Monthly Archives: April 2019

See Naples Without Dying

The Easter break arrived in time for a cheeky trip to Naples. I’d not been, it’s not far away and it’s weekend friendly. Cultural overload, I imagined, too much to see in a short break. Except that it’s now Saturday and I haven’t even started, because Naples misled me; instead of hitting the National Architectural […]

Let’s Have Something Italian

I’m off, you lot. It’s Easter, London is going to be ‘hotter than Morocco’ (another unit of measurement) and I’m heading to Herculaneum with some friends, to eat pasta and look at mosaics and watch another series of Gommorah on the way there to put me in the mood. So, here’s Fergie being Italian, from […]

Not So Stupid

When Mad magazine grew too tame for me I ended up reading National Lampoon, which grew out of the Harvard Lampoon and became a powerhouse of intelligent satire at a time when the USA needed an opposing voice. NatLamp parodied the presidencies through Vietnam, Kent State, Spiro Agnew, Watergate and every other social/ political disaster […]

Arthur Bryant, Tour Guide

In ‘Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour’ I’ve punctuated the chapters with chunks of the speeches Arthur Bryant gives as a London tour guide, and it made me wonder if I should write a ‘Bryant & May Guide to London’ at some point. It would have to include lots of pointless, peculiar and abstruse information […]

My Mother’s Puzzle

My mother loved puzzles of every kind. As children we were encouraged to investigate clues and understand paradoxes, and the house was covered in puzzle books. She could crack most cryptic crossword puzzles in minutes and often wrote shopping notes in code, a mixture of Pitman shorthand and her own weird abbreviations. This love of […]

The British System Of Unreliable Measurement

Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships. As a unit of measurement I find this unreliable. How many ships could a king launch? We know Nigel Farage is the face that launched a thousand lunches, so perhaps we should adopt the Farage as a measurement of failure and shallow thinking. On the rare occasions […]

The Author As Lighthouse Keeper

Last week our London flat was besieged; there was drilling from the gutted apartment below, hammering from the roofers above and steeplejacks were clambering past all the windows. The once-every-7-years building renovation had coincided with neighbours’ makeovers. Electric saws were operating at variable pitches, sounding like bassoons on feedback. I’m not normally sensitive to such […]

Je Suis Arthur Bryant

When I started the Bryant & May series, somewhat by accident, I was still a ‘cult’ author (ie. popular in a tiny number of bookshops near universities or within a three mile radius of the wrong side of Leicester Square) known for my dark and saucy ‘edge’, whatever that is. I was photographed against gothic […]

Scoured Silk

Bob Low recommended this surprising story by Margery Bowen in yesterday’s comments section, so I tracked it down for you (legally!)  This is a tale that might be told in many ways and from various points of view; it has to be gathered from here and there — a letter, a report, a diary, a […]

The ‘Tragedy’ Of Marjorie Bowen

We look back on authors’ lives and judge them according to popularity and success, but the picture is of course more complicated than that. Bowen is an author whose life was as fascinating as her output. She was born Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long in 1885 on Hayling Island, Hampshire (that picture above looks surprisingly […]