Monthly Archives: March 2020

Isolation Tales 6: ‘American Waitress’

When I suggested publishing a complete set of my short stories to a young editor, he gave me a wary look (because age) and said, ‘There aren’t going to be any unpleasant surprises in there, are there?’ I thought Gee, I hope so seeing as they’re meant to be tales of urban unease, but I […]

Whatever Happened To The Village Of Marylebone?

I was about to wrap up my potato peelings in a copy of the Financial Times when I caught sight of an article about the former London village of Marylebone. Reading it made me feel genuinely revolted. Marylebone is an ancient area that gets its name from a church dedicated to St Mary, built on the bank […]

Isolation Tales 5: ‘A Century and a Second’

While I’m posting your self-isolation stories here, I have to consider the format. If they’re too long they’ll be hard to load and hard to read. A recent collection by Jeff VandeMeer solved the problem by stacking the text in newspaper-format columns, but I don’t have that capability. Many of the tales I like best […]

The Horror Story Is Dead: Official

If you made a list of your reading influences from the age of eight to eighteen, what would they be? Partly because we didn’t have any kids’ books at home, mine reading included the simpler Dickens and Shakespeare tales (thankfully introduced to me at an early age), Mervyn Peake, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Robert Louis […]

The Marvellous Mr Moore

Brian Moore is my kind of writer, unplaceable, thoughtful, readable, moving. The Irish-Canadian novelist and scriptwriter wrote a number of haunting short novels (some 20 in all) often concerning life in Northern Ireland, exploring the Troubles and the Blitz. Born into a family of nine children in Belfast, 1921, he rejected Catholicism and explained his […]

Isolation Tales 4: ‘The Most Boring Woman In The World’

So here we go with a fourth short story, this one from fairly early on in my timeline. I’ve never understood quite why this tale has proven to be so popular over the years – it’s been filmed at least three times and often comes up in readers’ conversations. I’ve decided to delay ‘Total Midnight: […]

Press Could Have Risen To Occasion; Sinks Lower Instead

Over the last few days, to my mind one of the biggest disappointments has been the behaviour of the fourth estate. In a classic illustration of the Frog and the Scorpion fable, the British press, given a shining opportunity to show excellence and grow by informing and leading, turned tail and crept back into its […]

Bulletin From A Hot Zone

The ramping of Covid-19 from mild flu to pandemic killing machine has taken a while in the UK, which was complacent after relatively few deaths and the national trait of bolshiness that encouraged street socialising. I suspect the PM’s rather eerie ‘Not Quite A Lockdown’ speech has a hidden agenda. Since it is hopelessly unenforceable […]

Isolation Tales 3: The Man Who Wound A Thousand Clocks

I am an obsessive timekeeper. From the windows of my flat I can see two clocktowers in opposite directions, and if I wake in the night I can usually tell the time to within three or four minutes. I am never late for an appointment and get irrationally annoyed with people who are perpetually late. […]

Not Stir Crazy Yet

It’s been a weird week for me, because far from seeing nobody I’ve seen more people than ever thanks to doctors, tests and hospital visits in the middle of a national shutdown. Suffice it to say, bad timing of the very worst order, but I shall deal with it. We shall speak of this no […]