America & The Buccaneer Spirit

Can you have a water cooler moment without a water cooler? Why do we even have water coolers in Britain? ‘Tiger King’ was a water cooler moment if ever there was one – each new character as deranged as the one before, although for me the sanctimonious husband of Carole Baskin was the creepiest of […]

Isolation Tales 8: Chang-Siu and the Blade of Grass

I wrote this short fable because I was crushing on Marguerite Yourcenar’s style of writing, and wanted to catch a similar tone. I’ve written several fables and folk tales but wanted to tell a story simply and cleanly, as she does. There’s something enjoyable about writing a tale far divorced from the lives we lead. […]

10 Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Literary laughs for the lockdown era I’m always wary of authors who write about the rich; it convinces me they secretly salivate about being part of the fast set, like Richard Curtis and Julian Fellowes. Charles Jennings is genuinely hilarious on the subject of the ghastly rich, but in ‘Up North: Travels Beyond the Watford […]

Isolation Tales 7: ‘At Home In The Pubs Of Old London’

This story came at a time when I was starting to experiment with form. Looking at it now, it’s clearly a guide to where we all used to drink in London. My business partner co-owned the Pineapple pub – the photo I took of the exterior (above) looks like a movie set – and was […]

Brahms And List

I keep a list of the books which are guaranteed to make me smile. As everyone keeps evoking the Second World War at the moment I wondered, how did the British cheer themselves up during wartime? One of the ways was by turning to the sprightly comic novels of Caryl Brahms. Caryl (nee Doris Abrahams) […]

A Man About A Blog

So far self-isolation has proven, for us and our neighbours at least, a chance to pause and reassess where we stand. In all the time I’ve been writing the blog I’ve hardly ever looked back at it. Now I see there have been twelve years of almost daily articles that I’ve never reassessed. The images […]

Isolation Tales 6: ‘American Waitress’

When I suggested publishing a complete set of my short stories to a young editor, he gave me a wary look (because age) and said, ‘There aren’t going to be any unpleasant surprises in there, are there?’ I thought Gee, I hope so seeing as they’re meant to be tales of urban unease, but I […]

Whatever Happened To The Village Of Marylebone?

I was about to wrap up my potato peelings in a copy of the Financial Times when I caught sight of an article about the former London village of Marylebone. Reading it made me feel genuinely revolted. Marylebone is an ancient area that gets its name from a church dedicated to St Mary, built on the bank […]

Isolation Tales 5: ‘A Century and a Second’

While I’m posting your self-isolation stories here, I have to consider the format. If they’re too long they’ll be hard to load and hard to read. A recent collection by Jeff VandeMeer solved the problem by stacking the text in newspaper-format columns, but I don’t have that capability. Many of the tales I like best […]

The Horror Story Is Dead: Official

If you made a list of your reading influences from the age of eight to eighteen, what would they be? Partly because we didn’t have any kids’ books at home, mine reading included the simpler Dickens and Shakespeare tales (thankfully introduced to me at an early age), Mervyn Peake, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Robert Louis […]