Great Britain

Darkness Over England

London without light

Recently there have been moves in Paris and New York to darken lights above certain floors in order to help migrating birds and to generally improve the quality of life in cities, but London and England show no sign of following suit. Residents of the North London area Dartmouth Park want to douse their lights, […]

Odd London Objects: Legal & Non-Legal Tender


Strangely enough these aren’t so terribly rare; this unlovely example recently sold on the London Peculiar website here, which sells London oddities. It’s a Carausius Roman Bronze coin minted between AD287-293, and they sometimes turn up at building sites in the city (Londonium was ranged further East back then). These days the Royal Mint makes […]

Back To A Small ‘C’ Britain


Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re a little Northern country that financially punches above its weight, combining sophistication with brutish selfishness, and in uncertain times we timidly retreat to a level of safety. Last night we did it again; after six weeks of campaigning that might have stood for the very model of democracy […]

The European Country I Know Least


When I lived in America I at least got to travel a bit and see some cool places – not a lot because I was running my own company and the US legal holiday entitlement is among the lowest in the world (along with Chinese and Canadian). My regret is that I haven’t been to […]

The Disastrous Life Of Jeremy Thorpe


Hardly any of my friends remember what happened to Jeremy Thorpe, one of those peculiarly English stories filled with awful details – so I decided to read up on it. I first made the mistake of reading Auberon Waugh’s ‘The Last Word: An Eye Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial’, but Waugh was never a […]

Making Money From The Arts


  In today’s Guardian Suzanne Moore points out that the role of an arts college has been quietly changing behind our backs. 80 students have been occupying Central Saint Martin’s, which is planning to ditch 580 foundation course places. These are the one-year courses which are all that now remain of the free art school […]

Spent: Viv Nicholson Passes Into Mythology


The people who make it into modern mythology aren’t always heroines or heroes; particular;y here in the UK we often remember them because they tried and failed. One thinks of our love of explorers like Scott of the Antarctic or Earnest Shackleton and the Endurance, or even Eddie the Eagle, the hopeless Olympic skier. Add […]

Rubbish At Sport? Be Proud.


As a kid I was the second to last to be picked for football matches. My friend John was last, and he had polio. In my school you played compulsory rugby or cricket. I usually went to the library and took the punishment, although I did play once and let through the winning try, because […]

Two Oxfords


I did not go to university. My grades were good enough to secure an excellent placement, but ultimately it was my decision not to go. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the many writers who had started by honing language in advertising, then move into journalism. During that journey, I fell out of […]

You Can Be Different – Just Not Too Different


I’ve always returned to London because it was just so damned different to everywhere else, but when I walked into Leicester Square yesterday and saw that the entire centre garden had been swallowed up by something called ‘the Disney Cinderella Experience’ my heart sank. First, it’s that word ‘experience’, tacked onto everything. Then there’s the […]