Elton John

Witnessing Elton John greet his burly, unshaven manservant with a peck on the cheek and a fruity 'How are you, dear?' was more than I had any right to expect. But then he sat on his piano stool, placed his fingers on the keyboard, and sang half a dozen of his most memorable ballads - all with the jutted jaw and the grimace of emotion directed at me, his one-man audience. Now, as he shows every sign of laying on one of his celebrated tantrums as well, I get the feeling he's just spoiling me. The Read more [...]

Edith Tudor-Hart: the Soviet spy with a conscience

When Edith Tudor-Hart wasn’t working as a Soviet agent, she was taking lovingly realistic portraits of London’s workers and street children. Now, for the first time, a retrospective is celebrating her double life. Being a Soviet agent doesn’t seem to have come naturally to the photographer Edith Tudor-Hart (née Suschitzky). For one thing she used the code name “Edith”, which was not subtle. For another, when she moved to London from her native Vienna in 1933 she liked to attend and Read more [...]

Inverted snobbery – it’s so rock ‘n’ roll

Public-school pop stars have a hard time being taken seriously There was a time when it was Genesis, and that was it. Now the domination of the pop charts by bands and singers who attended public schools has reached epidemic proportions. Mumford & Sons, who picked up “best group” at the Brit Awards on Wednesday, are the latest in a line of public-school Brit winners that includes Lily Allen, Florence Welch, Coldplay, Radiohead, Keane, Will Young, Pixie Lott, Dido, Kula Shaker and James Read more [...]

Why I’m feeling warmer to cold callers

It's good to remember that kindness, even to a salesman, doesn’t cost anything Might this work as a theorem? Being electronically connected makes life less difficult and more annoying in equal and opposite measure. You could call it Farndale’s First Law of Interconnectedness. I’ll give you an example of how it works. I like to shop online, mainly because I don’t live near any shops. But when you fill in a form electronically you have to give an email address, and then, even if you Read more [...]

The secret to a successful marriage

Brushing things under the carpet is best for couples  I was going to write: “When the trust goes in a marriage, there’s no fun lying to her any more.” I was then going to tell you that the line came from an old episode of Cheers, circa 1985, adding: “It was Norm who said it, I think, while propping up the bar.” But the web has taken away all the pleasure of such hazy recollection. I looked at what I had written, thought it didn’t sound quite right, then googled it. Sure enough, I Read more [...]

Britain leads the world in grumpiness

If foreigners want friendly they should go to America Apparently the rest of the world now sees Britain as a much friendlier place, thanks to the Olympic games. This won’t do at all. We are a cold and remote people whose natural instinct is to spurn friendship as though it were a rabid dog. And I think that, if they are honest, this is how other countries would wish us to remain. They knew where they stood with us before, you see, especially the former colonies. They might even have taken a certain Read more [...]