‘You’re all dead anyway…’

It is important to have people like Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary around who can say the unsayable Apart from in bad turbulence, when I would still much rather be somewhere else, I am OK with flying these days. But I used to have a problem with it and would have various rituals that helped me cope, such as keeping my feet flat on the floor, pointing straight ahead. For those who can’t relate to aerophobia (yes, it has a name) it is to do with ceding control of your life to someone else (the Read more [...]

Colin Powell on why he doesn’t regret a thing

Reagan and Bush trusted him. Bill Clinton feared him. Opponents of the war in Iraq blamed him. But why didn’t Colin Powell seize power when he had the chance? Having read that General Colin Powell insists on punctuality, I arrive an hour before my appointment at his office – which is in a leafy part of Washington DC – planning to find a quiet corner to go through my notes as I wait. There is no one else around but, as I’m entering the building, a silver sports car roars up: a brand new, Read more [...]

Can you beat David Cameron at our British citizenship test?

We all think we know our history, but how would you fare if you had to sit a 'citizenship test’ like Prime Minister David Cameron was set on the Letterman show? David Cameron’s appearance on 'The David Letterman Show’ has had the unintended consequence of making us feel sorry for him. After all, it hardly seemed fair to spring those abstruse British history questions on him like that, even if he does have a first from Oxford. It left us all thinking, would we have fared any better? Well, Read more [...]

Tamara Ecclestone: ‘I Feel Like I Hardly Knew Him’

With her £1 million bathtub and 100 (and counting) pairs of shoes, Tamara Ecclestone seems to want for nothing – well, nothing except the love of an honest man. Nigel Farndale meets an heiress in search of her happy-ever-after. Before I meet Tamara Ecclestone, I meet her dog, a small and, as it turns out, territorial long-haired chihuahua. He has tracked me down to her upstairs sitting-room in Chelsea and is yapping at me in a determined yet unintimidating fashion. I am waiting here Read more [...]

Untouchable: the true story that inspired a box office hit

How did a quadriplegic French aristocrat and his Arabic ex-con carer become unlikely friends, then a box-office sensation? Meet the real life stars of ‘Untouchable’. The second thing you notice about Philippe Pozzo di Borgo is his smile – it is engaging and generous. The first is his wheelchair. The 61-year-old French aristocrat and former director of the Pommery champagne house, has been in one since a paragliding accident left him a quadriplegic in 1993. His has a wing mirror, a computer Read more [...]

We speech fascists need to keep our perspective

Just because Jean-Paul Sartre didn’t actually say 'hell is other people’ doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The most famous thing that Jean-Paul Sartre never said was: hell is other people. Well, he did sort of say it, in one of his plays, but he didn’t mean it, and the translation from the French didn’t help matters. He was thinking more about the way we judge ourselves through the eyes of others. But just because he didn’t say it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, still less that Read more [...]

Costa Concordia’s captain comes up with a belter of a euphemism

Justifying his actions the other day, the captain of the Costa Concordia came up with a euphemism that is deserving of canonical status, by which I mean, it’s a belter. He said there had been “a breakdown in the interaction between human beings”. In that phrase you can almost hear the scrape of metal against rock, smell the hot grease on the winches as the lifeboats are lowered. It ranks with Alan Clark’s admission during the Matrix Churchill trial that he had been “economical with the Read more [...]