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27-29 May


Jilly Cooper meets Westminster

Cleo Watson insists her debut novel Whips – a “Jilly Cooper-style canter” around Westminster complete with “lots of lashes and quivering naked buttocks” – isn’t based on real events, says Sasha Swire in The New Statesman. But Boris Johnson’s former deputy chief of staff “is being slightly disingenuous”. There’s a bumbling posh prime minister, and a “politically ambitious wife with a direct line into the top hacks”. There’s an education secretary constantly “babbling like a f***wit”. There’s a female PM pulling swords out of her back. The only glaring omission is a “Machiavellian Chancellor of the Exchequer”.

The great escape

France’s “devil-may-care” hotelier

Patrick Diter thought his luck had run out when, in 2020, France’s highest court ruled that he had to knock down Château Diter: the 30,000 sq ft dream home he’d illegally built on the Côte d’Azur. Three years on, says John Von Sothen in Air Mail, not only is the chateau still standing, it has become one of the region’s most in-demand hotels. The Provence pad, with its opulent furnishings, imposing fireplaces and Venetian chandeliers, is available to rent for around $120,000 per week ($160,000 if you’re after a live-in chef). And the major selling strategy is cashing in on the property’s “legal limbo”. “You probably want to see it,” the website reads, “before it gets knocked down.”


quoted 28.5.3 Hawking

“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”

Stephen Hawking

Staying young

“Miss Perpetual Motion” at 90

I once asked Joan Collins for the secrets of her success, says Gyles Brandreth in The Oldie. “How many do you want?” she replied, not batting an eyelid. “Five,” I replied, ambitiously. She nodded, “narrowing her eyes”, and began. “One, energy. Mine is God-given. My mother used to call me Miss Perpetual Motion because I never kept still. Two, exercise. Use it or lose it. That’s true of everything. If you stop talking for a week, your tongue would atrophy. Three, optimism. Cultivate it. Do you know the story of the twins who went into the shed full of horseshit? The first boy said, ‘Ugh, this place smells terrible.’ The second boy said, ‘Mmm, horse shit… There must be a pony here somewhere.’ Four, work, work, work. If you want to do something, do it for yourself. Nobody ain’t going to do it for you. Five, live for today. Remember yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Her secrets have served her well: this week she turned 90. It’s hard to believe, “even when you look very closely – and I have”.


quoted pratchett 27.5.23

“Rules are there so that you think before you break them.”

Terry Pratchett


The PM who puts today’s leaders to shame

One day in the late 1920s, Stanley Baldwin, Britain’s then prime minister, got chatting to a stranger on a train. He had been, perhaps, lost in The Times crossword, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd, when a man leaned over and tapped him on the knee: “You are Baldwin, aren’t you? You were at Harrow in ’84.” Stanley nodded. Then came a second tap. “Tell me, what are you doing now?” Even if the story isn’t true, it tells us something of the “modest man” who steered Britain through the 1926 general strike, the Depression, and Edward VIII’s abdication. That he is barely remembered today is deeply unjust. He has been accused, for example, of sending Britain defenceless into World War II – when in fact he commissioned almost 100 new RAF squadrons “in the teeth of fierce opposition from a near-pacifist Labour Party”.


Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Succession, which concludes for UK viewers tomorrow, will be its “astonishing art of invective”, says Louis Bayard in The Washington Post. And that’s probably because many of the programme’s writers come from the UK. “It takes a certain kind of genius to hone insult into poetry, and nowhere has that genius been better cultivated than in Great Britain.” There’s the late Martin Amis on Don Quixote (“an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative”); Virginia Woolf on EM Forster (“limp and damp and milder than the breath of a cow”); Evelyn Waugh on his six-year-old son (“I have tried him drunk and I have tried him sober”); and “that master of all registers”, Shakespeare (“I do desire we may be better strangers”).

Inside politics

Plenty of smart people – Alastair Campbell, Times columnist Matthew Parris, the heads of Ford and other carmakers – are saying we need to rethink Brexit, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. I’m afraid they’re wrong. A time will come when politicians can admit that leaving the EU was “a turkey of an idea”. But if they do it too early, voters will “shrink into a defensive crouch”. A few years can make all the difference: when Ted Heath sought a mandate to weaken trade unions in 1974, voters rejected him; when Margaret Thatcher did the same just five years later, she won. That’s why Keir Starmer is right to hold his tongue. If he waits, perhaps just one more election cycle, revisiting Brexit may feel like no more than a “bow to the inevitable”.


The rural retreat

This Grade II listed apartment is set within a former 18th-century public house in the market town of Bridport, Dorset. Its three-storey, 1,500 sq ft interior includes three bedrooms, an airy sitting room, and period features including sash windows and exposed timber beams. The town is famed for its kooky antique stores and specialist bookshops, and nearby Dorchester South station has trains to London Waterloo in under three hours. £350,000.

The getaway

This south-facing, four-bedroom villa is in one of Malaga’s most sought-after neighbourhoods. It has a modern kitchen and living space, with huge sliding doors opening on to a large terrace complete with a salt-water swimming pool. There are also stunning views over the Mediterranean. Malaga airport is a 15-minute drive away. €2m.