sometimes are.?
The Square is in cinemas now.
41
BOOKS & ARTS
� ERIC FISCHL. COURTESY OF SKARSTEDT
?The Appearance?, 2018, by Eric Fischl
Exhibitions
Being and nothingness
Martin Gayford
Ren� Magritte was fond of jokes. There are
several in Ren� Magritte (Or: The Rule of
Metaphor), a small but choice exhibition at
Luxembourg & Dayan, 2 Savile Row W1
(until 12 May), that includes numerous variations, accomplished and disturbing, on similar ideas to his famous ?Ceci n?est pas une
pipe? painting.
?L?usage de la parole VI? (1928) contains
two amorphous brown patches resembling
mud or merde or molten chocolate. They
are labelled as if in a scientific diagram,
one with the word ?miroir?, the other ?corps
de femme?. It?s true that Magritte could be
repetitive, but his early paintings are beautiful, and the humour had a serious point. We
make a cosy world with words and signs, he
seems to say, but beyond those is meaninglessness: the void. On one side of ?Le genre
nocturne? (1928) there is a naked woman, on
42
the other an egg-shaped hole, as if punched
through frescoed plaster, revealing a blank
cracked wall.
A few strokes of pigment on canvas can
stand for anything ? mirror, human being,
pipe. That?s one reason why painting continues to hold its own almost two centuries
after the advent of its great rival, photography, in 1839.
Of course, the two have an intimate relationship, as is demonstrated by an exhibition at Skarstedt, 8 Bennet Street SW1 (until
26 May), of new paintings by the American
artist Eric Fischl, who turned 70 last week.
Fischl is one of the leading living representatives of a tradition that is often dubbed
?American realism? but would more accurately be termed ?American anxiety?. He has
named Edward Hopper as an exemplar ?
the kind of artist he is trying to be ? and
there is certainly an affinity between the two.
Hopper depicted mundane places and
people ? petrol pumps, cinemas, bars ? but
somehow always injected a mood of strangeness and unease. Similarly, Fischl depicts
scenes from contemporary life across the
Atlantic, comfortable and affluent but shot
through with ambiguous emotional tension.
They are derived from photographs,
which he fits together to create a moment of
drama. Unlike old-fashioned narrative paintings, which told familiar stories from classical
mythology or the Bible, Fischl?s present an
instant from a story we don?t know (and perhaps the artist doesn?t either).
In a typical canvas, as grand in scale as
any 19th-century salon drama, four bathers
gather beside a pool ? a favourite location
for Fischl?s works. One of them, a balding middle-aged man, seems to be eyeing a
younger women as she prepares to swim. An
older woman, his wife perhaps, looks on.
It?s like a still from a movie, but what
happens next we will never know. In a sense
Fischl?s paintings are painted photo-collages, but what gives them force, again like
Hopper?s, is the way the paint is put on: the
juicy strokes, for example, that make up the
man?s bald pate. It comes down to that mysterious factor, the painter?s touch.
Lorna Simpson is an artist best known
for political works that combine photogra-
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
phy and texts. The first part of her new show
at Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row W1 (until
28 April), consists of photo-collages in which
she splices together images, often culled
from ancient copies of magazines such as
Ebony and Jet which were aimed at African
American readers.
Simpson creates a frisson by intercutting
these dated magazine illustrations with the
surreally unexpected: a woman admires her
elaborate beehive hairdo in a looking-glass
while a mound of ice crystals forms on the
floor at her feet. The exhibition includes
sculpture and some large paintings, also
based on photographic sources ? icebergs
and apocalyptic cloudscapes in one striking series. Over this Arctic scenery Simpson
has floated washes of acrylic in the way that
Robert Rauschenberg used to pour dripping
pigment over the imagery of his pictures.
It works. These exhibits have energy and
visual oomph. Another demonstration of the
power of paint.
Television
The beautiful and the
damned
James Delingpole
Babylon Berlin (Sky Atlantic), the epic
German-made Euro noir detective drama
set during Weimar, is so addictively brilliant
that I?d almost advise you not to start watching it. After the two seasons to date you?ll
be left feeling like the morphine-addicted
hero Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) when
deprived of his fix.
That?s because they haven?t even started making season three yet, so you?ll have
an excruciatingly long wait to see what
becomes of its cast of immensely captivating characters: Bruno Wolter (Peter Kurth),
Rath?s corrupt, lying, whoring but affable
sidekick; the treacherous White Russian
Countess (Severija Janusauskaite), who
dresses as a man for her floor-filling cabaret act; Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), the
gorgeous flapper and occasional tart from
the slums whose hopeless ambition it is to
join the murder squad of the Berlin police;
the Armenian gangster; Benda, the elegant,
principled Jewish police chief; the sweet,
Tintin-like student with the deaf parents.
Some of these characters, I should
warn you, may not survive that far. Volker
Kutscher, who wrote the novels on which
the series is based, has a similar disregard
for the sanctity of his characters? lives as
Thrones?s George R.R. Martin. Many is
the episode that will end with you casting
an appalled and shell-shocked look at your
viewing partner: ?Nooo! How could they
possibly have done that?? This is especially true of the second season, which is even
more thrilling and dramatic than the first.
So far it has cost ?40 million, making it
easily the most expensive drama in German
TV history. A lot of that has gone into recreating late 1920s Berlin: labyrinthine industrial buildings with rusting machinery, which
presumably created materiel for the recent
disastrous war; vast open squares of bustling
citizenry viewed from above betokening a
Metropolis-style future; raucous, down-anddirty Bierkellers redolent of Kurt Weill; and,
best of all, the sumptuously decadent Moka
Efti nightclub with the vast marine fish
tanks in its immaculate art deco dining area,
and the breast-baring whores lurking below
stairs in their dungeon-like boudoirs, and
the dancefloor where everyone loses themselves in the wild abandon of young people
who seem almost to have intuited that this
entire world is about to vanish. As, indeed, it
will have done within 15 years. There is nothing physically left of Weimar Berlin, so this
series is about as close as any of us will get
to seeing and experiencing its hallucinogenic sights and sounds. (The music, featuring
Bryan Ferry, is a joy.)
And what a period in which to set your
drama! Weimar is Germany?s steampunk
? an era so eye-catching and overstylised
and weird you believe almost anything
could happen. You?ve got a government not
unlike Theresa May?s, cautious, feeble, cen-
Set aside 16 hours of your life now,
and binge-watch this masterpiece
trist, hopelessly inadequate to solving all the
problems ? wild income disparities, massive resentment, extremist factions, meddling foreign powers (the Russians, again)
? conspiring to blow up at any moment.
On the one hand there are the communists, on the other the stabbed-in-the-back
war veterans yearning to recreate German
greatness by whatever means, be it via the
Freikorps, perhaps restoring the Kaiser,
or this new up-and-coming outfit with the
swastika armbands.
Sensibly, the series doesn?t seek to judge
that era through modern eyes. The Nazis are
obviously thugs but really no worse than the
communists. Both the poverty and the licentiousness are observed with clinical detachment ? they are there because that?s how
it was rather than to shock us or tug at our
heart-strings. Women are constrained as
women were. The only black characters are
visiting US jazz musicians. Everyone, from
the leads down, is in some way flawed, compromised, disappointing.
The plot, which revolves round missing
Imperial Russian gold, is abundant with satisfying twists and turns. Sometimes ? the
flight over Russia, for example; the final train
sequence ? the action is so over-the-top that
it borders on the Bulldog Drummond. But
even at its most preposterous you never lose
faith because the characters are so real and
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
exquisitely played, and because its recreation
of the period is so lovingly, nay obsessively,
realised ? from the fancy, door-free lifts in
the police HQ to the interior of the Junkers
on that hair-raising flight.
Set aside 16 hours of your life now, and
binge-watch this masterpiece. Then write me
a nice thank-you letter.
Opera
What?s in a name
Alexandra Coghlan
From the House of the Dead
Royal Opera House, in rep until 24 March
A Midsummer Night?s Dream
Royal College of Music
Janacek is the master of the operatic title.
Think of the slippery, sleight-of-hand
emphasis of Jenufa in its original Czech ?
Her Stepdaughter ? or the elegant misdirection of The Beginning of a Romance. It
encourages the suspicion that when Janacek
christened his final opera, deliberately truncating the title of Dostoyevsky?s Siberian
prison camp-inspired novel Notes From the
House of the Dead, there was good reason.
It?s a title that opens out a description
into an implied question: From the House of
the Dead to, where or what exactly? Where
can you go, who can you cry out to, once you
have crossed over into the underworld and
witnessed its horrors?
Where indeed. In this new production
by Krzysztof Warlikowksi ? the first ever,
unaccountably, in the Royal Opera House?s
history ? the answer remains frustratingly
unclear. There?s evidence of conflict and confusion throughout; the lavish scope and scale
of Malgorzata Szczesniak?s contemporary
designs contradicts the grotty, insistent smallness and ugliness of the human detail within.
The expansive, poetic symbol of the wounded eagle, tormented at first, then healed and
freed by the prisoners, is here rendered quite
literally earth-bound, transformed into a
man viciously attacked by his fellow inmates.
But a final scene, in which violent abuser
Nikita presides, Christ-like, over the Eagle?s
first tottering steps from his wheelchair, sees
realism curdle into sentimentality, dramatic
prose into second-rate visual poetry. Resurrection or eternal damnation ? Warlikowski
cannot seem to decide.
Janacek?s interest is with the individuals trapped within the prison system, the
stories that make the man ? not for nothing does this almost plotless opera spend
so much of its time in reminiscence, as each
inmate narrates the events leading up to
his incarceration. Warlikowski?s interest,
on the other hand, is with the system itself.
Time and again, where the music urges us
43
BOOKS & ARTS
to feel, the director asks us instead to think.
Subtitled video footage of Michel Foucault
? a philosopher crucially more interested
in the idea of prison than in prisons themselves ? shouts silently over the top of
Janacek?s ragingly, potently articulate
score, while documentary-style interviews
with a present-day death row prisoner only
serve to stress the point that damaged men
are, like Tolstoy?s unhappy families, each
damaged very much in their own way.
Yet, piercing cleanly through all the
clamouring stage choreography, its crowded, compulsive, hysterical white noise of
colour and movement, are Mark Wigglesworth and the Royal Opera House Orchestra. They square the circle of a score (heard
here in John Tyrrell?s authoritative new edition) that strives constantly towards beauty
while also beating it back with violent chromaticism ? where the insistent rhythms of a
folk dance are also the unrelenting blows of
the torturer. But the orchestra also becomes
the voice that Janacek?s prisoners, manacled
in music that never quite escapes into song,
cannot express.
It?s hard to imagine a finer cast of singing actors than this ? a musical army of
generals. Stefan Margita is a wild-eyed
Luka, yoked for ever in his punishment to
love-rival Siskov (a blazing Johan Reuter).
Tenor Pascal Charbonneau preserves the
pliant, womanish quality of Aljeja, normally
a britches role, while an incandescent Nicky
This Dream is a decidedly adult affair,
set somewhere between a sex dungeon
and a Weimar cabaret
Spence brings a brute beauty to Nikita.
Stoic and still at the centre of it all is Willard
White?s Gorjancikov ? the political prisoner whose release in the opera?s closing
moments only twists the knife in the wound
of those left behind.
When Lysander speaks of the ?peril of
the Athenian law? in Britten?s A Midsummer Night?s Dream he?s quickly hushed by
all around him, and the action moves on to
happier things. But a speech excised from
the libretto tells us precisely what that peril
is: death. No less than Janacek?s prisoners,
the lovers of Midsummer are seeking escape
from an oppressive regime. The dangers they
face at Theseus? court are real and, unlike
the punishments of Oberon?s enchanted
wood, cannot be undone.
So why do so many directors insist on
denying the opera?s menace, neutering
its subversive sexuality and bleaching its
primary colours into pretty fairytale pastels? Robert Carsen?s production, currently revived at ENO, might be set on a giant
bed, but a cup of cocoa and a bedtime story
is about as far as this PG romp goes. Liam
Steel?s production for the Royal College of
Music, by contrast, is a decidedly adult affair.
Set somewhere between a sex dungeon and
44
a Weimar cabaret, it may succumb to visual clich閟 (corsetry and sequins play rather
too prominent a role), and lacks a coherent
vision for the mechanicals, but in raising its
skirts it also raises the dramatic stakes.
Steel?s dark, mercurial fantasy is
anchored by strong orchestral playing under
conductor Michael Rosewell, and by a really
outstanding cast. There?s not a weak link to
be heard, but woodland laurels are shared
between Timothy Morgan?s rhetorical Oberon, every phrase coaxed into thoughtful
musical shape, Harriet Eyley?s full-blooded
Tytania and Joel Williams?s radiant Lysander, who all give the pros up the road at the
Coliseum a run for their money.
Radio
The lady vanishes
Kate Chisholm
?Close your eyes and be absorbed by the
storytelling,? urged Jon Manel (the new
head of podcasting at BBC World Service)
as we settled into our chairs. We were just
about to hear the ?world premi鑢e? of the
latest podcast from the BBC World Service, launched dramatically in the Radio
Theatre at Broadcasting House in front of
a packed, expectant audience, with full surround sound, every raindrop magnified (and
there was a lot of it). It was odd to realise
quite how far podcasting has already transformed radio. Along with the usual Radio 4
crowd (who were surprisingly enthusiastic
about the chance to hear this latest podcast),
there were hosts of young people, podcast
devotees, not bound by schedules and controller-led programming, who trawl the web
or follow Facebook to find the latest trend.
There?s even a Podcast Brunch Club who
meet in central London ? it?s ?like a book
club? but for audio (other branches meet in
Bristol and Leicester).
Death in Ice Valley, made as a joint production with NRK (Norway?s licence-funded, public-service broadcasting channel),
won?t be broadcast at all via the normal
schedules but can only be listened to as a
podcast. It?s an obvious attempt to capitalise
on the phenomenal success of NPR?s Serial
podcast, which you may remember retraced
in 12 carefully crafted, and slowly released,
episodes a murder from the 1990s in Baltimore, Maryland, and got the whole world, it
seemed, talking about the case. Would the
conviction of Adnan Syed stand up in court
now? Was he really guilty? But Death in Ice
Valley carries this new podcast genre (a true
crime that raises many unsolved questions)
much further, by paying attention not just to
the investigative journalism but also to the
listening experience. This is finely crafted
radio, using sound to create atmosphere and
a sense of place, an immersive encounter.
