20 DECEMBER 2008

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The Spectator

‘W hat’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books...

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JANUARY 2008 Jacqui Smith nips out for a kebab in

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a bid to look Modern, but stupidly reveals that she’s scared of being stabbed. This gives us an idea and we begin arranging similar outings for Dave on the mean streets of...

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A lot of you weaklings out there are probably very upset

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at how fast the dollar and the pound are falling, and about how every time you turn on the television all they talk about is the economy and how it is getting worse, and how...

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I cannot believe I am saying this, but Gordon Brown had a remarkable 2008

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J udging the Threadneedle/ Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year awards is far from an onerous task. There are two splendid lunches, plenty of wine, first-rate gossip and more...

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J ohn Milton is 400 years old this month, and there

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is justified lamentation that nobody reads him for pleasure. Although Milton is renowned for his learning and complexity, he was also the master of simplicity. Almost my...

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I am in San Francisco where I began an American theatrical

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adventure ten years ago. It is a beautiful and stylish town but it is impossible to enjoy a stroll in the city centre without being pestered by beggars. Not seldom hostile,...

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Come with me to Santa’s grotto to discover the state we’re in

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Rod Liddle offers a festive tour of the world at Christmas 2008: irrational fear, ignorance, stupidity, vexatious litigation, a foolish longing to abolish ‘risk’, and...

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A season to relish language deeper than words

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Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor says that the heart of the Christian story is the word made flesh. Christ’s language is sacrificial love which took him to the cross O ne of...

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T o a hammer everything is a nail, and to a doctor everything is a symptom. I was recently in a supermarket in a handsome and as yet unspoilt town in the west of England where,...

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I blame Jonathan Ross for all my troubles

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Emily Maitlis looks back on her worst moments in 2008, the anxiety she has caused her fans and her part in a ‘YouTube classic’ L ooking back, I suppose you could say the low...

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Best of British: breakfast with Lily Allen

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Matthew d’Ancona talks to the quintessentially English pop star about growing up, her longing to have children, celebrity culture, US politics and her new album I am sitting...

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Mind your language

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What new word has dominated 2008? Nonebrity , perhaps? No, I have never used it either. It is a portmanteau term for a ‘celebrity nonentity’ and is one suggestion for words...

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C hristmas always comes early to Los Angeles. In fact, the

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slightly tacky decorations hit the lampposts even before Thanksgiving. But the really good thing about this time of year in this part of the world is the abundance of new movies...

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Reasons to be cheerful

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I t may feel like the end of the world, perhaps it is, but even so, it’s still the season of goodwill, good cheer and good news for mankind. It seemed right then for The...

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The faith of Obama: a secular messiah

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The President-elect did not receive, or need, the electoral support of the US Evangelical movement, writes James Forsyth. His religious beliefs defy categorisation T his...

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Mary Poppins’s carpet

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ba g in Deptford Mary Wakefield pays tribute to the 999 Club in south London: a place of refuge that turns nobody away. Neither Christian nor conservative, it embodies all that...

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We need the occasional war or economic collapse

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Tom Stacey says that there is a part of man’s collective soul that yearns for tribulations like the financial crisis and the philosophical and spiritual questions they force...

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We must break down the Berlin Wall in schools

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Michael Gove says that the gulf between the state and independent sectors can only be closed by giving poorer parents the same freedoms as their wealthy counterparts H e who...

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I moved to the country at Easter and have been planning

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Christmas ever since. Our house is groaning with homecooked food, beautifully wrapped presents and table decorations that I’ve made with a hot glue gun. I love hot glue and...

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Afghanistan will thrive if only we let it

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Clare Lockhart , who has advised both the UN and the Afghan government, says that the international aid community needs to trust the Afghan people I ncreasingly the media...

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The C of E should follow John Milton’s lead

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Milton was a great poet but an even greater theologian, says Theo Hobson . His vision of tolerant Christian liberalism should be our template for the future I t’s the debate...

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Cheeky of me to say so, but English journalism is getting better

The Spectator

A splendid Spectator 180th anniversary issue was published this year. Along with many readers, I fell upon a treasury of previously published columns: a selection of examples...

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Dark days when you had to be polite to bankers

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I am old enough to remember the last slump — I was three in 1932 and lived in the Potteries in North Staffordshire, always a precarious area economically, and badly hit by...

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T he days leading up to Xmas are such fun, aren’t

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they? All those cards and presents to buy and all those charity requests reminding one of starving children, crippled adults and abandoned dogs. Over the last few days I’ve...

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Follow the snake goddess to find a famous forger

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T he Today programme would call her iconic, but since she is a 16.1cm gold and ivory (‘chryselephantine’) statuette, it would not be saying much. She stands there, erect,...

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Lessons for life from the Crash of ’73

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David Young , who later served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet and as chairman of Cable & Wireless, recalls his struggle for survival as an up-and-coming entrepreneur T here...

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God rest ye merry capitalists

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David Wilbourne ‘B ehold, I bring good news for all the people,’ the Christmas angel reassures the shepherds. Given that ‘all the people’ includes capitalists, has the...

