The Spectator really is a many-splendoured publication. I have always held that it is robust and never ‘wet’. I have been rather busy of late, resulting in an unfortunate curtailment of my leisure time, nevertheless I make good use of every moment, and taking the Spectator into the bath is a common combination of two of my more regular leisure pursuits. Drinking copious amounts of gin is another of them. These three in fact form a favourite amalgamation of activities. Three or four baths between its arrival on Friday and the end of the weekend usually see me through its many interesting and eloquently constructed articles. As I have mentioned; it is a robust publication and far from wet- so much so that even its physical structure is such that it neither turns soggy nor suffers from runny ink when it coincides with the hot, often bubbly water. Indeed this is a fine publication.
I was able to take in all sorts from the most recent edition. Sir George Christie loved wine ‘as much as he hated water’ according to Alexander Chancellor in his fine column. Living, as I do in central London, I must agree. The quality of wine of which one might avail one’s self far outstrips the tap water supply, which is, frankly, foul. However, the best water I have ever tasted (and I am far from an aficionado of that particular substance) is in the town of Lewes in Sussex, very close to the late Sir George’s home at Glyndebourne. The water there is fresh and delicious- so much so that the locals have christened it ‘Lewes Tap’- and rarely take bottled water in the town’s restaurants. The town’s brewery perhaps owes some of its success to the water too. I am a keen drinker of wine, but not of water- unless I am visiting old friends in Lewes, whereupon it is usually pleasant -and moreover necessary- to drink plenty of the stuff to avoid the otherwise inevitable hangover. Nothing is worse than London water when one is feeling somewhat fragile the morning after an over-indulgent evening. What a shame it is that Sir George did not appreciate God’s gift to the hard drinkers of East Sussex.
It was also enjoyable to read Martin Gayford’s amusingly written article about the great (Lord) Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation – a book and series which to a great extent fortified my desire to read The Liberal Arts. Nobody can hold a flame to his combined knowledge and presentational style, and it is in some ways disappointing to hear that the BBC are looking for candidates to present an updated version of the television series. Unfortunately, television programmes of this quality are simply not made any more. Clark’s custom was to make his characteristically frank and sweeping remarks, and then the cameras would be set over the object or work of art in question for a goodly amount of time, often accompanied by appropriate music from the period of its creation. Only Clark could get away with describing the part of a gothic tapestry which depicts a dog sitting on a cushion as ‘an image of worldly happiness at its most refined’, or the exclamation ‘look at this charming donkey’ in reference to a biblical depiction in the west portal of Autun Cathedral. Modern presenters and producers would be short of the necessary nerve.
…Nothing is worse than London water when one is feeling somewhat fragile…
Dan Snow has been suggested as one of the possible successors to Clark. His programmes, like so many others are frequently spoiled by over dramatic, computer generated music, and the man’s irritating habit of pacing about at speed, which, as well as being a barrier to taking in what he has to say, badly affects his breathing and thus the quality of his speech. I dread to imagine the stamina the film crew must require to keep up with his combined enthusiasm for history and hiking-the man covered a country mile in his recent programme on the East India Company- which was otherwise rather interesting.
As you will observe, the Spectator reader often becomes, like its columnists, a champion of the well-formed rant. The recent bout of fine weather has brought out the worst in that awful group of vile people who seemingly have little better to do than wander aimlessly, gormlessly, and without direction around Oxford Street and Marble Arch. I would avoid the area like the plague unless I lived so close by. They have, over the last few days dispensed with the practice of wearing any form of clothing for the upper body (excepting ridiculous hats), yet this does not appear to have become a bar- at least in their perspectives- to entering shops and eateries, further spreading their misery into such establishments.
…the Spectator reader often becomes, like its columnists, a champion of the well-formed rant…
Unfortunately the weather has also brought out the worst in that slightly less contemptible, but nevertheless riling socio-economic group, the casual churchgoer. Not only are shorts a general offence, they are sevenfold in their offensiveness whilst others are trying to pray, or at least trying to look like they are praying. His ill-chosen beach footwear makes an unpleasant squeaking sound, as well as a flip and a flop on the church’s polished wooden floor. This is all the more embarrassing for him when his aural abomination occurs halfway through the epistle.
In my opinion I would make a very successful governmental policy adviser. It was announced last weekend that stronger immigration policy ought to involve a more robust testing on British culture for potential immigrants. I think that this is a sound approach, and furthermore suggest that we teach immigrants useful British sayings and clichés. There is good reason for this. I live a very convenient two minutes’ walk from a small supermarket which stocks most of the things I might need in a hurry (predominantly gin, tonic water and ice.) The frequency of my visits is aided by my woeful disorganisation and lack of foresight. Recently, on my third visit inside one day, the assistant to the self-checkout, a charming gentleman of Asian origin laughed and chortled ‘Welcome back Sir!’ to which I responded with the well known cliché ‘If I had a brain, I’d be dangerous!’ The smile dropped from his face, he looked puzzled and worried, and said to me in all sincerity ‘Why?’