Monthly Archives: May 2018

Why I’d Have Preferred A Southern European Childhood

1 Railway station destination boards have half a dozen countries on them. 2 Facial hair at 14 (Spain, Greece and Italy only). 3 Can sit outside for more than 20 minutes without having to go and dry off. 4 Emotional freedom; gesticulation, sweary gestures, shouting, slapping, kissing, public hugging, random protests, losing temper, generally being […]

Maggie’s Mind Lint 3

It’s been a while since we dipped back into the unhinged world of my dear friend Maggie Armitage and the stream of unconsciousness texts she sends me on a daily basis. Some of these are insightful. Some are simply as mad as an old man’s trousers. Maggie definitely invented the selfie years before anyone else […]

The Strange Story Of Keeping Calm & Carrying On

I’m in Barcelona listening to a Spanish song on the radio, which has as part of its chorus; ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’, such is the international fame of this simple little phrase. How on earth did it conquer Europe (and who knows, other parts of the world) so ubiquitously? It started out as a […]

Careers In Word-Smashing

What follows is my personal take on how writing as a career choice works; your experience may be different. Beware of the child who says they want to do ‘something creative’ when they enter the workforce. Creativity can appear in any job, but too often it’s used as shorthand for ‘I want to be around […]

Wedding Song Of The Week

Happy Royal Wedding Day…the sun is glorious, the pubs are covered in flags and the Windsor wedding has a gospel choir – what’s not to enjoy? To add to it, here’s Madeline Kahn, Stephen Sondheim, a live show, an impeccable performance, great lyrics (especially that list) and the final bouquet catch!

Unsentimental Sentiments: The Work Of Lissa Evans

The British don’t do warm writing. We are allergic to excessive displays of sentiment, a wartime hangover from not making a fuss and just getting on with it. We play things down. When a deranged neighbour firebombed her front garden, my old agent dismissed the incident by waving her hand and saying, ‘It merely singed […]

The National Health: Good & Bad

Is the NHS the envy of the world or a Kafkaesque nightmare? Everyone’s experience is different. My relationship with the organisation goes back to my birth, when I went straight into an oxygen tent, then continued with bouts of pneumonia through my childhood and into adulthood. Along the way I got to test its resources […]

So Long, Lois Lane

This time Lois fell off a building and Superman wasn’t there to catch her. Margot Kidder has died too young. In ‘Paperboy’ I wrote this about the DC Comics character of Lois Lane: ‘Lois would be humiliated, bullied, deceived and placed in danger by a man who was prepared to disguise himself under rubber masks just […]

When Wives Go Wild

‘No woman in 20th century American mystery writing is more important than Margaret Millar.’ So said HRF Keating (and he should know) in his overview of crime and mystery, ‘Whodunnit?’ Millar was born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1915, but moved to the US and married the crime writer Ross Macdonald (who wisely changed his name […]

London Oddities: The Horse Hospital

London is littered with meeting halls, temperance rooms, debating chambers and lecture theatres. The clubs and cafes where talks take place are often tucked under arches or in tunnels, but there are other spaces that have been repurposed for the changing times as arts venues. One is the Horse Hospital in Herbrand Street, Bloomsbury, which […]