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Olivia Cole talks to the actor and director about Dickens, love and privacy



Matthew Bell on the C of E’s new ruling class


E WA N M C G R E G OR p.74 on gadgets and his grandfather

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he late Anthony Minghella described our cover star, Ralph Fiennes, as a ‘held, slightly unknowable person’. Though I’ve long admired his work, I got to know him a little bit better when we met to talk about The Invisible Woman, his unforgettable account of Dickens’s secret life with his mistress Ellen Ternan. Fiennes both stars and directs, which he terms a ‘brilliant, scary’ feeling. It’s a strategy that has produced some great American films (last year’s Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, or Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, or Robert Redford’s Quiz Show), but it’s a particular pleasure to celebrate a Radatrained, homegrown talent taking on Hollywood on his own exacting terms. Fiennes’s love of literature goes back to his childhood, when he was told Shakespeare’s plots as stories by his mother. Consider him one of the lucky ones. It should be a national scandal that Michael Gove is presiding over the end of GCSE English Literature as a compulsory subject. Even more damaging is the pernicious idea that literature and drama are not serious considerations. So consider it Spectator Life’s Christmas wish that Michael Gove, like the bear in the ad we won’t mention, wakes up to something truly magical: to the extraordinary power of the arts in education, and the importance of the imagination. Happy holidays ...

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Spectator Life Twitter @Spectator_LIFE Supplied free with the 30 November 2013 issue of The Spectator 22 Old Queen Street, London, SW1H 9HP Telephone 020 7961 0200 ISSN: 2050-2192 Chairman Andrew Neil Editor Olivia Cole Deputy Editor Danielle Wall Columnists Oscar Humphries, Sam Neill, Harry Cole Features Assistant Will Gore Sub-editors Peter Robins, Victoria Lane, John Honderich, Clarke Hayes Design & Art Direction Design by St Client Sales Director Melissa McAdden: Luxury Sales Manager Emily Glazebrook: Cover Image Fabrizio Maltese / Contour by Getty Images 06/11/131216:09

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C ON T R I B U T OR S Grant Heslov is an American actor, producer, screenwriter and director. He produced last year’s Oscar-winning movie Argo. His latest film, The Monuments Men, co-written with George Clooney, is the story of an Allied group tasked with retrieving art stolen by the Nazis in the second world war.

Clarissa Tan is a staff writer and TV reviewer for The Spectator. She has not visited Antarctica but would like to.


Sebastian Payne is the online editor of The Spectator, more used to computers than cars, so how did he find himself testdriving the new Aston Martin?

Steven Moffat is a television writer and producer who created the acclaimed series Sherlock, which launched Benedict Cumberbatch into stardom, and gave actress Lara Pulver her first big break. Steven writes about her on page 98. He is showrunner of Doctor Who, and his other work includes Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tin Tin and the classic comedy series Coupling.

Spend a third of your life in first class 7 Wigmore Street, London W1 Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1 Stav Sherez has published four novels. His first, The Devil’s Playground, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger. You can find him @stavsherez

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16 The Index Where to go and what to see in January, February and March





22 24 30 34

40 42 44 46 48 52 54

C U LT U R E The art of war Douglas Murray on how masterpieces survive conflict The monuments man Olivia Cole talks to Grant Heslov about rescuing art Fiennes’ art Ralph Fiennes on his fascination with Charles Dickens Back to bespoke Mary Wakefield on how 3D printing will change art Wider role Sam Neill on why actors should be allowed opinions

61 62 64 66

LIFE The Alpha men Matthew Bell on the new power balance in the C of E Yes, no, yes. . . Harry Cole takes love to Tinder On the trail of Scott Clarissa Tan meets the explorer Ben Saunders Anyone for croquet? Peter Stein on the Muslim Brotherhood’s favourite game Present joy Oscar Humphries on the art of giving Five-star schools Stephen Robinson on education as an international luxury The only way is Eton Mark Mason on why the school is allowing in a film crew Mine’s an organic pinot noir We’re all wine snobs now, says Henry Jeffreys

STYLE Smoking hot Neil Clark says the smoking ban is fine for cigar lovers Small audio dynamite James Delingpole praises a new generation of music boxes Clothes force Freddy Gray gets a whole new style — in the post The Gift List Dream machine Sebastian Payne gets behind the wheel of an Aston Martin

74 76 78 80

TIME Clockwork culture Simon de Burton on inspirations for horologists Grandfather’s clocks Ewan McGregor on his family link to watchmakers The empire strikes back British watchmaking is thriving, says Mark Greaves Simpler times William Cook on an austere Swiss brand The Wish List

90 94

T R AV E L Cowboy comforts Stav Sherez in Montana, the ‘big sky’ state Springs break Olivia Cole discovers the Rat Pack’s desert playground Globe Trotting Our travel favourites this winter


97 Stockists 98 One To Watch Steven Moffat on Lara Pulver’s exciting future


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THE INDEX I n s ide L le w y n D av i s Various cinemas, from 24 January From the freewheelin’ Coen brothers, a bittersweet portrayal of a Dylanesque folk singer trying to catch a break in 1960s New York.



Au s t r a li a n O p en tenni s Melbourne Park, 13-26 January It’s so much easier to enjoy if you’re in the right time zone.

L o nd o n Philh a r m o nic O r che s t r a Royal Festival Hall, 15 January Vladimir Jurowski conducts the LPO in Mahler’s sixth symphony, and a world première of a viola concerto by James MacMillan.

L o nd o n A r t F a i r Business Design Centre, 15-19 January More than 120 galleries will gather their modern and contemporary wares under the glass arches in Islington.

T he 1 9 7 5 Various venues, from 6 January The next next big things of the indie scene head out on their largest UK tour to date.

T he M i s t r e s s C o nt r a ct Royal Court, previews from 30 January Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) makes her Royal Court debut with a documentary play about a 30-year, um, contractual relationship: ‘All sexual acts as requested…’

Ste w a r t L ee Leicester Square Theatre, until 19 January The stand-ups’ stand-up will be honing material for the next run of his BBC series, Comedy Vehicle. No one has a better delivery; not many have as uncompromising an attitude.

B ill C a ll a h a n Various venues, from 31 January The cult US singer-songwriter tours Britain playing tracks from his latest record, Dream River.

D o n G i o va nni Royal Opera House, 1 February A new production from the ROH’s own Kasper Holten, with Mariusz Kwiecien as Mozart’s great lothario.


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F oa l s Various venues, from 4 February After three albums, the Oxford band have mastered their melding of rock and dance music.   Bailey’s St a r d u s t National Portrait Gallery, from 6 February David Bailey is not a photographer who has to stretch the metaphorical meaning of the word ‘star’: the portraits here include Kate Moss, Jack Nicholson, and Mick Jagger.   Richard H a m i lto n Tate Modern, from 13 February A career retrospective for one of the founding fathers of the pop art movement. 


london art fair: alan davie, machine for witch watching no.3, 1963, waterhouse and dodd ; callahan: redferns; just what was it that made yesterdays homes so different, so appealing 1992, tate © richard hamilton 2005. all rights reserved, dacs

Si x Nat ions Various venues, from 1 February Wales and Italy kick it off. Wales are the favourites.

Va n G og h / A n to n i n A r t a u d Musée d’Orsay, from 11 March ‘The Man Suicided by Society’ is probably the most depressing name for an exhibition in the history of art, but with 30 van Gogh paintings and a selection of drawings and letters on show there will be much to marvel at.

A r t h u r Sm i t h sings L e o n a r d Co h e n Soho Theatre, from 16 February The veteran comic — who can sing, we’re told — will also be reading from the poetry of Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy.

C h e lt e n h a m F e s t i va l Cheltenham Racecourse, 11-14 March Join the hordes of Irishmen heading to Cheltenham to gamble on the Gold Cup and drink as much Guinness as possible.

I Can’t Sing! London Palladium, from 27 February An authorised X Factor musical, by Harry Hill. What more encouragement — or warning — do you need? the Grand B u d a p e s t Hot e l Various venues, from 28 February Wes Anderson returns. This time he’s got Ralph Fiennes.

The Oscars Dolby Theatre, 2 March Ellen DeGeneres is hosting. She is not expected to reprise Seth MacFarlane’s ‘We Saw Your Boobs’.

V eron e se National Gallery, from 19 March Fifty paintings by one of the key figures of the Venetian renaissance.

Vikings: Life and Legend British Museum, from 6 March Expect the whole York Hoard, the remains of a 37-metre longship, and other fine pillage from collections from Denmark to Berlin.

Mike Tyson Hammersmith Apollo, 21–26 March Iron Mike has been directed in this one-man autobiographical show by Spike Lee. Do make sure your phone’s switched off. Fata l Att r a c t i o n Theatre Royal Haymarket, from 25 March Trevor Nunn brings the 1980s bunny-boiler to the stage.


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How masterpieces survive when the bombs start to fall Douglas Murray

time & life pictures/getty images

The ar t o f wa r

In November 1943, when it looked like London was going to be subjected to a new aerial barrage from Nazi Germany, Evelyn Waugh wrote in his diary: ‘I have accordingly given orders for the books I have been keeping at the Hyde Park Hotel to be sent to Piers Court. At the same time I have advocated my son coming to London. It would seem from this that I prefer my books to my son. I can argue that firemen rescue children and destroy books, but the truth is that a child is easily replaced while a book destroyed is utterly lost.’


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CULTURE That thought may be more savagely extended than most of us would venture, but it is recognisable. Whenever a country descends into a state of war the first images are always the same: human suffering and human misery. But somewhere after that always come equally searing images — the bespoiling of a history and a culture. Which loss in the long term means more? Most of us would say ‘people’ with certainty and one eye on our reputation. But history tends to remember the artefacts that have been lost as much — if not more — than it remembers any particular ­people. Today many people recall the looting of the National Museum of Iraq better than they remember any particular Baghdad car-bomb that followed. Some of the most terrible pictures from Syria have been of the destruction of its magnificent architectural heritage. Indeed such things often call down more international opprobrium than anything else. Until 9/11 it took the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas to truly bring international condemnation down on the Taleban.

Previous page: American soldiers load a truck with artworks discovered hidden in a cave belonging to Hermann Goering, Germany, May 1945 Left: The Nazi art story caught the attention of graffiti artist Banksy, who painted a Nazi soldier on a oil painting in a junk shop in New York Bottom left: Iraqi National Museum Deputy Director Mushin Hasan holds his head in his hands as he sits on  destroyed artefacts in April 2003

When Islamists stormed through Timbuktu earlier this year the library was reportedly ransacked. One of the region’s most important collections had been destroyed by the same barbarians who in an earlier age burnt the great library at Alexandria


erik pendzich / demotix/pa images

Why is this? Perhaps it is because we know that the destruction of a nation’s art compounds the wreckage of any single generation. It constitues the wreckage of every memory of the generations that have gone before as well. This was one of the things in everyone’s minds over the last three years as Egypt went through revolution, coup and counter-coup. With the National Museum so close to Tahrir Square, it was not just the army, but on occasion ordinary citizens who turned out to protect one of the world’s great museums. Just as it is individuals who can wreck a country’s culture it is only individuals who can stop it. Earlier this year, in Mali, when Islamists stormed through the nation’s capital, it was reported at first that the great library at Timbuktu had been ransacked. One of the region’s most important collections of artefacts, books and manuscripts had apparently been destroyed by the same barbarians who — in an earlier age — burnt the great library at Alexandria. But after the Islamists were driven back out of the capital certain locals came forward with the true story.


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As the Islamists had surged into the capital some of Timbuktu’s oldest families had headed straight to the library. They left several hundred manuscripts in the publicly run Ahmed Baba Institute, as a decoy. But secretly they took and preserved for future generations the 300,000 or more ancient documents which these same families had also looked after during the centuries before. As the militias left the manuscripts came back out. War, which is always filled with bad news stories, can occasionally provide good news as well. And it is one such good news story that is, unsurprisingly, about to make it into the cinema. Early in 2014 Matt Damon and George Clooney lead a strong cast in The Monuments Men. Based on real events, the film documents the activities of Allied personnel put together in the last stages of the second world war in order to rescue works of art which had been stolen by the Nazis and return them to their owners. And in a publicity move not even Hollywood could have arranged, the lead-up to the film’s release has benefited from the best possible promotion: a break-

ing story that not only echoed the story of the film but revealed how long it can take for a nation’s plundered art to rise back to the surface. In November police in Munich raided the flat of an 80-year-old resident. Inside was almost a billion dollars’ worth of art — one of the largest collections of 20th-century art and the biggest such find of the postwar era. The run-down flat was jammed full of works by, among others, Picasso, Matisse and Chagall. The man in whose flat this art was found — Cornelius Gurlitt — is the son of a German art collector named Hildebrand Gurlitt. It appears that as well as examples of what the Nazis called entartete Kunst or ‘degenerate art’ his father had held on to works from Jewish German families who fled the Nazis. Having evaded the real-life ‘monument men’ for 70 years, this extraordinary cache of masterworks appears only to have come onto the police radar now thanks to a random cash check carried out by customs authorities on a train from Switzerland to Munich. Which leads to an inevitable question:

paris match via getty images

Below: The AhmedBaba Institute in Timbuktu after it was stormed by Islamists in January this year


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CULTURE what other such finds are still out there? Despite the occasional good news story, the fate of artworks lost in war is not a happy one. The museum in Baghdad has seen most of its looted artefacts painstakingly tracked down and returned. But whether the same thing will happen in Syria, who can tell? Perhaps the monuments men will turn up again this time. Perhaps they won’t. In which case some of the artefacts may trickle, damaged, through the bazaars and salerooms of the world for years to come, fated to pass through ignorant hands for nothing or via crooked hands for a ransom. Like human lives many of these artefacts are not only irreplaceable but outside price. Like humans, once lost they seem to be lost utterly. Except that when it comes to works of art, unlike people, sometimes miracles do occur, and with a piece of painstaking work — or the coincidence of a customs check — sometimes the dead really are brought back to life. Above: Sam Epstein, John Goodman, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bob Balaban in The Monuments Men

grant heslov, the screenwriter and producer of the monuments men, talks to olivia cole about the way he writes screenplays with george clooney, and how the looting of museums in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was similar to the Nazi looting of art in the second world war

How do you and your writing partner George Clooney work? Our writing style hasn’t evolved. We sit at a desk together and we don’t leave until we finish basically, for the day. I use a computer. He uses a pad and paper. Writing a screenplay is like writing a big puzzle and so the hardest part I think is getting the story. We work a lot with three by five index cards. Once we have the pieces in place then we start writing scenes and then we start moving pieces around the board… When we have a good chunk, then we actually read them out loud together and he’ll play half the parts and I’ll play half the parts. How do you think Monuments Men speaks to other films you have written together? You have to remember, we were just coming off of doing a very dark small political piece that was very cynical [The Ides of March] and we were really looking to do something fun and big. Good Night and Good Luck is really about the idea of

speech and about standing up to the bully and this really deals more with the question of what is culture and to what extent is it worth protecting? Is it worth losing a life for one’s culture, one’s artwork, one’s history? That’s the central question of this film. What price do you put on a work of art? I think it’s worth protecting at all costs, but I also say that’s easy for me to say, because I’ve never had to really do it. But these brave men did and some of them did lose their lives, so to me that has to make it worth it, otherwise they died in vain and I don’t think they did. The Ides of March also has this element of a moral standpoint, and of standing up to a bully. Where does that preoccupation come from? I think probably from being bullied maybe when I was young and I know I speak for George as well, you never want to see people bullied, you don’t want to see somebody who can’t defend themselves. I don’t think I’m saying anything out of school that very few people like a bully. But there are a lot of them out there. Were there any contemporary reference points for you? We talked a lot about Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was overthrown and the museums were looted. That’s no different to what’s going on basically in our film. And also a lot of the art that was stolen still hasn’t been returned either to collectors or to museums so that’s a discussion that I hope is raised as well. The Monuments Men is released in the UK on 14 February 2014.