In the Radio Theatre it began to feel very
cold and wet as we were taken in our imaginations to a lonely hillside above a blackwater lake not far from the Norwegian city
of Bergen in a valley called Isdal. The young
woman?s body was found there in November 1970 by two young girls, badly burnt.
Beside her were two bottles filled with
water, some clothes, a few scraps of burnt
paper and a scorched photograph. Since
then nothing has been discovered about
her identity. All the labels had been taken
off her clothes. Who was the Isdal Woman?
How did she die?
The Norwegian journalist Marit Higraff
has spent the past two years investigating the case, intrigued to understand how
a person can disappear and no one come
to find her. She is now working with the
documentary maker Neil McCarthy for the
BBC to create ten initial episodes, which
will be available weekly to those who sign
Who was the Isdal Woman?
How did she die?
up from 16 April, and may continue for
longer, depending on what may be discovered. NRK hopes that by telling the Isdal
Woman?s story on the World Service, with
its global audience, some answers might be
found. She was buried in a zinc coffin, in
the hope that at some time in the future her
family might come forward and she will be
identified. ?One of the main theories in this
mystery is that the answers lie somewhere
in Europe,? says NRK. As Mary Hockaday,
controller of BBC World Service English,
told us in the Radio Theatre, ?podcasts are
changing the way we all listen and what we
listen to.?
A lot of trouble has been taken to combine in Death in Ice Valley sharp reporting, vivid storytelling and an atmospheric
soundscape. Not all podcasts can be said
to have the same listening appeal, not even
those produced by the BBC, which is rapidly increasing the number and range of
?original? podcasts, produced for access only
online rather than for the traditional switchon-and-be-surprised-by-what-you-hear
broadcast method. The Boring Talks are, I
fear, just that. I was quite intrigued to find
out about wooden pallets. But even at just
12 minutes it felt too long.
More traditionally, Scott Cherry?s
drama series A Small Town Murder
(directed by Clive Brill) is back, with
Meera Syal as family liaison officer Jackie
Hartwell. This is so beautifully paced, the
dialogue believable (as opposed to last
week?s dreadful The Unforgiven, which
was so leaden), and the storyline compelling. You?re taken right there, it?s so direct.
As if the story is being told just to you. In
fact, I?m going to have to stop writing right
now so that I can catch the next episode as
it goes out on air.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
BRINKHOFF M諫ENBURG
Anne-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the National Theatre
Theatre
Seeing stars
Lloyd Evans
The Best Man
Playhouse Theatre, until 26 May
Macbeth
Olivier Theatre, in rep until 23 June
The Best Man by Gore Vidal is set during
a fictional American election in 1960. Two
gifted candidates seek their party?s nomination. Secretary Russell is a chilly but
experienced political hack whose marriage
is a sham. Senator Cantwell, a more attractive character, is an impulsive charmer
married to a blonde bombshell who adores
him. The show feels dated but the acting,
the costumes and the set designs capture
the period nicely. The plot is perhaps short
of pace and density. Each character has
an embarrassing secret to hide. Secretary
Russell suffered a mental breakdown a
few years ago. Senator Cantwell enjoyed
a bisexual fling in the army. The action
turns on their ability to keep these details
hush-hush. These days, of course, each candidate would promote his colourful past
by arranging a confessional interview in
Had Gore Vidal seen this production
he?d have immediately written a
sequel centred on Maureen Lipman
which he ?bravely confronted his demons?.
In all probability, the bisexual guy would
boast of his mental-health problems as
well, just to keep up with his rival.
Director Simon Evans gets top-notch
performances from a starry cast. Martin
Shaw plays Russell as a cold and bombastic
pedant, and there?s a great turn from Jack
Shepherd as a folksy statesman addicted
to whiskey. But don?t expect any insights
into the Trump ascendancy here. The script
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
belongs to a forgotten age when corrupt, philandering politicians strove to appear highminded and morally pure. Trump changed
all that. Private solecisms are now regarded
as public assets and every transgression is
entered in the ledger as a sign of ?authenticity? which is the new form of probity.
The show has one glaring but accidental fault in that Maureen Lipman?s performance throws the evening off balance. She
plays a Washington busybody, Mrs Gamadge, who arrives in Act One to explain to
Senator Russell how to attract the female
vote. The scene is wittily written and Lipman?s performance makes it hilarious. And
it seems to establish her as a key element
in the plot. But she exits after ten minutes and when she reappears in Act Two
she does very little apart from smoking a
cigarette and lounging against a sofa. The
audience is left aching to see more of Mrs
Gamadge and less of everyone else. It?s a
pity. Had Gore Vidal witnessed this production he?d have immediately written a
45
BOOKS & ARTS
popular sequel centred on Maureen Lipman.
Macbeth at the National is dominated
by its grotty rain-thrashed architecture.
Heavy surgery has turned the Olivier into
an apron of blighted tarmac bisected by a
convex ramp that seems to have been borrowed from an NCP car park. The armies
are equipped with machetes and decked
out in disintegrating combat fatigues.
Groups of warriors greet each other with
bursts of orchestrated honking, like packs
of baboons. The civilian characters are
dressed to resemble crack addicts or squatters, apart from Duncan (Stephen Boxer)
who ambles about in a crimson pimp-suit
like a discarded chat-show host.
This red costume turns out, confusingly enough, to be his official regalia. But
then everything is confusing here. Why
are all these grunting crackheads fighting
over an acre of dripping concrete. Where
is the wealth and splendour of this realm?
Why do the Macbeths live in a tiny pillbox
painted banana yellow? How come the
thane of Cawdor is so poor that he has to
secure his stab vest with duct tape? Why is
the banquet scene set in a service-station
caf� with the wine being poured from plastic milk cartons?
These distressing visual details aren?t
just nasty to look at, they undermine the
Rory Kinnear would be ideal casting
as the tetchy manager of an Amazon
warehouse
story. Early on, when Duncan visits the
Macbeths? castle, the evening turns into an
acid-house freakshow with the king joining in the dancing until he crashes out in
a spare room lying on a trolley. What this
leaves unclear is that Duncan has just had
supper with the Macbeths and that their
hospitality is a prelude to murder. But this
is crucial. The narrative proposition of the
first act ? a charming couple invite the
boss to dinner and kill him ? is one of the
simplest and greatest plot lines ever created. Here it?s sabotaged by a bizarre desire
to pay homage to rave culture which, in
any case, is 20 years out of date.
A few good things emerge. Kevin Harvey plays Banquo as an amusingly melancholy Scouser. Banquo?s ghost scene comes
off well. And the soldiers? use of machetes
is apposite.
Rory Kinnear makes an unlikely Macbeth. His voice is dark, rich and characterful but he has few other assets. Physically
he?s suburban: a bit bald, slightly stooping,
with a faint beer gut and a pinched, narrow frame. There?s no trace of poetry, grandeur or mystery about him. But he?d be
ideal casting as the tetchy manager of an
Amazon warehouse. Watching him at the
National, I kept expecting him to tut and
check his clipboard.
46
Live music
Bat squeaks and red
herrings
Richard Bratby
City of Birmingham Symphony
Orchestra/Thomas Ad鑣/Thomas
Trotter
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
BBC Philharmonic/Ben Gernon
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Blue Gadoo is one of those cats whose face
looks like it?s been bashed flat with a wok.
He lives in New York, apparently, and his
bulging eyes goggle out from Gerald Barry?s programme note for his new Organ
Concerto. Check him out: the Guardian
published the full note a day before the
performance, which is only right because a
Gerald Barry world premi鑢e really ought
to be national news. ?I saw a photograph of
him with a book called Sex and the Sacred
in Wagner?s Tristan und Isolde,? explains
Barry. ?By his expression I knew he was
mourning the loss of atonality.?
There?s heaps more like that. Some of
it offers a genuine insight into Barry?s new
concerto ? his boyhood experiences with
a wheezing church harmonium in rural
County Clare, embodied here in a harrumphing harmonium solo; and the way
the chime of the Angelus would silence the
daily routine just as it opens out a sudden,
pregnant gap in the centre of the music.
But there?s plenty that reeks of red herring. Barry just isn?t the sort of composer
to admit that a cadenza for 21 metronomes
embedded in the orchestra is a homage
to Ligeti?s Po鑝e symphonique, though
he probably would concede that he takes
a goofy, childish delight in starting a scale
at the bottom of the double basses, then
running it up through the orchestra to the
piccolo, where the organ tops it off at batsqueak frequency.
You either love this stuff, or find it intolerably arch. ?Gerald Barry hates music!?
declared a colleague of mine once. Personally I suspect that Barry?s achievement ?
harder won than he?d let you think ? is to
love music at a more instinctive level than
many of us can really credit. The faux-innocence is often beguiling ? think of the duet
for crash cymbals. And who else would
make a timpanist play a full diatonic scale
on instruments that are designed to produce no more than one pitch at a time? If
you?re wondering about the organ, meanwhile, the concerto opens with a series
of brusque, knotted exchanges for organ
and brass which eventually swell into a
huge agglomeration of sound that hangs,
wobbling, above the audience. After that,
Barry simply finds more interesting things
to do. The organist Thomas Trotter handled it all with poker-faced aplomb, as far
as one could tell when he was sitting with
his back to the audience, two storeys above
the orchestra. The whole thing ended with
a muddy, trumpet-topped chorale, which
Barry says is a hymn called ?Humiliated
and Insulted?. But then, he would.
Thomas Ad鑣, who conducted, is a friend
of Barry?s, and together with Britten?s Sinfonia da Requiem and Stravinsky?s Symphony in Three Movements the programme
added up to a more meaningful commentary on Ad鑣?s own Polaris (2010) than his
actual words. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra responded with flashing
brilliance, and with brass choirs placed high
around Symphony Hall Polaris resembled
a vast, free-floating fanfare gradually coming to rest amid a crystal forest of brilliant
orchestral sonorities. Even in these ideal
conditions, however, you couldn?t avoid the
suspicion ? never the case with Barry ?
that Ad鑣 had made the mistake (first identified by Elgar) of using the orchestra, that
?mighty engine?, at full power for too long
and with too little respite.
The same goes for Anna Clyne?s This
Midnight Hour, which received its UK
premi鑢e from the BBC Philharmonic in
Manchester. Clyne is hugely listenable: her
2012 symphonic poem Night Ferry is a sort
of maxi-minimalist reimagining of a Bax
You either love this stuff, or find it
intolerably arch
seascape, with a deep, churning undercurrent of romantic angst. In This Midnight
Hour she cites an image from the Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez: music as ?a
naked woman, running mad through the
pure night?, and she begins in the same
black-toned sonic vortex that launches
Night Ferry before opening out into a rich
lyrical melody that had the string players
swaying. Everything about the piece ?
its oil-paint orchestration, its symphonic
drive and its hyperreal sincerity ? seemed
to point towards a tonal peroration. But
Clyne is far too much of a pro for that, and
it fizzled out in a pallid duet for two trumpets, placed to no great effect at either side
of the stage.
Certainly, Clyne?s ending paled beside
the sheer emotional effrontery of Mahler?s
First Symphony, which closed the concert.
I?ve followed the conductor Ben Gernon
since he was a teenager, so I was predisposed to enjoy his Mahler, and these are
observations rather than judgments. First,
it?s unusual to hear an orchestra with the
BBC Phil?s reputation for machine-tooled
precision run so exuberantly off the leash.
Second: this is young man?s music, and I
suspect this was just how Mahler imagined
it ? wide-eyed and glowing, with bits of
leaf and twig tangled in its hair.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
A belt would have worked wonders: Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene
Cinema
Original sin
Deborah Ross
Mary Magdalene
PG, Nationwide
This biopic of Mary Magdalene is a feminist
retelling that may well be deserved but it?s
so dreary and unremarkable that the fact it
is well intentioned and even, perhaps, necessary can?t come through and win the day. Or
even part of the day. Just the morning, say.
Directed by Garth Davis (Lion), and
written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, this is, according to the bumf,
the Mary of the original gospels rather than
the repentant sinner and ?prostitute?, which
is what, in truth, I always had her down as,
but then I did get most of my learning from
Jesus Christ Superstar. I now know, however,
that ?fallen woman? was only ever an invention put about by Pope Gregory I in the sixth
century, later perpetuated by Tim Rice and
Andrew Lloyd Webber, who should have
known better, frankly.
Here, Mary (Rooney Mara) is not just
surely the whitest woman ever to exist indigenously in the Middle East but has also been
awarded a back story that is just the sort of
back story you would award Mary in such a
retelling. So she?s the daughter of a patriarchal fishing family ? the whitest patriarchal
fishing family ever to exist in the Middle
East, surely ? and they can?t get over her
refusal to marry, so beat her up, in effect.
She withdraws (i.e. lies on a mat and stares
wordlessly into space) until she is visited by
this preacher and healer they?ve all heard
about. Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix) does home
visits! He cups her head in his hands and
The Bishop of Wherever is not going
to have fit, assuming he stays awake.
(It?s a struggle.)
she says: ?We women, our lives are not our
own.? And he says: ?Your spirit is your own.
You must follow God.? And she?s smitten,
even though you are desperate to interrupt
and say: ?Hang on, Maz, he?s just delivering
you from one patriarchy to another! Have a
think about this, love, please.?
But she doesn?t have a think. Instead
she joins his retinue, which includes Judas
(Tahar Rahim) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a brief glimpse of Matthew (come
back, Matthew!) but none of the other
disciples, who hardly even get a mention,
weirdly. As they schlepp across deserts they
look less like a major religion in the making
and more like the sad straggle of Jehovahs
that sometimes do my street. Meanwhile
the storytelling is so plodding and cau-
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
tious and inert that even the events that
should be thoroughly dramatic ? the rising of Lazarus, the expulsion of the moneychangers, Judas?s betrayal, the last supper
? have all the life sucked out of them. They
may as well be shopping in Asda. Mostly,
the action, such at it is, has Mary steadfastly
gazing at Jesus while he steadfastly gazes
heavenwards and speaks new age gobbledegook about ?kingdoms?, which she then
has to womansplain to Judas and Peter,
who appear to be quite thick. The crucifixion is gory, admittedly, but as you haven?t
believed a word of any of this, it does not
resonate emotionally. As for the resurrection, if I were resurrected, I?d whoop and
dance, but Jesus just sits on a rock, gazing
steadfastly. Seems hardly worth the bother.
