Great Britain

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 […]

Witches In England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 […]