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Secrets are at the heart of Ralph Fiennes’s new film, The Invisible Woman, which examines the life of Charles Dickens, and his young mistress, Ellen ‘Nelly’ Ternan. As the film has Dickens say, in a quote from A Tale of Two Cities, ‘Every human creature is a profound secret to every other.’ With his seemingly glorious family life, over-spilling with dogs and children, Dickens was a hero of prosperous Victorian domesticity — rich, powerful and perhaps the most celebrated figure of the age. When he met Ternan, he was 45 and she was 17, a young actress cast in one of his plays. To avert scandal, Dickens in 1858 separated from his wife, publicly blaming the rift on the long-­ suffering Catherine, from whose care he was able to remove nine of his children. He dismissed whispers of the affair as slander and moved Nelly to France. Later, she lived in a house near his one  of his homes. Together they went by the names of Mr and  Mrs ­Tringham and the relationship continued until his death in 1870. The Invisible Woman is the second film Fiennes has directed. His first was the brutal, Balkan-set Coriolanus, released in 2011. This new film is a delicate, morally complex work about the web which Dickens weaves around the object of his desire. Fiennes’s Dickens is a man given to erotic and imaginative obsession, who casts a kind of addictive magic around him. The 30-year-old British actress Felicity Jones, who plays Nelly, is captivating as the 17-year-old ingenue, and profoundly moving as a grown woman. I meet Fiennes after a photo shoot in Chalk Farm. Anthony Minghella, who cast him in The English Patient, described him as ‘profoundly English’, but despite the beautiful manners and reticent air, the terms in which he discusses his work are far from repressed. His summary of what went on between Dickens and Nelly is strikingly simple: they met, and ‘he had to have her’. Was it sexual or a meeting of souls, I wonder. ‘I think it’s a bit of both . . . I think he had had this idea of the ideal perfect woman and he projected this ideal on to Nelly when he met her. He pursued Nelly and initially she was, well, wait, wait, wait and I think that’s where Estella comes from . . . I think it’s Nellie going “I’m not going to give you myself, I’m not going to give in.”’ The premise of the film is that Great Expectations, first pubished in 1860 was the direct result of all of this private torment. ‘When Nelly came into his life it was like someone had opened a door and he just went out, “I have to go, this is it” — sometimes in relationships people have to get out and they leave a broken heart behind.’ The film seems to question whether the price for his creative output is too high, and I put that to Fiennes. He thinks about it for a long time, with the air of one sitting an exam on the human condition. ‘It’s impossible to answer that question . . . There are so many men, maybe more than women, who leave a trail of havoc as they pursue their thing. I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s what we wrestle with I guess. ‘People go for T.S. Eliot, people go for Picasso, but human life is messy, people do messy things. Men and women both are capable of acts of emotional cruelty, violence or vertiginous steps out of or into stuff, and we don’t quite know why we do it. With artists, I suppose, there is some fire that drives them and often it burns other people.’

Olivia Cole

fabrizio maltease / contour by getty

Fiennes’ art The actor-turneddirector Ralph Fiennes on Dickens, love and privacy


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— a guilty secret. Dickens lives on only in the books on her shelves: a source of shame, love and grief. Jones’s performance is superb and could well see her nominated as Best Actress in the Academy Awards. For all Fiennes’s charm, interviews are plainly something of an ordeal for him, and he jokes about the fact that I’ve been given an hour for this torment, at one point wriggling in his seat and kicking his legs with the air of a kid waiting to be let out of detention. His life changed with his bloodchilling performance as Nazi Commandant Amon Goethe in Schindler’s List which in 1993 earned him an Oscar nomination. ‘Your career takes off, and with

This spring Fiennes, will also be seen giving full rein to his lighter side in Wes Anderson’s fin-de-siècle farce The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, if there is a preoccupation in his work, both on screen and stage, it is with moments of moral crisis. You think of the love triangles of The English Patient (1996) or The End of the Affair (1999), or the deceptions in Quiz Show (1994). Dickens, risking his reputation for a romantic obsession, joins this gallery of characters in moral limbo. ‘My sister Sophie said something funny the other day,’ says Fiennes. ‘She has a three-and-a-half-year-old boy, and she said, “I think all these great men are just like five-year-olds,” because she is witnessing her young child and all his hunger for life and  curiosity, he wants this and he wants that and he wants what he wants. He doesn’t understand that there might be something called negotiation.’ It was originally Nelly’s story that made him want to make this film: ‘The idea,’ he has said, that ‘we can all live with the past and have lives we don’t ever talk about.’ Abi Morgan’s script elaborates on the possibility that Nelly gave birth to a baby that died. As Claire Tomalin wrote in her 1990 account of Ternan, on which the screenplay is based, ‘To give birth, to cherish for a few months perhaps, and then to lose a baby is a terrible thing. It becomes more terrible if the child is not to be acknowledged and can be remembered only as a dreamlike guilty secret: first shame, then love, then grief.’ In fact, those three states aptly describe Nelly as we see her during the film. When she later marries, after Dickens’s death, her early life is seen to become what Fiennes terms a kind of ‘wound’

the kobal collection/tiger moth/miramax

Above: Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens, with Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan, in The Invisible Woman Left: Ralph Fiennes as Maurice Bendrix and Julianne Moore as Sarah Miles in Neil Jordan’s film of The End of the Affair (1999)


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CULTURE Clockwise from left: Fiennes as Nazi commandant Amon Goeth in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993); as Count Almasy in The English Patient (1996) directed by Anthony Minghella; and in the title role in Coriolanus (2011), which he also directed

the kobal collection: icon entertainment

the kobal collection: tiger moth/miramax

the kobal collection: david james/universal

that comes other stuff called the curiosity about who you are,’ he recalls. It was at just this time that his mother, the novelist Jennifer Lash, to whom he was very close, died of breast cancer. In 1995, when he was 32, Fiennes fell in love with Francesca Annis, then 50, while playing Hamlet to her Gertrude; at the time he was married to the actress Alex Kingston. The age difference and the good looks of the three protagonists had the newspapers in a frenzy. Now, 17 years on, Fiennes’s own private life, as ever, is  not up for discussion. The question of invasion of privacy is enough for him to put his head in his hands. ‘God, it’s so difficult. I don’t know what it is about privacy. I mean look at these trials . . . I think, having been on the receiving end of what I felt invasive shit from the media, I feel, as a human — you feel stop, this is not your fucking business. Newspapers sell because people on the street buy them because they want to read

On the subject of press intrusion, Fiennes says: ‘It’s important to have the debate, but there’s a point where you want to move on, because life goes on and, as they say, this too will pass.’

Dickens at least did not have to deal with this kind of intrusion. ‘No one wanted scandal, they wanted the appearance of decency,’ says Fiennes of the Victorians. The willingness with which the public accepted the cosy edited version of Dickens’s life continued for decades. Having been invisible, Dickens’s ‘secret’, in their time together, Ternan kept her counsel after his death to the extent that she almost disappeared from the record entirely. ‘Now I feel it is people going, “We want to know the secret, we’re going to get in, we’re going to put in wires, we’re going to listen and hack into your phone and do whatever stuff”, and that’s the difference I think.’ In the end, it all comes back to secrets. ‘Would we rather not have any of these great paintings and books and our Dostoevskys and Tolstoys and Caravaggios and Michelangelos — and even Shakespeare I guess — would we rather they all behaved impeccably in their private lives and we didn’t have any of these?’ ‘It’s fascinating to me why we need stories. What is it? Something in us needs to hear these stories or to watch them.’ And perhaps to perform them and to tell them too. Watch a Fiennes performance, or flip through a scandal sheet? I know which one I’d choose. The Invisible Woman is released on 7 February 2014 and The Grand Budapest Hotel on 28 February 2014.

about who slept with who and who took drugs and who got drunk . . . People want to go “Ha, ha, ha, look at that politician, look at that actor, look at that movie star.”’ He seems to have very little interest in what the law can or can’t do; for him, the problem is the culture of prurience. ‘It’s a valid debate but in the end, OK, people’s vanity, sense of pride, sense of privacy is wounded, unpleasant stuff happens, we read about it, but there are bigger, more important, more painful issues going on outside of the lives of a few actors and football stars or whatever. So it’s important to have the debate, but there’s a point where you want to go, okay . . . we can move on because life goes on and, as they say, this too will pass.’ 28

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bac k t o be sp ok e 3D printing makes almost anything possible – in art as well as life Mary Wakefield

Did you know we were in the middle of another industrial revolution? Perhaps, like me, you’ve been too busy fretting about house prices and thinking about dinner to notice. Well, here’s what you need to know: this industrial revolution is just like the last one, but in reverse. It’s the 19th century through Alice’s looking-glass. Things we’ve grown used to being mass-produced in foreign factories are becoming bespoke again: particular, and made right under our noses. It’s sometimes called the home manufacturing revolution, because what passes for a factor y is the size of a ­m icrowave (give or take), and it could easily, if you fancied (and probably will some time in the nearish  future)  fit in your house, just next to the spin dryer. These new mini factories work just like a printer — well they are printers, except they print in 3D, building up layer after layer of plastic (or metal, or glass) into whatever the computer tells them to. They’re a godsend for any industry that needs fiddly spare parts: medicine, say, or model plane-making. If you need a new knee or a reconstructed jaw, rather than adapt an ill-fitting mass-produced part, the doc can now simply scan in your own knee or jawbone. Once the computer has your exact measurements, it’s a simple matter for a 3D printer to design and ‘print off’ a plastic or metal part that fits you exactly. Bespoke — and cheaper too, because the hospital doesn’t have to buy in bulk, or wait for delivery. It works the same way for mechanics. They can wait for you to call, download the design, then print off the missing screw for your 1950 Humber Hawk. Dentists, model-makers, architects, opticians... they’ll look back on the pre-3D days and laugh at the simple crudeness of what went before. But here’s a 30

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You can scan almost anything and reproduce it in 3D — it’s possible now to replicate an old master with frightening ease

Left: Visitors to the Science Museum immortalised by 3D printing Below left: ‘Inverse Embodyment’, by Tobias Klein

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Below right: Neri Oxman is inspired by lung structure, ‘Pneuma 2’

question: will this be a revolution for art too? There’s plenty who swear it will. Because you can scan almost anything and reproduce it in 3D, it’s possible now to replicate an old ­master with frightening ease. A Dutch chap called Tim Zaman has developed a technique of capturing all the brushstrokes, lumps and bumps on a work of art — he started with Van Gogh and Vermeer — and printing off flawless replicas. So it has implications for art (and art fraud), but what about original 3D-printed work? Well, everything is by definition machine-made in layers, (usually) out of plastic, so the surface of a ‘printed sculpture’ can be a little difficult to love. The art’s

all in the original concept, not the execution, and for the moment at least, most of the original concepts seem to have been dug out of the props cupboard of 1980s sci-fi flicks, pre-CGI. A disproportionate amount of 3D ‘art’ uses biological forms, so everything’s gluey and organic. ‘Pneuma 2’, for instance, by Neri Oxman: inspired by lung structure, evocative of phlegm. There are some terrifically arresting pieces of printed art — I mean, of course there are because you can scan anything, adapt it and print it out. I could scan a squirrel, then print it out 6 inches high in yellow plastic with a telephone embedded in its head. But they too often leave a viewer thinking: well


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Above and left: Tim Zaman uses 3D printing to capture all the brushstrokes of old masters including Veermer and Van Gogh, allowing him to produce flawless replicas

yeah, but… why? In the Science Museum, until early next year, there’s an exhibition of 3D ‘art’ which includes a piece called ‘Inverse Embodyment’ by ­Tobias Klein, which says it’s the artist’s brain melded with bits of St Paul’s Cathedral. There’s also a tiny horse with tits and wings hanging a touch sadly from the wall. I watched the hordes of half-term families as they looked once, twice, then frowned and ­drifted off. One exhibit did seem interesting. As part of a demo explaining the technology, the Science Museum has scanned in a selection of visitors to the Science Museum (women with shopping bags, men in suits, children holding hands) printed out hundreds of these punters in little ridged replicas, and stuck them to the museum wall. There was something fascinating about this: civilians as toy soldiers. Visitors paused to run their fingers over the figures — over other visitors in effect — making the tiny plastic people seem vulnerable, pinned to the wall like moths. I don’t think the Science Museum meant to make an artistic point. It would be a little sinister, if excitingly subversive, of them to poke fun at their own visitors. But it made me recondsider the possibilities of printed art. 3D: Printing the Future will run in the Antenna gallery at the Science Museum until May 2014. Entry is free.


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Being an actor doesn’t mean you’re incapable of anything else

OK, fair enough: most actors are narcissistic, insecure, frivolous and a bit camp. But they are not stupid. And while it’s true that some are overcelebrated, it is also true that they can be simultaneously underrated. That is to say, there are those who are far more famous than is good for anyone, but at the same time too easily dismissed as lightweight. Witness the ill-disguised sneering one finds in the press whenever people like Angelina Jolie, George Clooney or Cate Blanchett lend weight to a good cause. I myself tend by inclination to be green these days. Well, greenish shall we say. Normally I tend to stay quiet, preferring a peaceful life among my vines. But occasionally I put my hand up when I think something is too outrageous to ignore. You’d be amazed at the flak I take for the mildest view expressed. Recently I voiced some disquiet at not only the New Zealand government’s wildly risky plans to drill for oil at extreme depths off our shores (about 8,000ft), but an astonishing piece of legislation which would make it a crime to protest out there at sea. Putin would be proud. The abuse was torrential. The Minister of Energy charmingly called me a hypocrite. Radio shock jocks foamed with anger. What enraged them was along the lines of, ‘Who does he think he is? What’s his mandate? He’s just an actor!’ As if being an actor means you are irredeemably thick. That may be a little bit true of me, but certainly not my colleagues. No, actors are smart. And a lot of fun. Just as well, as I am habitually stuck in strange places with them, and invariably I find myself having an excellent time (let us hope no photographs emerge of me dancing

the Samba in Rio last month). Very often they have other interests: Jeremy Northam plays great jazz piano. Michael Gambon is apparently a gunsmith. Dan Day-Lewis makes boots, although quite why exactly, you’d need to ask him. Jeff Bridges is a terrific photographer, as was Dennis Hopper. Hugh Laurie’s records of roots music I can’t recommend highly enough. His old mucker Stephen Fry writes brainy books. And Tim Spall is the James Cook of our day. I have been at work in Paris lately, and then, with a few days off, I took a fast train to take refuge with my friends the Spalls in Holland. Those familiar with their BBC At Sea series know that this foolhardy couple brave churning northern seas in a stately if astoundingly slow barge called The Princess Matilda. I myself have not taken to the deep briny myself with the Captain. He is an autodidact at navigation, which I suspect would be no comfort at all in a force 8 gale. And he is not a little prone to accidents. I witnessed three in 20 minutes. When the winters draw in they hunker down in some accommodating Lowlands port such as you might find across La Manche in Essex, only about 20 feet lower and much cleaner. Say what you like about the Dutch, their streets are clean. And it was in one such spotless street that Spall had his first mishap — hit by a flying Renault as he stepped backwards into traffic to admire

Timothy Spall taught himself navigation, which I suspect would be no comfort in a force 8 gale

the dexterity of a third-floor window cleaner. Happily just a glancing blow. Next up, the Captain managed to slam his steering hand painfully in the door of his own wheelhouse. And finally, perhaps as a nod to the great Hulot himself, Spall, while attempting to ride two bicycles simultaneously, managed a spectacular flying arse-up on the main street. While he deftly avoided going under a truck, he did manage to cause a traffic tailback that paralysed the entire town for about five minutes. Tim has just finished a long Mike Leigh project, playing the painter Turner. Some directors demand more than others, and Spall looks like he has given not just his whole heart to this long job, but pretty much all of the rest of his innards as well. He’ll be magnificent. Might be worth putting a tenner on him getting something at Cannes. I first met Spall about 15 years ago at Pinewood. I heard he was working on another job across the lot. Since I perhaps admire him more than any other actor I can think of, I plucked up my courage, strode over to his trailer and introduced myself. We’ve been friends ever since. He is enthusiastic around wine like myself, which helps. This is true of many actors. And like most actors I know, he’s smart. As for me, increasingly I think perhaps my vineyards may turn out to be my life’s work. In my acting life, I live in the world of the imagination; in the vineyard I plant trees, and dry stone walls are now spreading around the place. I am content. When I’m there, you hardly get a peep out of me. But when I do peep, allow me the right to an opinion as much as the next man. Even if I am… just an actor.

illustration by david sparshott

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When the announcement was made that Justin Welby, a disciple of the Alpha course, was to become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, his Alpha brethren did not punch the air in triumph. Not publicly, in any case. Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and the man who turned Alpha into a global phenomenon, made a point of keeping a low profile, travelling abroad on various missions. When I interviewed him earlier this year, he played down HTB’s role in Welby’s ascension, saying, ‘I think we have to believe it is the providence of God.’ But for all His mysteries, it can hardly be ascribed to coincidence that the head of the Church of England has come from the slickest, richest and fastest-growing division the church has ever seen. The Alpha course is only nanoseconds old within the C of E’s 1,500-year history. It was founded in 1977 by Charles Marnham,