One also has to wonder why, prior to
filming, no one bothered to hold an Accent
Meeting. Or, if they did, why it was decided
that everyone should speak in a Hebrewinflected accent (when they remembered),
while Jesus should be pure American. The
film is, however, well intentioned and it is
wholly inoffensive. Malcolm Muggeridge
(RIP) wouldn?t have had a fit and the Bishop of Wherever is not going to have a fit,
assuming the Bishop of Wherever stays
awake. (It?s a struggle.) As for Mary?s look,
it?s shapeless beige linen, largely. A belt
would have worked wonders. Nice sandals,
though. Very on-trend.
47
NOTES ON ?
Byron in Venice
By Thomas Marks
GETTY IMAGES
want to see Venice, and the Alps, and
Parmesan cheeses.? So wrote Lord
Byron in 1814, some two years before
he settled ? if that is the word ? in the
lagoon city. Even after his arrival in the winter of 1816, Venice retained its fantastical
allure: he identified with its decay (which he
would still find today) and savoured its lack
of tourists (which he would not). The city was,
he wrote, ?the greenest island of my imagination?, a place that had soon established itself
as his ?head, or rather my heart, quarters.?
It certainly had his blood pumping: for
Byron, Venice became a playground for
all manner of physical exertion. There was
one of his implausible swims, for four hours
from the Lido to St Mark?s Square, then on
down the length of the Grand Canal. There
was a lot of rowing. And there were the daily
rides near the ancient Jewish cemetery ?
for a time accompanied by Percy Shelley,
who gave them poetic purpose in ?Julian and
Maddalo?, in which Byron becomes ?a Venetian nobleman of ancient family and of great
fortune? (which no doubt he wished he was).
Then, notoriously, there was sex ? and
plenty of it. Byron embarked on countless
liaisons in Venice ? with 200 women in less
than three years, he sometimes claimed ?
and bragged of them in letters back to London. ?So we?ll go no more a roving/ So late
?I
Contessa Teresa Guiccioli
into the night?, he wrote after the carnival of
1817, lines that have sometimes been taken
as a poignant recognition that youth must
have its end. But they were more like the
routine of a man who hams up his hangover:
the following year?s festivities would keep
Byron just as busy.
Some of Byron?s affairs stretched into
narratives ? or at least into tall stories with
which to entertain his peers and his publisher
back in England. Marianna Segati, the wife
of his ?Merchant of Venice? landlord, had
him pondering Italian morality (he fully condoned its flexibility); later Margarita Cogni,
Byron?s ?Fornarina?, brought some sem-
blance of order to the madcap menagerie
kept by the poet at Palazzo Mocenigo, which
he had taken on lease in the early summer
of 1818. It was the start of another attachment, to Contessa Teresa Guiccioli, that
eventually drew him away from Venice the
next year, in picaresque pursuit of his lover.
Then there is the other Byron, the figure
who survived the priapism and preening by
folding them into his writing. For all his extracurricular endeavours in Venice, Byron?s
extended stay in the city included periods
of concentration in which he took daily lessons in Armenian on the monastery island
of San Lazzaro degli Armeni and produced
some of his greatest writing ? including
the final canto of Childe Harold?s Pilgrimage and the first instalment of Don Juan.
It was in Venice that Byron lit on the
ottava rima verse form that would come to
embody his poetic voice and all its vices. With
hindsight Beppo ? the Venetian yarn that
was his first poem to employ this rollicking
eight-line stanza ? reads like a throat-clearing exercise for the much longer project of
Don Juan. A simple tale drawn out by countless authorial interruptions, it perfectly captures the mixture of direction and digression
that characterises Byron?s verse at its best. In
Venice, his ?sea Cybele? of the Adriatic, it was
a paradox he lived by.
Travel
48
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
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51
?Denmark may look like an egalitarian
paradise but it has the wealth
distribution of Game of Thrones?
? Rory Sutherland, p61
High life
Taki
Gstaad
I never made it to Zurich but met up with
Steve Bannon through the miracle of technology, thanks to my hosts at the Swiss
weekly Die Weltwoche, who gave him my
telephone number. He rang at a civilised
time and we had a very cosy chat for an
hour or so. I don?t know how it was done,
and don?t ask me for details, but I could see
him and apparently he could see me too. The
first things I said were that I was 100 per cent
heterosexual and what a pity it was that I
had to be initiated into this technology while
talking to a man ? a man I much admire
but a man none the less. ?That makes two of
us,? answered the great one, ?and we used to
go out with the same girl. . . .? Like a gent, he
never mentioned her name, and I didn?t ask.
The reason all this was done electronically was that I had turned into a hydrocephalus. My head ballooned to twice its normal
size after I collided with a hard place while
showing off skiing without a helmet. Head
injuries at my age are a bore, though it?s the
brain cell loss that concerns me, and to hell
with the looks. But back to Steve Bannon
and what he had to say.
Basically, the populist movement differs in each country, as it should. According
to Steve, central banks are in the business
of debasing currencies as the business and
political class are debasing citizenship, making us slaves. He compared the new serfdom
to the situation pre-French Revolution,
with Google, Amazon and Facebook living
it up in Versailles and urging us to eat cake.
The Time?s Up movement he likened to the
French Revolution. What will save us from
the ogres, according to Steve, is the new currency. This I found very interesting.
I understand currencies as well as I comprehend modern technology, i.e., not at all.
But I am still capable of not thinking of
women long enough to concentrate, and
here is what I learned: entrepreneurs are
now selling their own virtual currencies to
raise money for software that they say they
are building. In return for real money, investors receive digital tokens, similar to bitcoin.
These coin offerings rose out of nowhere
last year to become a popular way for startups to raise tens of millions of dollars. That
leaves bankers out of the loop, and entrepreneurs free to practise free enterprise. Steve
Bannon is all for it, and I am also behind it,
however little I understand, which is very,
very little. But it makes sense ? the freeing
of the serfs, that is ? so I?m all for it. Apparently, there are already eight virtual currencies worth more than ?6.6 billion, and all the
bitcoins in the world are worth around $185
billion. Caramba, as they say in Mexico.
A parallel currency can create liquidity
and help small Italian and Greek companies,
which the EU has hogtied to the euro, overcome the credit crunch. A parallel currency
would also slowly break the chokehold of the
European Central Bank and Berlin, a fact
that Brussels views as anathema. Yanis Varoufakis, who briefly served the Greek turncoat and sellout Tsipras as finance minister,
advocated something similar until Tsipras
was ordered by Brussels to get rid of the
pest. Which he did, immediately after saluting. Steve and I had a good laugh about this.
Bannon has a blue-collar background and
three daughters, two of whom vote Democrat. One went to West Point and served in
Iraq. He served in the US Navy and graduated from Harvard. He is a rumpled good
American, and reminded me of those good
men in the movie The Deer Hunter.
God protect us from the illuminati was
Steve?s message. The poor, the workers and
the middle class did not cause the 2008 meltdown; the elite bankers were the cause, and
not a single banker paid a single penny as a
penalty, says Steve. Berlusconi was the first
populist to come to power and he did so for
the same reason Trump did years later: voters were fed up with a governing elite that
were out of touch and corrupt. European
elites believe that the very concept of borders should not exist. Basically, it all has to
do with sovereignty and the people?s wish
not to be told how to live by Brussels. I
asked him about my number one politician
in the whole wide world, Viktor Orban, the
Hungarian prime minister. Steve agreed that
he is numero uno.
We finally turned to the Donald. Bannon
was very complimentary, touching upon policy rather than personal quirks and Michael
Wolff-like gossip. After all, he knows the
man very well and inside-out. The exporting
of Chinese goods gutted midwest American
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
manufacturing, and free trade with totalitarian states makes for only one loser, Uncle
Sam. Basically, Trump had to happen. He
also said that unless America stops waging
wars around the world, only the elites will
profit and the rest will continue to suffer.
Amen, said I. ?The problems of sub-Saharan
Africa cannot be solved by taxing the middle and working class. Unelected government officials in Brussels have been rejected
because of the immigrant and refugee policies over which they?ve presided. The
European Central Bank can veto national
economic legislation. Hence the revolt.?
I will be meeting Steve next week in New
York. We might work out something to save
the world from the clutches of the greedy
ones. I?ll keep you posted.
Low life
Jeremy Clarke
The flight from Gatwick to France was cancelled and there was no prospect of another for three days. Paddington station was
closed and the road to the south-west of
England and home was impassable. Gatwick
airport railway station was in chaos as train
after train in both directions was cancelled
due to snow.
Then a friend came to the rescue and
offered her flat in south London until I could
book another flight. A train to Clapham
Junction then a bus would get me there. The
keys were in a key safe attached to the rear
of the porter?s lodge.
A rogue northbound train arrived and
everyone jumped on irrespective of its destination, as though it were the last train out
of Berlin before the Russians turned up. At
Clapham Common the bus was still gamely running and it stopped right outside the
imposing 1930s block of flats. The porter?s
lodge was deserted but I located the key
safe. Revolving the numbered wheels to the
correct code and flipping the safe open was
very difficult as I had no feeling in the tips
of my fingers.
The flat was enormous. And pure 1930s
53
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? original metal windows, vast bath, art
deco-style fireplace. I called my friend to
learn how to turn on the heating. ?Amazing flat, Penny,? I said. She gave a brief history. During the war, General de Gaulle
had lived in that very flat, she said. Post-war
builders had uncovered the buried fuel tank
in which his government-issued petrol was
stored. And the flat had witnessed a tragedy.
She?d bought it a decade before. The previous occupants were a very elderly lesbian
couple. One died of natural causes and the
other was so grief-stricken that she set fire to
herself and burnt to death in the guest bedroom. If I looked carefully at the bedroom
ceiling when I was lying in bed, she said, I
would see the smoke damage.
I set up camp in the kitchen. It was the
soonest warm and there was a telly. I hadn?t
watched a television for months. I switched
on and flicked through the channels. Nothing appealed until I arrived at one devoted
to history called Yesterday. Currently showing, weirdly, was a documentary about General de Gaulle so I sat down and watched it.
During the first world war the big contrarian
lump was shot in the knee and in the hand,
bayoneted in the thigh, gassed, blown up and
taken prisoner, subsequently making five
escape attempts. We followed his dissenting
career until the Germans invaded France
again and de Gaulle left France (or rather,
France left him) for London, from where he
broadcast his daily resolve-stiffening appeals
to the French people. After which he presumably returned to the kitchen I was sitting in,
and stared testily out of the window.
I made a pig of myself with that telly. If
the televisual fare became too uniformly
banal even for the likes of me, I read. From
the thousands of books lining the flat, I
chose Provided You Don?t Kiss Me: 20 Years
With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton,
which in its own way is every bit as gripping
as David Peace?s novel about Clough, The
Damned United.
And so for the next three days I led a solitary, mute and interior life in an enormous,
snowbound 1930s London flat, albeit with
three ghostly presences: General de Gaulle,
an elderly barbecued lesbian and Brian
Clough ? though one imagines they were
too busy bickering among themselves to pay
any attention to their mortal guest.
My flight was rescheduled for noon of
the fourth day, which meant quitting the
flat at 9 a.m. at the latest. I packed my bag
the night before and fried sausages for the
journey. The next morning I cleaned up and
switched everything off, and I was standing
in my cap, coat and gloves at two minutes
to nine like some sort of anal retentive. All
I needed to do before closing the flat door
behind me was take the rubbish bag outside
and dump it in the dustbin, which was located on a shared back balcony. This balcony
was accessed via an exterior door in the
communal hallway.
I went through this door, plopped the bag
in the dustbin with a flourish of finality and
turned to leave again. Unfortunately, the
door had swung shut behind me and could
not be opened from the outside. I banged on
the windows and door but the block was as
silent as the tomb and my phone was with my
luggage. I sat on the dustbin and despaired.
And it sounds far-fetched, but were those
the faces of Charles de Gaulle, Cloughie and
the burnt lesbian, hostilities suspended, staring balefully out at me through the kitchen
window? ?Help! Help!? I shouted.
Real life
Melissa Kite
We live in a cynical world. One cannot simply advertise something for sale and expect
people to believe what one is saying.
The first person to turn up to view the
horse lorry did not even want to test-drive it
on the basis that it was clearly a death trap.
?Hmm,? she said. ?I?m just a bit concerned
about that roof.?
I looked at the roof, baffled. ?There?s
nothing wrong with the roof.? Genuinely, it?s
the last bit of the lorry I have ever worried
about.
I tend to worry more about the floor,
given that that is the bit the horse is standing on. I had the floor fully checked. But the
roof? Not so much. What trouble the roof
of a horsebox could possibly be, I could not
imagine. Was she planning to suspend her
horse from the ceiling, rather than tie it to
the wall?
I said I could vouch for the fact that the
roof had never given me any problems that
I was aware of.
The lady huffed. ?What?s that bit of plastic on the ground then??
I looked down. Propped up against the
lorry was a mouldy old sheet of Perspex
that had obviously been blowing around the
farm yard until someone picked it up and
leaned it there, probably to stop it frightening the horses.
?I don?t know what that is,? I said, kicking
the thing to one side.
The lady looked at me pointedly and
raised her eyebrows. ?I think you?ll find
that?s from your roof.?
?Honestly,? I said. ?I will tell you there are
downsides to this lorry. It can?t take a horse
over 16 hands. It doesn?t start first time on
cold mornings, it starts second time. And it
absolutely needs a paint job. But I swear to
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
you there is nothing wrong with the roof.?
?What?s that hole then??
I stared at where she was pointing and all
I could see was a smudge of dirt.
?That?s not a hole.?
?Yes it is. It?s where that bit of plastic has
come from.?
I wouldn?t have minded but the bit of
plastic didn?t even fit the size and shape of
the smudge. I denied again that the roof was
dodgy but she pulled her cardigan tightly
around her, the way women do when they
are sure they are being taken for a ride.
I had to give up. I showed her back to her
car and waved goodbye. Fine, let her think
there?s a hole in the roof. There isn?t a hole
in the roof, but if it makes her happy to go
off and gossip to all and sundry that I tried
to sell her a lorry with a hole in the roof then
alrighty-roo, there?s a hole in the roof.
