Great Britain

A Walk Through…Cardiff

I was all prepared for my event in Wales, courtesy of Cardiff Central Libraries and WF Howes. I’d packed everything I needed including notes, a sweater, laptop, iPad and assorted tech-junk, only to spend the journey reading ‘Selling Hitler’ by Robert Harris (the story of the fake Hitler diaries). I arrived to find Cardiff sweltering […]

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 […]

Creativity Versus Fish

It happened again last week. Someone threw the example of the fishing industry at me in their argument for Brexit. Passion always overrides the facts; they had passion. I had facts. I knew I would lose, because nobody wants facts thrown at them. They only confuse people; look at Mr Trump. So, a few facts. […]

Our Friends In The North

You know the North, it’s where all the bad people live. ‘Winter is Coming’. France is stuck with Brittany, Spain with the Basques. But whisper the heresy…in England it’s not actually very grim up North. The weather yes, obviously, but it seems to me that many Northern writers got stuck with a hometown tag they […]

Patriotism & Me

Recently a good friend of this site asked if I was too Londoncentric, and thinking about this led to a bigger question about patriotism. We live in divisively patriotic times. Putin is attempting wholesale western disruption in the name of Mother Russia. The US President’s risky me-first strategy will either start a trade war that […]

In Praise Of Middle England

The above photograph from Winchester sums it up. It’s leafy and empty, there’s a statue of King Alfred and a branch of Fired Earth, the upmarket glazed tile shop, and somewhere out of sight a round table dedicated to a mythical king. Welcome to Middle England. It’s  not a place like the Midlands or even […]

The Sixties Return In March

They say if you can remember the sixties you weren’t there. I wasn’t. By which I mean I was at school, and being a tiresomely studious child I knew absolutely nothing about what was going on in certain select (ie wealthy) parts of London. The heady smell of patchouli and dope, the sounds of the […]

The Year I Finally Lost Faith In British Politics

There had been times before; notably, when Edward Heath’s electability as Prime Minister hung on his ability to win a yacht race for the electorate, and again when the grey accountant John Major filled the country with red tape-bound middle managers. And who could forget Gordon Brown, fine as a best supporting actor but useless […]

Into The Future: What’s Coming Up

At this time of the year newspapers are full of predictions; Nitrate-free bacon is coming! And highways of driverless cars! And miraculous medical advances! Sadly, most of them not in my lifetime but maybe in yours. When technology geared up for the next great leap forward none of us realised that its two biggest manifestations, […]

Blind Luck

The National Health Service was well in place in Britain before I was born. I was an NHS baby, an NHS kid, an NHS adult. In the 1970s the system went into crisis for all the usual reasons – underfunding, mismanagement, endless reorganisations. In the 1990s it went through another one, overloading itself with managers […]