Meet the Church of England’s most dynamic — and controversial — proselytisers Matthew Bell


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LIFE and grew under Gumbel during the 1980s. Around 1.2 million people have now taken an Alpha course in the UK, and a further 23 million people worldwide, in 169 countries. Its nucleus is still Holy Trinity Brompton, or HTB, a Victorian church tucked behind the Catholic behemoth of the Brompton Oratory, across the road from Harrods. If, 30 years ago, you had predicted that the Archbishop of Canterbury would one day be HTB positive (as it is known), the scoffing would have been heard in Rome. But today, Welby’s ascension is endorsed by almost every side. Stephen Glover and Charles Moore hail him as the man who can bring unity to the church, while Andrew Brown of the Guardian has applauded his attempts to address homophobia. So how did the HTB evangelists, once viewed as guitarwielding weirdos, manoeuvre themselves into a position of such power? For one thing, they don’t call themselves evangelists. The term has connotations of, at best, a goofy Ned Flanders naivety, and, at worst, a brainwashing cult that expects 50 per cent of your salary in the collection bowl. But evangelising is what they do. ‘The Alpha course is for people who don’t go to church,’ explains Mark Elsdon-Dew, a former Express news editor who runs the PR operation. ‘But it’s not a church. It’s a pub-

According to Alpha’s critics, there is a hidden and not so wholesome agenda. ‘Nothing short of outright victory is what most evangelicals want,’ says the Revd Richard Kirker. ‘The Alpha movement is no different’

lishing company. It’s a resource for churches to use, to introduce people to Christianity.’ Gumbel has more staff than the Archbishop of Canterbury, and has been far more influential than Welby for years, but he insists he has never converted anyone to Christianity — ‘that’s the work of the Holy Spirit’. He also bristles at the term evangelical. ‘I hate

the word,’ he says. ‘If you torture me, I’m Anglican. It’s not helpful. We label people in order to dismiss them.’ Gumbel and Welby were at Eton together, and then Trinity College, Cambridge. (Strangely, Charles Moore was another contemporary, though of course he took a different spiritual path.) Their rooms abutted, and though initially they embarked on different careers — Gumbel the law, Welby to become an oil executive — they remained close friends. Since Welby’s enthronement, a clear nexus has opened up between the Archbishop’s office and HTB. Welby was the star speaker at HTB’s sell-out ‘leader’s conference’ at the Royal Albert Hall in May, where more than 5,000 delegates paid £120 to watch him being interviewed by Gumbel. Mark Elsdon-Dew had by then already begun a three-month secondment from HTB to Lambeth Palace, where he conducted a thorough review of the PR operation there. And in June Dr Chris Russell was appointed Welby’s adviser on mission and evangelism. He was previously on the staff of the hugely influential and thriving evangelical church Soul Survivor in Watford. As Rowan Williams learnt to his cost, getting the PR right is nine tenths of the challenge. And PR happens to be something Alpha does very well. Their schtick is to be non-threatening, accessible and open. They use clever and well-targeted non-religious marketing to bring in rich and influential people. Typical strategies include posters on buses asking tired commuters if there is something missing in their lives. The first meetings are always friendly and social: a chat and supper, nothing ritualistic. That comes later. And for many, Alpha works: it brings them a new purpose and plugs them into a social scene of like-minded people that happens to involve prayer. But according to Alpha’s critics, there is a hidden and not so wholesome agenda to all this. ‘Nothing short of outright victory is what most evangelicals want,’ says the Revd Richard Kirker. ‘The Alpha movement is no different. It exerts its influence by being well-organised and well-funded, and so sure of its own dogma, and so persistent, that it eventually wears down its opponents into passive submission, or drives them away from the church.’ Kirker is the former chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, an issue on which HTB and Welby take a conservative line. According to HTB, the act of gay sex is a sin, and therefore homosexuals must remain celibate. It has become a thorny issue, and within weeks of assuming office, Welby held talks with the equality campaigner Peter Tatchell. The fact that homosexuals have yet to be accorded equal rights may be an example of the influence Alpha can exert within the wider church. ‘George Carey vigorously sought to marginalise gay people when he was Archbishop,’ says Kirker. ‘When Rowan Williams came in, we all thought he would

Above: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby prays at the Western wall in Jerusalem’s old city, Israel


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getty images

relax Carey’s polices. He had a track record of disagreeing with him on theological issues, and had called for a change on the church’s teaching. But once he was in, he was nobbled and pressurised by the evangelicals, of which Alphas were a main constituent, and bowed to all the threats that flooded in.’ Perhaps the most startling aspect of HTB is the practice of speaking in tongues. This is when congregants lose control of their voices, apparently overcome by the holy spirit. You only have to watch YouTube clips of the Toronto blessing to get an idea of how disturbing this is. That was the bizarre episode in January 1994 when the entire congregation of a church in Toronto went into a state of mass hysteria; they can be seen crawling around on all fours and howling like animals. Many considered this a cruel con trick played on impressionable people. Gumbel flew straight out to see it and hailed it as a ‘wonderful, wonderful thing’. Back in England, he started a quiet but constant programme of expansion. He pioneered the practice of ‘church planting’ — in which a small congregation targets a failing church and turns it round. A typical example is St Peter’s in Brighton, which was semiderelict five years ago. It now has a congregation of 700, under HTB’s former associate vicar Archie Coates. If the Alphas are well-organised and well-run, they are also well-funded. They have built up a small but generous clique of donors, who essentially bankroll the whole operation. Though their identities remain

secret, high-profile supporters include Nat Wei, the Conservative peer, a charismatic evangelical, and Paul Szkiler, chairman of Truestone Asset Management, who also runs A Call to Business, a network for Christian businessmen. The turnover of Alpha international is £9.6 million, all of which, according to Elsdon-Dew, is spent in the course of the year. ‘It may sound like a lot, but it all goes towards running the course,’ he says. ‘We start again at zero on 1 January.’ At a time when most Anglican churches are seeing attendance fall, Alpha’s reversal of that trend should be welcome. But some, like Kirker, say the courses do more harm than good. ‘They fundamentally deceive people from the outset,’ he says. ‘They invite people in as if there were no hidden agenda, and they make people feel as though they are inadequate for not understanding the meaning of life. They have a message which arrogantly implies that you don’t understand the Christian faith, but they do. It’s presumptuous and manipulative, and can put people off Christianity altogether.’ But even Kirker agrees that HTB’s quiet but efficient takeover is impressive. HTB was once compared to the sci-fi film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers: it looks and acts like the C of E, but one day it will consume it. It’s hard not to believe that day is now at hand.

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An Exhibition of Drawings by William Lock the Younger (1767-1847) at 6 Ryder Street, London SW1Y 6QB 4-14th December 2013


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The Tinder dating app is disgusting and brings out the worst in its users, but it’s very addictive

Given that smartphones have encroached on every other aspect of our lives, it was only a matter of time before we sunk low enough to surrender our most base instincts to our palm-held masters. Well, congratulations humanity, you’ve gone and done it: you no longer have to leave your house to casually survey eyecandy and make that silent personal decision on first sight — would you or wouldn’t you? You no longer have to pay for a drink before scanning a nightclub, compiling a mental list of those around you: ‘yes, no, no, no, yes, hell yes, no, no, both at the same or neither’, etc. Instead of the joy of chatting up a total stranger in public, welcome to the seedy world of Tinder, the iPhone app that’s been lowering sexual standards since 2012 in the US, but has recently swept London. The concept is painfully simple. You choose a picture of yourself, indicate your sexual preference, and you’re away. A pictures of a girl, her age, a bio line and her distance away immediately popped into my screen. If I liked what I saw I could swipe the picture to right, if I never wanted to see that person again I could swipe to the left. My picture is out there popping onto girls’ phones and if we both swipe right, then, ta da! You are matched, which fills you with a warm sense of satisfaction approximate to about an eighth of the feeling you get when you catch the eye of someone pretty and just know. Once you are matched, the painful private conversation can begin and the rest is up to you. Tinder claims to have made 100 million matches so far, and says that there have been 50 proposals of marriage,

though let’s not pretend it’s all chocolate boxes and roses. The seedy side is never far away. Female friends who are regular users report grossly impertinent demands for nude pictures and/or sex almost as soon as matches have been made. Luckily — and unlike in real life — there is a block button. Late to the party, I open a bottle of red and kick back for a merry evening of swiping. It immediately becomes clear that Tinder is horribly addictive, like a very aggressive, sleazy game of snap. Side effects: ‘Tinderitis’, a repetitive strain injury from too much thumb swiping. Also a deep sense of self-loathing. Little black dresses: good. Right swipe. Girls in Barbours and wellies: good. Right swipe. Bungee-jumping or photos of you stroking a drugged-up tiger on your gap year: bad. Left swipe. The bikini shots often seem wildly misleading when you click on the additional photos, but who has time for that? Right swipe. Group of four girls, three of whom look pretty? Right swipe: worth the gamble it wasn’t the ugly duckling. That amusing photo of you in fancy dress? Left swipe. And is it just me or has every girl in London been to that festival in India where everyone throws paint about? Left swipe. You had me at the picture of you with Michael Portillo. Right swipe. The generic blurred picture of you in a nightclub with a cocktail that was clearly so expensive you thought you better record it for posterity. Left swipe.

My adventure into the Tinder vortex taught me many things. Not least that the British gap-year student appears to have done more cultural damage to Vietnam lately than the Americans ever achieved. An hour or so later, I want out. It wasn’t the ‘look at sensitive me with African orphan’ pictures that annoyed me the most. Nor was it the beach star-jump action shots; nor the Machu Picchu/facing away from the camera scenery shot. No, what it comes down to is that Tinder confirms your own worst fears about yourself. When it comes down to it, I am a bit of snob and a bit of slut. There is an argument that Tinder is a progressive social construct which is helping to make online dating acceptable and that that is a good thing. I disagree. If you are not capable of holding real-life conversations in the hope of eliciting romantic outcomes, then you should not be allowed to use technology to cheat. If you are looking for casual sex, that is one thing, but anything more and you are building a relationship on a lie. In bypassing your own failings by using your phone, you are only heading toward disappointment. By swiping your thumb, you can ‘meet’ 50 0 potential partners in an hour — more than our ancestors would have met in a lifetime. Just because there is way to make something easy through using technology, it does not mean that it’s necessarily a good idea. Tinder is another nail in the coffin of western civilisation. And with that, your correspondent would like to say that he made his excuses and left . . . but it is very, very addictive. Left swipe.

illustration by david sparshott

Yes, no, yes ...


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I am following Ben Saunders into Scott’s Hut, the hut on Ross Island in Antarctica, the hut to which the Edwardian explorer never returned. All around is white. Ben is ahead, he tells me the hut really does look like it’s just been abandoned — as if Captain Robert Scott and his men will return at any moment. Cups, spoons, pots, toothbrushes, half-darned socks, reindeer skin and sleeping bags have all been left behind. All is cosy yet eerie. Back outside the hut — cold and windy. I see Ben in his bright blue ski suit, with the Intel logo on the left part of the chest. He stares at me from under his hood trimmed with fur. He and Tarka L’Herpiniere are hauling along 200 kilos of food and equipment each, by a sled harnessed to their backs; progress is slow, steady. On day two of the expedition they ski past four seals lolling around on the ice. Past Razorback Island, Tent Island, Inaccessible Island, Hut Point, Discovery Hut,

With one companion and 200 kilos of food and equipment, Ben Saunders has set out along the polar route Captain Scott never finished — and you can follow him virtually every step of the way Clarissa Tan


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‘It took months for news from Scott’s trip to reach the world. We send content back via satellite every evening from our tent’ progress, look at photos and videos of their ongoing journey, ask them questions online. The granddaughter of Tryggve Gran (the sole Norwegian on the Terra Nova Expedition) asks: ‘Did you see where my grandfather slept?’ Scott answers in his blog: ‘I think so. We saw all the bunks but I’m not sure which was his.’ On Day Two, Ben’s mum sends him a message on satellite phone. The Scott Expedition has a Twitter account, @scottexpedition, while Ben keeps his 9,000 followers updated on @polarben. ‘Scott and many of his team were really good writers,’ Ben tells me. ‘He had a very

good artist, Wilson, sketching mountains and glaciers. Sharing and documenting was a huge part of that expedition and in some ways we are doing the same thing.’ Ben and Tarka take it in turns to navigate. They eat every 90 minutes, then swap over. Whoever’s at the front is quite busy, but the one behind just follows, free to daydream. I wonder what is drifting through Ben’s mind, through Tarka’s, as all around is white expanse, dazzling and featureless. ‘It is quite meditative. I experience an amazing clarity of thought and memory. I can put names to faces of people I went to school with when I was eight or nine. I can remember lines of school plays I was in, I can remember family holidays. It’s like clearing out an old cupboard or attic. ‘Once we are through the mountains, it is a big white desert. Mentally that will be one of the hardest parts. We finish each day at a point that looks exactly like the point we set off from the previous morning. There are no reference points. There is no horizon. Sometimes there is “white-out” — when there is mist and fog, or the snow being blown about by wind. I have very vivid dreams on expeditions, dreams of being

andy ward

andy ward

White Island. ‘I can’t quite believe that we’re trundling past landmarks that I’ve only read about in books,’ says Ben. On his own e-reader are Great Expectations, more Dickens, and a few William Boyds. These will have to last for the planned 110 days, over 1,800 miles. Ben and his companion Tarka are retracing Scott’s footsteps, aiming to complete the South Pole expedition the explorer never did. Ben is an adventurer — he holds the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton, and is one of three in history to ski solo to the North Pole. ‘There’s a misconception there’s nothing left to do in the world of exploration,’ he told me when I met him in a London café before he set off. ‘Yet the reality is that one of the most audacious expeditions of the Edwardian golden age of exploration hasn’t been finished yet. Scott and the four men that died had covered nearly 1,600 miles. No one has come close to that. It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.’ Ben and Tarka are going on foot, just as Scott did. But there is a major difference between Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition and Ben’s Scott Expedition — information technology. ‘It took months for news from Scott’s trip to reach the outside world. We send content back via satellite every evening from our tent. We’ve been working with Intel engineers — we’ve got greater bandwidth than anyone has ever had in Antarctica so we have unprecedented ability to send back high-resolution images, videos, that sort of thing. ‘We are travelling on foot wearing skis, wearing harnesses and dragging sleds. It sounds very unlike a 21stcentury expedition. But look a little closer and it is a journey that has a lot in common with a space flight. The nutrition is extraordinarily advanced, the clothing is fantastic. Even things like Velcro, let alone GPS — Scott would never have dreamed of such materials.’ Scott kept a journal; Ben has a blog. On his blog at you can see his and Tarka’s daily

back home or being in a warm pub or a restaurant… ’ What is Ben thinking now? Thanks to the hightech trail left by his low-tech journey, we can get quite a good idea, almost instantaneously. To write this story, I can track his footsteps through the snow, on Twitter and videos and blogs, as he trudges after the footsteps of Scott. Ben wants to finish Scott’s narrative, and he’s leaving cyber-notes along the way. Today, Ben writes that Tarka has a question for us. ‘Tarka has one question to ask the world, which is why our noses run so much in the cold. They’ve been dripping like broken taps since we got here. Any ideas?’ Other than that, Ben continues: ‘The wind wheeled idly around for the rest of the day, puffing at us from every point of the compass but never giving us much bother, and it’s been snowing all day, like fine dust.’ The Scott Expedition ( /blog) is supported by Intel and Land Rover.