I just wanted it to stop. The lorry had
been advertised on Facebook for barely a
day and it was already doing my head in.
Within minutes, people were deluging me
with statements of the bleeding obvious like:
?Is this still available??
Yes, it is. It was listed three minutes ago
and it hasn?t sold yet.
I posted 15 pictures of the damn thing
from every angle and the reaction was,
?Have you any more photos??
How many more photos would you like?
15? 150? 1,500? 15,000?
My description ran to over 100 words
including every possible engine detail, all
the dimensions, the weight laden and unladen, and how it was suitable for horses up to
16 hands.
?Can I put my 16.2h horse in it?? came the
response of one girl. And then from another:
?Will my 16.3 fit in this??
?The problem you?ve got,? said the keeper, as we sat in my kitchen, me head in hands,
my laptop pinging with superfluous Facebook notifications, ?is that you are dealing
with women.?
?Stupid women!? I cried.
Because, after all the questions, they
were turning up and not even test-driving it.
I popped the bonnet for one girl. ?What you
doing?? she said. ?Showing you the engine,? I
said. ?Oh, I don?t want to see that.? ?But it?s
got a new battery and spark plugs.? ?I?m not
really interested to be honest,? she said, fiddling with the radio.
?Would you like me to turn the engine
over?? ?Nah.? ?Can I show you the paperwork? I have the service history.? There was
no point. She was glazing over.
It suddenly occurred to me that in the
time it takes me to sell this lorry, Gracie
will be fully recovered from her tendon
strain and jumping again. So what if it?s �
a month to tax, insure and park. If I let it
stand idle for six months and don?t try to
sell it, that?s �0 not to have to deal with
women asking pointless questions. Cheap at
half the price.
55
LIFE
The turf
Robin Oakley
In the days when it was fashionable to mock
the IQ of an American President who had
taken the showbiz route to office, a Congressman reported the burning down of
Ronald Reagan?s library. ?That?s sad,? said
the hearer. ?Yes. He lost both books.?
Racing folk don?t read much either; writers of racing books rarely stray far from the
poorhouse precincts. But any aspiring trainers whose wallets have survived the Cheltenham Festival should consider buying one
volume. Last year?s Gold Cup winner Sizing John did not turn up this week to defend
his crown. Past winners rarely do, reminding us what an extraordinary feat Henrietta Knight achieved by capturing three
consecutive Gold Cups with Best Mate. An
enquiring mind is a key qualification for a
good trainer: long after Michael Dickinson
had trained the first five home in the 1983
Gold Cup, and 15 times champion trainer
Martin Pipe had rewritten the record books,
the two obsessives could be seen ? one with
a tape recorder, the other with notebook in
hand ? interrogating each other about how
things could be done better still.
Hen shares that thirst for knowledge
about anything that can make happy horses run faster, and for her fascinating treatise The Jumping Game (Head of Zeus,
�) she has spent time with 27 of the most
successful trainers in England and Ireland
documenting how they seek to get the best
out of their animals: how they set out their
stable yards and their gallops, how they
like their horses fed, equipped and ridden,
what kinds of horses they buy and how they
teach them to jump.
Her researches confirm that there is no
perfect method, no magic elixir. Hugely successful trainers differ widely, for example,
on the value of weighing horses or blood
tests. Henrietta believes strongly in ?loose
schooling?, educating horses to jump initially
without riders on their backs. So do Martin
and David Pipe. But Alan King, Colin Tizzard, Gordon Elliott, Jonjo O?Neill and Dan
Skelton stick firmly to having the job done
with jockeys on top. Most trainers these days
do much of their work up steep inclines to
build strong hindquarters and jumping muscles; Willie Mullins, the top trainer in Ireland
these past nine years, relies on 16 acres of flat
farmland. While Mullins, Joseph O?Brien and
many other Irish trainers use barley straw for
horses? bedding, hardly any English trainers
56
do the same, reckoning that greedy horses
will eat much of it. (Even if they do, says Hen,
it is good roughage that will help to counter
the build-up of stomach acids that lead to an
increasing number of ulcers.)
Like Hen, Noel Meade and Venetia Williams do plenty of trotting to help horses
achieve the right shape. Gordon Elliott?s
and David Pipe?s horses hardly trot at all.
Elliott and Jonjo O?Neill regard their equine
swimming-pools as vital. Says Jonjo: ?Swimming doesn?t get horses fit but it keeps them
fit.? Nicky Henderson, England?s champion trainer, doesn?t have a pool. Henrietta
admires Mouse Morris?s grass gallops in Co.
Tipperary, insisting that ?grass is undoubtedly the best surface for training a horse?,
and Enda Bolger, ?King of the banks?, gives
his charges plenty of jumping off grass. Paul
Nicholls, England?s long-time champion
trainer, seldom jumps his horses on grass.
There is a growing trend for circular deep
sand gallops that enable horses to build up
their distance covered while learning to
relax and breathe regularly. Gordon Elliott
swears by his and now Henderson and Pipe
Is crushed ice applied to horses in
rubber boots overdoing things?
Bridge
Janet de Botton
Little did I know, when I was railing at how
Britain comes to a standstill at the first flurry
of the white stuff, how marvellously it would
turn out for my team. The second Camrose
(home countries championship) weekend
was cancelled and a substitute announced.
Unfortunately, the winners of the Premier
League last year (Allfrey) couldn?t make the
date chosen and the runners-up (Hinden)
had already played the first weekend, which
meant that my team, coming third, was invited
to represent England in Dublin next month.
Fan-blooming-tastic. My first England cap.
But back to tournaments played. Here is
the most talked-about hand in Simon Gillis?s fabulous Lederer Trophy. This year teams
from Israel, Iceland and Ireland joined pairs
from Norway, Sweden and Denmark to make
a Class A tournament. Israel were the eventual winners but today?s slam was played by
Espen Lindqvist for the Gillis team. He was
the only declarer in the room to make it:
Dealer East
have installed them too. But Mouse Morris argues that ?many horses can lose their
actions if they do too much work on sand,
and never get them back again?.
Some general trends do emerge. In the
old days a stable?s ?feed man? was a vital cog,
brewing up mashes, including his own special
potions, like some tribal witch doctor. Now
most trainers supplement their haylage with
commercially produced cubes and mixes
containing balanced nutrients. Horses are
groomed much less, partly because of fewer
stable staff but also, says Henrietta, because
?too much grooming annoys a fit horse ? a
coat will always shine if a horse is healthy?.
Horses are generally better tempered, partly because more of them start their regular
contact with humans earlier: the old ?store?
jumping horses were not handled until they
were four or older. Interval training up precipices has lessened front leg tendon injuries
but hasn?t improved horses? breathing.
Henrietta Knight was once a schoolmistress but not, I suspect, a harsh one. The
potted biographies of each trainer and his
or her yard almost invariably note a ?good
atmosphere?, ?relaxed? horses and ?superb
teamwork?. There is little direct criticism of
anything she saw although she thinks that
some trainers push their youngsters too fast
in teaching them to jump. Henrietta does
suggest, too, that maybe the state-of-theart technology in a yard like Jonjo O?Neill?s
Jackdaws Castle, with its solariums, therapeutic rugs and crushed ice applied to horses
in rubber boots, is overdoing things. Maybe,
but training was never an exact science: everybody is looking for an edge.
All vulnerable
z K10 8 6 5 4
y AQ 6 5 4
XQ6
w Void
zQJ 2
y K 10 7
X7
wAK6542
N
W
E
S
zA
y J8 2
X A K 10 5
wJ97
West
2w
x
Pass
All pass
z 97 3
y93
X J9 8
w Q10 8
2
3
43
North
East
South
x
3w
5w
Pass
pass
4w
pass
1X
2X
4X
6X
West led w A and Declarer took stock:
he can cope with either Diamonds or Spades
breaking badly ? but not both and he placed
West with yK for his double. He ruffed the
club and played a Spade to his Ace, a Diamond
to Dummy?s Queen and ruffed a small Spade
in hand. Now Espen played X A and X K,
the 4?1 break meaning he needs Spades 3?3.
He played a small heart to Dummy?s Queen,
played zK pitching a Club and another Spade
(which East has to ruff in case South had 4
clubs), pitched his last Club, ruffed the Club
continuation, entered Dummy and cashed the
good spades. Slam made.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
SPECTATOR WINE JONATHAN RAY
sme Johnstone, the genial boss of
FromVineyardsDirect, is the past
master at rootling out tasty little
parcels of this and that and at unearthing
vinous treats from past vintages. I?m delighted to say he?s done it again this week with
six very stylish French wines including two
fully mature, extremely well-priced clarets
and one steal of a Bergerac. There?s much to
enjoy here, so fill your boots!
The 2016 Ch鈚eau Virgile Blanc (1)
comes from Costi鑢es de N頼es in the
Gard, where they?ve been making wine for
over 2,000 years. The estate of Ch鈚eau Virgile itself dates from the 18th century and is
home to brothers Serge and Thierry Baret,
producers of wines that offer what Robert
Parker calls ?mind-boggling value?. For once,
it?s hard to disagree with Uncle Bob for this
little gem ? blended from Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier ? is a complete joy.
Delightfully aromatic (think lemons, pears,
peaches and apricots), it?s fresh and lively,
with a fine mineral finish and a very modest
price. �25 down from �65.
The Graves in Bordeaux is rarely my go-to
place when it comes to decent white wine.
Not that there aren?t great wines made there,
of course ? it?s just that they rarely catch my
eye and when they do, they prove to be more
than a little bland and uninteresting. The
2016 Ch鈚eau Les Clauzots (2), however, is
a glorious exception. Made from 70 per cent
Sauvignon Blanc, 20 per cent S閙illon and
10 per cent Sauvignon Gris (and that?s not a
grape you see very often), it?s lemony-fresh
with hints of grapefruit and peach and a long,
creamy, dry finish. �.95 down from �.95.
The 2016 Les Loges Vieilles Vignes Montagny 1er Cru (2) is an instantly appealing
white burgundy of quite some panache produced at the highly regarded, 120 familiesstrong, Vignerons de Buxy co-operative in
the C魌e Chalonnaise. One sip ? well, gulp
? and I was completely smitten. Only old
vine Chardonnay grown in the finest vineyards of Montagny is used, and it?s beautifully textured with decent weight, bright, fresh,
zesty, citrusy fruit and a long, clean, really
rather exhilarating mineral finish. If you like
fine white burgundy and you like a bargain
then this will be right up your street. �.45
down from �.95.
E
The 2009 Ch鈚eau Calet (4) is a cheap ?n?
cheerful red Bordeaux from a great year and
a great stable (the Sichel family no less) and I
really can?t see what?s not to like. Yes, I know
it?s nearing the end of its drinking life, but
pop it in a decanter and relish its soft, mellow,
ripe Merlot (mainly) and Cabernet Franc
If you like fine white burgundy
and you like a bargain then
this will be right up your street
(just a splash) fruit and its silky, savoury
finish, and congratulate yourself on having
nabbed a bargain. �95 down from �.95.
Anything that has a wild boar on its label,
such as the 2014 Sang de Sanglier (5), gets
my vote. I adore wild boar and have done
ever since as a boy on holiday in France I
was presented by the chef with the tusks
of the beast he?d just cooked and I?d just
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
eaten. And this, from Ch鈚eau de Fayolle
in Bergerac, would be the perfect accompaniment. Rich, robust, fruity yet savoury, it?s
made from 100 per cent oak-aged Merlot
and makes a hugely rewarding mouthful.
�.95 down from �.95.
Finally, from the M閐oc, the 2010 Ch鈚eau Les Moines (5), a more than worthy
successor to the 2009 vintage which we
offered so successfully at the end of last
year. As you know, both 2009 and 2010 were
10/10 vintages, and this 70 per cent Cabernet
Sauvignon/30 per cent Merlot Cru Bourgeois is showing plenty of class as it leaves
adolescence and enters maturity. There is
plenty of ripe damson/plum/blueberry fruit
in the mouth, a touch of spice and a long,
almost meaty finish. It?s spot on. �.95 down
from �.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each
wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
ORDER FORM Spectator Wine Offer
www.fromvineyardsdirect.com/offers/spectatorwineclub-march
FromVineyardsDirect, 2 Square Rigger Row, London, SW11 3TZ
Tel: 020 7549 7900; Email: service@fromvineyardsdirect.com
Prices in form are per case of 12
White
1
2
3
Red
4
5
6
Mixed 7
2016 Ch. Virgile Blanc (1) 13.5%vol
2016 Ch. Les Clauzots (2) 12.5%vol
2016 Les Loges Montagny 1er Cru 14%vol
2009 Ch. Calet (4) 13.5%vol
2014 Sang de Sanglier (5) 14.5%vol
2010 Ch. Les Moines (6) 14%vol
Sample case, two each of the above
Issue no.
Expiry date
Signature
Please send wine to
Name
Address
Club price
�3.80
�7.40
�9.40
�1.40
�5.40
�3.40
�6.80
�.00
�5.40
�3.40
�9.40
�3.40
�1.40
�5.00
No.
Total
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Start date
List price
Sec. code
Prices include VAT and delivery on the
British mainland. Payment should be
made either by cheque with the order,
payable to FromVineyardsDirect, or
by debit or credit card, details of which
may be telephoned or faxed. This offer,
which is subject to availability, closes
on 28 April 2018.
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57
LIFE
Chess
First round nerves
Raymond Keene
The three most important events in the World
Chess Federation calendar are the World
Championship match, the Olympiad and the
Candidates tournament, all of them biennial.
The last of these is now in progress in Berlin and
the winner will go on to challenge Magnus
Carlsen for the supreme title in London later this
year. The first round witnessed some typical
nerves which tend to afflict even leading players
at the commencement of career-determining
competitions. The former challenger Sergei
Karjakin started off by losing with the white
pieces to the highest-ranked contestant,
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, while the popular
favourite, Lev Aronian, a three-times Olympiad
gold medallist, obtained an excellent position
against the Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren,
only to lose his courage at the critical juncture.
#RONKCN&KNI: Fid� Candidates, Berlin 2018
WDk4WgW4
0b0WDW0p
W0nDW0WD
1WDW0WDW
PDP)WDW)
DW)BDWDW
WDWGW)PD
DRDQDKHR
White?s next move creates huge complications.