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Fifty years on, the yield gap reverses

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Richard Northedge N ext year will be a good one for anniversaries. A century since Lloyd George’s People’s Budget, 60 years since Attlee’s devaluation, 25 since inflation...

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An idea whose time has come

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Janice Warman says ventures that address social problems rather than chasing profits can thrive in a recession O n my walk from Charing Cross station each morning I see Steven...

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A hot new brand, a better train service and a kinder role model for harsh times

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H ere in Old Queen Street, we have (in our editor’s eloquent phrase) said pants to recession by launching a fistful of ‘brand extensions’ this year: our Australian...

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Why did Gatland resign?

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Sir: The uproar over the strange case of Maria Gatland McGuire seems almost incomprehensible from a Belfast perspective. At the beginning of December she was compelled to resign...

A British Napoleon

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Sir: Never mind Napoleon’s piles at Waterloo, which Matthew Parris wrote about the other week (Another Voice, 6 December); as a very young man Napoleon — who even then had a...

Hitler in 1938

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Sir: It is easy for Andrew Gimson (Letters, 29 November) to call the German generals cowards for not getting rid of Hitler in 1938, but he shows a very poor grasp of the...


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Sir: Nancy Dell’Olio’s article about Keynes (‘I will always defend a big spender like J.M. Keyes’, 29 November) gave an amusing take on why some support Keynes’s...

Who the f— are you?

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Sir: Dot Wordsworth opines in her column (Mind your language, 6 December) that ‘no one has ever been called C*** or F***.’ However, she states that she would welcome...

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Fight by law, not war

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Sir: Spending the last weeks in Geneva (which is not that city’s name in any of the languages of Switzerland) I have been untroubled by mumbled Mumbais. Bombay is there still...

No free lunch

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Sir: Charles Moore will not pay the television licence fee (The Spectator’s Notes, November 29) but is more than happy to have lunch with the Director-General in the DG’s...

Really thick

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Sir: The crime perpetrated by Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan, though utterly despicable, must be among the most ill conceived and poorly executed in history, even more...

Wrong about Shakespeare

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Sir: In Lloyd Evans’s review of Soul of the Age by Jonathan Bate (Arts, 1 November) he declares that ‘all dons’ are potentially bores because they ‘know too much about...

Carols by candlelight

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Sir: I have recalled Charles Moore’s horror that his church was to be floodlit (The Spectator’s Notes, 13 September). How terribly sad that will be for all concerned, and...

Where is baby Jesus?

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Sir: I would like to ask Spectator readers for their help — has anyone seen a nativity scene in London this Christmas? I don’t doubt that there are several in the country,...

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When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas

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by Justin Cartwright Illustrated by Carolyn Gowdy M y dear Franz, Your letter to me, which I read with disgust and sorrow, is the product of your oversensitive imagination and...

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The ‘little Christmas tale’ that has everything

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Susan Hill reappraises Charles Dickens’s classic S o wrote the Edinburgh critic, Lord Jeffrey — not an easy man to please — to Charles Dickens. Thackeray said: ‘It seems...

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in association with

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Morality play Edward Avery V ANITY F AIR by William Thackeray E very year, when winter descends on the country, one of English literature’s great works always finds itself...

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The new look that never aged

The Spectator

Vicki Woods T HE A LLURE OF C HANEL by Paul Morand, translated by Euan Cameron Pushkin Press, £12, pp. 181, ISBN 9781901285987 ✆ £9.60 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 S...

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A choice of gardening books

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Mary Keen T his is the time of year for dutiful appraisal of current garden books. The heart sometimes sinks at the thought of conning the same old material in a newer and...

Surprising literary ventures

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Gary Dexter S ANTA K ID (2004) by James Patterson J ames Patterson likes rape, torture, mutilation and death. So do his readers. Who doesn’t? It has been estimated that...

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A grand overview

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Anita Brookner P AINTINGS IN P ROUST by Eric Karpeles Thames & Hudson, £25, pp. 352, ISBN 9780500238547 ✆ £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 T his unassuming book is in...

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The secrets of Room 40

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Alan Judd ‘B LINKER ’ H ALL , S PYMASTER by David Ramsay Spellmount, £25, pp. 320, ISBN 9781862274655 T he first world war admiral, ‘Blinker’ Hall — so-called for...

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M anuel Alvarez Bravo, born in 1902, lived to be 100

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and worked as a photographer in Mexico for eight decades. He was destined to spend his life as a clerk in a provincial tax office but escaped with the help of Edward Weston and...

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Unkind hearts and Jews

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Simon Heffer I SRAEL R ANK by Roy Horniman Faber Finds, £15, pp. 414, ISBN 9789571245482 I t was the second or third time that I ever saw Kind Hearts and Coronets that I...

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Beautiful, dandified detachment

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Fionn Morgan remembers her friend Peter Quennell, writer, editor and former contributor to The Spectator ‘C hristmas without Ian,’ wrote my mother, ‘was a bleak affair. He...

