23 NOVEMBER 1991

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The Spectator

One year on, Mr Major is still the best prime minister we have SIMON HEFFER M emory and sentiment are not the guiding forces of our politics, but at this season one makes an...

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The Spectator

NIGEL NICOLSON I n a few weeks I will be 75, I hope that mY friends will be as astonished by that fact as I am, but I doubt it. For the first time the Other day I read of myself...

The 1991 Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize

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Entries for this year's prize must reach The Spectator by 29 November. Details can be obtained from The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL.

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Why we over-50s are quite happy with Europe AUBERON WAUGH I was puzzled to find myself appearing on this page last week, my week off, when the space is filled by The...

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Neil Lyndon On how civilised society is being corrupted by feminists and their mad doctrines DOES FEMINISM count for anything today? Does anybody take it seriously? . Some of...

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The new Russia might not survive an investigation of the August coup. Stephen Handelman reports. Moscow IMAGINE it is late November, 1917, and Vladimir Lenin has been...

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Charles Moore's essential summit-watcher's guide to Eurospeak Acquis Whatever the Community has agreed on already. Britain constantly discovers that it has agreed to things of...

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Michael Heath

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Benjamin Frere defends a sacred relic against recent claims of fraud Naples A WEEK seldom passes without this beau- tiful, mysterious city being maligned in some way. The Pope...

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Mrs Andrew Boyle sent us this explanatory note together with a letter (below) she received from the Kensington branch of Barclays Bank: The executor of the will of my late hus-...

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John Simpson on Iran's role in the release of Terry Waite IT WAS a little like watching Dr Manette in A Tale of Two Cities: he stooped and smiled vaguely, his skin was...

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Ross Clark tours the world's first excreta-fired power station BERT ANDERSON apologised for the smell in his car, as we drove away from Diss railway station across the bleak...

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If symptoms

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persist. . . AT 66, my patient was the youngest resi- dent of the Sundown Retirement Home. I was asked to visit him because, for the past six months, he had banged his cup on...

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The Spectator

As winter approaches, Simon Courtauld points out that there is nothing cruel about fur coats Take back your mink, Take back your pearls: What made you think That I was one of...

One hundred years ago

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MR. EDISON has just announced at Pittsburg that his plan for superseding steam by electricity on railways is now perfect, and that he hopes to try it when the Chicago Exhibition...

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The Spectator

Tim Congdon explains why a single European currency will never work ALMOST 20 years ago, following difficult negotiations on the Werner Plan for Euro- pean economic and...

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Will the George and Basil show run and run? PAUL JOHNSON L iving in the Nasty Nineties, we need a taste for black humour. In a world where crime, violence and every kind of...

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Squeaky girls and easy money five years on, the house party is over CHRISTOPHER FILDES I t is five years since I met the squeaky girl with t! e refrigerator full of champagne....

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LETTERS Unfaltering Trust

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Sir: It is a pity that Anthony Furse destroys so much of his case (Letters, 9 November) against the National Trust because of a dis- regard for accuracy. I agree with him that...

Sir: Charles Clover's attack on the Nation - al Trust seems

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to have been written with the instinctive spite that inspires some jour- nalists to belittle anything that we do better than any other country, like Ordnance Sur- vey maps,...

Sir: In the course of a delightfully loopy article about

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the National Trust, as a saviour of distressed gentlefolk and endan- gered country pursuits, Charles Clover (2 November) covers me with `Germolene pink'. I refer to the...

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Tanks alot

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Sir: It was irritating to see the line taken in Your otherwise excellent leading article 'Options for trouble' (16 November) blurred by your ignorance of the impact, and...

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Key point

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Sir: I much enjoy reading P.D. James (Diary, 16 November), but I think she is too alarmist about locked churches. After buy- ing the new model Crockford, and equip- ping myself...

Class bore

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Sir: Who the hell cares (Alastair Forbes' letter 'Howlers and Honks' 2 November) if Diana Cooper or Diana 'ci-devant' Guin- ness was called 'Honks', 'Baby', 'Bubbles' or...


The Spectator

Sir: When your talented Restaurant corre- spondent describes a dinner for four cost- ing £175 — including £22 for a bottle of Australian white wine — as 'Chelsea prices'(2...


