Great Britain

Witches In England

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The other night I once more attended an Authors’ Club Halloween meeting at the National Liberal Club, founded in 1882 by William Ewart Gladstone, one of those grand portrait-filled establishments where you have to wear a jacket and only members can use the bar. Speaking with me was the writer Syd Moore, who cleverly trades […]

Author On Tour 2

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It was a glorious summery day yesterday in Somerset, which was just as well as it involved about seven hours’ travel to attend a literary festival in Yeovil. The oddest part of this already odd job is the juxtapositions it throws up. So, squeezed into a taxi with Michael Portillo and Mark Billingham (both big […]

The Greening Of England

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I live just off the very unlovely Euston Road, one of the most polluted routes in one of Europe’s most polluted cities. It’s horrible to walk down, and quite impossible to do so during rush hour. As someone who has suffered lifelong chest problems, I find myself with permanent hay fever-like symptoms when I’m on […]

Rituals Best Forgotten 2: The Last Night Of The Proms

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The Proms, or to give them their full title the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, are  an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral concerts and other events held annually, predominantly in the Albert Hall. The Proms are, of course, A Good Thing, bringing wonderful music arranged in imaginative concerts at affordable prices, currently run by the BBC, who […]

Sing Ho! For The Open Road

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Like a lingerie salesman with a suitcase full of samples, the company is sending me out on the road next month. Here are some of the places I’ll be visiting, and I’ll try to keep you abreast of changes, developments as I go. Oct 3 – In conversation with Cathi Unsworth @ Shoreditch House, London […]

Two More Teas, Please

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The last post clearly sparked something about the ritual of tea, so here are a few further points. As tea featured infamously in Britain’s past (from its key trading position in the Chinese Opium War, when we used it to enslave a populace, to the Boston Tea Party) it remained ubiquitous and cheap. When the […]

The Time Of Your Life

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Look at the above photograph. Try to put a date on it. Clue: Drury Lane. Incredibly, this was taken just 19 years before I was born, in 1934. So, just up the road from this, the huge modern department store Selfridges had already been open for 25 years. Historical juxtapositions are always a shock, and something […]

The Fake Village That Became Real

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The architect Quinlan Terry is widely disliked by his brutalist colleagues for creating ‘fake’ architecture – buildings that replicate the past or provide false fronts. They cite the purity of the Barbican and the Trellick Tower, and condemn his backward-looking nostalgic style. But lately the argument has started to change. Of course, London architecture has […]

How A Pulp Writer Helped Win The War

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I’m still researching, peering into the years following the Second World War (it may lead nowhere, but that’s the peril of finding a subject to write about). National defence was very different then. Stories emerge that still defy belief, of fake villages being built as bomb targets and fishermen’s wives knitting sea-mine nets. Coupled with […]

Advice For The New Dark Ages

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Imagine a world governed by these rules: Your first child will always be a girl. Illness can be cured by urinating on a loaf and feeding it to your dog. Tying a bell on an ox stops it from beng struck by lightning. The wearing of a gold earring prevents eye complaints. Curses can never […]