蘀$WEThis move, exploiting the pin along
the d-file, is essentially forced. 4D3C
� White protects the d3-bishop with a view
to unleashing a deadly discovered attack by the
rook on b5. Black now takes drastic action. $WF$G18 cxd4 Rxd4 19 Ne2 Qxa4 is
good for Black. 4FThis is a mistake.
Black should play 18 ... Ba8 to create a flight
square for the queen on b7. 4DMuch better
is 19 Rb2, to protect the bishop on d2. After 19 ...
Qa5 20 cxd4 Qd5 21 dxe5 Nxe5 22 Nf3 White is a
piece ahead although the situation remains
complex. 3C4D3CBlack could
27<<.'01
White to play. This position is from KramnikAndreikin, Tal Memorial 2018. White now finished
off quickly. What did he play? Answers to me at
The Spectator by Tuesday 20 March or via email
to victoria@spectator.co.uk. There is a prize of
� for the first correct answer out of a hat. Please
include a postal address and allow six weeks for
prize delivery.
.CS?VGGLSO?T?KON 1 Rd8
.CS?VGGLVKNNGR Roy Bland, Penzance,
Cornwall
58
Competition
Doing words
Lucy Vickery
try 20 ... Bxc3 which leads to the following
extraordinary variation: 21 Rd3 Rxd3 22 Bxd3
Ba6 (22 ... Bxd2 is also possible) 23 Bxc3 Qxc3
24 Ne2 Qa3 25 Rb3 Qxa4 26 Bf5+ Kb8 27
Rxb6+ cxb6 28 Qxa4 Bxe2+ 29 Kxe2 Nd4+ 30
Kd3 Nxf5 31 Qd7 and White stands better.
�3C4DDraw agreed
-CR?CLKN/CMGFXCROU: Fid� Candidates
WDWDWDWD
DWDWDpiW
WDWDWDp0
DWDW)WDW
W!WDW)W)
DpDW1PDW
WDWDWDKD
DWDWDWDW
Black?s passed b-pawn is a huge asset in this
position and he would normally expect to be
able to shepherd this home with his queen
without too much trouble. However in this
position it is not so easy. For example, after 50
... Qe2+ 51 Kg3 b2 White can play 52 e6! when
Black?s king will become exposed and a draw
by perpetual check will be inevitable. Instead,
Mamedyarov hits on a plan of freeing up his
king to aid the promotion effort on the
queenside. I?JWIJWI
HWI3G-I3WG-H3J
-G3I-H3E-I3G
-I3WI-H3F-G-I
-G-H-G-G3D-F
3C-E3C-E3C3E
3C-E3C-D3D-D
-F3H-G3J9JK?GRGSKINS
As a warm-up for the Candidates, several
players attended the quickplay Tal Memorial in
Moscow. The blitz was won by Karjakin and
the rapidplay by Anand. This week?s puzzle is a
finish from Moscow by former world champion
Vladimir Kramnik, who started well in Berlin.
rDWDW4Wi
)W1WDW0p
RDWDBDWD
DWDp0WDW
WDWDWDWD
DPhWDQDW
WDPDW)P)
DWDW$WIW
In Competition No. 3039, which was
inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert?s phenomenally successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love,
you were invited to choose a well-known
figure, past or present, invent a three-verb
title you felt would be appropriate for their
memoir, and provide an extract from it.
Some promising-sounding titles ? Sleep,
Dream, Fleece by Sigmund Freud, Wait,
Hang Around, Kick One?s Heels by HRH
Prince Charles, Elise Christie?s Skate, Fall,
Cry and Bill Clinton?s Fornicate, Ejaculate,
Prevaricate ? didn?t quite deliver but commendations all the same to Paul Carpenter,
Richard Corcoran, David Silverman and
Douglas G. Brown.
Honourable mentions also go to Adrian
Fry ? whose Drink, Shag, Repeat saw him
stepping into the shoes of this magazine?s
Low life correspondent Jeremy Clarke ?
and to John Bird, David Shields and Ann
Alexander. The winners, printed below, are
rewarded with � each.
Order, Sort, Classify: a Memoir of Peter Mark
Roget by John Roget
One of my earliest memories is walking with my
mama, my mother, my maternal parent, in the
park when I was five, and I remarked: ?Look at the
birds ? they are pretty, attractive, blue.? ?No, no,?
she exclaimed, expostulated, cried out, SEE
ejaculate, ?they are indeed blue, but that is not a
synonym. Think how that would hurt, dismay,
distress, irritate, bother SEE aggrieve, anger, your
dear papa, father, male parent.? I think it was at
that tender age that I (and later my brother,
fraternal relative, sibling) came to realise just how
much influence our beloved progenitor,
paterfamilias, head-of-household would have on
us. ?You will one day realise, understand, grasp,
comprehend,? my mother continued, proceeded,
went on, ?just what a benefit, a goldmine, a
treasure-chest, a thesaurus your papa?s collection
of words will be. If only he could think of a good
title for his book??.
Brian Murdoch
State. Restate. Reiterate. by Dan Brown
On the fateful morning when fate made its fateful
intervention, my eyes flickered to the longcase
clock in its long case, faithfully telling the time.
It told me the time was now.
I unlapped the top of my laptop to reveal the
keys on the keyboard and keyed in the first few
words of this memorable memoir, fingering it
with my fingers as I digitally remembered.
I allowed myself a moment to recall for a
moment the phone call that had initiated the
beginning of this undertaking before I undertook
it. How I lifted the phone to my left ear, that
being the rightest for the purpose of listening, and
listened while the caller, who had telephoned me,
asked me over and over ? ?Dan, how the hell do
you manage to churn out this stuff?? I decided
that he deserved an answer and this response is
my reply.
Ann Drysdale
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
LIFE
Drill, Woof, Drool by Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
Buzz, buzz: write, write. My reputation, alas,
seems to be dogged by false assumptions ? for
instance, that I dinged every Rover into dribbling.
Such a cretinous view! ? the automatic, kneejerk response of lazy journalists, slack researchers.
The facts are, buzz, 1. I had a system, and
2. Everything has a system. I woke to my alarm,
and wore a suitable habit (a white coat) daily.
I found my laboratory work stimulating: it gave
me a constant buzz. Write more? I shall. I set
about my research into free will (poppycock)
with the precision of a metronome. Excuse me
while I slaver over my memoir. Like all artefacts,
it is an elaborate mechanism, responding to the
presence of pens, pencils, ink. Reflex reflux: it all
spills out, is somehow predictable. And as for
the fools, Marx, Lenin and so on? The names
ring a bell.
Bill Greenwell
Rule, Fiddle, Burn by Nero
My Rome was well ruled. By Hades, I was a good
ruler! If only Mother had been more supportive
she would have enjoyed old age, perhaps.
But I had other consolations. In her absence
music played a large part in my rich and
colourful life; part of me would like to think
history will remember me for that. Teaching
Romans to face physical catastrophe through the
medium of song ? or stringed instrument, I have
great proficiency ? is my legacy, even in the heat
of danger and disaster. To light the fire in men?s
hearts, to set the city ablaze, to let powerful
harmonies cauterise the old: that is what my
music achieves. It clears space for the new
architecture of grandeur, for the golden palace of
the future. Colossal indeed! Critics may call this
extravagant; I call it a burning passion in flames,
a lasting memorial to my power.
D.A. Prince
Lather, Rinse, Repeat by Khloe Kardashian
So, like, one time me and Kourtney both ordered
takeout for breakfast ?cause, like, we didn?t know
the other one had called and the delivery guys
showed up at the same time and it was kind of
like ?Mexican and Chinese?? or whatever. And we
got this idea for a show where a couple of hot
girls, sisters maybe, order takeout from like these
really great restaurants and they do an
elimination tournament and the winning place
gets a prize. Who wouldn?t watch that?
After breakfast we went to the Forum for the
Lakers game and it turned out I had never dated
any of the players. On either team. What are the
odds? And I realised you could do this really hot
reality show where basketball players compete to
?score points? and win a date with a model. Who
wouldn?t watch that?
Max Gutmann
Crossword
2350: Pieces
by Doc
The unclued lights, (two of two
words), individually or as a
pair, are of a kind and can be
resolved into three separate
trios. Ignore all accents and
apostrophes throughout the
puzzle. The highlighted squares,
read in order row by row, reveal
the sources of the trios.
#EROSS
7/8 The whole capital of
Hainaut gets call to court
(7)
13 Topical review that?s
mine (7)
15 Mountaineering peg
without a pointed end,
on reflection (5)
16 Town in Fife giving trophy
to Albion Rovers initially
(5)
17 Torn shred from lace
worker, it seems (6)
20 One mooring a boat
reportedly in capital (6)
22 I am interned in stable,
treated like an animal (7)
27 Discharge from former
Minoan location (7)
29 Goldfinches in a group
delight (5)
30 Greeting Welsh saint of
old (6)
32 Special edition appearing
in crowd scene (5)
34 Hanger-on?s legal right in
court (6)
36 Bone from ancient city (5)
37 Boat clubs right at the
back (5)
38 Brighter fish. That is right
(7)
40 Regular antics of friendly
goblin (3)
41 Breakfast grain, maybe,
from Lee?s bedside (11,
two words)
01%#441..+0.#.#.#0&
The American parodist Frank Jacobs?s
?Hollywood Jabberwocky? was written as if
?Lewis Carroll were a Hollywood Press Agent
in the Thirties?. You can Google it but it
begins: ??Twas Bogart and the Franchot Tones/
Did Greer and Garson in the Wayne;/ All
Muni were the Lewis Stones,/ And Rooneyed
with Fontaine?? You are invited to provide
a ?Hollywood Jabberwocky? for today. Email
entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.
co.uk by midday on 28 March, please.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
&OVN
1 Returning rearwards in
close sequence (10, two
hyphens)
2 One bitter fool at press
agency (8, hyphened)
3 An impulse cultivating
spleenwort (9)
4 Accidental and wonderful
sleight of hand (12,
two words)
5 Wild cats left out in capital
(7)
6 Nobleman mixing
meringues without topping
(8)
7 Students? demo is wrong
about sex (5, hyphened)
8 See 7 Across
10 Commercial ships aloft
oddly (5)
12 Kill mother?s internet
identity (6)
14 Evergreen shrub affected
regular pulse (12,
two words)
19 Exciting experiences
coming ? sure to be
special (10)
26 Inner chambers where the
French friend tossed hat
first (7)
28 Sensitive offer for carer?
(6)
31 Playwright and wit cut gnu
in half (5)
33 Cross beams? (5,
hyphened)
35 East European art
swindler?s confession (4)
A first prize of � for the first
correct solution opened on
2 April. There are two runnersup prizes of �. (UK solvers
can choose to receive the latest
edition of the Chambers
dictionary instead of cash ?
ring the word ?dictionary?.)
Entries to: Crossword 2350,
The Spectator, 22 Old Queen
Street, London SW1H 9HP.
Please allow six weeks for
prize delivery.
0CMG
#FFRGSS
'MCK?
51.76+1061%#2+6#..'6 6'45
The unclued lights are LETTERS in alphabetical order
which, when rearranged, give the names of eight
CAPITAL cities.
(KRS?PRKYG Lucy Robinson, London N16
4TNNGRSTP Michael O?Hanlon, North Berwick, Scotland;
Roger Perrot, Guernsey
59
LIFE
No sacred cows
QPR won 1-0, but my
score is still unsettled
Toby Young
ast Saturday was shaping up to
be one of the best days of my
life. Freddie, my ten-year-old
son, had been chosen by Queens Park
Rangers, our football team, as one of
five ?Local Heroes? to be honoured at
half-time ? part of the club?s excellent ?QPR in the Community? programme. This was on account of his
charity work, believe it or not.
After seeing the club?s Game4Grenfell, a pro-celebrity football
game organised to raise money for
those affected by the Grenfell Tower
fire, Freddie was inspired to organise
a football-and-netball tournament
for under-11s at Club des Sports in
Acton. With the help of his mother,
he managed to raise �250 for the
same cause.
Only one of Freddie?s parents
was allowed to accompany him and
even though it should have been
Caroline she was happy for me to do
it. For her, it would have been a bit
of a chore, but for me it was a Boys?
Own fantasy. Not only would I get to
dine in QPR?s ?Premier Lounge? and
watch the game in the directors? box
? a treat usually reserved for fans
who?ve paid �000 for a VIP season
ticket ? but at half-time I would be
able to walk out on to the pitch via
the players? tunnel. With a bit of luck,
I might even bump into some mem-
L
What sort
of example
would I be
setting for
Freddie if I
hijacked his
day? I had to
bite my tongue
bers of the team on their way back to
the changing room.
The icing on the cake is that we
were playing Sunderland. QPR?s
current form isn?t anything to write
home about ? we?re lying 16th out of
24 in the Championship table and just
avoiding relegation at the end of the
season will be a result ? but we?re
not doing as badly as Sunderland. The
Black Cats, relegated from the Premier League last year, are sitting at
the bottom of the table and are heading for the drop. If we couldn?t beat
Sunderland, of all teams, we deserved
to join them in League One.
The day started well. Freddie and
I were ushered into the club restaurant and introduced to the four other
?Local Heroes?. They were, as you?d
imagine, exemplary characters: a man
who?d raised �,000 so the children
caught up in the Grenfell tragedy
could be bought Christmas presents,
a youth worker from a local secondary school, the founder of a food
bank and a professor at University
College Hospital who?s leading the
fight against prostate cancer.
But just as I was beginning to
enjoy myself, I spotted another guest
at a neighbouring table: Dawn Butler.
For those of you that don?t know,
Dawn is the Labour MP for Brent
and the Shadow Secretary of State
for Women and Equalities. She was
also extremely rude about me in the
House of Commons and on Question
Time at the beginning of the year. In
spite of being a Corbynite, she pushed
the nuclear button, making a string of
terrible allegations that were wrong
in almost every particular. I had been
itching for an opportunity to point
out these inaccuracies. Not in public,
since that would risk reigniting the
imbroglio over my appointment to
the Office for Students, but in private.
At an occasion such as this, in fact.
But I realised that if I marched
over to her table and gave her a piece
of my mind, the ensuing row might
cast a shadow over what was supposed to be a celebration of everything that was best about humanity.
