London

The Unfashionability of JB Priestley

An author bullied out of print by the arrogance of the intelligentsia. When I asked if my mother wanted something to read, she instantly requested JB Priestley. ‘The plays?’ I asked. ‘Of course not,’ she replied testily, ‘the novels.’ John Boynton Priestley is mainly known for his theatre work, but Priestley was remembered to an […]

The Lockdown Diaries 8: Does Everything Look Different Now?

This endless talk of disease provides all sorts of ways to frighten yourself. I’m now avoiding bar charts inaccurately comparing countries and infection rates. I foolishly thought the balm of fiction would help. Stephen Soderberg’s ‘Contagion’ is back topping the charts at Netflix. The kaleidoscopic star-filled biography of a virus told in passing days from Day […]

VE Day With Bryant & May

Seventy five years ago, my mother Kath was working as a secretary in Clerkenwell when the nation celebrated the unconditional surrender of the Nazis.  Winston Churchill tempered the celebrations by pointing out that Japan had not surrendered – a situation that was to change three months later with the horrific war crimes perpetrated on Hiroshima […]

How Do You Prefer Your London?

Real or imaginary? In my head there’s another London where every fictional character from every London book and film lives. In this London the Droogs still maraud through Thamesmead, Mr Sloane strokes his tanned torso beside the Oasis pool, the sinister Professor Marcus knocks on a door in King’s Cross, Henry Earlforward destroys his marriage […]

Mr Fowler’s London Writing Talk Part 2

This is the conclusion of my little talk on London writing. Let’s move on 250 years. At the start of ‘Bleak House’, Charles Dickens famously points out that there is so much mud in the streets that it would not be surprising to meet a forty-foot Megalosaurus ‘waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn-Hill’, and […]

Mr Fowler’s London Writing Talk Part 1

The last time I appeared at London’s South Bank Literary Festival I went on after a young slam-poet who not only thrilled me; he left me wondering if I had anything relevant to say. There I was making obscure jokes while someone came on and spoke eloquently from the heart about his life today. This […]

The Lockdown Diaries 6: No Time To Be Bored

Selfish joggers are now the target of national hatred. It’s not all intellectual wordplay and learning new juggling skills up here in Fowler Towers, you know. I’ve decided that supine entertainment is far more enjoyable than going for a walk. Preferably curled up with as many cushions as one owns. We’re British, we’re thinking; who […]

Should Bryant & May Mention What Happens In The Real World?

Today I fell back with relief into the fictional world of Bryant & May, staging a scene that involves an argument between Dan Banbury and John May over paint, an African parrot and a murder on a restaurant staircase. I don’t know if it will reach the second draft yet, it’s a bit mad. The […]

Whatever Happened To The Village Of Marylebone?

I was about to wrap up my potato peelings in a copy of the Financial Times when I caught sight of an article about the former London village of Marylebone. Reading it made me feel genuinely revolted. Marylebone is an ancient area that gets its name from a church dedicated to St Mary, built on the bank […]

Bulletin From A Hot Zone

The ramping of Covid-19 from mild flu to pandemic killing machine has taken a while in the UK, which was complacent after relatively few deaths and the national trait of bolshiness that encouraged street socialising. I suspect the PM’s rather eerie ‘Not Quite A Lockdown’ speech has a hidden agenda. Since it is hopelessly unenforceable […]