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19/11/13 11:24:45

Revolution has not stopped play at Cairo’s croquet clubs Peter Stein



Egyptian croquet players are an indomitable bunch. Interrupt their game with a flurry of tear-gas canisters and they’ll halt proceedings just long enough to remove the offending projectiles from their beautifully manicured lawns. That at least is what happened last November when gas aimed at anti-Muslim Brotherhood activists demonstrating outside the Presidential Palace wafted over the walls of a nearby sporting club. ‘We went away for a bit, came back, removed the canister and carried on,’ says Essam Hamam, chairman of the Heliopolis Croquet Club, who noted that a number of club members participating in the protests periodically sought respite from the chaos with a quick game and a cup of tea. Croquet and violence don’t often mix, but then croquet, more frequently seen as a sedate country pastime, is seldom played in places quite as riotous as Cairo. This year in particular there’s been no escaping the dramatic and frequently bloody series of circumstances that culminated in former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July. Cairo’s Shooting Club, home to one of the more successful croquet clubs, was

attacked by over 100 football ‘Ultras’ in February, while the prestigious Sporting Club in Alexandria was at one point also inadvertently tear-gassed. El Zohoor Club, steps away from the Rabaa Muslim Brotherhood protest camp, brief ly shut up shop when camp inhabitants tried to use its facilities days before the encampment was dispersed with the loss of several hundred lives. It’s rare for the vagaries of Cairo life to intrude on the cloistered tranquillity of the sporting clubs, but in navigating the frenzy of Egyptian politics, it’s no wonder croquet has cultivated a cast of intensely colourful characters, and there was none more captivating than Colonel Ahmed Hamroush. Hamroush, one of the Free Officers responsible for toppling the monarchy and beating the British out in 1952, dominated the Egyptian croquet scene in its early decades. But far from seeking to expand its appeal much beyond the relatively exclusive Cairo clubs, Hamroush, also chairman of the Egyptian Solidarity Committee, jealously guarded his game. ‘He didn’t want the young to play and so wouldn’t let anybody under the age of 21 have a go. He wanted it for him and his friends,’ says Amir Ramsis, President of both the Egyptian and World Croquet Federations, who wrested control of the Egyptian game away from


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aggression and spectator input set it a world apart. ‘Mobile phones always seem to ring close by as one takes a shot. I had a ball-boy put some chewing gum on my ball during one of the matches,’ says Reg Bamford, a decorated croquet international who became only the second non-Egyptian to win the Golf Croquet World Championships in Cairo back in April. ‘Sometimes it’s good for the game that we lose. We don’t want the competition to lose interest,’ Amir Ramsis chuckles. Egypt has forged its own form of the game, and according to Egyptians at least, their golf croquet version is much more enjoyable than the traditional association form. ‘In ten years, association croquet will be gone,’ Ramsis says, and a number of croquet talking heads concur. ‘The Egyptians have perfected what was seen as just a silly practice game and made croquet more entertaining, says Bob Alman, editor of Croquet World magazine. In a tale all too grimly familiar to British sports fans, the Egyptians look set to beat the very Britons who introduced them to the game in the first place. But Association Croquet, it seems, won’t go down without a fight. ‘The British don’t accept change. They are not a flexible people,’ says Ramsis.

illustrations by neil webb


Hamroush, but only after beating off the challenge of the then Minister of Scientific Research, a friend of Hamroush and one of a number of leading government figures to patronise the sport. ‘We try not to mix sport and politics,’ Ramsis says, but things haven’t always panned out as planned. Two of Hamroush’s communist friends quit upon Ramsis’s election, fearing, despite his assurances, that his differing political views would spell the end of their time on the committee (there’s certainly a diverse range of political views to be found amongst today’s crop of croquet enthusiasts: ‘Bring back the king,’ one senior player told me). Egypt is now grappling with a fierce NationalistIslamist rift, and politics once more has had an unfortunate habit of intruding. The security crackdown that followed the brutal dispersal of the protest camps put paid to much of the late summer playing season. A dusk-to-dawn curfew prevented play beyond the blisteringly hot afternoon hours, while blocked bridges and clogged main thoroughfares restricted movement around the city for a time. The lone Brotherhood supporter on the croquet committee, Riad, an import/export businessman, is the victim of nothing more than good-natured ribbing, but the grand Gezira Sporting Club was at one point refusing entry to men with the long beards frequently associated with strict religious belief and fully veiled women, according to Egyptian newspaper reports. Two months removed from the worst of the summer’s mayhem, and life for most Cairenes has returned to some semblance of normality. At the Gezira Club, once the favoured haunt of the British officers and civil servants during their 70-year occupation, only the wandering feral cats, palm trees and burnt out shell of the Egyptian Football Association headquarters in the background distinguish it from its top London counterparts. But when it comes to competing, the speed,


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18/11/13 18:26:02



Giving books for Christmas is a delicate matter – but not as delicate as giving lingerie

Often when a relationship is over we are left with little tangible to remember it by. Few young people I know write letters: texts and emails are deleted in anger, and what might once have been put down in pen on paper is now said lazily and forgettably over Skype or in Facebook messages. The photographs that commemorate a romance are digital these days, and are stored on a cloud, and accessing them, early on in the aftermath, is like opening a wound. But we have our memories and they are precious. The scarf she gave you can trigger them, or returning to a restaurant where once you laughed and reached for the other’s hand across the table and ordered the bill in a rush. The presents exchanged with people we have cared about remain, unless the acrimony is such that the scarf they gave you for Christmas brings more chill than warmth. Books with inscriptions, for me, cannot be given away. Even books that I loathe and that lurk nearly hidden in my library can’t find new homes. I have a book on cricket that has followed me since school. I hate books on cricket even more than I hate cricket itself, but it was given to me by a teacher. The book is an emblem not of the sport but of an early and important friendship, my time at school, and of a kind man who I really must write to one of these days. Romantic gifts are the most intimate, surpassing in some ways those given to and received from family. Unless we have a whiff of the Marquess of Bath about us, there is only one person we can give lingerie to, and lingerie is unique in that when

we give it, we hope that there is only one person who will see it on. And then when the relationship is over, we will surely never see it again, and wonder, on cold nights over pizza for one, who might be seeing it now. Lingerie is a conditional gift, even if this is unsaid. Lingerie is a gift that is not really a gift at all, because that lacy smallness hides selfishness. This Christmas my bank manager will get a Diptyque candle and a card that will contain the words ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. My father is getting an 18th-century pamphlet that includes a recipe for the mercury cure. And my girlfriend will get, among other things, underwear. Gifts should, where appropriate, be deeply personal. Were I to give the lingerie to my bank manager, a candle to my dad, and the mercury cure document to my girlfriend, it would start to become a Christmas tale without a redemptive ending. We in Britain are good at making lingerie. Agent Provocateur is a British brand that now has stores all over the world. Shopping there is a pleasure, with just the right sense of schoolboy naughtiness to the place. The bell that rings when you open the door, the drawers that are opened by girls in pink 1950s button-up dresses, and then the bras and panties in the black tissue in the ribboned box in the bag that you leave with — it all feels special and slightly secret. Carrying the bag feels different too. The eyes on the tube that glance at it make an assumption: that we have someone, that we love and are loved. Lingerie is charged with intent and anticipation and buying it is part of its many pleasures, just as I imag-

ine receiving it and wearing it have their own unique kind of excitement (one that I, as a man of pedestrian nocturnal tastes, have never experienced). Myla is another great British lingerie success story that started in Notting Hill and is another international British export. And there are lots of smaller companies making things tailored to different tastes. Rigby & Peller, the oldest and most traditional of the British lingerie brands, has a royal warrant. The slightly vulgar incarnation of Ann Summers and the designer ranges at M&S are testament to the democratic luxury of our love affair with lingerie — as well as being retail proclamations of our actual love affairs. The assumption in giving lingerie is that it is something that you’ll both enjoy, like the film you are planning to see together, or the trip you’ll take next weekend. The art of buying girls underwear, however, is that you buy something that you think they will like, not just something you’ll like. Be subtle about it. Attempting to dress your Madonna like a whore will likely leave you spending Christmas alone. The politics of underwear-giving is delicate, and the inference that this present might be enjoyed by you both should be unspoken. State it or insist on it or ask for all of it back when the relationship is over and you miss the point. The beauty of lingerie is that is celebrates romantic love, its urgency and excitements, or the expectation of love waiting round the corner. When it has been run through the wash enough, lingerie, like many a love affair, disappears. And we must remember that for those of us who aren’t married, it might just be for Christmas.

illustration by david sparshott

Knickers for the lady


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To appeal to the international super-rich, boarding schools are taking on the trappings of luxury hotels. It’s a far cry from the cold baths and spartan dormitories of yore Stephen Robinson

Five-star schools There are several ways to measure the scale of the cultural changes in the English private school of the last few years, but one schoolmistress with a robust, old-fashioned outlook realised things had gone awry the other day when one of the Russian new girls went to complain to matron. The girl was annoyed that though she had slept in her bed for three nights, the maid had not yet been in to change the sheets. The cultural clashes do not end with bedlinen. The girls, this teacher says, don’t understand the prefect system and won’t participate. A housemaster confides that there is no point in choosing

a head of house as that side of the school ethos has vanished. The Chinese won’t even come out of their rooms and socialise, and prefer to play computer games on their beds (just like children at state schools). The Russians object to being parted, even momentarily, from their iPhones or being told that some of their designer outfits and Louboutins are inappropriate for the English countryside. Recently this teacher asked a group of girls why they hadn’t changed for games. They looked blankly back at her, until one of them pointed out of the window at the rain falling on the English countryside. ‘I said: “Get out there, now!”’


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to buy their kids a piece of that — indeed, it is striking how many of the prospectuses of country schools feature a building which looks like a screen grab from Downton’s opening credits. The social consequences of this are far-reaching. Country solicitors, provincial architects, university lecturers cannot send their children to the boarding schools they once attended. And British investment bankers dropping their children off on Sunday night look at the cars being driven by the guardians of the Russian, Chinese and Nigerian children, and for the first time in their lives they feel poor. Schools are now pouring millions of pounds into facilities in a bid to attract the global education yuan and rouble. No selfrespecting Russian oligarch is going to have his little princess slumming it in a dormitory with seven other girls, so the big trend is  now  towards private accommodation and fine food. This in turn renders the schools even more exclusive by pushing up the fees for everyone. Older readers who went to boarding school in the 1970s and before might prefer to look away now rather than read the Good Schools Guide’s description of the facilities of Queen Ethelburga’s College in Yorkshire, which attracts a lot of Chinese and Russians. ‘Modern boarding accommodation consists of smart and wellequipped bedrooms, the majority now with private bathrooms, all with flat-screen TVs [in fact there are two TVs in some twin rooms

illustration by neil webb

The school in question has changed beyond recognition in about 15 years. It shall be identified only by saying it sits in splendidly appointed grounds west of London, not far from the M4, and therefore convenient for Heathrow, which these days is key for any school selling into the international market. The school is not unusual these days in that more than half its boarders come from overseas. When schools began to struggle to fill their boarding places, they first turned to China, where local agents actively seek the new wealthy desiring the English public school experience. Then came the Russians who, with Nigerians, are now the fastest-growing population in British private schools. While the Independent Schools Council reports that private school rolls fell slightly last year, the number of foreign children maintained its upward trend. Just over 5 per cent of children in ISC schools are foreign-born, with parents living overseas, but they are heavily concentrated in boarding schools and at sixth-form level, so for senior boarders the figure is much, much higher. With fees of £30,000 a year, many boarding schools have already become decoupled from their traditional British middle-class roots and are now plugged into the global, ultra-wealthy elite. A British education, like a Knightsbridge penthouse, has become a commodity to be bought by foreigners who don’t even think about money, or at least not in the way there rest of us do. These parents will have watched Downton Abbey and want


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LIFE — just in case these lucky pupils wish to watch different programmes. . . ], DVD players, telephones with voice mail, fridges, electric kettles, microwaves, air conditioning, trouser presses, room safes and ice-makers — pretty much everything except a mini-bar in fact.’ Increasingly, schools are being tailored to match the lifestyles of their super-wealthy foreign pupils, so they can move from the luxury apartment in Shanghai or Moscow to Daddy’s yacht and on to school without the slightest cultural discombobulation. For this pampering of their progeny in Yorkshire, British parents pay up to £32,000 a year, with fees for foreign pupils ranging up to £39,885. Many will no doubt think it a small price to pay for accommodation based on a Four Seasons mini suite, plus the outdoor equestrian centre (pupils can stable their own horses on site) and ten acres of floodlit sports fields, though keen classicists should not apply as Latin and Greek are not offered. The grander, more academically top-rank schools are generally oversubscribed, so they can control the balance of their intake and cap the figure of foreign pupils at around 15 per cent. Harrow takes a lot of Chinese at sixth-form level, which explains in part why Winston Churchill’s alma mater now offers English as an Additional Language. But at sixth-form level in many second-tier boarding schools, English pupils are now in a minority; and many of them, their parents and their teachers don’t like it at all. Teachers who entered the profession because they love French literature, or inspiring the young, increasingly mutter that they are now in the business of reinforcing the privileges of a new global ruling class. In many schools, the foreign influx is the dominant issue among the children, and it spills over from the dormitory and into internet chat rooms such as The Student Room. In one thread, girls address the knotty issue of which establishment is the female equivalent of Eton, and the back and forth reveals a general anxiety about the number of foreigners in girls’ boarding schools. Indeed, some of the participants sound a little like old workingclass Londoners in the 1960s maintaining that while they’ve got nothing against West Indians, they don’t want to be ‘swamped’. One anonymous girl who says she is in the sixth form at Roedean speaks of a school where the English pupils feel alienated, tells of Asian girls refusing to do sports, and of English being a minority language at the school. She even claims that one Chinese girl is leaving as her English is actually worse than when she arrived, ‘because she only speaks Mandarin’ in school. Another contributor to the thread from a different school throws a consoling virtual arm around the unhappy girl and explains that this is ‘what happens when the middle classes are allowed to take over, things get nauseatingly trendy’. In fact, the Good Schools Guide gives Roedean a decent rating under its new headmaster and does not relay any evidence that girls and parents think the 45 per cent foreign contingent is a problem. And needless to say, because of the high Asian intake, the school excels in science and maths. Some British parents actively seek an international school, thinking their children will thus be plugged into a global network of wealthy and high-achieving young people. Janette Wallis of the Good Schools Guide says some parents,

Many parents no doubt think the £32,000 fees a small price to pay for accommodation based on a Four Seasons mini suite, plus the outdoor equestrian centre where pupils can stable their own horses, and the ten acres of floodlit sports fields

but certainly not all, get jittery when the foreign contingent exceeds 10 per cent. But foreign parents equally don’t want to send their children to go to Britain to be surrounded by other foreigners. She says a genuinely international mix tends to work very well, but there can be problems when one nationality dominates. She cites Sevenoaks School, which took a deliberate decision to become international years before other schools were forced to do so by collapsing fee revenues. It is now about 25 per cent foreign, which many schools regard as too high. ‘But Sevenoaks’s internationalism is absolutely no deterrent to the British parents. The school does extremely well and is heavily oversubscribed,’ says Ms Wallis. The key there seems to be the genuine mix of nationalities with quite a strong representation of Germans and Italians. The problem is that too many schools are now irretrievably plugged into what Ms Wallis calls a ‘dependence on the international gravy train of the global elite’. Many country boarding schools cannot revert to their traditional role of offering a spartan but solid education to the children of rectors (though a surprising number of bursaries for the clergy can still be found on school websites). Health and safety burdens, rising teacher salaries and pension contributions, and the facilities arms race, have combined to push fees permanently beyond the reach of the indigenous middle classes. Meanwhile, European integration, globalisation, and the rise of the BRIC economies provide a ready new pool of parents ready to plug the gap, and the balance has permanently shifted. When the wheel turns and the Chinese, Russians, and Nigerians weary of their English experience, those second- and third-tier schools will be beached like a whale amid the theatres, music centres and hockey pitches, and then they will close down, having betrayed the dreams of the men and women who founded them. In the meantime, the rest of us can only wonder who among us would choose a school which thought our son might be the sort of chap who would use a trouser press. 50

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Stealth an d pr ivi l e ge

with this than others.’ Like many who attended the school, he highlights the ‘first-class education and grounding in life it gave me’. You sense it’s the image rather than the substance of Eton that proves difficult: coat-tails aren’t a good look in the 21st century. David Cameron’s antics at university rather than school might have muddied things further: are people conflating Eton with the Bullingdon Club? It’s in talking about his son’s education rather than his own that George’s ambivalence shows. ‘I prefer my children [he has a son and a daughter] to be educated in the state sector, because I see private schools as tending towards elitism. It’s better for children to learn about the community as a whole.’ Could he ever have imagined sending his son to Eton? ‘I wouldn’t want him to be a boarder, so that rules it out in any case.’ John, who like George is in his fifties, only has daughters, so the issue arises purely in theory. ‘I share George’s squeamishness about public schools generally,’ he says. ‘I also think single-sex schools — especially boarding ones — are a bit odd.’ Though even here he points out that Eton suffers from its fame. ‘Like Starbucks and McDonald’s, it’s the best known of its type so gets all the shit thrown at it, whereas arguably the principle is more important than the specific.’ Perhaps, as so often with the meejah, coverage will go in cycles. ‘Eton didn’t cope well in the Sixties and Seventies,’ says John. He cites more recent Old Etonians who are ‘human and housetrained, like Damian Lewis and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’