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A bucolic paradise

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Ronald Blythe examines William Blake’s influence on the work of the 19th-century artist Samuel Palmer S amuel Palmer was in his early twenties when he wrote in his notebook,...

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Animal magic

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Henrietta Bredin M ozart’s Die Zauberfl6te opens with the hero, Tamino, being pursued by a terrible monster. It’s always a challenge to depict such a creature on stage but...

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The wrong question

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Deborah Ross The Reader 15, Nationwide (2 January) T he Reader is based on the novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink which, in turn, is one of those books that’s been...

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Christmas round-up

The Spectator

Andrew Lambirth A major new exhibiting space is always welcome in London, and the multipurpose venue at Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1, comes with the added attractions of...

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Beware the Witch

The Spectator

Michael Tanner Hänsel und Gretel Royal Opera House Mörder, Hoffnuniq der Frauen Ardente Opera T he Royal Opera’s new production of Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel , has...

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Carter surprises

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Robin Holloway B y the time you read these words, Elliott Carter — save for a wry ‘act of God’ — will have passed his 100th birthday, in full productive spate as he...

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Gleeful terror

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Lloyd Evans Mother Goose Hackney Empire Hamlet Novello G od, I hate the panto season. Especially the reviews. You get some cynical, steely-hearted, acid-flinging critic who...

Music matters

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Kate Chisholm W hile Ian Hislop went in search of the Three Kings for Radio Four, and surprise, surprise, came up with an English solution to the enigma of the merchants of...

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Spoilt for choice

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Simon Hoggart S o what were we watching in 2008? The multiplication of television continues at speed. If you have cable TV you might have, say, 80 channels to choose from, most...

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The importance of being red

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Ursula Buchan H ooray for anthocyanin. Where would we be without it? It has long been my favourite water-soluble, vacuolar, glucosidic pigment, and I feel that this autumn has...

Journey’s end

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Alan Judd I t has been a good motoring year, save in two respects, and even if this proves to have been the last such on earth and next year we’re back to 1209 and riding...

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Christmas spirit

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Taki Y es, Virginia, Charles Dickens did invent Christmas, at least the Christmas spirit of giving to the poor as well as the presumption and posturing of the rich. As everyone...

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Gifts galore

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Jeremy Clarke M y boy, and almost all the members of his family on his mother’s side, are dedicated smokers. Cigarettes are the joy and consolation of their lives. Whenever I...

Under the mango tree

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Aidan Hartley Africa I found the former President of Sierra Leone sitting beneath a mango tree outside Freetown. Valentine Strasser wore ragged shorts and nothing else, not...

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A clean slate

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Melissa Kite P aying off your credit cards is an odd way to end the year. It just doesn’t feel very seasonal for a God-fearing Christian who ought to be marking the time of...

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Festive fun

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Alex James I t’s underrated, winter. I love it all the way to spring, but Christmas is absolutely my favourite time of the year. It was an utterly immaculate morning this...

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Mind your manners

The Spectator

Jeremy Clarke takes a cruise up the Nile and finds the spirit of service to be almost unnerving G ood morning, sir! How are you today?’ ‘I’m well.’ ‘Thank you so much,...

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A man for Four Seasons

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Bear Grylls is in the lap of luxury at the George V Hotel in Paris A s a boy I was always drawn to extremes. If I dreamed of mountains it was of Everest, if imagining myself as...

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Latin lover

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Colombia has Clemency Burton-Hill weak at the knees T he girl stacking shelves at Waterstone’s looks blank when I ask what she has in the way of travel guides to Colombia....

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I discovered the true meaning of Christmas dressed as a gladiator in a Chicago park

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I t is the closest I have ever come to dying. It was 22 December 1995 and I had flown to Chicago from New York to spend the weekend with my friend Matias before returning to...

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The Spectator

Dear Mary Once again Mary has invited some of her favoured persons of distinction to submit Christmas queries. From Sir Tim Rice Q. I have recently employed a full-time...

From Mark Coreth Q. I have recently had an incredibly

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successful show at the Sladmore, selling nearly 100 bronzes. In view of the credit crunch and most peoples’ reduced circumstances, I don’t like to seem boastful or...

From Elspeth Barker Q. On the day that our Ford

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Fiesta convulsed its last, my husband had providently purchased an equally inexpensive oxblood-red Mercedes-Benz at the local auction. How joyful we were as it bore us homeward,...

From Jack Whitehall Q. As a comedian, I have no

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problem opening up to a roomful of drunks above a rundown pub in Wigan or Stockton. My problem arises when I’m offstage in social situations and have to reveal my profession....

From Matthew Fort Q. I cooked a serious dinner —

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four courses, lots of fancy gear — and asked six people round to share it. Four turned up at 8 p.m. as requested (I had intended to start eating at 8.30). The third couple...

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Quite simply, one of the best years ever

The Spectator

W ithout the hysteria-inducing presence of a World Cup, 2008 has been a year in which countless other major and minor sports have flourished. It has been a year of immense...