Great Britain

The Steady Rise (Easy, Grandma!) Of The Adult Panto

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Wordsmiths love the panto season although I’ve not been since I was about nine years old, but friends are nagging me into attending this year, partly because there seem to be more of them than ever, and many are getting very good reviews. I’m not thrilled about sitting amongst a thousand seat-wetting anklebiters and being […]

The Past Is A Safer Country

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What has the above object got to do with the subject under discussion today? It’s a blanket currently on sale at the London Transport Museum, and its pattern is the printed design of Routemaster bus seat material. If you’re a Londoner you’ve probably seen it your whole life and not registered it, except that it […]

‘Coming Over Here, Revitalising Our Culture…’

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The Swiss just held a referendum on whether to curb immigration to just 0.2% of the population, bringing it down from 80,000 to 16,000 people a year. Let’s face it, they’ve never been team players, have they? But this time they voted against the curb – a good thing in my book. Perhaps they thought, […]

The Enigmatic Codes

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I’ve always felt an odd connection to the Alan Turing story, mainly because of my father. As a young man he was employed in an experimental research group to try to understand the structure of strengthened glass, to make it and then find a way to seal wiring inside. Valves and wiring were too clumsy and […]

Food From Hell

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Notice anything weird about this burger? (Answer at the end of the column)   Gold-Coated Cockerel, Anyone? My mother has no taste. I mean that literally; she’s 90 and says she can’t taste anything unless it’s incredibly sweet. It’s a medical fact that we veer to sweet from savoury in old age. I was thinking […]

The Witches Of Knole

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My mother lives very close to 600 year-old Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent, and on a sunny day we visit the house. Knole is vast, complex and full of hidden treasures. Originally an Archbishop’s palace, the house passed through royal hands to the Sackville family – Knole’s inhabitants from 1603 to today. There are paintings by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Van Dyck, 17th-century […]

England’s Asylums

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When I was a child we went to visit a friend of my mother’s in Holloway Sanatorium, near Virginia Water in Surrey. I remember long, wide airy rooms overlooking rolling grasslands and a few patients dotted about, very docile and silent. What I don’t think I saw was its astonishingly colourful interior (as shown on […]

Blue Sky Thinking

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North-East England isn’t a very sunny place. Perhaps that’s what inspired the CPI, a product development organisation, to come up with this genius idea. The CPI is one of seven bodies under the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an umbrella group which receives government funding to drive growth in manufacturing. The aviation industry has a problem. How […]

Ebola: This Is How We Always React

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It’s a criterion of growing older, that we start to think these are the end of times. For my grandparents, the war removed innocence and decency. For my parents the Cold War and the arrival of nuclear power heralded Armageddon. For us the loss of identity, the rise of fundamentalism, climate change and roller-coaster economics […]

No Longer A Nation Of Shopkeepers?

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In an act of good will that spectacularly backfired, my well-meaning brother took my mother back to her home town of Brighton to relive happy memories of her childhood. Instead, she spent the day in tears, horrified by the destruction that successive town councils had wrought. The dirty, rundown, poorly rebuilt chaos that greeted her […]