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Orala Johnson from 21 Up. Photo: BBC/ITV Studios

21 Up is intelligent and sensitive – and makes me crave for sex, vomit and immaturity

2 September 2014 12:58

At 9 o’clock last night, I sat down with my take-away curry, flippedback the lid of my MacBook and went to the iPlayer website to catchthe first episode of 21 Up: New… Continue reading

4 Comments
Mansfield Park ( 1999 version

Why boys love Jane Austen

2 September 2014 12:36

When I first read Jane Austen I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to impress a girl who read her. I didn’t get the girl, but I got the novelist:… Continue reading

5 Comments
Photograph: UK Stock Images Ltd/Alamy

My ‘fare-dodging’ hell

2 September 2014 12:01

At least every other time a ticket inspector boards a train or bus I’m on, I pretend I can’t find my ticket or Oyster card. I then miraculously find it… Continue reading

19 Comments
National Gallery of Scotland (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Would Scottish independence compromise its museums and galleries?

1 September 2014 15:15

This article first appeared on the Apollo Magazine’s website. The Scottish independence referendum takes place on 18 September. What would a ‘Yes’ vote mean for the country’s museums and galleries?… Continue reading

42 Comments
Image: Getty

Spectator competition: compose a poet’s verse selfie (plus: what happens when the lights go out)

30 August 2014 10:30

Submissions to the latest competition, which invited you to provide a poetic preview of when the lights go out, were impressively varied and kept me thoroughly entertained. Honourable mentions go… Continue reading

0 Comments
Stills from Sir John Betjeman's BBC film 'Metro-Land'

The false paradise of Metroland

29 August 2014 18:39

Gaily into Ruislip Gardens runs the red electric train… Near the end of the Metropolitan Line, where London dwindles into woods and meadows, stands a Tudor manor house, built within… Continue reading

16 Comments
Will we ever learn to love Leicester's Opal Court, 2007 winner of the Carbuncle Cup?

Will we learn to love our ugly houses?

29 August 2014 15:57

What are the root causes of Britain’s housing crisis? The Philosophers’ Mail – which has copied the format of MailOnline but I suspect is not aiming at quite the same demographic… Continue reading

18 Comments
She's still got it (Photo: Ken McKay/Rex)

Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo review: still crazy after all these years

27 August 2014 9:13

It says something about Kate Bush’s standing in the music world that, perhaps uniquely in the history of long-awaited live comebacks, nobody has suggested — or possibly even thought —… Continue reading

24 Comments
Richard Attenborough on a location shoot on Brighton beach. Photo: John Williams/Getty Images

Working with Dickie Attenborough

25 August 2014 14:19

During my short and probably best forgotten acting career, I found myself on the pointy end of Dickie Attenborough’s camera on two memorable occasions. The first was a cough and… Continue reading

4 Comments
Richard Attenborough as Pinky in 'Brighton Rock' (1947). Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Remember Richard Attenborough for his acting – not his directing

25 August 2014 12:44

Jurassic Park has a lot to answer for. When I was growing up, I was convinced Richard Attenborough was a real dinosaur scientist. I was also convinced that Richard was David. When… Continue reading

2 Comments
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Spectator competition: make the case for sugar, fags and a sedentary lifestyle (plus: how not to curry favour with US customs officials)

23 August 2014 9:30

The recent challenge to come up with misleading advice for British tourists travelling abroad produced a postbag that was infused with a spirit of sadistic mischief. As usual with comps… Continue reading

9 Comments
The Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, Bavaria, shortly before its official opening in 1876. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Spectator at war: Bayreuth on the eve of war

23 August 2014 8:00

The Spectator, 22 August 1914: Inter arma silent Musae; but Bayreuth on the eve of the war showed very few signs of the coming cataclysm. It is true that on… Continue reading

5 Comments
Tim Vine with his award for the best one-liner. Photo: PA

Cringe at the Fringe: are these really the ten funniest jokes from Edinburgh?

