Not when set in a domestic historical context. And our productivity performance has still been dread...
26 February 2012 12:00 AM
A City high-flyer says domestic appliances provide life's most trying moments. Our writer agrees
19 February 2012 12:00 AM
A former boss once recommended to me hiring a young man he had met at dinner. My heart sank because I knew this man to be bumptious and not that bright. My boss assured me that I was mistaken. The youth was bold, visionary and going places. "Is that what you thought?" I sighed. "No, that is what he told me," he replied.
12 February 2012 12:00 AM
David Beckham's admission that he has only three good friends rings true
05 February 2012 12:00 AM
On the way to a meeting in South Kensington recently, I passed a basement flat, and my heart sank. The huge, two-bedroom flat with a fabulous skylight and courtyard was mine about 25 years ago. I sold it for under £50,000 – it must now be worth £2m.
29 January 2012 12:00 AM
How far could Stephen Hester's bonus stretch? It might pay for soldiers in Afghanistan, nurses, home helps, care workers. But it might not cover a Nat Rothschild birthday party. Wealth is relative, as well as exotic.
22 January 2012 12:00 AM
The thinking man's neglected crumpet Joan Bakewell believes that her ruling-class voice makes her unemployable by the BBC. Look how cockneys dominate the ratings: Benedict Cumberbatch, for instance, or the pearly king himself, David Attenborough.
15 January 2012 12:00 AM
A piquant gag in The Artist is when the neglected wife of the silent movie star begs him: "We need to talk." Her husband ignores her, demonstrating his modernity in marital relations, if not in movie technology.
08 January 2012 12:00 AM
The historian Niall Ferguson once complained that schoolchildren are taught only about Henry VIII and the world wars. Yes, but let's face it, these are the blockbusters of British history.
18 December 2011 12:00 AM
What should you do if someone is foul mannered on public transport? It is spirit-crushing for everyone who witnesses it, yet intervention feels thankless or dangerous. You can report someone swearing or smoking or ranting to an official, but they are as fearful as everyone else. The signs in stations, or hospitals for that matter, warning that staff must not be threatened or abused by passengers or patients, suggest an institutionalised dread of the public. You could call the police, but that means lock-down and nobody getting to work. Furthermore, nobody expects it to lead to a conviction. The result is that we are wretchedly complicit in an uncivil society.
11 December 2011 12:00 AM
The BBC can be bashful about the place of Christianity in our national life: it recently sanctioned the substitution of the lovely terms Before Christ and Anno Domini by the thumpingly prosaic and Welsh examination boardesque Before Common Era and Common Era.
04 December 2011 12:00 AM
27 November 2011 12:00 AM
The inspired casting of Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, one of the year's greatest performances, owes something to the RSC's employment policies. Casting has to be blind to sex and race. Now I am not sure whether a woman could ever play the role again – or, indeed, anyone else but Mr Carvel. It is his role, in the same way that Mark Rylance is now synonymous with Johnny "Rooster" Byron in Jerusalem. The soft-voiced, sadistic, sports-mad headmistress with her leather coat and whistle is a glorious creation.
20 November 2011 12:00 AM
At a hotel in Mozambique, a waiter poured my tea. He held the pot slightly too high so that it cascaded over the cup, the saucer and my hand. He stared at me helplessly, murmured, "Oh shit," but continued pouring until I dropped the crockery in agony.
13 November 2011 12:00 AM
There's a line in the new George Clooney political thriller The Ides of March: "You can start a war and bankrupt the country but you can't fuck the interns." If you have "trouble verbalising" you're in even more trouble. Think how exhaustively our politicians are coached for Question Time and quadruple it. Rick Perry, the Texas governor, would have anticipated every variation of political question, but it was the "name three" that poleaxed him. Asked which departments he would axe he got commerce and education, but the word "energy" eluded him. Tumbleweed.
06 November 2011 12:00 AM
As Joseph Stalin, played by Simon Russell Beale, strides about the National Theatre stage, with his thyroid eyes and a soft Bristol accent, there is a guilty gurgle of appreciation from the audience. I am reminded of Peter Conrad's anxious response to Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin biographies: "Should the life of a black hearted ogre be quite so entertaining?"
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