I would be diverting the spotlight
away from these upstanding citizens and towards me. And what sort
of example would I be setting for
Freddie if I hijacked his day to settle
a score of my own? No, it just couldn?t
be done. I had no choice but to bite
my tongue. If I happened to catch her
eye, I would just smile politely and
look away.
It then got worse. The reason she
was there, I discovered, was because
she was presenting the trophies to
the ?Local Heroes? at half-time and
then posing for photographs with the
whole group. My plan was to stroll
out on to the pitch with Freddie and
bask in reflected glory, but I had no
wish to be photographed with Dawn.
I daresay she wasn?t that keen to be
pictured with me, either, and even
if I swallowed my pride and went
through with it, there was a risk she?d
cause a scene. Disaster! So I stopped
at the edge of the tunnel and sent
Freddie out on his own.
It could have been worse, I
suppose. QPR beat Sunderland 1-0.
But I probably won?t chalk it up as
one of the best days of my life.
Toby Young is associate editor of
The Spectator.
MICHAEL HEATH
60
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
The Wiki Man
ISA limits discourage
ordinary people from saving
Rory Sutherland
he maximum amount you can
save in an ISA for the tax year
2017-2018 is now �,000. The
maximum annual pension contribution is �,000. Counterintuitively,
these huge allowances are actually
a disincentive for ordinary people to
save. With a �000 ISA maximum, a
modest saver had an impetus to save
each year for fear of missing out; with
an ISA ceiling of �,000, anyone can
postpone saving until next year.
But you don?t have to be a Marxist
to wonder why a household which can
save �,000-120,000 a year is in need
of extra help from the state. Figures
released this year by HM Revenue
& Customs forecast that tax relief on
pensions will cost �.1 billion, with a
further �.9 billion spent on exemptions for employers? contributions.
Some of this is a worthwhile incentive
for people who might otherwise not
save; the great majority is a redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction:
a subsidy to people who would save
money without encouragement.
There are two classes of people who should be righteously angry
T
You don?t
need to be a
Marxist to
wonder why
a household
that can save
�0,000 a
year is in need
of help from
the state
about this. The working poor, who get
very little benefit from an incentive
which should be directed to them, and
the extravagant rich, who as a group
seem to be the world?s least effective
lobbying organisation; without the tax
breaks for rich savers, their tax rate
could fall appreciably.
These two groups are, after all, the
people who keep the whole capitalist
show on the road. The working poor
are inarguably useful for their work: if
you see someone performing a poorly paid job, you can be confident that
they are doing something worthwhile
? people don?t build walls or collect
rubbish for fun. The spendthrift rich
are valuable for their consumption:
when a new caf� opens, when you can
buy 17 different varieties of tomatoes, when you can choose between 11
daily flights to Ibiza? well, you have
the extravagant rich to thank for that.
Almost all technological advances
are first supported by the spendthrift
rich ? cars, electric light, plumbing,
home-computing, washing machines,
television, Teslas. In return for this
generosity, the government rewards
them with a tax rate of 40 per cent+
and a VAT rate of 20 per cent, while
gloating savers get tax breaks on economically useless assets like property.
There is no hope for a sensible discussion on inequality until we properly distinguish between wealth and
income. Today, a young family whose
earnings lie just within the top 10 per
cent of household income (�,000ish) would need to spend nothing ?
and pay no tax ? for almost 20 years
to amass wealth of �1 million ?
thereby reaching the top 10 per cent
of households by wealth. The idea that
you can reduce wealth inequality by
taxing income no longer makes sense.
Moreover countries with seemingly admirable income equality are
often very unequal in terms of wealth.
Don?t believe me? Well, on a ranking
of reasonably developed countries,
the United States has a very high level
of wealth inequality ? it?s in second
place. Turkey comes fourth. So far no
surprises. But who comes top? Anyone wanting to win a pub bet should
memorise this, since it?s not something anyone would guess. It?s Denmark. Yep, Denmark. And who comes
third? Sweden. Norway and Germany are both worse than the UK. Denmark may look like an egalitarian
paradise full of fresh-faced Nords on
silly bicycles, but it has the wealth distribution of Game of Thrones.
The problem with quantitative
easing is that all the extra wealth went
to people with the lowest propensity
to spend it. Next time round they
should either give the money to the
poor, or hand it straight to Elton John
and Snoop Dogg. Either way it might
actually enter the useful economy.
Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman
of Ogilvy Group UK.
DEAR MARY YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED
Q. How does one avoid power
handshakes? Twenty-five years
of wicket-keeping have left me
with pathetically fragile knuckles,
and each greeting (especially
from bold young men keen to
show just how ?firm? their grip
is) brings the risk of crunching
fingers and cracking bones. The
pain can rule out my other hobby
? playing keyboards in a band
? for a couple of weeks. But
it would seem terribly rude to
refuse to shake someone?s hand.
What do you suggest?
? C.F., Hinton Ampner, Hants
A. You should sidestep the usual
full-hand shake which juxtaposes
both ?handpits? between thumb
and index fingers. Instead deftly
grab only the fingertips of the
power shaker. You will look inept
rather than weedy, but the position
means he cannot apply the leverage
necessary for crunching. You might
otherwise consider adopting the
modern practice of power-hugging.
Q. May I suggest a good answer
to the problem ?How can I get a
table in a restaurant that?s fully
booked?? Answer: Get hold of
one of those decontamination
costumes now being used by
the police in Salisbury and just
stride right in.
? C.B, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
A. My solutions are usually
practical. Yours is amusing but the
follow-through would not be.
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
Q. A childhood friend of my wife
has written her first novel, which
has been published. I have never
met this woman, but she knows I
write the occasional book review
and am involved in the literary
world here in New York. She
has sent me a copy of the book,
presumably at her own expense,
with a note asking in the most
charming terms whether I might
give an endorsement. I hate to
sound grand, but I am astonished
this book has been published.
It is mediocre and bland and I
don?t think I can find anything to
recommend it, even in the most
neutral terms. What should I do?
? P.T., New York
A. Write back immediately saying
you read the book with increasing
horror, because you realised that it
is identical in style and content to
the as yet unpublished novel your
sister/mother/aunt/first cousin
has just completed. This relation
would be furious if she found you
were promoting a rival novel so
similar to her own. Indeed, she
may well be convinced you have
told this woman the plot of her
own book. You can then confide
that you think it is very good,
better than that written by your
relation, but for family reasons
you cannot be associated with it.
Q. How can I remind my son?s
godmother that he is 21 soon? She
is a great friend but very vague.
? Name and address withheld
A. When chatting with her, relate
an imaginary conversation you
have had with someone who
found you clearing out your son?s
bedroom, with you saying, ?I never
thought I would still be cleaning
his room. He is 21 in two weeks.?
61
LIFE
Drink
Big two-hearted river
Bruce Anderson
he Rh鬾e is a strong river. The
Loire derives graciousness
from its ch鈚eaux. The Rhine
and the Thames have been sentimentalised: not the Rh鬾e. There are no
Rh鬾e-maidens, no suggestion of
?sweet Rh鬾e run softly till I end my
song?. A powerful onrush of water
rips past the banks of a river that
knows how to drown men.
But it also brings fertility in abundance. This is probably the oldest wine-growing region in France.
The romantic version is that Greeks
brought the Shiraz grape from Persia; 2,500 years later, Syrah is still the
region?s vinous bedrock. As one would
expect from a combination of the River
God and the Sun God, these are powerful wines, easily hitting 14 degrees.
Even Hemingway declared that Ch鈚eauneuf is not a lunchtime wine.
Single bottles are always a temptation. All too often, it is one that
should be resisted. Great wine needs a
lengthy and untroubled maturation. It
should be put to sleep like Br黱nhilde,
until a hero arrives for the awakening.
T
Even
Hemingway
declared that
Ch鈚eauneuf
is not a
lunchtime
wine
If the bottle has been forgotten about
and bundled around in various housemovings before coming to rest next to
the central heating boiler, the owners
will end up with a somewhat ill-tempered Valkyrie.
My experiment took place in the
early 1980s. There were no heroes
or dragons: merely a wine merchant
who had three bottles of Hermitage
from the 1920s. He offered no guarantee about their condition. To adopt
booksellers? idiom, they were for sale
?with all faults?. I cannot remember the
price. It was cheap if the bottles had
retained their quality: not so, if they
had turned to vinegar. It would be
unfair to describe the first two as vinegar: unfair on vinegar. They smelt as
if they might be a substitute for Novichok. But the third, a 1929, was Apollonian: one of the greatest wines I have
tasted: a hero that any Valkyrie would
be happy to carry to Valhalla. My
friend John Beveridge has described
the ?67 Yquem as ?like a Greek temple
melted down in honey?. That Hermitage deserved a similar tribute.
Over the weekend, when the hostess could spare time from discussing
the arrangements for Monday?s meet,
we were discussing Rh鬾e-ish matters
in Dorset. In geography and climate,
?Not THE Peter Rabbit?!?
the two regions may be dissimilar,
but in zest for life there could be an
unending and friendly rivalry. In both
of them, agriculture is central. In both
cases, the craft and husbandry associated with cultivation produces proper
people. Dorset has its grand families
but ? perhaps to a greater extent than
in any other English county ? there
is also a backbone of yeomanry. In all
this, hunting is crucial. The hunting
field is a classic Burkean coalition: the
dead, the living and the yet unborn.
That there are people wicked enough
to wish to eradicate this more than
sport, this almost mystic affirmation
of England and its people ? demonstrates the extent to which the left is in
the grip of malignancy and psychosis:
of hatred for the country which it wishes to dominate. We must save hunting
for the as yet unborn.
There are areas in which Dorset
must give best. So we turned to the
Rh鬾e for wine. My friends produced
their last two bottles of Ch鈚eau de
Beaucastel 2000. It is a superb wine,
made by the Perrin family, who blend
every one of the 13 Rh鬾e grape varietals. The wine was ready, but there is
still plenty of life. If you are fortunate
enough to own some, there need be no
hurry to finish it off. Its second wine,
Coudoulet de Beaucastel, is also admirable. What the Perrins do not know
about viniculture is not knowledge.
Recently, I have been drinking a
certain amount of Cornas, while resolving to increase the tempo. One of the
smallest Rh鬾e appellations and using
only Syrah, it produces sophisticated
and long-lived bottles. So we toasted
its success and hunting?s survival.
ANCIENT AND MODERN
Kim?s unwise offer
President Trump?s acceptance
of talks about denuclearisation
must have been as big a shock
to Kim Jong-un as his offer
was to the USA. So Kim is
probably scrambling, too. And
if there is a positive outcome, he
will live to regret it.
In the 2nd century bc the two
big Mediterranean players were
Rome and the vast Hellenistic
?empire? to the east, left behind
by Alexander the Great and
ruled by assorted ?kings?
descended from his generals. The
Hellenistic king Antiochus IV
had ambitions to extend his
power west into Greece and
Egypt. Knocked back by Rome,
62
in 168 bc he took advantage of
disunity in Judaea to establish a
power base there, and attacked
Jerusalem.
The revolt against him was
raised by Mattathias, and when
he died in 166 bc was carried
forward by his son, the great
Jewish hero Judah Maccabee.
By 164 bc Judah had retaken
and reconsecrated the temple.
But the area was still under
Hellenistic control, and in 161 bc
Judah decided to seek an alliance
with Rome. The terms were:
?May things go well forever for
the Romans and for the Jewish
nation on land and sea! May they
never have enemies, and may
they never go to war! If war is
declared first against Rome or
any of her allies anywhere, the
Jewish nation will come to her
aid with wholehearted support,
as the situation may require.
And to those at war with her,
the Jews shall not give or supply
food, arms, money, or ships, as
was agreed in Rome. The Jews
must carry out their obligations
without receiving anything in
return.?
It then repeated those terms if
the Jewish nation was attacked.
It seemed like a good idea
at the time, but the long-term
consequence was only to draw
mighty Rome into Jewish affairs.
The result was that Judaea found
itself simply a pawn in the game
between Rome and the east, and
in a hundred years? time, Pompey
would be storming the temple
of Jerusalem. So if Kim does
reach, and keep, an agreement
with Trump, he will simply be
speeding up the moment when
he becomes the prawn cocktail
in the main feast, carved up
between America and China.
? Peter Jones
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
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sGO???????????hV?�?????�
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LEGAL
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SPEECH WRITING
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the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
CLASSIFIEDS
Education & General
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the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
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51
?Denmark may look like an egalitarian
paradise but it has the wealth
distribution of Game of Thrones?
? Rory Sutherland, p61
High life
Taki
Gstaad
I never made it to Zurich but met up with
Steve Bannon through the miracle of technology, thanks to my hosts at the Swiss
weekly Die Weltwoche, who gave him my
telephone number. He rang at a civilised
time and we had a very cosy chat for an
hour or so. I don?t know how it was done,
and don?t ask me for details, but I could see
him and apparently he could see me too. The
first things I said were that I was 100 per cent
heterosexual and what a pity it was that I
had to be initiated into this technology while
talking to a man ? a man I much admire
but a man none the less. ?That makes two of
us,? answered the great one, ?and we used to
go out with the same girl. . . .? Like a gent, he
never mentioned her name, and I didn?t ask.
The reason all this was done electronically was that I had turned into a hydrocephalus. My head ballooned to twice its normal
size after I collided with a hard place while
showing off skiing without a helmet. Head
injuries at my age are a bore, though it?s the
brain cell loss that concerns me, and to hell
with the looks. But back to Steve Bannon
and what he had to say.
Basically, the populist movement differs in each country, as it should. According
to Steve, central banks are in the business
of debasing currencies as the business and
political class are debasing citizenship, making us slaves. He compared the new serfdom
to the situation pre-French Revolution,
with Google, Amazon and Facebook living
it up in Versailles and urging us to eat cake.
The Time?s Up movement he likened to the
French Revolution. What will save us from
the ogres, according to Steve, is the new currency. This I found very interesting.
I understand currencies as well as I comprehend modern technology, i.e., not at all.
But I am still capable of not thinking of
women long enough to concentrate, and
here is what I learned: entrepreneurs are
now selling their own virtual currencies to
raise money for software that they say they
are building. In return for real money, investors receive digital tokens, similar to bitcoin.