The Spectator

Sir: Kenneth Lake asks (Letters, 9 Novem- ber) would anyone drive 20 miles to save 15 per cent at any pub or bookshop? Here on the island (a bastion of common sense and quiet...

Sir: Shouldn't those who enthuse about catching the 'European Train'

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etc. be reminded that — although anxious to clam- ber up into the cab — they have in fact been buying their tickets with our money, and without our consent? Norman Henry 29...

No Gaelic spoken here

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Sir: Impenetrable the Orkney accent may be, but Christopher Howse's informant ('Et in Orcadia Ego', 9 November) cannot have heard native Orcadians singing in Gaelic. No Gaelic...

Helpful contributions

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Sir: Noel Malcolm's article 'Power is not authority' (16 November) is an excellent contribution to clarifying the political argu- ments about Europe. A pity, however, that while...


The Spectator

Sir: Might I take this opportunity to warn your readers of a variation on the confi- dence trick which P.D. James (Diary, 9 November) experienced? Last Saturday morning I...


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Sir: I must point out a misprint in my review of Ken Follett's excellent Night Over Water (Books, 16 November): 'rock 'n' roll' should, of course, be 'rock 'n' roll'....

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Gabriele Annan

The Spectator

I loved Milan Kundera's Immortality, (Faber, £14.99) a cool, funny, sophisticated novel based on a tragic view of life. Louis Begley's Wartime Lies (Alfred Knopf) is a...

Hilary Corke

The Spectator

Some literary bof (boring old fart) said, and surely more than once, that every time a new book came out he re-read an old one; and I am afraid I am a bof in this, as no doubt...


The Spectator

Books of the Year A selection of the best or most overrated books of the year, chosen by some of The Spectator's regular contributors John Osborne Manacled to the typewriter,...

John Jolliffe

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First, Figaro. Here, Figaro There by Freddie Stockdale (John Murray, £16.95), an impresario's diary by the creator and manager of Pavilion Opera. The reader is soon lost in...

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A.N. Wilson

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Elizabeth Longford's Darling LoosY (Weidenfeld, £16.95) is a selection of letters to Princess Louise, the accom- plished sculptress who had the double misfortune of Queen...


The Spectator

As I plan to write the great Greek novel soon, I've been gorging on fiction. A Theft (Penguin, £3.50) is a Saul Bellow novella 109 pages long. (Perfect for a lazy Greek). It is...

Richard Cobb

The Spectator

I greatly enjoyed Invitation to the Married Life (Sinclair-Stevenson, £13.95) by Angela Huth. She is a marvellously sharp observer, especially of her female characters. She...

Eric Christiansen

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I'm probably the last man alive not to have read the books of R.K. Narayan, who seems to have been at it since 1935. This year I made up for lost time, with The Financial Expert...

P.J. Kavanagh

The Spectator

Apart from a belated discovery of the interest of Roy Fuller's last poems (Consolations, Seeker, £5.95, and Available for Dreams, CollinsHarvill, £11), which do not properly...

John Biffen

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This has been a politician's year. Margaret Thatcher's demise has provoked a torrent of analysis. The former Prime Minister's Press Secretary, Bernard Ingham (Kill the...

Christopher Hawtree

The Spectator

Perhaps the year's greatest revelations were contained in Dame Ethel Smyth's Mass (Virgin, £12.99) and Bob Dylan's The Bootleg Series (Sony, £25). Two novels — each comedies but...

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Raymond Carr

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I am temperamentally unsympathetic to long books. They cannot be comfortably read in bed and reviewers, alas, are not paid by weight. The two books I have chosen weigh together...

Robert Blake

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Alan Bullock in Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (Harper Collins, £20) has written one of the great historical works of the century. It was an idea of genius to trace the...

William Scammell

The Spectator

Derek Mahon's Selected Poems (Viking/Gallery, £14.99) brings together as fine a body of work as has been written in the past 30 or 40 years. His coolly classical ironies (The...

Frances Partridge

The Spectator

My own taste is for biography and letters, and in this department two very enjoyable books stand out: James Lees- Milne's The Bachelor Duke: The Sixth Duke of Devonshire (John...

Piers Paul Read

The Spectator

Lawrence Stone's Road to Divorce: England 1530-1987 (OUP, £19.95) is an interesting and scholarly study of our chaotic and hypocritical attitude to marriage until, In the 1960s,...

