Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Magic Of Ghost Trains

Carriage

When I was a child, the ghost train on Brighton pier showed a carriage filled with nodding skeletons that disturbed me. As I got older they continued to be a source of fascination, from the Tobe Hooper movie ‘The Funhouse’ to the ghost train in Vienna’s Prater, with its disturbing images of Jack the Ripper’s […]

The North Deserves Better

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Britain’s empire was managed from the South but driven by the North; the South fed the nation from Kent, ‘the garden of England’, but coal, wool, steel, ships, china, cutlery, chocolate and most of its exports came from the North to provide us with trade. You see the remains of the wealth it generated when you […]

Delivering The Right Gift

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  I have a theory about Paula Hawkins’ perfectly acceptable but (to me, anyway) not especially interesting novel  ‘The Girl On The Train’ – its title offered an ironclad guarantee of what was inside. There would indeed be a girl (actually a woman) and she’d be on a train. But there’s also a passivity; she’d […]

‘The Burning Man’ Paperback Is Here

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This is how casual one gets about writing after you’ve been doing it for many years; my publication day is here and none of us woke up to it until a fan mentioned it on Twitter. I’ve always thought that publishers focus on the wrong edition. Hardbacks are the first sighting of a new novel, […]

Look Who Else Is Back!

Flying Scotsman

‘The Flying Scotsman’ wasn’t just a dodgy King’s Cross strip-pub. It was a train built in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in 1923, and it soon became the star locomotive of the British railway system, pulling the first train to break the 100mph barrier in 1934. This morning I awoke to the sound of a helicopter filming […]

Nell Gwynn’s Back

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It’s hard to emphasise how important Nell Gwynn once was in English history, as a folk figure, as a rags-to-riches  Cinderella story, as an everywoman and as the first female actor star, she was called ‘pretty, witty Nell’ by Samuel Pepys and was always regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England. […]

Books About Time

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It’s surprising that there aren’t more books written about time, and the changing way in which we perceive it. Martin Amis wrote ‘Time’s Arrow’, a reverse-time chronology of moral compromise and Auschwitz, a powerful, bleak, and of necessity ugly read that nevertheless catches the sense of time being ultimately irreversible. Far lighter was Jack Finney’s ‘Time […]

Why We Won’t Need Print Newspapers At All Anymore

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So the Independent – which 30 years ago had set out its stall as the UK’s only independent newspaper – shuts down on March 20th. On Friday I filed my four final columns for the paper with an air of great sadness. We have (I think) eleven national newspapers, the majority of which are right-wing. […]

Meanwhile, In The Headquarters Of The KGB…

Alleyway

Behind this door, grotesquely cruel things happened. There’s no actual blood on the floor of the execution chamber but just in case you can’t visualise it, there’s a video playing of dissidents being shot in the head and their insides being sluiced out with buckets of water before they’re bundled into laundry chutes. I’m in […]

One Migrant’s Story

Where Is This

I’m in Lithuania for the weekend. It’s snowing hard and the city of Vilnius is silent and to my London eyes, devoid of people. Maybe they Photoshopped shoppers into this shot (I’ll take my own later). Vilnius has a population of just 2.2m, and is another country that escaped the yoke of the Nazis only […]