22 August 2014 14:10

According to a poll, the funniest one-liner at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was a joke about a vacuum cleaner: ‘I’ve decided to sell my hoover… well, it was just collecting… Continue reading

81 Comments
Garry Winogrand's
'Los Angeles'
(1983). Photo: © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

The dodgy world of posthumous art works

22 August 2014 12:47

What does an artist do with work that isn’t quite up to his or her standards? Throw it out? Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg both tried that, putting artworks they… Continue reading

2 Comments
james-i

The Matter of Scotland: Try, try and try again.

21 August 2014 11:05

PG Wodehouse, who was only the twentieth century’s greatest English-language novelist, once remarked that there existed just two ways to write: “One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music… Continue reading

10 Comments
David Beckham leaves the field. Photo:  ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images

Tattoos are sad and stupid – we should discriminate against people with them

20 August 2014 15:31

It’s not often you can blame Samantha Cameron, Sandra Howard and Cheryl Cole for a social trend that blights the job prospects of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women,… Continue reading

328 Comments
Photographer:
Andersen Ross / Blend Images

Is there anything worse than kids’ parties? Actually yes – the shops that sell kids’ presents

19 August 2014 16:17

It has been a bad fortnight. Not only am I off the sauce for a few weeks to help my liver grow back, last weekend saw me preparing for a… Continue reading

17 Comments
Robin-Thicke-Blurred-Lines-Video-Feature

I’d like to share my favourite violent pop video with you

19 August 2014 14:03

This week has seen the Prime Minister playing Mary Whitehouse again. On Monday he announced that, as of October, music videos on sites like YouTube and Vevo are to carry… Continue reading

19 Comments
Little Miss Muffet cast in sand at the  Creepy Crawlies Sandscupting Exhibition in Melbourne, Australia. Image: Getty

Spectator competition: recast a nursery rhyme in the style of a well-known author (plus pets who perish in unusual ways)

16 August 2014 9:28

I was prompted to ask for short odes on the death of a pet in unusual circumstances by Thomas Gray’s poem ‘Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned… Continue reading

2 Comments
Debbie Sledge of Sister Sledge at Tramlines Festival 2014. Photo:  Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images

Roland Barthes was a fan of Sister Sledge – and I can see why

15 August 2014 11:36

Disco, the tackiest of music subcultures, is the nostalgia choice de nos jours. The sudden revival is a sort of pop gentrification. You want proof? They play Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir,… Continue reading

22 Comments
British Union Jack flags flutter in the

After Scotland, whither Britain? Divorce is a costly business.

14 August 2014 17:48

If, like me, you missed Andrew Neil’s BBC programme exploring What the Hell Happens to the United Kingdom if Scotland Votes for Independence Next Month you might be interested to know that… Continue reading

100 Comments
The Village. Photo: BBC / Company Pictures / Brian Sweeney

The Village: Sunday-night TV at its most unsubtle and addictive

14 August 2014 16:38

Proof that television has changed a bit since 1972 came with an archive clip shown on BBC4 on Sunday. ‘My first guest:’ Michael Parkinson announced matter-of-factly on his Saturday-night chat… Continue reading

4 Comments
Robin Williams outside the Comedy Store in 1978. Photo: Wynn Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Robin Williams in London

14 August 2014 14:46

In 2001 I wrote a book called The Comedy Store (still available in some good bookshops – and quite a lot of bad ones) about the London comedy club that… Continue reading

6 Comments
Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall — a true great

13 August 2014 11:15

As so often, no one put it better than Papa. Here is Ernest Hemingway talking of all the movies made from his novels and short stories: ‘The only two I… Continue reading

9 Comments
6th Annual Stand Up For Heroes - Show

What’s your favourite Robin Williams one-liner?

12 August 2014 10:49

Mr S was saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams — a man who contributed to the gaiety of nations. People wax lyrical about Williams’s ability to inhabit… Continue reading

58 Comments