These coin offerings rose out of nowhere
last year to become a popular way for startups to raise tens of millions of dollars. That
leaves bankers out of the loop, and entrepreneurs free to practise free enterprise. Steve
Bannon is all for it, and I am also behind it,
however little I understand, which is very,
very little. But it makes sense ? the freeing
of the serfs, that is ? so I?m all for it. Apparently, there are already eight virtual currencies worth more than ?6.6 billion, and all the
bitcoins in the world are worth around $185
billion. Caramba, as they say in Mexico.
A parallel currency can create liquidity
and help small Italian and Greek companies,
which the EU has hogtied to the euro, overcome the credit crunch. A parallel currency
would also slowly break the chokehold of the
European Central Bank and Berlin, a fact
that Brussels views as anathema. Yanis Varoufakis, who briefly served the Greek turncoat and sellout Tsipras as finance minister,
advocated something similar until Tsipras
was ordered by Brussels to get rid of the
pest. Which he did, immediately after saluting. Steve and I had a good laugh about this.
Bannon has a blue-collar background and
three daughters, two of whom vote Democrat. One went to West Point and served in
Iraq. He served in the US Navy and graduated from Harvard. He is a rumpled good
American, and reminded me of those good
men in the movie The Deer Hunter.
God protect us from the illuminati was
Steve?s message. The poor, the workers and
the middle class did not cause the 2008 meltdown; the elite bankers were the cause, and
not a single banker paid a single penny as a
penalty, says Steve. Berlusconi was the first
populist to come to power and he did so for
the same reason Trump did years later: voters were fed up with a governing elite that
were out of touch and corrupt. European
elites believe that the very concept of borders should not exist. Basically, it all has to
do with sovereignty and the people?s wish
not to be told how to live by Brussels. I
asked him about my number one politician
in the whole wide world, Viktor Orban, the
Hungarian prime minister. Steve agreed that
he is numero uno.
We finally turned to the Donald. Bannon
was very complimentary, touching upon policy rather than personal quirks and Michael
Wolff-like gossip. After all, he knows the
man very well and inside-out. The exporting
of Chinese goods gutted midwest American
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
manufacturing, and free trade with totalitarian states makes for only one loser, Uncle
Sam. Basically, Trump had to happen. He
also said that unless America stops waging
wars around the world, only the elites will
profit and the rest will continue to suffer.
Amen, said I. ?The problems of sub-Saharan
Africa cannot be solved by taxing the middle and working class. Unelected government officials in Brussels have been rejected
because of the immigrant and refugee policies over which they?ve presided. The
European Central Bank can veto national
economic legislation. Hence the revolt.?
I will be meeting Steve next week in New
York. We might work out something to save
the world from the clutches of the greedy
ones. I?ll keep you posted.
Low life
Jeremy Clarke
The flight from Gatwick to France was cancelled and there was no prospect of another for three days. Paddington station was
closed and the road to the south-west of
England and home was impassable. Gatwick
airport railway station was in chaos as train
after train in both directions was cancelled
due to snow.
Then a friend came to the rescue and
offered her flat in south London until I could
book another flight. A train to Clapham
Junction then a bus would get me there. The
keys were in a key safe attached to the rear
of the porter?s lodge.
A rogue northbound train arrived and
everyone jumped on irrespective of its destination, as though it were the last train out
of Berlin before the Russians turned up. At
Clapham Common the bus was still gamely running and it stopped right outside the
imposing 1930s block of flats. The porter?s
lodge was deserted but I located the key
safe. Revolving the numbered wheels to the
correct code and flipping the safe open was
very difficult as I had no feeling in the tips
of my fingers.
The flat was enormous. And pure 1930s
53
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? original metal windows, vast bath, art
deco-style fireplace. I called my friend to
learn how to turn on the heating. ?Amazing flat, Penny,? I said. She gave a brief history. During the war, General de Gaulle
had lived in that very flat, she said. Post-war
builders had uncovered the buried fuel tank
in which his government-issued petrol was
stored. And the flat had witnessed a tragedy.
She?d bought it a decade before. The previous occupants were a very elderly lesbian
couple. One died of natural causes and the
other was so grief-stricken that she set fire to
herself and burnt to death in the guest bedroom. If I looked carefully at the bedroom
ceiling when I was lying in bed, she said, I
would see the smoke damage.
I set up camp in the kitchen. It was the
soonest warm and there was a telly. I hadn?t
watched a television for months. I switched
on and flicked through the channels. Nothing appealed until I arrived at one devoted
to history called Yesterday. Currently showing, weirdly, was a documentary about General de Gaulle so I sat down and watched it.
During the first world war the big contrarian
lump was shot in the knee and in the hand,
bayoneted in the thigh, gassed, blown up and
taken prisoner, subsequently making five
escape attempts. We followed his dissenting
career until the Germans invaded France
again and de Gaulle left France (or rather,
France left him) for London, from where he
broadcast his daily resolve-stiffening appeals
to the French people. After which he presumably returned to the kitchen I was sitting in,
and stared testily out of the window.
I made a pig of myself with that telly. If
the televisual fare became too uniformly
banal even for the likes of me, I read. From
the thousands of books lining the flat, I
chose Provided You Don?t Kiss Me: 20 Years
With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton,
which in its own way is every bit as gripping
as David Peace?s novel about Clough, The
Damned United.
And so for the next three days I led a solitary, mute and interior life in an enormous,
snowbound 1930s London flat, albeit with
three ghostly presences: General de Gaulle,
an elderly barbecued lesbian and Brian
Clough ? though one imagines they were
too busy bickering among themselves to pay
any attention to their mortal guest.
My flight was rescheduled for noon of
the fourth day, which meant quitting the
flat at 9 a.m. at the latest. I packed my bag
the night before and fried sausages for the
journey. The next morning I cleaned up and
switched everything off, and I was standing
in my cap, coat and gloves at two minutes
to nine like some sort of anal retentive. All
I needed to do before closing the flat door
behind me was take the rubbish bag outside
and dump it in the dustbin, which was located on a shared back balcony. This balcony
was accessed via an exterior door in the
communal hallway.
I went through this door, plopped the bag
in the dustbin with a flourish of finality and
turned to leave again. Unfortunately, the
door had swung shut behind me and could
not be opened from the outside. I banged on
the windows and door but the block was as
silent as the tomb and my phone was with my
luggage. I sat on the dustbin and despaired.
And it sounds far-fetched, but were those
the faces of Charles de Gaulle, Cloughie and
the burnt lesbian, hostilities suspended, staring balefully out at me through the kitchen
window? ?Help! Help!? I shouted.
Real life
Melissa Kite
We live in a cynical world. One cannot simply advertise something for sale and expect
people to believe what one is saying.
The first person to turn up to view the
horse lorry did not even want to test-drive it
on the basis that it was clearly a death trap.
?Hmm,? she said. ?I?m just a bit concerned
about that roof.?
I looked at the roof, baffled. ?There?s
nothing wrong with the roof.? Genuinely, it?s
the last bit of the lorry I have ever worried
about.
I tend to worry more about the floor,
given that that is the bit the horse is standing on. I had the floor fully checked. But the
roof? Not so much. What trouble the roof
of a horsebox could possibly be, I could not
imagine. Was she planning to suspend her
horse from the ceiling, rather than tie it to
the wall?
I said I could vouch for the fact that the
roof had never given me any problems that
I was aware of.
The lady huffed. ?What?s that bit of plastic on the ground then??
I looked down. Propped up against the
lorry was a mouldy old sheet of Perspex
that had obviously been blowing around the
farm yard until someone picked it up and
leaned it there, probably to stop it frightening the horses.
?I don?t know what that is,? I said, kicking
the thing to one side.
The lady looked at me pointedly and
raised her eyebrows. ?I think you?ll find
that?s from your roof.?
?Honestly,? I said. ?I will tell you there are
downsides to this lorry. It can?t take a horse
over 16 hands. It doesn?t start first time on
cold mornings, it starts second time. And it
absolutely needs a paint job. But I swear to
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
you there is nothing wrong with the roof.?
?What?s that hole then??
I stared at where she was pointing and all
I could see was a smudge of dirt.
?That?s not a hole.?
?Yes it is. It?s where that bit of plastic has
come from.?
I wouldn?t have minded but the bit of
plastic didn?t even fit the size and shape of
the smudge. I denied again that the roof was
dodgy but she pulled her cardigan tightly
around her, the way women do when they
are sure they are being taken for a ride.
I had to give up. I showed her back to her
car and waved goodbye. Fine, let her think
there?s a hole in the roof. There isn?t a hole
in the roof, but if it makes her happy to go
off and gossip to all and sundry that I tried
to sell her a lorry with a hole in the roof then
alrighty-roo, there?s a hole in the roof.
I just wanted it to stop. The lorry had
been advertised on Facebook for barely a
day and it was already doing my head in.
Within minutes, people were deluging me
with statements of the bleeding obvious like:
?Is this still available??
Yes, it is. It was listed three minutes ago
and it hasn?t sold yet.
I posted 15 pictures of the damn thing
from every angle and the reaction was,
?Have you any more photos??
How many more photos would you like?
15? 150? 1,500? 15,000?
My description ran to over 100 words
including every possible engine detail, all
the dimensions, the weight laden and unladen, and how it was suitable for horses up to
16 hands.
?Can I put my 16.2h horse in it?? came the
response of one girl. And then from another:
?Will my 16.3 fit in this??
?The problem you?ve got,? said the keeper, as we sat in my kitchen, me head in hands,
my laptop pinging with superfluous Facebook notifications, ?is that you are dealing
with women.?
?Stupid women!? I cried.
Because, after all the questions, they
were turning up and not even test-driving it.
I popped the bonnet for one girl. ?What you
doing?? she said. ?Showing you the engine,? I
said. ?Oh, I don?t want to see that.? ?But it?s
got a new battery and spark plugs.? ?I?m not
really interested to be honest,? she said, fiddling with the radio.
?Would you like me to turn the engine
over?? ?Nah.? ?Can I show you the paperwork? I have the service history.? There was
no point. She was glazing over.
It suddenly occurred to me that in the
time it takes me to sell this lorry, Gracie
will be fully recovered from her tendon
strain and jumping again. So what if it?s �
a month to tax, insure and park. If I let it
stand idle for six months and don?t try to
sell it, that?s �0 not to have to deal with
women asking pointless questions. Cheap at
half the price.
55
LIFE
The turf
Robin Oakley
In the days when it was fashionable to mock
the IQ of an American President who had
taken the showbiz route to office, a Congressman reported the burning down of
Ronald Reagan?s library. ?That?s sad,? said
the hearer. ?Yes. He lost both books.?
Racing folk don?t read much either; writers of racing books rarely stray far from the
poorhouse precincts. But any aspiring trainers whose wallets have survived the Cheltenham Festival should consider buying one
volume. Last year?s Gold Cup winner Sizing John did not turn up this week to defend
his crown. Past winners rarely do, reminding us what an extraordinary feat Henrietta Knight achieved by capturing three
consecutive Gold Cups with Best Mate. An
enquiring mind is a key qualification for a
good trainer: long after Michael Dickinson
had trained the first five home in the 1983
Gold Cup, and 15 times champion trainer
Martin Pipe had rewritten the record books,
the two obsessives could be seen ? one with
a tape recorder, the other with notebook in
hand ? interrogating each other about how
things could be done better still.
Hen shares that thirst for knowledge
about anything that can make happy horses run faster, and for her fascinating treatise The Jumping Game (Head of Zeus,
�) she has spent time with 27 of the most
successful trainers in England and Ireland
documenting how they seek to get the best
out of their animals: how they set out their
stable yards and their gallops, how they
like their horses fed, equipped and ridden,
what kinds of horses they buy and how they
teach them to jump.
Her researches confirm that there is no
perfect method, no magic elixir. Hugely successful trainers differ widely, for example,
on the value of weighing horses or blood
tests. Henrietta believes strongly in ?loose
schooling?, educating horses to jump initially
without riders on their backs. So do Martin
and David Pipe. But Alan King, Colin Tizzard, Gordon Elliott, Jonjo O?Neill and Dan
Skelton stick firmly to having the job done
with jockeys on top. Most trainers these days
do much of their work up steep inclines to
build strong hindquarters and jumping muscles; Willie Mullins, the top trainer in Ireland
these past nine years, relies on 16 acres of flat
farmland. While Mullins, Joseph O?Brien and
many other Irish trainers use barley straw for
horses? bedding, hardly any English trainers
56
do the same, reckoning that greedy horses
will eat much of it. (Even if they do, says Hen,
it is good roughage that will help to counter
the build-up of stomach acids that lead to an
increasing number of ulcers.)
Like Hen, Noel Meade and Venetia Williams do plenty of trotting to help horses
achieve the right shape. Gordon Elliott?s
and David Pipe?s horses hardly trot at all.
Elliott and Jonjo O?Neill regard their equine
swimming-pools as vital. Says Jonjo: ?Swimming doesn?t get horses fit but it keeps them
fit.? Nicky Henderson, England?s champion trainer, doesn?t have a pool. Henrietta
admires Mouse Morris?s grass gallops in Co.
Tipperary, insisting that ?grass is undoubtedly the best surface for training a horse?,
and Enda Bolger, ?King of the banks?, gives
his charges plenty of jumping off grass. Paul
Nicholls, England?s long-time champion
trainer, seldom jumps his horses on grass.
There is a growing trend for circular deep
sand gallops that enable horses to build up
their distance covered while learning to
relax and breathe regularly. Gordon Elliott
swears by his and now Henderson and Pipe
Is crushed ice applied to horses in
rubber boots overdoing things?
Bridge
Janet de Botton
Little did I know, when I was railing at how
Britain comes to a standstill at the first flurry
of the white stuff, how marvellously it would
turn out for my team. The second Camrose
(home countries championship) weekend
was cancelled and a substitute announced.
Unfortunately, the winners of the Premier
League last year (Allfrey) couldn?t make the
date chosen and the runners-up (Hinden)
had already played the first weekend, which
meant that my team, coming third, was invited
to represent England in Dublin next month.
Fan-blooming-tastic. My first England cap.
