Category Archives: Essays

Trying to Sleep

In the October issue of New English Review, the good doctor is back to recount his brief bouts with insomnia, the dangers of barbiturate sleeping pills, encountering pure cocaine in an African hospital, and lying awake during sleepless nights listening to the varied sounds of his house.

The story reminds me, however, of one told by Boris Cyrilnuk, a French psychiatrist, at the beginning of one of his books. One day a child who had hitherto been mute asked his parents to pass the salt. They asked him why he spoke only now, and not previously. “Until now,” he said, “everything has been perfect.”

Reflections on West African Coups: Changing Faces of Power

Over at The Epoch Times, our world-weary doctor ruminates on the recent military coups in Niger and Gabon in light of his own travel experiences through the region back in the day.

A change of rulers is the joy of fools, goes the old Romanian folk saying, and I recalled it as I saw pictures of rejoicing crowds in the street after the recent military coups in the West African countries of Niger and Gabon.

Service Without a Smile

If it’s Friday, it’s Dalrymple at Takimag. The skeptical doctor once again lambastes the British hospitality industry after staying at another subpar hotel with the standard mediocre native English staff.

It was clear that the only way that the hotel could improve was to be taken over by foreigners, staffed by foreigners, and possibly patronized by foreigners. And this is painful to say, because the staff of the hotel were (a) very pleasant and (b) doing their best. But this points to a profound cultural problem, at least for a service economy.


In the summer edition of City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple has penned a long and insightful essay on the many travails of (post)modern Britain after encountering a particularly pleasant and polite Polish receptionist working at a London hotel.

Worse still, the gracelessness of modern British culture is not merely spontaneous but has an ideological edge to it, such that many come to regard any refinement of speech or manners as artificial, a manifestation of social injustice. The more vulgar the conduct, therefore, the more authentic and politically virtuous; a downward spiral. A service economy with a labor force that thinks like this is a service economy without service.

Lusitania Sinking

In the September edition of New Criterion, the good doctor reflects on his recent visit to Porto, Portugal, and the cultural degradation he encounters around him. Another deep, classic Dalrymple travel essay.

What was so striking about the crowd in Porto—a crowd from all over Europe with a fair sprinkling of Americans—quite apart from the prevalence of self-mutilation by tattoo and piercing, was the complete absence of any sense of personal dignity. This is not the same as absence of ego, however; indeed, it is the very reverse.

A Secret Garden

In this week’s Takimag, our bibliophile doctor shares with his readers his dream of cataloging his vast library and some of his more curious purchases.

But for me, my library is a kind of autobiography, or at least a record of serial obsessions. It is undecipherable for anyone but me, which of course is part of its charm: Everyone needs a secret garden of one kind or another.

Saint of What?

Back at Takimag, the dubious doctor disputes the sterling reputation of Simone Weil after reading a newspaper article, which describes her time as a guest at Gustave Thibon’s farmhouse during the Second World War.

We should neither try to prick the bubble, reputation, simply because it is reputation, nor bow down before it. In short, we are perpetually called upon to use our judgment, as best we can.

Are We Prepared for the End of Obesity?

The unconvinced doctor returns to the pages of The Spectator with an insightful essay on the medical community’s recent mistaken tendency to treat obesity as a disease.

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) seems by its language in its report about the anti-obesity drug, semaglutide (Ozempic), to veer towards the red corner, for it describes the fat as people living with overweight or living with obesity, more or less as I live with my wife. Inside every fat person, then, there really is a thin person trying to get out, that is to say the real him. His obesity is adventitious, an unwelcome stranger, like a tumour.

How Totalitarians Flourish

Over at Law & Liberty, the critical doctor calls out the former woke CEO of National Westminster Bank, Alison Rose, for having her staff compile a 40-page dossier on Nigel Farage before unceremoniously tossing him out of the bank. Thankfully, she has since resigned over this incident, which incidentally caused the bank’s value to fall by over $1 billion. Hope springs eternal.

Still, the tendency to moral grandiosity combined with a lack of elementary scruples, as illustrated in this episode, is worrying. Would one trust such people if the political wind changed direction? Their views would change, but the iron moral certainty and self-belief would remain the same, like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. How many meetings have I sat through in which some apparatchik has claimed to be passionately committed to a policy, only to be just as passionately committed to the precise opposite when his own masters demand a change of direction?! The Coutts story is one of how totalitarianism can flourish.