Why Eton is letting a documentary team film life at the school for the first time in decades Mark Mason

These must be strange times for Eton. You spend centuries building a reputation as the school for the nation’s elite, only to see ‘elitism’ become a dirty word. Famed as the school that’s produced more prime ministers than any other, you watch the country’s current leader having ‘Old Etonian’ slung at him as an insult. And so tactically you have to do a one-eighty: instead of billing yourself as exclusive, you emphasise how inclusive you are. For seven years the BBC have been asking Eton to let them film a documentary there. Only now that the proposal concentrates on three scholarship boys have the school said yes. (The executive producer saw her chance after hearing about a pupil whose family run a Chinese takeaway in Essex.) The CBBC programme My Life: Most Famous School in the World will air in February. The problem has existed for a while. Well over a decade ago, at Paddington station, I bumped into someone I knew, about to catch a train to Eton. ‘I’m thinking of sending my son there,’ he said. This came as no surprise: the man in question was wellpaid, a traditionalist, a stout defender of England and her ancient institutions. ‘But I’m not sure I’ll do it,’ he continued (and indeed in the end he didn’t). His reply when I asked why not has stuck in my memory ever since: ‘I just wonder if it’s fair in this day and age to land a child with that label.’ Hell, I thought: if this man is thinking like that, Eton really has got its work cut out. Talking to a couple of Old Etonians of my acquaintance for this piece, I’m struck by how complicated the issue is. Neither of them would ever apologise for their schooling, but the fact they don’t want me to use their real names shows the problem. ‘I don’t think there’s a “stigma” to Eton,’ says George, ‘but it does attach a label to you. [That word again.] Some people are better at coping

Famed as the school that’s produced more prime ministers than any other, you watch the country’s current leader having ‘Old Etonian’ slung at him as an insult.

as evidence that the school’s image problems may be softening. Certainly the master of River Cottage is an easier sell than, say, Alan Clark. The late politician’s diaries record his response when Norman Lamont expresses amazement at members of the government voting against Margaret Thatcher in the 1990 leadership election: ‘I can see you weren’t at Eton.’ For now, though, the school itself wants the TV cameras pointing at their scholarship boys. If they can’t get an Old Etonian to send his son to Eton, it’s time to target new markets. 52

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along. Here was an unpretentious and, it has to be said, rather inarticulate young man, talking about food. Before Jamie (the Before Christ of food circles), ordinary people didn’t talk about food. That was something best left to the French or personalities such as Keith Floyd. Now when I go to my local market stall, the cockneys tell me how their lovely tomatoes should be eaten with a little salt and olive oil. They’re channelling Jamie. A friend told me about the working-class men at QPR who, during quiet moments in the match, discuss elaborate meals that they’ve had using terms like ‘sous vide’ and ‘menu dégustation’. It’s taken a while to catch up but something similar has happened with wine. There is, however, no Jamie Oliver of wine. The last time wine was big on television was in the 1990s, when Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke amused us with their outlandish descriptions. All great fun, but they actually made wine conversation less possible because they made it camp, outlandish and therefore something to be mocked. Instead, this new enthusiasm comes from street level. Since the large off-licence chains — Threshers, Oddbins, Wine Rack, Victoria Wine — fell on hard times, their places have been taken by a new wave of independent wine merchants. Where I live in east London, three wine merchants have opened since the financial crisis in 2008. Along with these new shops, dozens of blogs have been started by ordinary people eager to share their enjoyment. One of these local wine merchants is tiny and only sells wine from obscure French producers. It’s run by a couple of French hipsters, she with dreadlocks, him sporting a homeless beard. They sell nothing for less than £10 a bottle. In the evenings they play records (vinyl naturally) in the basement of the shop while the trendy folk of Hackney drink vin jaune at £30 a pop. It’s almost impossible to believe but wine has become cool. Youngsters in London, Brooklyn and LA swap stories about cult Beaujolais producers such as Marcel Lapierre, just as they would have done with obscure Detroit techno records in the 1990s. Along with Beaujolais the other drink that has become cool is sherry. Sherry! There is a small chain of wine bars in New York called Terroir that offers free sherry during their happy hour. They put on music nights, including Heavy Metal Mondays. You can’t imagine big-nosed wine bores attending that. This interest young people have in wine goes hand in hand with something called the ‘natural wine’ movement. You don’t need to worry too much about a definition, only that it tends to be wine produced by irreverent, unconventional small producers mainly in France and Italy but now also around the world. You wouldn’t catch these people dead in the suits and ties favoured by Bordeaux producers. They have beards and smoke roll-up cigarettes. They look and smell a bit like east London trendies. Until recently young people in the old wine-producing world were turning to beer and whisky; now there is a shift back to wine. Across the world, the world of wine is becoming egalitarian, fun and exciting. That’s not to say, of course, that all wine is created equal. On the one hand we are discovering our instinctive love of wine but on the other we are embracing the complexity and elitism (in the best sense of the word) that makes it so endlessly fascinating. The wine snob is dead and there’s a party happening on his grave.

Oenophilia is becoming increasingly egalitarian, and at last wine is an acceptable topic of conversation Henry Jeffreys

Red-faced, plummy-voiced, with a big nose, the wine snob is a familiar social stereotype. He might laugh at you at a dinner party for mispronouncing Montrachet or be the face sneering at you from behind the counter of a stuffy wine merchant when you ask for a bottle of cava. Oddly enough, in all my years of buying wine and working in the wine trade, I very rarely came across this figure. People like this may have once been ubiquitous but nowadays the legend of the wine snob is kept alive by the wine trade as a way of proclaiming their egalitarian principles: haven’t we come far, they say, we’re not like those terrible blazer-wearing toffs. However, what most British people mean or meant by a wine snob was not this possibly mythological creature — it just meant that you spent more than £5 a bottle. When friends at university realised that I was interested in wine, they would open bottles with much facetious ceremony and pour a tiny glass for me with a smile that said. ‘I hope this is good enough for the wine snob.’ If I tried to initiate a conversation about wine, even ask if people liked it, I would be shouted down. My flatmate even bought me a heavy glass ashtray for my birthday with the promise that she would brain me with it if I talked about wine. At the first hint of wine speak, the cry would go up ‘snob’, they would point and I would be shunned. Ten years ago being interested in wine was something furtive, like being an early Christian or a 1950s homosexual. Things seem to be changing. Last month I had lunch at a friend’s house. Everyone arrived bearing a bottle and then something strange happened. Rather than just sitting down and drinking, they unself-consciously, and without any prompting from me, started talking about wine. Nothing fancy, just, ‘This one smells of this,’ ‘this one goes with that’ or ‘I didn’t know white Rioja could be so good.’ Initially I put this down to my friends having grown up, but then I noticed that the youngsters at work were not embarrassed by wine talk. Some of them were extremely knowledgeable. So why is this? I can answer that in two words: Jamie Oliver. We take him for granted now but he was a revelation when he came 54

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Charge Exempt. The new Panamera S E-Hybrid is the first plug-in hybrid in the luxury segment. Thanks to CO2 emissions of just 71 g/km it is also exempt from both road tax and the London congestion charge. It uses Porsche’s E-Hybrid technology to deliver the thrilling driving experience you would expect, alongside a level of efficiency you might not. The figures speak for themselves: 416hp and 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds, yet 91.1 mpg on the combined cycle and up to 21 miles on electric power alone.

The new Panamera S E-Hybrid. The DNA of the sports car has evolved.

Official fuel economy figures for the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid in mpg (I/100km): Urban N/A (N/A), Extra Urban N/A (N/A), Combined 91.1 (3.1). CO2 emissions: 71 g/km. The mpg and CO2 figures quoted are sourced from official EU-regulated test results, are provided for comparability purposes and may not reflect your actual driving experience. Electric range is dependent on driving conditions. Power output, performance and fuel economy figures obtained in combined hybrid power train mode using a battery charged from mains electricity.

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Original, limited-edition Art Deco posters by leading artists

Limited to editions of 280, our posters feature glamorous resorts along the Côte d’Azur, in the French and Swiss Alps, as well as the world’s greatest historic automobiles. Printed on 100% cotton fine art paper, they are signed, hand-numbered and bear our embossed stamp of authenticity. Each poster is approximately 97 x 65 cms (38 x 26 inches).

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Despite the draconian smoking bans which have come in across Europe over the last decade or so, cigar smoking is in rude health. In London, many cigar terraces have been introduced since the 2007 ban prohibited smoking in enclosed public spaces. There are now no shortage of places where you can light up a Hoyo de Monterrey or a Henri Wintermans Slim Panatella and smoke to your heart’s content. Cigar smoking was always sexy — but arguably the smoking ban has made it sexier still. The new vogue for cigar smoking cuts across boundaries of class, nationality, political affiliation and gen-

People are being brought together by a shared love of cigars Neil Clark

the kobal collection

French actress Corinne Calvet


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STYLE der. Female celebrities who have been photographed puffing away include Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Heidi Klum. Mary Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston, was reported to still enjoy a postprandial smoke at the grand old age of 89, and George Galloway celebrated his Bradford West by-election victory with a ­Churchillian V-salute and a Cuban cigar. Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, the radical French lawyer and spouse of Carlos the Jackal, loves a cigar, as does the leading Newmarket racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott Bt, who, asked what was his favourite brand of cigar, replied: ‘Partagas — and I smoke as many as possible.’ A feature of this new golden age of cigar smoking has been the growth of smoking festivals, including The Spectator’s own cigar dinner. My own love of cigars recently took me to Estonia, where I attended the inaugural ‘Nordic BigSmoke’ held in Tallinn. Billed as a ‘48-hour marathon for cigar lovers’, the Nordic BigSmoke is the brainchild of Jan Vistisen, a Danish cigar aficionado who reckons that he has smoked more than 25,000 cigars in the past 25 years (probably not to be advised). Jan loves cigars so much that he decided to make them his life’s work by buying a plantation in Panama and single-handedly resuscitating Denmark’s once world-famous cigar industry with his own Royal Danish label. The event, held to coincide with the ‘White Nights’ of midsummer, kicked-off at the Davidoff Cigar House in Tallinn’s main square. Jan arrives and kindly pops a couple of Royal Danish in my top pocket, ‘something to smoke later’. I meet Marco and Toni from Croatia. Marco established the Cigar World Championship in his home city of Split in 2010 and his dream, like Jan’s, is a noble one: to bring together cigar smokers from all over the world in a spirit of peace and friendship and fun. If you think ‘Big Smoke’ events are a male-only preserve, think again. A sizeable percentage of those attending are female, mostly from Russia and the Baltic States. ‘There is nothing sexier than a beautiful woman smoking a cigar,’ Marco tells me, as in front of us a tall brunette in a long black dress lights up a Macanudo. Two cigars later, we make our way across town to the next event, a gala dinner at the marina. Cigars are smoked before, during and after the three courses. Then Jan takes to the floor and announces that it’s time for the competition. Who can keep a Montecristo No. 4 alight for the longest using only three matches? The prize is a glittering one: a Royal Danish cigar humidor with 24K gold-plated sterling silver crown, containing 20 King of Denmark nine-inch cigars encrusted with Swarovski crystals. In addition the winner also gains a free entry to the cigar smoking world championship. A young female competitor from

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones enjoys a puff on a cigar


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T H E S P E C TAT OR C IGA R S MOK E R O F T H E Y E A R Cigar aficionados from all over the world gathered at Boisdale’s in Canary Wharf on 19 November for the inaugural Spectator Cigar Smoker of the Year award. Hooman Bahmandaji flew in from Chicago, saying, ‘There’s a great community of cigar smokers and I think events like this are a very good way of bringing people together.’ The celebrated society photographer Richard Young, one of the nominees, said that he had been smoking cigars since the early 1980s. ‘It came from my father who was a market trader and would always have a cigar in his mouth!’ Christopher Gilmour told me of his love of Havana and its most famous product. ‘I think it’s a wonderful city. I have a great affection for cigars.’ It was good to see female smokers indulging too. Judy Piggott puffed happily away at a White Churchill. ‘I smoke around four or five cigars a day. I love them! I have never smoked cigarettes, only cigars.’ Judy also told me of her plan to open

W H E R E T O S MOK E C IGA R S I N L O N D O N Boisdale of Belgravia Proprietor Ranald MacDonald has created a mecca for cigar smokers. Boisdale has a cigar terrace which seats around 40 people and where one can smoke to one’s heart content. 15 Ecclestone Street, London SW1W 9LX Tel: 020 7730 6922

abko/ the kobal collection

THE RITZ Smoking terrace is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so if you feel the urge to light up a Monte Cristo No. 4 at four in the morning, this is the place to go. 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR Tel: 020 7499 1818 May Fair Hotel Offers a wide range of cigars including Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas, Trinidad, Bolivar, Hoyo de Monterrey, and Santa Damiana, to be smoked in a stylish, intimate outdoor ‘room’. Also holds monthly cigar master-classes. 70 Stratton Street, London W1J 8LW, Tel: 020 7915 3894

up a private cigar bar where people could smoke from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. ‘Cigar smokers like myself have nowhere to go at these hours.’ I asked Nancy Dell’Olio what she found attractive about cigar smoking. ‘I don’t smoke, but I love the smell of cigars. I also think it’s very sexy when a woman smokes a cigar,’ she said. After the reception, we went upstairs for a fabulous three-course meal, with a main course of roast dry-aged fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef. Among the lots in the silent auction were a Partagas 165th anniversary humidor (reserve price £5,000) and Lionel Messi’s signed football shirt (reserve price £850). The Spectator’s chairman Andrew Neil took to the podium to present the awards. There were 15 nominees for the Cigar Smoker of the Year, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jeremy Irons. The prize went to Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon who received a humidor. ‘Remember, we’re the Wild Boys, not the mild boys,’ he joked. It was a great evening and I’m sure we’ll all be back again for more next year. Neil Clark

Latvia goes beyond her third match, but is allowed to continue. She remains in the competition a long time but after an hour fewer than half of the contestants are still puffing. In the end the prize goes to Igor from St Petersburg, the reigning world champion, who sets a new world record time. Next morning we are taken by coach and ferry to the lovely island of Saaremaa, for the next stage of the festivities. Tonight’s contest, held alongside a disco on the beach, is the longest ash competition for the longest day of the year. I have achieved ash of about 3cm when I make one false move on the dance floor and the British chance of glory in an international event is gone once more. (Close, but no cigar.) Once again, Igor triumphs, producing ash 10.5cm long. How does the man do it? Next day, it’s back to Tallinn for the third and final contest. Jan’s delightful Panamanian wife shows us to how roll cigars from dried leaves and how to press them and then we all have a go, Generation Gamestyle. I’m reasonably satisfied with my effort, but Toni from Croatia dazzles us with his expertise. After a farewell meal, it’s time to say our goodbyes. Thanks to events like these, people are being united around their love of a tightly rolled bundle of tobacco leaves. I leave Estonia convinced that if more people smoked cigars and adopted the hedonistic philosophy of Jan Vistisen, the world would be a much better place. Roll on the next Big Smoke.


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SMALL AUD I O DY NA M I T E The new generation of ‘dock systems’ are the ultimate boys’ toys, allowing you to listen to music directly from the internet without compromising on quality James Delingpole

Not long ago, the Fawn came about as close as she ever has done to crossing the red line marked ‘instant divorce’. It wasn’t about one of those incredibly trivial things that long-married couples bicker about pointlessly. What she had done was commit the worst crime imaginable: she dropped my Zeppelin Air on the floor and broke it. Some of you, women especially, won’t know what a Zeppelin Air is and why such a thing could possibly be a divorcing issue. So let me put it in a way you can all understand: wantonly breaking a man’s Zeppelin Air (or equivalent) is a bit like taking out a pair of scissors and lopping an inch off his willy. Well, near enough. As the Fawn could tell you, I’m not generally a materialistic person. Sure, I worry about money all the time, but when it comes to coveting shiny objects and precious things, I’m pretty useless, except where one or two key items are concerned. Key items with which you mess at your peril. One is my first edition of B.S. Johnson’s novel-in-a-box The Unfortunates; one is my metal detector; and one is my Zeppelin Air. Why do I love my Zeppelin Air so? Well, one reason is that it’s a piece of hi-fi equipment — and men always love and cherish their hi-fi equipment. And the second reason is that it’s one of the few pieces of kit I’ve bought in the last decade or so that has genuinely improved my life.

