Weird & Wonderful London 5

This was taken in 1933 but feels a century older. The villagers are receiving their Maundy peas – 20 bushels of peas and 2 bushels of wheat were given to the poor of the parish every Maundy Thursday, in a ritual dating back to 1572. Maundy money is still handed out today at a service, […]

London Quiz 1

This doesn’t exist. The immense Doric Arch that used to herald the entrance to Euston Station was torn down in 1961 against the wishes of the public and architectural experts, and was dumped to save money, but its pediments still exist and have been turned – inevitably – into pubs. The buildings that replaced it […]

Stowing Thrones

(No spoilers) With the end just a stone’s throw away, it was time to stow the thrones. Watched in 170 countries, winner of the most American awards, it wasn’t the biggest US TV show ever (that honour belongs to M*A*S*H), but Game of Thrones acquitted itself well in the audience stakes. It concluded tidily after […]

Weird & Wonderful London 4

Ploughing through far too many books on London and trying to work out which ones to take with me to Barcelona, where I’ll be working in seclusion next week, I can’t help but stare at photographs that touch me in some way. A lot of people complain that we have an idealised view of London […]

What You Always Suspected About Opera Is True

When it comes to sung classics I’m relentlessly middlebrow. Give me Offenbach or Donizetti over Wagner any day, or Gilbert & Sullivan, although I have a soft spot for most Verdi except ‘Aida’. Despite all efforts to democratise it, opera remains relentlessly upper class, and therefore periodically deserves to be mocked. There are past pieces […]

Weird & Wonderful London 3

A friend of mine recently moved into Petticoat Lane without realising it. It’s not her fault; the lane doesn’t technically exist. Petticoat Lane Market was started over 400 years ago by the French Huguenots who sold petticoats and lace from the stalls (there are still lace sellers there). The prudish Victorians changed the name of […]

The Return Of The Friday Song

Why? Because I’m hard at work on the next Bryant & May novel, and can’t spend 3 hours on the blog this morning! Besides, the glorious weather has returned to its dismal grey state and we might need something to cheer us up. So there’s that. And this. Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee not only […]

Weird & Wonderful London 2

Still poking about in old London photographs, I’ve a few more choice shots from the city’s past. Alfred Gilbert’s statue of Anteros (god of requited love) has been moved about a lot since it arrived on top of the fountain in Piccadilly Circus in 1893. Eros is Anteros’s twin brother, and that’s the name chosen […]

The Writing Books That Will Actually Help You

When it comes to self-help books, there’s no category trickier than the creative writing category. There’s no quick fix for bad writing other than to keep on until it gets less bad. Similarly, idea-creation cannot be taught, so all those boxes of flashcards can be thrown out of the window. There’s no single system that […]

Weird & Wonderful London 1

While I was researching today I came across some peculiar photographs of Londoners worth sharing. In East London in 1934 there was concern that babies weren’t getting enough fresh air and sunshine, so south-facing ‘baby balconies’ were installed until the London County Council (LCC) stopped them on safety grounds. The UK has a long, strong […]