Monthly Archives: November 2017

A Home Of Your Own Part 1

I don’t believe that writers have to live in lighthouses or stone cottages overlooking the sea in order to work. Being an inner-city lad I’m used to sirens, loud music, the man with Tourette’s next door bellowing his head off, all sorts of interruptions, road drills, barge hooters  and general random yelling. But it’s important […]

London’s Forgotten Streets

‘Riceyman Steps’ by Arnold Bennett (1923) is a tough read, being relentlessly downbeat until a faint ray of light at the close. It concerns the final year in the life of Henry, who keeps a second-hand bookshop in Clerkenwell area (the steps are still there although most of the houses have gone – they used to […]

The New British Devil’s Dictionary

In 1867 Ambrose Bierce, American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer, began a satirical dictionary consisting of darkly humorous definitions. The lexicon was written over three decades as a series of installments for magazines and newspapers. Bierce’s observations were imitated for years before he gathered them into books, first as The Cynic’s Word Book in 1906, and […]

London’s Best Shops: Blade

Considering Bloomsbury is an area of London long associated with writers, it has surprisingly few shops connected with the trade. Thankfully it has the excellent London Review Bookshop (with its rather hidden basement) but why, for example, is there no paper shop? It’s hard to find washi, the japanese paper products you get all over […]

The Forgotten Christmas Authors

The yuletide season must already be upon us because the Christmas decorations have been up in Oxford Street for ages. It’s a season full of lost pleasures. John Grossman is the owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Victorian and Edwardian artifacts and ephemera, and wrote ‘Christmas Curiosities: Odd, Dark, and Forgotten Christmas’ […]

Witches In England

The other night I once more attended an Authors’ Club Halloween meeting at the National Liberal Club, founded in 1882 by William Ewart Gladstone, one of those grand portrait-filled establishments where you have to wear a jacket and only members can use the bar. Speaking with me was the writer Syd Moore, who cleverly trades […]

The Friday Song

Back to more serious matters tomorrow, but the sun’s out today and I think we’ve earned a song. Oh God, you think, he’s on about lyrics again. It’s a writers’ thing. I’m not in love with flowery 19th cent. poetry but I love clever wordplay. Last night I saw Dominic Cooke’s production of ‘Follies’ at the […]

Think You’ve Mastered English? Read This.

  This is not a piece designed to show off clever long words, but to reveal that English is more complex than you’d imagine. In the process we’ll go from Virginia Woolf to Tom Jones. Follow me there. An article republished from a US journal appeared in the Guardian this morning. Researchers have been trying […]

Harassment In The Media Workplace

As Netflix cancels its renewal of ‘House of Cards’ just after Kevin Spacey’s comments, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were connected, but no; cancellation of the long-running series had been planned way beforehand; not that you’d know this from hysterical articles in the UK press. The problem was not so much, I think, with […]