In the old days you had a hi-fi system and speakers and spaghetti wiring and a CD/record collection which took up a lot of space and required quite a bit of maintenance (refiling your CDs alphabetically; buying new stuff), and led to no end of complications setting it all up again when you moved house. The Zeppelin Air — and its rivals such as the Bang and Olufsen Beolit 12 — puts paid to all that. It’s a music player whose sound quality is as good as (or not noticeably worse than) your old bank of hi-fi equipment but which is a thousand times more useful and versatile. First problem it solves is your CD/ record collection: you won’t need it any more because, from now on, you just plug in your computer — or do it wirelessly — and listen to pretty much any album you want, whenever you want off the internet from Spotify. My premium Spotify account costs me £9.99 a month and for that I get a record collection bigger than Tim Rice’s.

Why do I love my Zeppelin Air so? Well, mainly because it’s one of the few pieces of kit I’ve bought in the last decade that has genuinely improved my life

The only downside here is that there are some artistes who refuse to allow their work to be shared on Spotify. Led Zeppelin are one; Pink Floyd another; nor, I think, is the new Roy Harper available on it. So you won’t be able to do away with all your CDs: just most of them. Another useful thing it does is keep your tastes right up to date. In the old days when somebody recommended a new album to you, it entailed much risk and hassle: first you had to go and find it in a shop, then you faced the possibility that having spent the money you now owned a CD you realised was rubbish. With Spotify you can flit mercilessly from new album to new album like some jaded emperor. And there’s none of that pressure you used to get in the days when a friend tried playing you an album they liked — and they sat fretting next to you, anxiously assessing how much you were enjoying each track, and saying things like: ‘Yeah don’t worry. I hated that one at first. But it’s a real grower… ’. Portability is the other key benefit. If,  like me, you’ve only got one sound system and lots of rooms, then it’s great to have a device that you can lug all around the house, depending on whether you need it for kitchen bridge or in the sitting room or wherever. Great for taking with you to holiday rental homes, too — because their hi-fis are almost bound to be rubbish. What we’re saying here, in other words, is that if the man in your life hasn’t yet got a Dock System — as these devices are generically known — then that’s his Christmas present sorted this year. It’ll cost you, mind: the attractively shaped Zeppelin Air is well worth the £500 for the sound (though is quite awkward to carry around, as my wife discovered, along with their efficient, cheapish repair service). Its more compact, picnic-basketshaped competitor the Beolit 12 is pricier (£600), definitely much more portable, but doesn’t have such an exciting sound. According to What Hi-Fi?, the best one in this price category is the funky-looking JBL OnBeat Xtreme (£500); in the middle range, the Logitech UE Air Speaker (£300); and in the bottom range the Logitech S715i. See, wives, girlfriends and mothers of the world, how easy I have made it for you?


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A web-powered personal shopping service promises to transform men’s style. But have they met their match in me? Freddy Gray

Clothes force

Like many men, I’ve never got used to the idea that Mother doesn’t dress me any more. I tried in my teens to establish a measure of sartorial independence by wearing black T-shirts that had the word ‘FUCK’ printed on them in brilliant white. In my twenties, I made an effort to look sharp, at least intermittently. I once read a men’s style magazine with the intention of learning. It didn’t work. Now I’m 33, bordering on fat, and I think about clothes less than ever. My wife stepped womanfully into the breach in the early days

of our marriage, buying me things she thought I ought to wear. But these days she has other children to dress, so my slovenliness has increased. I rely on Christmases and birthdays to replenish my wardrobe. If one year everybody decides I like books, I just muddle through. By November, I tend to look like I’ve given up on life. When I arrive at work, in torn trousers, frayed shirt and crumpled jacket, the women in the office give me a sad look. ‘Look at the state of you,’ they say. Which is probably why Spectator Life’s editor, a charitable soul,


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arrives, and it’s a marvel. There are some very tasteful blue corduroy shirts, an inoffensive purple T-shirt, a sleek macintosh, two trendy jackets, a plaid shirt, a rugby shirt, a belt and plenty more, all parcelled together into different looks. Alison has written a rather sweet letter about what might work with what. She’s tried to choose some clothes that conform to my tastes, as well as others to push me in a new style direction. On the former, she is bang on; the latter, less so, but then I can see I’m a difficult subject. A pair of orange trousers frighten me, but I try them on and find that I don’t hate the experience. I’ll never be an orange-legged man, though, so back in the box they go. There’s also a floral silk scarf that is too metrosexual for my conservative mind to handle. But I appreciate the thought. In the end, I keep the cord shirts, a pair of blue chinos, and a thick dark red sweater — boringly safe, perhaps, but Alison is wonderfully chipper when I email about my choices. They all fit perfectly, and I feel cheered every time I put them on. My wife, who knows about these matters, approves. So do the office women. I even went to a party and had someone tell me I looked trendy, which was novel. The whole Chapar experience is fun and, more importantly, easy. It’s a bit like getting a Christmas stocking in the post — only you don’t have to keep anything. What I don’t understand is why, in Chapar’s marketing material, they call it a ‘disruptive concept’. It couldn’t be less disruptive. Presumably ‘convenience’ isn’t sexy enough for the fashion world. But it’s what man needs. — Photos: © G. de Beauchêne, except pot still photo: BNIC

thought I should write about Chapar, a bold new business that makes it easier for hopeless men to buy good clothes. Or, as the bumf puts it, ‘a great way to look stylish (without the effort)’. Here’s the idea: man goes to Chapar’s website and fills in a form, then has an appointment with a Chapar stylist to discuss what he wears, then they send him a trunk full of specially chosen clothes. He keeps the items he wants and puts back the ones he doesn’t, then Chapar take the box away and send him a bill. ­Clever. The word Chapar means ‘courier’ in ancient Persian, apparently. Chapars were the chappies whom Cyrus the Great employed to move messages around his empire. How this translates into clothes shopping in 2013 I’m not sure — except that the idea of having a Chapar at your beck and call taps into what modern men really want, which is not sex so much as manservants. Look at those rappers who take such pride in their butlers. Happily, my personal stylist is not an eager-to-please Iranian on horseback, but a pretty Scottish girl called Alison in a fetching orange scarf. She sits me down and asks about my ‘look’. She doesn’t take the business too seriously, thank heavens, but she does take careful notes, and nods seriously when I tell that I like longsleeved T-shirts because they are ‘practical and cool’. We easily negotiate the issue of my expanding waist and my barrel chest. The tête-a-tête is only slightly spoilt by the office women sticking in their points of view. ‘He’s hopeless, Alison,’ they say ‘He needs help, Alison.’ (Tip for any potential Chapar customer: have your consultation in private.) Two days later the trunk — actually a big cardboard box —

hine makes little, but the best.

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Opposite page: Red leather Perudo game, £345, William & Son; Knuckle Duster clutch, £1,130, Alexander McQueen at Harrods; Fish scale bracelet in 18ct gold, £4,750, Humphrey Butler.

This page: Jeff Koons limited edition champagne, £160, Dom Perignon at Selfridges; Oldbury Houndstooth woven tie, £69, Thomas Pink; Meisterstück canvas wallet, £150, Montblanc

Photography by Arthur Woodcroft Set design by Kerry Hughes 65

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The fear began as soon as my bum settled into the leather seat. It rose from my foot to my right hand, which was poised above the start button. This was a boyhood fantasy come true. Yet instead of savouring the moment, I was contemplating how to manoeuvre this £180,000 beast past the skip, underneath the builder’s ladders and out of this poky Spanish village. My co-driver, who had already tackled the first 70 km of our adventure, reassured me there was nothing to worry about. As my thumb inserted the black key into the dashboard, the Aston Martin crest appeared, followed by a body-shaking roar. Help!

To get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin will ruin ordinary driving for you for ever Sebastian Payne 66

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How did I find myself driving this purple Aston Martin Rapide S through the rugged landscape of southern Spain? The Rapide S, a brand-new model of Aston, has been handed over to the world’s motoring corps for a weekend. The original Rapide received a tepid reaction and so Aston, which this year is celebrating a century of car manufacturing, is particularly keen for the new version to be a success. This is how Spectator Life’s highly experienced motoring correspondent (whose last car was a ten-year-old Volkswagen Golf) comes to find himself sitting behind the wheel of this lustworthy automobile. Aston Martin has managed to maintain a unique position in the British car market. Just say the name to  yourself: Aston Martin. It evokes the coolness of another age, when everything British was exciting. Ever since Q branch presented Sean Connery with a DB5 in Goldfinger, Astons have transcended other luxury cars. It doesn’t matter that the Jaguar F-Type has a higher top speed or that a Lotus Elise apparently handles better — the panache of owning an Aston makes such quibbles irrelevant. Aston Martin opened its futuristic intergalactic HQ at Gaydon in Warwickshire a decade ago. The Gaydon plant produces 4,000 cars every year; while Astons are thought of as handmade cars, a 21st-century Aston is a fusion of old and new. In one corner of the giant factory, robotic arms scurry around, moving chaises onto

Within twenty minutes of getting into the driving seat, I was throwing the car into clifftop bends, overtaking like Steve McQueen and loving every second the production line with precision timing. In another corner, a vigorous stitching machine spends 40 minutes sewing a single crest onto the headrest. Yet each car also has plenty of human attention lavished on it. The seats are assembled entirely by hand. Every coat of paint is felt over by a technician for any defects bigger than 1 mm. If any are found, a whole new coat of paint is applied. In total, the Gaydon factory takes around 20 hours to produce a vehicle from beginning to end. What’s more, the top-of-the-range Vantage takes nearly ten times as long to build. Had I known all this,

there is no way I could have been persuaded into the driving seat of any Aston. Back to that heart-stopping moment in Spain. The Rapide S — because everything sounds more glamorous in French — is essentially a four-door version of A ston’s DB9 coupe ; for Ja mes Bond when he finally settles down and has kids. It’s a big machine, and therefore has a 550 bhp V12 engine to push it along nicely. The Rapide S can go from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, about the time it takes to say ‘Holy moly’. Finding some courage, I managed to put the car into ‘Drive’ and manoeuvre it onto the open road. While the more experienced hacks speeded off, I pondered along at first, concentrating on not hitting the verge. But I slowly realised this beast isn’t hard to drive at all. In fact, it’s easier than a normal car. I put my foot down a little more, taking the corners faster and, boy, did she respond. Twenty minutes in, I was throwing the car into clifftop bends, overtaking like Steve McQueen and loving  every second. Eventually, I spotted a tunnel up ahead. Slowing right down to 20 mph, we lowered  the windows, pumped up the volume on the Dire Straits CD and then, as I believe the term goes, floored it. The explosion of speed and noise was unbelievably exhilarating. Windows up again, I was getting used to the luxurious interior. The Spanish countryside flew by. Music swelled from the Bang & Olufsen sound system. A luxury sports car conjures up the idea of cut-andthrust driving but this is not what the Rapide S is about. An Aston is about getting somewhere in style and, if you want, in a fun and speedy manner. My fellow hacks gave the Rapide S universal  thumbs  ups, but as a motoring novice, it’s hard for me to tell. I just thought the car was fantastic. There is the odd downside, though. For a start, it costs as much as an average house in England, and you would probably have a job fitting two adults in the back. It would be even trickier parking at your local Tesco. But if you are in the ballpark where you can even  consider owning an Aston, none of that ­matters. For my trip to the Aston Martin HQ, post Spain, I was picked up from the train station in a DB9 convertible. As soon as we hit the roads outside Leamington Spa, the chap from Aston took the roof down and put the pedal to the metal. I felt it again — the lurch in your lower abdomen from the thrill of the acceleration. It is truly incomparable. T he thought I might never experience that again is distressing. Every other car I will drive for the rest of my life will feel like a disappointment; a generic, thrown-together pile of metal. But at least I will always have Spain, where my Aston dreams briefly came true.


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18/11/13 16:04:40

Oris’s latest jazz-themed watch is inspired by John Coltrane

CL O CKWOR K CULTURE Watch designers are finally looking beyond sport for inspiration Simon de Burton

The watch world’s enthusiasm for selling products by linking them with dangerous sports is well known — diving, driving, flying, caving, skiing, sailing and motorcycling are all activities that have had timepieces designed for the job. But if your interests are of a more cerebral nature, don’t despair, because there are plenty of watches on offer with a cultural bent. Here are eight worth having a long, hard think about.


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saint-exupery, antoine de (1900-44)/archives charmet/the bridgeman art library


L E P E T I T P R I NC E IWC Back in 2006 the International Watch Company (IWC) announced its intention to combine literature with its long-standing reputation for making high-quality watches for pilots by supporting the Fondation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, an organisation set up in memory of the French author and aviation pioneer whose most celebrated works include The Little Prince and Night Flight. IWC and the foundation have since worked together on a string of projects focused largely on aviation, including the creation of the ‘Espace IWC-SaintExupéry’ at Le Bourget airport near Paris.

Vacheron Constantin

In early November a one-off platinumcased ‘Le Petit Prince’ Pilot’s Watch made to mark the 70th anniversary of the book sold at Sotheby’s for 173,000 Swiss francs (£118,482), all proceeds being donated to the Saint-Exupéry Youth ­Foundation. A limited edition of 270 red-gold, perpetual-calendar ‘Le Petit Prince’ watches are on general sale at £36,500, together with 1,000 of the Pilot’s Watch MK VII, ‘Le Petit Prince’ at £3,900.

Vacheron Constantin’s ‘Métiers d’Art’ collections have included watches inspired by everything from African tribal masks to the Japanese art of Maki-e lacquer work. In a similar vein, the Florilège range of women’s watches features intricately engraved and enamelled dials portraying images of exotic plants. These timepieces are based on plants illustrated in Robert John Thornton’s magnificent Temple of Flora of 1799, a weighty tome for which the English physician and botanist engaged the finest flower painters of the era to replicate some of the world’s most remarkable and interesting plants in large-scale colour plates with backgrounds of romanticised landscapes. The Florilège pieces have three designs, respectively based on the Temple of Flora images of a white lily, a China Limodoron and the extravagant Queen plant (above left). Just 20 of each design featuring bezels set with round-cut diamonds will be available (from £97,100 apiece) and five with baguette-cut diamonds (£119,400).

F R A N K SI NAT R A Ulysse Nardin Ulysse Nardin’s ‘Stranger’ was developed in conjunction with Dieter Meier, vocalist and front man of the electronic band Yello. The high-end watch brand has adapted the design of a classical musicalbox mechanism in order to create a timepiece that plays ‘Strangers in the Night’ on demand. The tune also sounds automatically on the hour. (We assume it can be made to stop doing that, too.) The first in what is set to be a series of musical watches from Ulysse Nardin, the Stranger is limited to 99 pieces in rose gold and costs £82,000.

Left: The back of IWC’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ watch, complete with engraved Little Prince

Right: Vacheron Constantin’s China Limodoron enamelled watch 70

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getty images



Chanel Coromandel

Greubel Forsey

Among the latest additions to the ultrahigh-end Mademoiselle Privé collection is this one-off watch which is said to have been inspired by the Chinese lacquer screens in the drawing-room of Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment on rue Cambon. Three designs have been created, each in a unique piece. One version depicts a ferryman and his passengers crossing a river — the ‘canvas’ for the image being a yellow-gold dial which has been hand-engraved and finished in grand-feu enamel. The trees and foliage are made from 24 carat gold while the 37.5 mm, white-gold case is paved with 524 snow-set diamonds — and 65 more decorate the crown. From £120,175.

