English Peculiar: Mr Pastry


While I was staying in a very English cottage Kent last weekend, I noticed that the guest book pointed out other former residents, including Mr Pastry. This one is as peculiar as it gets, so stay with me. Britain was once awash in novelty acts, from the man who sang ‘Mule Train’ while bashing himself […]

Political Correctness Gone Mad


I once watched a sweating comic struggle through a stand-up set in Edinburgh as a woman in the front row called out a label after each joke he told; ‘Sexist’, ‘racist’, ‘ageist’ and so on. With the Edinburgh Festival in full swing how can you be funny in a diverse culture now? In America, a […]

Crime: When The Truth Can’t Be Told


Vincent Bugliosi is the prosecution layer whose most famous case involved Charles Manson. He turned writer for that account with ‘Helter Skelter’, and continued to write up other trials from time to time in his forensic if somewhat bombastic style. With ‘Outrage: The Five Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder’, he lambasts the […]

Sell Books? Ah Yes, I Meant To Do That.


There’s only so much time I can spend at my computer so I’m not a great trawler-around of other writers’ websites. Yesterday, with an hour to kill at an airport (I’m notorious for arriving too early and there are only so many times you can wander past Dixons) I decided to take a look at […]

Online Trawl: ‘A Little Harmless Fun At Someone Else’s Expense’


This week’s trawl turned up a ‘Did I Dream That?’ memory. In 1992 a very peculiar – and pretty short-lived – TV game show appeared, featuring an audience of women and on its day-glo stage, one hyperactive man. ‘Dame Edna’s Neighbourhood Watch’ was a simple idea that traded on the massive UK popularity of Aussie […]

From Eyesore To Five Star


The British Library, which separated from the British Museum to become a modern building on London’s noxious Euston Road, was hated at the time of its unveiling by the Queen in June 1998 – over 20 years after it was first approved and at £350m over budget. But now it has been awarded Grade 1 Listed […]

The Unstoppable Rise Of The Archetype


Think of a consulting detective. Sherlock Holmes? A footballer. David Beckham? A playwright. William Shakespeare? A Greek philosopher. Aristotle? A schoolboy wizard. Harry Potter? They’re the most obvious archetypes in their fields, but choosing a single figurehead to represent an entire field of endeavour goes way deeper. Almost every group or sub-group you can think of has an archetype […]

What Makes A Perfect Al Fresco Movie?


It’s summer and rooftop/park/lido cinema is here, sometimes great, often not (depending on sound quality, the weather and the fee – Secret Cinema, this means you) but I’ve noticed something interesting. Certain films crop up again and again for outoor screens. This year the one that has made almost every list is ‘Whiplash’, the drumming-as-torture […]

Are All Self-Published Books Sh*t?


  The short answer is no, but a gigantic proportion are, and more alarmingly it’s harder to weed out the trash because they exist on an equal platform, with no prominence to any particular title. Many titles sell to the undiscerning simply because they are cheap and long. And now the situation is going to […]

Steed Drives Off Into History


What a crap year it’s been for losing my heroes. Now Old Etonian actor Patrick Mcnee has died, albeit at the ripe old age of 93. He played the young Marley in the definitive ‘A Christmas Carol’, and was terrific in ‘The Howling’, but of course he’ll be remembered as Steed in The Avengers, for […]