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15-16 April


The lost art of social climbing

Aged 23, I went to a party that promised “An evening with Pol Roger”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. I turned up on time and waited expectantly for Mr Roger, until someone informed me that Pol Roger was the champagne “going round the room on trays”. I can still remember the “sting of shame” – and the inner resolve to learn and improve. There is, I have learned, “nothing like social climbing”. It is emotionally exposing, and “at once personal and near-universal”. Artists have rendered the subject as tragic (Jay Gatsby), sweet (David Copperfield), and comic (Del Boy). But there’s a “jaded, anti-aspirational mood” in today’s culture. Succession is a show about rich people trying to stay rich. The zeitgeist author is that bard of disappointed, cash-strapped graduates, Sally Rooney. “Where did the arriviste go?”


A recent interview with one of Vladimir Putin’s former guards gives a “fascinating insight” into how the Russian leader lives, says Alastair Campbell on The Rest is Politics. He “never, ever, ever” uses a mobile phone or the internet. Instead, he gets all his information from a close circle of advisors desperate to please him – which is probably why he vastly underestimated Ukraine’s strength. He is also neurotic about security, so much so that at his various residences he has completely identical offices, allowing him to appear on camera and lie about his real location. Sometimes, officials are ordered to send out empty private planes and motorcades to trick people into thinking he’s on the move. Read the full interview here.

The great escape

The Times has compiled a list of 24 of Europe’s most stunning mountain cabins, where visitors can enjoy the “otherworldly beauty of peaks, glaciers and gorges”. For a cheap getaway, there’s Slovenia’s Cottage Ojstrica (£89 a night), a 16th-century hut reachable only by foot or cable car, and perfect for skiing on the nearby Skuta glacier. Mid-price options include the Costetoi Huts in Italy (£164 a night), great for exploring the hiking region of Val Visdende, and Sweden’s The Loft House, comprising four minimalist cabins with a luxurious spa session included (£360 a night). Those looking for a more luxurious stay should try France’s Là Haut, a fully catered mountain chalet with panoramic views of Mont Blanc, a wraparound terrace, a wood-fired hot tub and a sauna. It’s £31,000 for five nights. See the full list here.

The townhouse

This architecture-award-winning maisonette is nestled on a quiet mews in the heart of Islington. It has two double bedrooms, oak floorboards with underfloor heating, and an east-facing private balcony that soaks up the morning sun. Upper Street and Islington High Street are nearby, as are an array of boutique shops and restaurants. Angel Tube station is a six-minute walk. £900,000.

The country house

This Grade II listed, 17th-century home lies at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, and was once owned by the American revolutionary John Barker Church, brother-in-law of Alexander Hamilton. It has six bedrooms, multiple light-filled reception rooms, and a fireplace with marble insets. There’s also an indoor pool, jacuzzi and sauna, which look out over a large terrace and the property’s gardens. Wendover station, with trains to London Marylebone in 46 minutes, is half a mile away. £3.2m.


quoted 15.4.23 Chekhov

“Any idiot can face a crisis: it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

Anton Chekhov


London has a new “It” dog, says Daisy Dawnay in Air Mail: the chocolate dapple dachshund. The designer hounds are perfect for city dwellers: sociable, small and, with their “stout little legs”, not especially labour-intensive when it comes to walks. Breeders say buyers are joining nine-month waiting lists to purchase the pedigree pups. Influencer Sarah Corbett-Winder, who owns a mini sausage dog called Margaret, says she needed a pretty pooch to match her Instagram aesthetic. “I just thought, if I were to be a dog, I would be like that,” Corbett-Winder explains. “She goes with everything I wear.”


I’ve been keeping track of the BBC News website’s “important news reporting”, says Ed West on Substack. Recent pieces have covered a musician explaining why he keeps his lyrics gender neutral; a Welsh town “beating the far-right with cakes”; a “crucial investigation” into what the latest census data means for Norwich’s bisexual community; and why it’s time to talk about black rugby players’ hair. “Is it? Must we?” The problem is that the progressive journalists working for the site seem to value stories about “lived experience” over gritty investigations and “objective ideas of truth”. And it will only get worse as these ultra-liberal reporters rise through the ranks and “end up in charge of the whole corporation”.


quoted 15.4.23 Bierce

“Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.”

Ambrose Bierce