Greubel Forsey has taken the art of microengineering to a whole new level with its ‘Art Piece One — Golden Sails’. Look closely at the exquisitely finished dial and you’ll see only an immaculately smooth sea of blue lacquer. But take a peek through the magnifier mounted in the winding crown, and all is revealed in the form of a fully rigged, three-masted galleon carved from solid gold. The minuscule ship is the creation of the Birmingham-based micro sculptor Willard Wigan, who once recreated Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ on a grain of sand and fashioned a train of nine camels within the eye of a needle. The watch is on sale for more than £1 million.;

M A RQU E T RY Parmigiani

C O M M E DI A DE L L’A RT E Bulgari


Wooden dials are nothing new — indeed, there was once a Siberian company which used wood for all the components of its watches as it was less affected by the extreme cold than metal. Parmigiani’s Tonda Woodrock tourbillon doesn’t exist for any such practical reason. It has been made to celebrate the Gibson guitar. The marquetry design uses 50 pieces of dyed wood and takes ten days to assemble. Each unique piece is priced at around £150,000. (

Undoubtedly among the most technically impressive pieces unveiled in 2013, Bulgari’s Commedia dell’Arte watches (above) will be made in three series of just eight pieces each. Each of the three designs features a famous figure from the 16th-century Italian street theatre as its centrepiece — Brighella, Pulcinella or Harlequin — situated in front of a palazzo. When the cathedral gong minute repeater is activated, the articulated figures come to life, demonstrating a remarkably sophisticated repertoire. The repeater sounds the hours, quarter hours and minutes in different tones, which resonate through a case made from white gold mixed with a material called ‘Magsonic’ designed to enhance the clarity of sound. The complex trompe-l’oeil dials were created for Bulgari by Vaucher. Price is on application.

Oris If you like watches and you like jazz, you’ll probably know about the association that Oris has established during the past 18 years with some of the world’s most celebrated musicians. Since the brand sponsored the London Jazz Fair in 1996, it has produced regular ‘tribute’ watches inspired by artistes such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and Chet Baker. The latest in the Oris ‘Culture Collection’ line is the John Coltrane limited edition, a sober, 1950s-style watch with a black dial, highlighted by a blue minute track, a nod to Coltrane’s celebrated 1957 Blue Train album. Just 1,000 examples of the watch will be available worldwide, each one numbered on the back and presented in a special velvet-lined box based on a musical instrument case. £1,350.

Left: Parmigiani’s Tonda Woodrock tourbillon marquetry watch. There is another version, the Tonda Woodstock, for the American market. 71

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www.vacheron -

17th of September 1755. In the offices of the solicitor Mr. Choisy, a young Master Watchmaker from Geneva named Jean-Marc Vacheron is about to hire his first apprentice. This agreement is the first known reference to the founding watchmaker of a prestigious dynasty and it represents the establishment of Vacheron Constantin, the oldest watchmaking manufacturer in the world in continuous operation. Ever since this agreement, and true to the history that built its reputation, Vacheron Constantin has been committed to passing on its knowledge to each of its Master Watchmakers in order to guarantee the excellence and durability of its craftsmanship and of its timepieces.

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HAN D S ON Talking tinkering – from motorcycles right down to watches – with Ewan McGregor Timothy Barber

Ewan McGregor caught the tinkering bug from his grandfathers. One of them, on his father’s side, was a motoring obsessive who passed on his love of old vehicles. ‘He had an old British car and a couple of British motorbikes, and was very rarely seen in the house since he was always in his garage,’ says McGregor, whose own collection of vintage motorbikes — he puts it at ‘around ten, maybe one or two more’ — is his great personal passion, and indeed his primary mode of transport in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. ‘Where engineering’s concerned I know my limits, but I tinker all the time, and find great pleasure in it.’ His maternal grandfather, Laurie Lawson, was a tinkerer of a more serious bent: a watchmaker, servicing the wristwatches and clocks of the denizens of Crieff, the tiny Perthshire town where McGregor grew up. He would spend time in his grandfather’s workshop, watching him meticulously taking apart, fixing and reassembling. ‘He was a brilliant watchmaker and jeweller, and he spent his life in there, working away on these tiny, intricate machines to keep them going. I admired that greatly. I love the idea that with these great old watches and cars and machines, with some care you can keep them going for ever.’ McGregor’s own career shows something of a tinkerer’s spirit At 42, he has accumulated one of the most varied CVs in his cohort of actors. The past 18 months alone has seen him swing from offbeat romantic comedy opposite Emily Blunt in Salmon 74

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Fishing in the Yemen to gut-wrenching drama in The Impossible, a reallife tale of the Asian tsunami. Indeed, in the 17 years since his breakout performance in Trainspotting, he’s mixed blockbusters like the Star Wars prequels and Moulin Rouge with much more esoteric fare — one thinks of his turn as Jim Carrey’s crush in the queer-rom-com/ prison-drama I Love You Phillip Morris. His next appearance is opposite Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, the film version of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer-winning play about a harrowing family gathering. ‘I just go on my instinct,’ McGregor says of the roles he picks. ‘I’m more concerned now with who’s directing than I used to be — I used to not care very much and think it was just about the writing, but I’ve learnt it’s important you’re working with great directors — that’s not necessarily the same as experienced directors though.’ In fact, McGregor recently travelled to Australia to shoot Son of a Gun, a crime thriller, with a first-time director, Julius Avery. ‘He’s only directed a short film  that I saw, called Jerrycan [a Jury Prize  winner at Cannes], but it was brilliant and I think he’s going to be a very good filmmaker.’ McGregor is naturally drawn towards the road less travelled. Sometimes that means literal roads — in 2004, he and his friend Charlie Boorman biked 18,000 miles from London to New York, via Russia Kazakhstan and Mongolia, for the documentary Long Way Round. A few years later they followed this with another trip heading south from John O’Groats to  Cape Town, though McGregor says the time for such epic endeavours is past. ‘I’ve got a two-year-old daughter [McGregor and his French wife, Eve, have four children, of which the youngest two are adopted] and this is the special time when you want to be around. I’m away enough for my work, I couldn’t face the idea of going away more.’ Talk of family brings him back to his grandfather’s area of expertise. McGregor’s own timepiece of choice, made by the Swiss company IWC, for whom he is a brand ambassador, is a massive, retrochic aviation piece — a version of IWC’s famous Big Pilot watch, originally designed for German airmen in the war — that’s

‘My grandfather was a brilliant watchmaker and jeweller, and he spent his life in his workshop, working away on these tiny, intricate machines’

sold as part of a pair, the second being considerably smaller. ‘It’s meant to be a father and son thing, except that I haven’t got any sons,’ he says. Instead, McGregor gave the smaller watch to his wife. With its antique stylings it’s a watch that suits McGregor’s determinedly oldfashioned tastes, whether that be vehicles, clothes or indeed actors (he names Jimmy Stewart as his favourite). Biking around Los Angeles, he spurns modern protective gear, settling instead for Brando-in-The-Wild-One-style T-shirt, turned-up jeans and boots. ‘I do have a sort of classic taste, but I’ve always been into the older things. Most of my bikes are from the Fifties and Sixties — there’s a nostalgia that I feel like I must tap into. I think we had a better aesthetic sense back then, and we knew how to make things work. We don’t have that sense of keeping things going.’ To illustrate, McGregor relates a story of when he, Boorman and their crew were biking across the wastelands of Mongolia, and one of their bikes broke down and had to be replaced. ‘We bought an  old two-stroke 250cc on the black market somewhere, which broke down all the time. We had all our brand new tools we’d been given in London rolled out on the floor, and we didn’t know how to fix it. Then a guy would ride up on a horse, jump down and fix the bike in five seconds.’ Perhaps tinkering only gets you so far after all.


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STRIKIN G AGAIN The glorious resurgence of British watchmaking Mark Greaves

In a studio above the Clink prison museum near London Bridge, Richard ­Hoptroff shows me his latest invention: the world’s first atomic pocket watch. It’s more accurate than any other kind of watch, he explains gleefully, ‘by a factor of thousands’. He is making 12, each costing £50,000, though the atomic component is not of course something he can build inhouse: it comes from a company called Symmetricom, which originally miniaturised it for use in drone missiles. Buyers must sign a form promising not to use their watches ‘as a weapon’. Hoptroff, a scruffy-haired physicist who named his project Atom Heart Mother, after a Pink Floyd album, only got into watches in his thirties, when he had to wear one to learn to fly his new plane ­( previously he had been involved in tech start-ups — hence the plane). His other innovations involve Bluetooth technology and 3D laser printing. ‘We are doing things people haven’t imagined before,’ he says.  Hoptroff is one of several hardy entrepreneurs in Britain taking on the Swiss. They are a patriotic bunch, trying to make as much of their watches as possible.  Watchmaking, after all, is a British invention. Most of the early breakthroughs were British. In 1800 half the world’s watches were produced here. But by 1980, our industry had died. Its decline began in the 1890s, when British craftsmen, unlike their

counterparts in America and Switzerland, failed to embrace mass production. Cheap electronic watches in the 1970s finished it off. Yet, while the industry collapsed, a passion for watchmaking lingered. The pioneers of the revival are Nick and Giles English, two brothers from Norfolk. They gained a love of watches, planes and other mechanical things from their father, Euan. His death in a plane crash led them to quit their jobs in finance and, in 2002, found their company, Bremont (named after a farmer, Antoine Bremont, whose field they were forced to land in while flying across France).  Nick says they entered the industry without much idea of what they were in for. They’d never been to the watch show in Basel. ‘If we had and seen the 700 watch brands, it might have been different,’ he says. ‘Sometimes ignorance is best — we just went off and did it.’ Now, Bremont has a turnover of £11 million, and has just opened a branch in Hong Kong. Fans of its aviation-style watches include Tom Cruise, Orlando Bloom and Ewan McGregor. The company wants to bring manufacturing back to England. At the moment it only assembles the parts here. Crucially, its movements — that is, the cogs, wheels and plates that make the hands tick — are made in Switzerland. For many, that indicates the limits of the English resurgence in watchmaking.

Until movements are made in Britain in any quantity, they say, we won’t properly have a watchmaking industry at all. But plans are afoot. Bremont, according to Nick, is working on a movement which will be partly made in England. Another company, Meridian, set up last year, says it will have its own movements ready for next November.  English movements are being made — just in very small quantities. In a cottage on the Isle of Man about a dozen entirely English watches are produced each year. They represent the pinnacle of the watchmaking craft.  The story of these watches goes back to 1969. As the industry slowly collapsed, a lone genius from north London began making watches by himself — the first person ever to do so, mastering the 30 or so crafts involved. That watchmaker, George Daniels, who died in 2011, had only one apprentice, Roger Smith, who now continues the tradition with a team of six or so. The watches they are producing this year cost £172,000 each.  ‘I know George’s work inside out,’ says Smith. ‘It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.’ Watch ficionados are in awe of these pieces. But they are not the only Englishmade watches around. Robert Loomes, an eminent watch and clock restorer in Lincolnshire whose family have been in the business since the 17th century, had his own way round the difficulty with movements. Instead of making them, he found unused ones, produced by Smiths, an English company, in the 1950s, which had been gathering dust in a warehouse. He built the rest of the watches around them.  T here i s l i m ited sc ope to t hese — only 100 watches have been made so far. Indeed, out of all the British manufacturers only Bremont is making more than a few hundred.  Mike France, co-founder of Christopher Ward, says Britain’s industry is unlikely ever to challenge the Swiss. But he suggests its small scale means it’s more nimble, able to adapt to change. With more investment in training, he says, it can ‘push the art of watchmaking forward’, taking the lead in terms of ideas. ‘Watchmaking is in our DNA,’ he says.  ‘We just have to retain a realism about it.’


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hermès. time reinvented.

arceau le temps suspendu forgetting time, just for a moment, before recapturing it again. one press on the pushbutton makes the hours and minutes vanish at will. meanwhile, the central second hand, unperturbed, pursues its ardent race against time. while the illusion works its magic, the movement continues to beat thanks to a complication exclusive to hermès. another push is all it takes for time to resume its onward march .

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Ochs und Junior’s watches come with a minimal aesthetic and a deep sense of history

The first time I saw an Ochs und Junior watch was on the wrist of my Swiss friend Fabian. It was unlike any wristwatch I’d ever seen. Bold but understated, it looked like a piece of machinery rather than a piece of jewellery. I asked him where he’d bought

went to Stanford and worked at Google. He fixes me a coffee from the Oxloft’s vintage espresso machine, a 1966 Gaggia. Like his beloved Gaggia, the watches he shows me seem timeless, a beguiling blend of old and new. ‘All numbers and figures have been removed from the dial,’ he says. ‘They’re simpler on the inside, too.’ Simplicity is the watchword of the man who makes them, Ludwig Oechslin. ‘Most watchmakers use springs and levers,’ Cail tells me. ‘Ludwig uses gears.’ The result of this innovation is a watch with far fewer movable (and breakable) components. ‘Instead of doing complications, we’re doing intelligent reductions,’ explains Weinmann, who co-founded the company with Oechslin seven years ago. One of Oechslin’s watches will cost you upwards of 6,000 Swiss francs, but that’s a lot less than a lot of Swiss watches. And

it. ‘Lucerne,’ he said. ‘A shop called the Oxloft on Zurichstrasse. It’s the only place that sells them.’ I was intrigued. I find most designer watches far too flashy, and the fact that you can buy them almost anywhere makes them seem a lot less special. I loved the idea of a Swiss watch that you can only buy in one shop in Switzerland. And I loved the minimalist look of Fabian’s Ochs und Junior. Lucerne is one of my favourite cities. I’m always glad of an excuse to go. The next time I was passing through, I made an arrangement to drop in. The Oxloft is on a busy boulevard a short walk from Lucerne’s waterfront. From the street, it scarcely looks like a shop at all, more like an artist’s studio. The firm’s fresh-faced managing director, Beat Weinmann, sits at a trestle table, drawing designs with a new customer. His wife Bea is a photographer. Her studio is round the back. Their American colleague Cail Pearce

when you buy an Ochs und Junior you’re buying bespoke, not prêt-a-porter. They aim to sell about 250 watches a year. Ludwig Oechslin comes from Lucerne, but he doesn’t live here any more. To meet him, you have to travel to La Chaux-deFonds, an industrial town in the Swiss Jura, where he runs the International Museum of Horology (MIH). La Chaux-de-Fonds is the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking. In 1678, an English traveller asked a local blacksmith to repair his pocketwatch. The blacksmith fixed it, copied it, and started making watches of his own. That’s the story, anyway. True or false, by 1900, La Chaux-de-Fonds was making more than half the watches in the world. Market share has shrunk since then, but quality has replaced quantity, and today big names like Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer, Cartier and Tissot are all based here, alongside lots of smaller watchmak-

William Cook


‘All numbers and figures have been removed from the dial,’ he says. ‘They’re simpler on the inside, too’

ers, like Ludwig Oechslin. Doktor Oechslin meets me at the museum and shows me round. Housed in a subterranean building, beside the Musée des Beaux Arts, his is a wonderful collection, a brief history of time. In his early sixties, tall and bald, with dark penetrating eyes that peer at you over pince-nez, he has the intense, distracted air of a brilliant, absent-minded professor, He’s been the curator here since 2001. In 2005, he designed a stark, arresting watch,


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the MIH, as a fundraiser for the museum. At 6,000 Swiss francs, it wasn’t cheap, but it became a bestseller. In 2006 he teamed up with Beat Weinmann to form Ochs und Junior (it’s part owned by Ulysse Nardin, Oechslin’s employer for half a lifetime, but no one has a controlling share).

Ludwig lives in a lovely art nouveau house a short walk from the museum. A kaleidoscope of stained glass, it’s an artwork in its own right. After we’ve toured the museum he takes me back there. I chat with his young daughter in broken German while he rustles up some lunch. After we’ve eaten, he shows me his basement workshop. I’m amazed how basic it seems, how small and rudimentary. It’s remarkable to think that every Ochs und Junior watch starts here. ‘This work is intellectual,’ he says. ‘I think first. Then I produce.’ The hard graft is all done beforehand, inside his head. Back in Lucerne, at the Oxloft, Beat Weinmann seals the deal with another buyer. ‘We know every single customer,’ he says. ‘We know what they want.’ Apart from their website, Ochs und Junior do no marketing. The motor for their business is word of mouth, and their unique selling point is Ludwig Oechslin. ‘For him, it’s important that he has a challenge to solve, and he’s happy if he solves it in the most elegant way,’ says Weinmann, as we say goodbye. ‘He can spend an evening in the cellar, make a prototype, and come upstairs the next morning with the prototype on his wrist.’


Oechslin’s watches carry no brand name. They don’t need to. You can spot an Ochs und Junior straight away

Ludwig Oechslin is that rare thing, a genuine renaissance man. He studied history and archaeology at Basel University. He did postgraduate studies in philosophy. He’s a qualified astronomer. He has a doctorate in physics. He’s driven by a love of learning. He has a passion for solving puzzles. He went to Rome to restore an ancient astronomical clock in the Vatican. ‘It was an autodidactic apprenticeship in itself,’ he says, with relish. Oechslin isn’t all that bothered about what his watches look like. He’s far more interested in the way they work. ‘It’s not the goal to have a beautiful watch,’ he says. ‘The goal is to have a watch that is useful and functional.’ It’s a principle that goes back to the Bauhaus. Form follows function. Beauty is a natural by-product of good design. In a normal watch, an annual calendar uses as many as 40 moving parts. When he made the MIH, Oechslin did it with nine. In some of his more recent models, he’s got it down to three. Less clutter on the inside means less clutter on the outside. His watches are attractive because they’re practical, rather than the other way around. They bear no brand name. They don’t need to. You can spot an Ochs und Junior straight away.