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Paul Johnson

The Spectator

The book which made me laugh most in 1991 was A Dubious Codicil (Chatto, £12.99), the second and concluding volume of Michael Wharton's autobiography: very indiscreet, wicked...

Theodore Dalrymple

The Spectator

Richard Pipes' history of the Russian Revolution (Collins Harvill, £20) is unlikely to be superseded for a long time. It moves seamlessly between incident and analysis. It has...

Anthony Powell

The Spectator

I liked Michael Shelden's Orwell (Heinemann, £18.50 ). The story is told in a readable, straightforward manner, but Shelden is utterly wrong to suppose Sonia Brownell married...

Hilary Mantel

The Spectator

The great book of 1991 has yet to be written; it would be a novelist's account of the fall of Margaret Thatcher. A tale so harrowing, instructive and dramatic is too good to be...

Philip Glazebrook

The Spectator

Brazzaville Beach, by William Boyd (Sinclair-Stevenson, £13.95). A complex and wholly convincing novel set in Africa (a chimpanzee research station) in the present and in the...

Anita Brookner

The Spectator

Not an adventurous year. All the established novelists appeared at their most characteristic, and therefore their most predictable. I was delighted to discover, quite by...

Caroline Moore

The Spectator

Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Macmillan, £15.99) is the sequel to The Light Years. No loss of creative momentum here: this family chronicle is elegantly written and...

Michael Davie

The Spectator

Two books this year suggest that old- fashioned straight reporting, when the story takes precedence over the opinions or Personality of the writer, is still the best: John...

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The shorter the better

The Spectator

James Buchan THE RUNAWAY SOUL by Harold Brodkey Cape, £15.99, pp. 835 resented with this big, solemn and industrially difficult first novel, British critics have either...

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The Spectator

SPECIAL OFFER "Why have we had to wait 20 years for this book? Like the glorious, festering piles of stone he draws, John Glashan is a great national monument that should be...

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Tulips in a Jug

The Spectator

Their carriage and comportment are superb, Just so: they're ready for the camera's eye, The girls all sisters, cousins. Here they offer A stopped bright fragment of their...

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Still a sexy bestseller

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Eric Christiansen THE ESSAYS OF MICHEL MONTAIGNE translated and edited by M.A. Screech Penguin, ,f35, pp. 1283 MONTAIGNE AND MELANCHOLY by M.A. Screech Penguin, £6.99,...

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The hero of his own life after all

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Gabriele Annan LOST PROPERTY by Ben Sonnenberg Faber, £14.99, pp.210 T he title is the title of a novel by Nabokov's fictional hero, Sebastian Knight. The subtitle, 'Memoirs...

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Bringing down the mighty from their seat

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Christopher Howse THE FABER BOOK OF DRINK, DRINKERS AND DRINKING edited by Simon Rae Faber, .C15.99, pp. 554 G uess who wrote the following verses: The preacher's well-meant...

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Before the revolution

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Andrew Graham-Yooll THE CAMPAIGN by Carlos Fuentes Deutsch, £14.99, pp. 246 A novel set in the early years of Latin America's emancipation from Spain is an entertaining idea...

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First time out

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Celestria Noel t is brave to make a real person who only died in 1966 the narrator of a novel. Is the result genuine fiction? In the case of Alma Cogan the answer is yes....

Sloane Street Flats

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Twice now, middle to old men wearing indoor clothes and crows feet have worried outside their open doors, said my casual slamming wakes an inside sick woman. Today, I make my...

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No bounder but a raunchy Donald Duck

The Spectator

J.G. Links BREWER'S TWENTIETH CENTURY PHRASE AND FABLE Cassell, £16.95, pp. 662 at he doesn't know would go on a W h postcard', said someone on the bus. It was ten years ago,...

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The greatest hero that ever was known

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Philip Mansel A PASSION FOR GOVERNMENT: THE LIFE OF SARAH DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH by Frances Harris Clarendon, £25, pp.432 M ad, brutal, self-destructive, Sarah, Duchess of...

The obsessions of a film fan

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Gilbert Adair A TWENTIETH CENTURY JOB by G. Cabrera Infante Faber, L17.50, pp. 371 T his is an odd one. A Twentieth Century Job (that's 'job' as in 'work' but also 'Job' as in...

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The Dame and the dustbin

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William Douglas Home CELIA JOHNSON by Kate Fleming Weidenfeld, £16.99, pp. 244 B ehave in a gingerly way and lay off the gin', wrote husband Peter .Fleming, absent on one of...

