Great Britain

Us & Them

Paradoxically, Londoners work, live and play in Europe. ‘It’s not like this in Europe. The cafés are open, the wine is pouring, everybody’s laughing and gay, ha ha ha ha – not over here though.’ – Tony Hancock, A Sunday Afternoon At Home  Now that the last remaining shreds of logic have fled from every […]

Inconvenient Foods

As child obesity figures rise again McDonalds is once more in trouble. The junk food giant is accused of cheating its way to children with a McDonalds Monopoly game, while management tries to weasel its way out by saying it’s great for salads when everyone knows that lettuce is not what they’re selling. Do they […]

Forking Out In Britain

  There was a time within recent memory when you couldn’t get a meal or a drink in central London after 2pm. The walk from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge yielded not so much as a cup of tea. In Michael Palin’s delightful filmed childhood memoir ‘East of Ipswich’ a seaside lady points out, ‘Breakfast […]

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 […]