But back to tournaments played. Here is
the most talked-about hand in Simon Gillis?s fabulous Lederer Trophy. This year teams
from Israel, Iceland and Ireland joined pairs
from Norway, Sweden and Denmark to make
a Class A tournament. Israel were the eventual winners but today?s slam was played by
Espen Lindqvist for the Gillis team. He was
the only declarer in the room to make it:
Dealer East
have installed them too. But Mouse Morris argues that ?many horses can lose their
actions if they do too much work on sand,
and never get them back again?.
Some general trends do emerge. In the
old days a stable?s ?feed man? was a vital cog,
brewing up mashes, including his own special
potions, like some tribal witch doctor. Now
most trainers supplement their haylage with
commercially produced cubes and mixes
containing balanced nutrients. Horses are
groomed much less, partly because of fewer
stable staff but also, says Henrietta, because
?too much grooming annoys a fit horse ? a
coat will always shine if a horse is healthy?.
Horses are generally better tempered, partly because more of them start their regular
contact with humans earlier: the old ?store?
jumping horses were not handled until they
were four or older. Interval training up precipices has lessened front leg tendon injuries
but hasn?t improved horses? breathing.
Henrietta Knight was once a schoolmistress but not, I suspect, a harsh one. The
potted biographies of each trainer and his
or her yard almost invariably note a ?good
atmosphere?, ?relaxed? horses and ?superb
teamwork?. There is little direct criticism of
anything she saw although she thinks that
some trainers push their youngsters too fast
in teaching them to jump. Henrietta does
suggest, too, that maybe the state-of-theart technology in a yard like Jonjo O?Neill?s
Jackdaws Castle, with its solariums, therapeutic rugs and crushed ice applied to horses
in rubber boots, is overdoing things. Maybe,
but training was never an exact science: everybody is looking for an edge.
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the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
SPECTATOR WINE JONATHAN RAY
sme Johnstone, the genial boss of
FromVineyardsDirect, is the past
master at rootling out tasty little
parcels of this and that and at unearthing
vinous treats from past vintages. I?m delighted to say he?s done it again this week with
six very stylish French wines including two
fully mature, extremely well-priced clarets
and one steal of a Bergerac. There?s much to
enjoy here, so fill your boots!
The 2016 Ch鈚eau Virgile Blanc (1)
comes from Costi鑢es de N頼es in the
Gard, where they?ve been making wine for
over 2,000 years. The estate of Ch鈚eau Virgile itself dates from the 18th century and is
home to brothers Serge and Thierry Baret,
producers of wines that offer what Robert
Parker calls ?mind-boggling value?. For once,
it?s hard to disagree with Uncle Bob for this
little gem ? blended from Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier ? is a complete joy.
Delightfully aromatic (think lemons, pears,
peaches and apricots), it?s fresh and lively,
with a fine mineral finish and a very modest
price. �25 down from �65.
The Graves in Bordeaux is rarely my go-to
place when it comes to decent white wine.
Not that there aren?t great wines made there,
of course ? it?s just that they rarely catch my
eye and when they do, they prove to be more
than a little bland and uninteresting. The
2016 Ch鈚eau Les Clauzots (2), however, is
a glorious exception. Made from 70 per cent
Sauvignon Blanc, 20 per cent S閙illon and
10 per cent Sauvignon Gris (and that?s not a
grape you see very often), it?s lemony-fresh
with hints of grapefruit and peach and a long,
creamy, dry finish. �.95 down from �.95.
The 2016 Les Loges Vieilles Vignes Montagny 1er Cru (2) is an instantly appealing
white burgundy of quite some panache produced at the highly regarded, 120 familiesstrong, Vignerons de Buxy co-operative in
the C魌e Chalonnaise. One sip ? well, gulp
? and I was completely smitten. Only old
vine Chardonnay grown in the finest vineyards of Montagny is used, and it?s beautifully textured with decent weight, bright, fresh,
zesty, citrusy fruit and a long, clean, really
rather exhilarating mineral finish. If you like
fine white burgundy and you like a bargain
then this will be right up your street. �.45
down from �.95.
E
The 2009 Ch鈚eau Calet (4) is a cheap ?n?
cheerful red Bordeaux from a great year and
a great stable (the Sichel family no less) and I
really can?t see what?s not to like. Yes, I know
it?s nearing the end of its drinking life, but
pop it in a decanter and relish its soft, mellow,
ripe Merlot (mainly) and Cabernet Franc
If you like fine white burgundy
and you like a bargain then
this will be right up your street
(just a splash) fruit and its silky, savoury
finish, and congratulate yourself on having
nabbed a bargain. �95 down from �.95.
Anything that has a wild boar on its label,
such as the 2014 Sang de Sanglier (5), gets
my vote. I adore wild boar and have done
ever since as a boy on holiday in France I
was presented by the chef with the tusks
of the beast he?d just cooked and I?d just
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
eaten. And this, from Ch鈚eau de Fayolle
in Bergerac, would be the perfect accompaniment. Rich, robust, fruity yet savoury, it?s
made from 100 per cent oak-aged Merlot
and makes a hugely rewarding mouthful.
�.95 down from �.95.
Finally, from the M閐oc, the 2010 Ch鈚eau Les Moines (5), a more than worthy
successor to the 2009 vintage which we
offered so successfully at the end of last
year. As you know, both 2009 and 2010 were
10/10 vintages, and this 70 per cent Cabernet
Sauvignon/30 per cent Merlot Cru Bourgeois is showing plenty of class as it leaves
adolescence and enters maturity. There is
plenty of ripe damson/plum/blueberry fruit
in the mouth, a touch of spice and a long,
almost meaty finish. It?s spot on. �.95 down
from �.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each
wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
ORDER FORM Spectator Wine Offer
www.fromvineyardsdirect.com/offers/spectatorwineclub-march
FromVineyardsDirect, 2 Square Rigger Row, London, SW11 3TZ
Tel: 020 7549 7900; Email: service@fromvineyardsdirect.com
Prices in form are per case of 12
White
1
2
3
Red
4
5
6
Mixed 7
2016 Ch. Virgile Blanc (1) 13.5%vol
2016 Ch. Les Clauzots (2) 12.5%vol
2016 Les Loges Montagny 1er Cru 14%vol
2009 Ch. Calet (4) 13.5%vol
2014 Sang de Sanglier (5) 14.5%vol
2010 Ch. Les Moines (6) 14%vol
Sample case, two each of the above
Issue no.
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Signature
Please send wine to
Name
Address
Club price
�3.80
�7.40
�9.40
�1.40
�5.40
�3.40
�6.80
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�9.40
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British mainland. Payment should be
made either by cheque with the order,
payable to FromVineyardsDirect, or
by debit or credit card, details of which
may be telephoned or faxed. This offer,
which is subject to availability, closes
on 28 April 2018.
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57
LIFE
Chess
First round nerves
Raymond Keene
The three most important events in the World
Chess Federation calendar are the World
Championship match, the Olympiad and the
Candidates tournament, all of them biennial.
The last of these is now in progress in Berlin and
the winner will go on to challenge Magnus
Carlsen for the supreme title in London later this
year. The first round witnessed some typical
nerves which tend to afflict even leading players
at the commencement of career-determining
competitions. The former challenger Sergei
Karjakin started off by losing with the white
pieces to the highest-ranked contestant,
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, while the popular
favourite, Lev Aronian, a three-times Olympiad
gold medallist, obtained an excellent position
against the Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren,
only to lose his courage at the critical juncture.
#RONKCN&KNI: Fid� Candidates, Berlin 2018
WDk4WgW4
0b0WDW0p
W0nDW0WD
1WDW0WDW
PDP)WDW)
DW)BDWDW
WDWGW)PD
DRDQDKHR
White?s next move creates huge complications.
蘀$WEThis move, exploiting the pin along
the d-file, is essentially forced. 4D3C
� White protects the d3-bishop with a view
to unleashing a deadly discovered attack by the
rook on b5. Black now takes drastic action. $WF$G18 cxd4 Rxd4 19 Ne2 Qxa4 is
good for Black. 4FThis is a mistake.
Black should play 18 ... Ba8 to create a flight
square for the queen on b7. 4DMuch better
is 19 Rb2, to protect the bishop on d2. After 19 ...
Qa5 20 cxd4 Qd5 21 dxe5 Nxe5 22 Nf3 White is a
piece ahead although the situation remains
complex. 3C4D3CBlack could
27<<.'01
White to play. This position is from KramnikAndreikin, Tal Memorial 2018. White now finished
off quickly. What did he play? Answers to me at
The Spectator by Tuesday 20 March or via email
to victoria@spectator.co.uk. There is a prize of
� for the first correct answer out of a hat. Please
include a postal address and allow six weeks for
prize delivery.
.CS?VGGLSO?T?KON 1 Rd8
.CS?VGGLVKNNGR Roy Bland, Penzance,
Cornwall
58
Competition
Doing words
Lucy Vickery
try 20 ... Bxc3 which leads to the following
extraordinary variation: 21 Rd3 Rxd3 22 Bxd3
Ba6 (22 ... Bxd2 is also possible) 23 Bxc3 Qxc3
24 Ne2 Qa3 25 Rb3 Qxa4 26 Bf5+ Kb8 27
Rxb6+ cxb6 28 Qxa4 Bxe2+ 29 Kxe2 Nd4+ 30
Kd3 Nxf5 31 Qd7 and White stands better.
�3C4DDraw agreed
-CR?CLKN/CMGFXCROU: Fid� Candidates
WDWDWDWD
DWDWDpiW
WDWDWDp0
DWDW)WDW
W!WDW)W)
DpDW1PDW
WDWDWDKD
DWDWDWDW
Black?s passed b-pawn is a huge asset in this
position and he would normally expect to be
able to shepherd this home with his queen
without too much trouble. However in this
position it is not so easy. For example, after 50
... Qe2+ 51 Kg3 b2 White can play 52 e6! when
Black?s king will become exposed and a draw
by perpetual check will be inevitable. Instead,
Mamedyarov hits on a plan of freeing up his
king to aid the promotion effort on the
queenside. I?JWIJWI
HWI3G-I3WG-H3J
-G3I-H3E-I3G
-I3WI-H3F-G-I
-G-H-G-G3D-F
3C-E3C-E3C3E
3C-E3C-D3D-D
-F3H-G3J9JK?GRGSKINS
As a warm-up for the Candidates, several
players attended the quickplay Tal Memorial in
Moscow. The blitz was won by Karjakin and
the rapidplay by Anand. This week?s puzzle is a
finish from Moscow by former world champion
Vladimir Kramnik, who started well in Berlin.
rDWDW4Wi
)W1WDW0p
RDWDBDWD
DWDp0WDW
WDWDWDWD
DPhWDQDW
WDPDW)P)
DWDW$WIW
In Competition No. 3039, which was
inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert?s phenomenally successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love,
you were invited to choose a well-known
figure, past or present, invent a three-verb
title you felt would be appropriate for their
memoir, and provide an extract from it.
Some promising-sounding titles ? Sleep,
Dream, Fleece by Sigmund Freud, Wait,
Hang Around, Kick One?s Heels by HRH
Prince Charles, Elise Christie?s Skate, Fall,
Cry and Bill Clinton?s Fornicate, Ejaculate,
Prevaricate ? didn?t quite deliver but commendations all the same to Paul Carpenter,
Richard Corcoran, David Silverman and
Douglas G. Brown.
Honourable mentions also go to Adrian
Fry ? whose Drink, Shag, Repeat saw him
stepping into the shoes of this magazine?s
Low life correspondent Jeremy Clarke ?
and to John Bird, David Shields and Ann
Alexander. The winners, printed below, are
rewarded with � each.
Order, Sort, Classify: a Memoir of Peter Mark
Roget by John Roget
One of my earliest memories is walking with my
mama, my mother, my maternal parent, in the
park when I was five, and I remarked: ?Look at the
birds ? they are pretty, attractive, blue.? ?No, no,?
she exclaimed, expostulated, cried out, SEE
ejaculate, ?they are indeed blue, but that is not a
synonym. Think how that would hurt, dismay,
distress, irritate, bother SEE aggrieve, anger, your
dear papa, father, male parent.? I think it was at
that tender age that I (and later my brother,
fraternal relative, sibling) came to realise just how
much influence our beloved progenitor,
paterfamilias, head-of-household would have on
us. ?You will one day realise, understand, grasp,
comprehend,? my mother continued, proceeded,
went on, ?just what a benefit, a goldmine, a
treasure-chest, a thesaurus your papa?s collection
of words will be. If only he could think of a good
title for his book??.
Brian Murdoch
State. Restate. Reiterate. by Dan Brown
On the fateful morning when fate made its fateful
intervention, my eyes flickered to the longcase
clock in its long case, faithfully telling the time.
It told me the time was now.
I unlapped the top of my laptop to reveal the
keys on the keyboard and keyed in the first few
words of this memorable memoir, fingering it
with my fingers as I digitally remembered.
I allowed myself a moment to recall for a
moment the phone call that had initiated the
beginning of this undertaking before I undertook
it. How I lifted the phone to my left ear, that
being the rightest for the purpose of listening, and
listened while the caller, who had telephoned me,
asked me over and over ? ?Dan, how the hell do
you manage to churn out this stuff?? I decided
that he deserved an answer and this response is
my reply.
Ann Drysdale
the spectator | 17 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk
LIFE
Drill, Woof, Drool by Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
Buzz, buzz: write, write. My reputation, alas,
seems to be dogged by false assumptions ? for
instance, that I dinged every Rover into dribbling.
Such a cretinous view! ? the automatic, kneejerk response of lazy journalists, slack researchers.
The facts are, buzz, 1. I had a system, and
2. Everything has a system. I woke to my alarm,
and wore a suitable habit (a white coat) daily.
I found my laboratory work stimulating: it gave
me a constant buzz. Write more? I shall. I set
about my research into free will (poppycock)
with the precision of a metronome. Excuse me
while I slaver over my memoir. Like all artefacts,
it is an elaborate mechanism, responding to the
presence of pens, pencils, ink. Reflex reflux: it all
spills out, is somehow predictable. And as for
the fools, Marx, Lenin and so on? The names
ring a bell.
Bill Greenwell
Rule, Fiddle, Burn by Nero
My Rome was well ruled. By Hades, I was a good
ruler! If only Mother had been more supportive
she would have enjoyed old age, perhaps.
But I had other consolations. In her absence
music played a large part in my rich and
colourful life; part of me wou
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