Great Britain

An England That Might Have Been

‘We have chosen as targets the most beautiful places in England,’ said the German radio broadcasts on May 4th 1942. ‘Exeter was a jewel. We have destroyed it.’ Exeter was indeed an unusually beautiful Georgian city, because as its town planner said, ‘The character of the place depends less on its monuments than on the […]

You Think This Was The First Bad Year?

2018? Pah, that was nothing. 1974 was the year that really sucked. In 1974 the top US songs were The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand and Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. In the UK it was the time of the Bay City Rollers and Slade. In the bigger picture we had Nixon and Watergate, the fallout […]

Looking Back At 2018: Part 2

To answer a reader’s question, this blog is different to usual writers’ blogs because I planned it to resemble a mash-up between John Julius Norwich’s ‘Miscellany’ books, which he assembled from snippets of interest, and ‘Picture Book’, the old children’s TV show, the idea being that you’d never know what you were going to get. Here […]

Looking Back At 2018: Part 1

Glancing back over the past year, I’m amazed how many subjects we’ve dipped into, and the range of our conversations. Here are a few quotes from the blog in the first half of the year. And this is without starting on readers’ comments! January From ‘Sublime Moments’: ‘When watching stories on film. I live for […]

Creating In Dark And Light

Most of ‘A Christmas Carol’ takes place in semi-darkness or within candlelit rooms, and despite all attempts to open it out it still feels like a chamber piece. I’ve always felt that what it has, far more than seasonal redemption, is an atmosphere of death. Light is linked to mood. Between November and the end […]

Truly Scrooged

As an antidote to all those ghastly jingle-bell-ringing melodies we get at this time of the year, let’s have something a little more honest that suddenly feels apposite, given the recent situation at Gatwick Airport. I’m heading there shortly and will be descending from one chaos – planes under drone attack – to another, Barcelona […]

Thud & Blunder In The Theatre

Theatres have a unique place in British history and remain a sacrosanct and vital part of our culture, moreso than in any other country. There are 230 of them in London alone. Old buildings have been repurposed to create new places for fringe productions, but new large theatres also get built. The Other Palace opened […]

A Richer Dust

If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England’s, […]

The Final Remembrance

With Remembrance Sunday approaching, the Tower of London has chosen to stage another respectful, spectacular display commemorating the fallen of WWI. Its astonishing installation of handmade poppies, forming a sea of scarlet around the Bloody Tower was named ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, a public art installation created in the moat between July and […]

Halloween Special: In Praise Of The Grotesque

The trickster who appears, causes havoc and vanishes is an ancient myth in most cultures. The idea of a stranger sweeping in and unsettling the locals is especially connected to America’s geography. Unconnected towns joined by single highways made perfect targets when travelling salesmen, circuses and preachers came to visit. Tricksters got in and got […]