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Photography by Arthur Woodcroft Set design by Kerry Hughes

Clockwise from left: the Regent Renaissance in white gold, £21,426, Backes & Strauss, available at Harrods; Altiplano paved dial, £34,400, Piaget; Saxonia Automatic in white gold, £17,400, A. Lange & Sohne; Patrimony Traditionnelle, £POA, Vacheron Constantin; World Time in white gold, £36,920, Patek Philippe


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This page, clockwise from left: Tonda 1950, £13,500, Parmigiani Fleurier; ALT1-C rose gold, £13,950, Bremont; No. 8 Chronograph watch, £3,400, Asprey


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Swiss movement, English heart

C1000 TYPHOON FGR4 Made in Switzerland / Self-winding, customised ETA Valjoux 7750 chronograph with hour and minute bi-compax sub-dials / 42 hour power reserve / 42mm, high-tech ceramic case with titanium sub-frame / AR08 coated, museum grade, sapphire crystal / Delta and canard wing shaped stop-second hand / RAF low-visibility roundel at 6 O’clock counter / Deep-etched case-back engraving / Military style, high density webbing and leather strap with Bader deployment

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Clockwise from left: Ballon Bleu de Cartier Flying Tourbillon, £POA, Cartier; Koppel 421, £2,300, Georg Jensen; Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph, £3,895, Tag Heuer


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How to experience the wilds of Montana in luxury Stav Sherez

doug berry


How did I get myself into this? I’m halfway up a mountain in Montana, wrestling with a pair of cross-country skis, trying to stop myself from falling off the edge. The rest of my group have disappeared beyond the next switchback. My heart’s pounding so hard I can feel it in my throat. And then I force myself to stop, take a deep breath, and look around. White-capped peaks frame the landscape. Some are so far away they seem a mere suggestion on the horizon. Tall, dark Ponderosa pines, sleeved with fresh snow, surround me. On the opposite ridge there’s a line of elk moving slowly between the trees, their shadows flickering like old movies, and as they retreat beneath a snowy outcrop, I forget all about my aching muscles and recalcitrant skis. You see, I don’t do adventure holidays. When I was offered a week of winter sports at the Ranch at Rock Creek, my initial response was, ‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’ But I’d always wanted to see Montana — a disproportionate number of my favour-


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Above: the wilds of Montana under snow

ite writers hail from there — so, with some trepidation, I accepted. Montana is one of those split-personality American states, in common with much of the modern West: a happy contradiction of rugged cowboys, miners, hippies, ranchers and dropouts. Its boom years began with the discovery of silver in the late 18th century. Towns popped up overnight to service the mines, grand hotels were built, banks and bars and dance halls with sprung floors stood next to opulent theatres and opera houses. But the silver was soon tapped out and the towns were abandoned. Ranching became the state’s biggest industry. In recent years, Montana has tried to rebrand itself as an alpine playground. But it’s the startling emptiness, with a mere six people per square mile, that is still its biggest attraction. We were picked up from Missoula airport by a cowgirl with a journalism degree and driven through the night-black mountains to the ranch. There’s something strange and slightly magical, I’ve always thought, about arriving at one’s destination in the dark. It holds its mystery — and then the next morning you pull the curtains to find yourself surrounded by picture-postcard mountains, the snaky meander of a burbling creek and a sky so massive it takes up most of the view, and you know that you have truly arrived.

Ranch owner Jim Manley spent 20 years looking for the perfect location. He stayed in more than 400 ranches and noted what they did and didn’t do right. ­C onsequently, the Ranch at Rock Creek has it all. There are pristine slopes for skiing, a river full of slippery trout, horses and hiking trails, and no one around for miles. The main building, the Granite Lodge, contains nine themed rooms, a dining area, and the aptly named Great Room with its crackling fireplace and welcoming bar. I’d feared the ranch would be a kitsch Disney version of the Old West and was pleasantly surprised by the taste and sensitivity in the decor. Sure, there are Wild West curios hanging on the walls — animal skins, old typewriters, and light fittings made out of antlers — but nothing feels forced or overdone. Venture further afield and you come across individual cabins tucked in the folds and hollows of the landscape, some big enough to house a family of six, others perfect for a honeymooning couple. Vintage black and white photographs stare from every wall, witnesses from another time, and despite the mini-bar and iPod dock in your room it’s easy to forget the clamour of the 21stcentury world. Dinner is served in an unpretentious log-beamed dining room, but the food is anything but ordinary,


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Right: the loft at the Ranch at Rock Creek, and the Silver Dollar Saloon.

including such delicacies as elk steak and bison meatloaf. The ranch is part of Relais & Chateaux and the chef’s inventive twists on local recipes were expertly matched with a selection of fine wines. Evenings tend to be spent in the Silver Dollar Saloon, a lovingly recreated frontier-style watering hole where you can also try your hand at bowling, play pool, or lie back on a sofa and watch a western on the big screen. The second day was devoted to guns and horses. I’d always imagined clay pigeon shooting would be incredibly boring, but when you’re standing at the bottom of a steep ravine with clays coming in from eight different angles, and you hit one and watch it shatter into bright orange powder against the immense sky, it’s anything but dull. After a day’s exertion, there’s nothing better than a hazy sauna. Most guest ranches don’t have a spa, but the one at Rock Creek is equal to any you’d find in a luxury hotel. The signature Rock Creek Ritual massage had me floating through the snow as I joined the rest of the party for an evening of ice-skating on the frozen lake followed by hot toddies around a sizzling camp fire. If you’re into skiing, there’s the nearby Discovery Ski Area, which boasts serious slopes and no queues to get on the lifts. You can ski down an entire piste without seeing another person, though you might have to slalom around the occasional stray deer or moose. There’s archery and paintball and fly fishing, not to mention the thrill of hurtling down a mountain at 50 mph on a snowmobile. But the ranch isn’t just for powder junkies and Wild West aficionados: there’s plenty to do for every­ one. Pick one of the hundreds of rare books about Montana populating the bookshelves or take a hike around the land, soak up the big sky and the raw silence, and if you’re lucky you might see a bighorn sheep crossing the road or a bald eagle suspended high under thin cirrus. The owner once described his hiring policy as ‘cowboys with college degrees’ and it was this happy contradiction that made my stay at the ranch such a unique experience. The staff are not only good at what they do, they are passionate about it and can’t stop talking about it, making it feel more like a visit to a friend’s house than an exclusive resort. That impression was strengthened by Maja and Thomas Kilgore, the managers, who sat and entertained us with their stories every night. Guests to the ranch pay an all-inclusive fee which covers everything from food and alcohol to activities and even phone calls and tips. It’s not so much the money that matters but its absence: you’re never asked to sign a room bill or to think about the nearest cash machine, and that utterly transforms the relationship between you and the staff.

It’s easy to see why the ranch is popular with Hollywood A-listers and music moguls: it’s the perfect place to escape the world, with its blend of European-style hospitality and unpretentious Americana. What do we really want from a holiday? Is it to discover new places, or just to discover new places within ourselves? Perhaps more than anything it’s to find somewhere that will allow us to slow down our increasingly hectic and shuttled lives. The steady acceleration of the world is not so evident here, only the slow geologic time of mountains and elk herds that have crossed this rugged landscape for thousands of years. Prices start at £550 per person per night based on two people sharing a room with mountain views in the Granite Lodge, fully inclusive. Lodging, meals, beverages, two daily on-site activities, downhill skiing at Discovery Basin with ski concierge, excursions to historic local towns, internet use and telephone calls are all included in the nightly rate. For reservations call +1 877 786 1545 or visit www.­ Butte and Missoula are the nearest airports. The transfer drive time to the ranch is an hour and 20 minutes from Missoula. Stav Sherez’s latest novel, Eleven Days, is published by Faber.


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If LA can feel like a strange place, Palm Springs, 80 miles east into the desert, is frankly bizarre. Its first Native Americans inhabitants called it ‘Se-Khi’ (boiling water). Though there are still springs, it was the draconian rules of the Hollywood studios in their heyday that gave Palm Springs its identity. The ‘two-hour rule’ dictated that stars couldn’t live too far from the studios, in they were needed back on the lots at some odd hour for reshoots or stills. Palm Springs was the furthest away they could get. Think of it as the outer boundary of the gilded cage. From the 1920s onwards, it was a base for everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Cary Grant, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth

Off to Palm Springs, the pressure valve for Hollywood stars in the golden age Olivia Cole


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Taylor . The Racquet Club, built in 1934, was a Rat Pack hangout — and not really for the tennis. Even Shirley Temple, in her child star days, learnt to enjoy Palm Springs. She had her own bungalow at the Desert Inn and used to invite local kids to her birthday parties. That childhood rite of passage, learning to ride a bike, took place in this most adult of playgrounds. After arriving late at night, my first views of Palm Springs were on waking up. At seven I was padding out of my room to the heated pool, steam rolling off its surface into the early morning air. I drank my coffee looking at the fat lemon trees, the towering palms and the cold blue skies over the snow on the top of Mount Jacinto.

The desert landscape has the kind of rocky beauty you might almost associate with another planet. After a long swim, over a smoothie and hueveros ranchos, I read the LA Times, where any distressing world news has been excluded almost entirely, to make room for on the latest must-know twists and turns in the Oscar campaigns. Even after a couple of hours, the place feels like a tonic. The air is dry desert heat with no humidity (making it a health destination as far back as the 1900s). In the morning and at night it’s refreshingly cold, and in February when I visited, the sun builds steadily until by the afternoon it’s a perfect, comfortable temperature for lying around being a sun-lounge lizard. The Jacin-

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Above: The San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountain ranges, which give Palm Springs its sheltered microclimate


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T R AV E L to mountains, which I can’t stop looking at, give Palm Springs its own microclimate, nurturing the lemons and blocking out the winter winds. The yellow sun loungers in the gardens of the Viceroy, and the peace and quiet, make it easy to imagine yourself as a visitor in an earlier decade. Perhaps it’s not quite the 1930s here, but Don Draper would feel at home on a weekend away. The design is by Kelly Wearstler, whose other similarly comfortable spots include the Avalon in Beverly Hills. Propped outside are bikes for lazy guests, named after notable 20thcentury residents of the city — Priscilla and Elvis, for instance. This property was built in the shell of one of the resort’s earliest hotels, the Estrella. (They have kept the name for its tiny, excellent spa.) The Estrella was a series of tiny Spanish-style bungalows (the kind you find in parts of West Hollywood) and they are still in use, albeit with modern creature comforts. When I’m told that my room is in the oldest part of the hotel, ‘dating back to the 1930s’, it’s said with the kind of reverence Europeans reserve for Pompeii. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a snob about the recent past as history. In fact, I can’t get enough of this stuff. When I finally move from my sun lounger, my first stop is the Palm Springs Historical Society. It’s run by a dedicated team of local volunteers and early the next day I take in an epic walking tour. We view houses or little compounds in gardens set back from the almost empty roads of Las Palmas and the so-called ‘Historic Tennis District’ around the Racquet Club. And there’s no shortage of historic names to drop. Marilyn stepped out with JFK to a party at Bing Crosby’s house. Sinatra built himself a house here complete with a bedroom designated for Kennedy. During a flying presidential visit in 1962, Sinatra was mortified when JFK, who had cleaned up the company he kept, declined to be a house guest. Michael Douglas, who recently played Liberace in Behind the Candelabra, remembered his character as a neighbour of his father Kirk. The dangerous hedonism was mythologised in  Norman Mailer’s 1955 novel The Deer Park. He renamed the desert resort Palm D’Or and the title alludes to the Parc-aux-Cerfs, the mansion where Louis XV kept his mistresses. Up above Las Palmas is Marilyn’s hideaway at 1326 Rose Avenue. A small pink house surrounded by cypresses, with a stripy canopy to keep off the sun and a spectacular view. There are no other cars on the road and the route courses away peacefully down into town. Her phone bill from the last months of her life (recently sold at auction) showed her endless efforts to get through to the White House. It’s a hard place to imagine being wretched. As the most famous Palm Springs resident of all,

Above: the pool at the Viceroy Hotel

Marilyn is also commemorated in a sunnier mood, in a triumph of almost monstrous kitsch. The skyline of the main strip is entirely dominated by a vast, 26 fthigh bronze cast of her in that famous pose from The Seven-Year Itch. It seems both apt and so very wrong that she should be frozen in this performance of gay abandon, with gormless tourists forever looking up her skirt. For a place in which it’s so easy to do very little, there’s plenty to see in Palm Springs. Great examples of mid-century modern architecture are scattered here in the desert. (There are so many that Palm Springs modern is an architectural movement all of its own.) And in April there is Coachella, a music festival with no mud in sight. While stars no longer have to abide by the two-hour rule, the desert still draws the young of LA out of the city for either hedonism or R&R. The ACE hotel is a popular spot (if slightly too grungy for my tastes). Sonny Bono, the former mayor, started the Palm Springs Film Festival in 1989. The Parker hotel, created by the cult designer Jonathan Adler, is the main venue. My visit was fleeting, a couple of nights of peace and quiet before a week of non-stop parties and late nights, covering Oscar week. Flying home from LA, it was tempting to think of stopping off and lying by the pool, looking up at those ice-cold clouds and the snow. Maybe next time. Seven nights in California with Virgin Holidays, including flights, car hire and accommodation at The Viceroy Palm Springs (two nights) and the Mondrian LA (five nights) from £1,435 per person based on two adults. Call 0844 557 3859, or see www.­ and


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L AR A P U LV E R No one will forget her entrance in Sherlock. And you’ll be seeing much more of her Steven Moffat I first met Lara on video, and Mark Gatiss thought she was naked. It sounds worse than it was. This was 2010, we were making the second series of Sherlock, and auditioning for the part of Irene Adler — the icy femme fatale who very nearly (or possibly successfully) turns the Great Detective’s head. We saw a lot of terrific actresses for the part, but from the start Lara was leading the field. My brilliant friend Mr Gatiss summed it up: ‘She’s just such fun!’ And that was the key. Our version of Irene was, by any standards, a fairly awful human being: a blackmailer, a ruthless manipulator, perfectly capable of throwing a man she loved to the dogs if there was a profit in it. What we needed was so much fun it took your mind off all that — we needed to believe this woman would bewitch our cold-hearted Sherlock and reduce him to a bumbling oaf for the greater part of 90 minutes. If you’re going to tell the story of your hero’s least fine hour, you better give him a good reason to stumble. Lara, as Mark pointed out, looked very much like that reason. ‘Also,’ mused Mark, a little against his nature, ‘Is she naked?’ Well, no, of course she wasn’t. In fact, she’d sent us a self-taped audition from LA, where she was working, and for her pass at the first meeting with Sherlock, where he’s dressed as a vicar and she isn’t dressed at all, Lara had simply bared her shoulders. Enough, it would seem, for my collaborator to question his life choices. A short while later she was auditioning in person, and when Benedict emailed afterwards ‘Lara is Irene’ we knew we had something special. ‘A Scandal In Belgravia’ probably remains my favourite Sherlock (in close competition with the other eight we’ve made, naturally) and a lot of that is down to the force of nature that is Lara Pulver. Bewitching, seductive and funny — and with the truly awesome ability to emit a tear exactly on cue — she owned the episode and the detective. And iPlayer, for a few weeks. Benedict was wrong, of course — Lara isn’t Irene at all. She’s much nicer, and hardly ever tries to blackmail the British government or fake her own death to break a detective’s heart. She’s a wonderful, spirited actress with an extraordinary command of the screen, and eyes that could kick a hole through the back of your head with one look. And since I first met her (in person, shoulders covered), I’ve known she will go all the way to the top. Brilliant in interviews, dazzling on the red carpet and, most importantly, sensational on the screen, I doubt anything could stop her. I don’t know if the fiendish Miss Adler will ever make her way back to Baker Street — it would be hard to top that first appearance — but I certainly hope I get to work with Lara again. Fleming will be on Sky Atlantic HD in January. 98

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Spectator Life Issue 8  
Spectator Life Issue 8