Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Best Ghost Stories Ever Written?

Wordsworth Books have been republishing masters of the traditional ghost story in very nice editions, and I’m currently on a hunt to find the best ghost stories ever written. I’ve got EF Benson and MR James there on my list, along with Sheridan Le Fanu, Marjorie Bowen, Dickens, DK Broster, Gertrude Atherton, WH Hodgson, Alice […]

Thinking Spaces

Writing is the only job in the world which largely consists of staring into space with your mouth hanging open. Often, when I’m stuck on a novel, I go mooching around the city to fire up my ideas. When it comes to having spaces in which to think, the French have their boulevardiers, the Spanish […]

Invisible Theatres

Articles in once-trendy magazines like Time Out are celebrating the diversity of London theatre at the moment, but there’s a problem for experienced theatre-goers. Theatre draws largely from its pool of accepted successful plays, so if something is a proven hit it comes back again, and there’s a good chance regular theatregoers have already seen […]

The Rainbowfication of London

You may have noticed that very bright colours are in at the moment. Gone is the sterile white and grey and glass and concrete of the past few years, and everything now looks like a rainbow is being sick over it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Improved lighting techniques are changing night skylines all […]

Rethinking British Summertime

At this time of the year my neighbour’s kid might still be expected to be shovelling snow. Yesterday he was asleep on his outdoor pool table, soaking up the rays. The Christmas poinsettias are still on the windowsill. Until three weeks ago there were still Christmas lights on the lampposts nearby. And for the last […]

Am I The Only One Who Doesn’t Love ‘Mad Men’?

I understand why the chattering classes are excited about the new Mad Men season, but find it difficult to share their enthusiasm. The clothes, the cocktails, the smokes, the cynicism, the moral compromises, I get all that, but it’s slow-moving, rather obvious and, being telly, very soapy. It’s also designed to make you love their […]

Invisible Rivers

There are two books on London’s lost rivers out with the same name, one of which, Tom Bolton’s book of walking the rivers, I wrote a foreword for. A recent reference to the “river Fleet buried below” the new King’s Cross station raises an interesting point. The new ticket hall takes its semi-circular shape from […]

My Top Ten Horror Films

Some while back the London Film School invited me to select a film for their club night. After, the invited audience had dinner together and discussed what they had seen (this month Rita Tushingham is introducing ‘The Innocents’) On that occasion I chose ‘Witchfinder General’, Michael Reeves’ astonishing examination of the breakdown of law and […]

Finding Fresh Food In London

Last year I wrote a story called ‘Killing The Cook’, in which an inner city housewife attempts to kill the TV chef Nigella Lawson because she is unable to live up to the cook’s demandingly upmarket lifestyle. The story was inspired by a real problem. In one of Lawson’s cookbooks she said ‘Get your butcher […]

When Is Art Worthless Instead Of Priceless?

When it’s not actually art at all, according to Julian Spalding, the head of some of Britain’s top public galleries. He reckons the bubble will soon burst for zillionaire Damien Hirst and other “con artists” – that’s “conceptual artists”, the art of ideas wherein you think of something and pay someone else to create it […]