Defining British

Let’s get a few things clear; I don’t like national definitions because by nature they fall into cliche. For decades our idea of an American was a loud bloke in a ten-gallow hat. Now Americans think we’re all like Russell Brand. My US book jackets all feature a Union Jack, a bowler hat (ever seen […]

‘Do You Want Better Grammar With That?’

This story reaches me from OUPBlog via Mike Cane. Apparently an English professor was ejected from a Starbucks on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for not deploying Starbucks’ mandatory corporate-speak. The story immediately lit up the internet, turning her into an instant celebrity. Lynne Rosenthal cared so much about good English that she finally stood up […]

London Old & New

My picture shows one of those lovely juxtapositions you see in London all the time. So here’s an extract from a piece I wrote about the city for a US website a while back… It’s a tourist FAQ in England; When you live in cities a couple of thousand of years old, how can you […]

Retreating To The Sun

This week I’ve hopped the Eurostar to France and am blogging from a small village in Provence, where the clear nights mean you can see the tail end of the amazing Pleiades meteor shower. I know it’s a holiday month, but as we drive through villages devoid of any human life, I feel like I’ve […]

Re:View – ‘Hierro’

NO SPOILERS Water imagery abounds in ‘Hierro’, director Gabe Ibanez’s Spanish language thriller which bears passing resemblance to ‘The Orphanage’. It begins with a genuinely startling car crash in which a mother loses her child, and then picks up with Maria and her son Diego travelling to one of the volcanic Spanish islands on the […]

BP Oil Spill From Above

You may not know that Google Earth has its own blog, filled with interesting imagery. Here’s the spill from above the Earth. You can find other good stuff here.

The Sexiness Of Books

The Kindle is plastered all over the pages of the Amazon UK website in what is increasingly looking like desperation. I like the idea of an ebook reader, but then there’s this picture, which I took on the beach yesterday. And it’s weirdly sexy. Book sexy. The casual sifting of sand from the pages, the […]

Keeping It Real

As opposed to fake, that is – for it seems, on holiday at least, virtually everything is fake. Piracy is now so endemic in certain parts of the world that separating real from fake requires a clever eye. In Cambodia, I noticed that all of the bookshops sold pirated books. You could tell these from […]

How The World Sees The British

I only have the vaguest notion of who Benny Hill is – he’s the professor who likes big women in The Italian Job. I certainly never saw his show – I’ve never watched TV that much, and virtually stopped altogether about 20 years ago – but apparently to many Americans he still represents Britain, although […]

When Words Go Bad

Bristol Palin has refudiated her fiance again, after just 20 days. Remember ‘Quadrilogy’, the word Hollywood came up with for the ‘Alien’ boxset when they couldn’t think of ‘quartet’? I think Sarah Palin’s ‘refudiate’ deserves to be enshrined in our lexicon too, especially as her family has a reason to use it since ‘Bristol’ (not […]