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Exhibitions Hokusai (Royal Academy, till 9 February) Now and then Giles Auty W hen playing tennis recently, two long rallies were ended by wrong-footing Shots of rare...

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The Massine legacy Deirdre McMahon A though he died only in 1979, in the latter part of his life Leonide Massine was regarded as a legendary relic of the Ballets Russes who...

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Redundant genius Robin Holloway M ozart died almost exactly 200 years ago. The celebrations have been so neon-lit as to make the Bach/Scarlatti/Handel ter- centenary in 1985,...

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Figaro's Wedding (London Coliseum) Albert Herring (Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton) But I know what I like Rupert Christiansen T wo corkers, and a disappointment — with my...


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The Philanderer (Hampstead) Shaw touch Christopher Edwards T his is a lively and superbly staged revival of one of Shaw's earliest plays. As the title suggests, the piece is...

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The Spectator

DIARY 1992 flA Plain £11 Initialled The Spectator 1992 Diary, bound in soft red leather, will shortly be available. Laid out with a whole week to view, the diary is 5" x 3"....

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Valmont ('15', Lumiere) Nutcracker sweet Harriet Waugh B ased on Les Liaisons Dangereuses, an epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos set in France around 1782, Valmont tells...

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The Spectator

The Japanese are back Alistair McAlpine T he art market galloped along this month with sales in Paris and New York. The first fence, the Tremaine Collection, a Becher's...

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The Spectator

Waffle with syrup Martyn Harris Q n Monday night the nation's soi- thsant Grand Inquisitor Sir Robin Day returned to earth from his satellite orbit to front 4-Thought (Channel...

High life

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On the right side Taki Greece's most decorated soldiers. A per- sonal friend of Mussolini's — believe it or not, he wrote a fan letter to the Duce, and was in return invited...

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New life

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Begone, Satan! Zenga Longmore D on't forget the cowfoot!' Olumba shouted through the letterbox as I wheeled Omalara out on a shopping expedition. 'Can the cowfoot walk,...

Low life

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Up the wall Jeffrey Bernard I have been harping on about my disgust with the Soho mural elsewhere, but my anger and fury is such that I can think of little else. In case you...

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Every one a coconut Auberon Waugh F or the club's last offer of the year (Christmas orders must be in by 10 Decem- ber) I feel I might say again that you do not need to belong...


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Roberts, Majestic Wine Warehouses 381 Cowley Road, Oxford 0X4 2BS Tel: (0865) 749224 Fax: (071) 736 1113 White Price No. Value Vredendal Sauvignon Blanc 1991 12 Bois....

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Imperative cooking: the can't brigade

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• • , = WHO CAN be blamed for the appalling food served in Britain at Christmas? One small word is the clue. As the season of dinner parties, buffets and large family meals...

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King's Indian' attacked Raymond Keene A lexei Shirov, the young Latvian grandmaster who convincingly won this : , ear's Lloyds Bank Masters tournament in London, will be...

e VI

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12 YEAR OLD SCOTCH WHISKY SCOTCH WHISKY Ti P 7°1" 4 1 2 YEAR OLD COMPETITION Marvellian Jaspistos I n Competition No. 1703 you were in- vited to write a poem entitled 7o...

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CROSSWORD 1036: Cat by Mass

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A first prize of £20 and two further prizes of CFO (or, for UK solvers, a copy of Chambers English Dictionary — ring the word 'Dictionary') for the first three correct solutions...

No. 1706: The Retort Courteous

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As a letter-writer Henry James was ex- quisitely polite as well as prolix. But how would his epistolary manners have coped with an invitation to lunch from such an unlikely...

Solution to 1033: Ye gods above!

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inorigtorr reinmelha ammirermnflmre drierirmemmono MrFEMAIMMANRMO oommereermarg incemerannenme onommermanner i ono IMO r ummonnonnaand urrionopmdmind uummunimmeg g ounom,nooda...

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Roseate summers Frank Keating THE INVESTMENT group, Whittingdale, Is sponsoring the fitness of the England cricket team to the tune of a million pounds over the next four...


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Dear Mary. . . Q. I was queuing for a ticket at my local station last week, when the man behind me s miled pleasantly and enquired whether I m yself had shot the brace of...