Observatory

The Age Of Idiocracy: A Brief Guide

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It now looks entirely possible that we may have a future with President Trump building walls around his country while Prime Minister Boris Johnson half-finishes corporate monuments and Nigel Farage’s police check under beds for black people. The pound is plunging. The Brexit camp is racing ahead. Gove, Farage & Johnson say they want to […]

A Writer’s Life: In Flux

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You’ll notice that there are fewer London articles and film reviews on the site at the moment. There’s a simple reason for this. While my flat is being renovated I’m living in a small converted light industrial unit, and had to store my thousand+ London books in a barn in Suffolk, then ferry between the […]

Places That Should Be Used In SF Movies

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I’m back in London after completing another trip to dig out research material for a book, although some of what I found may never be used. Take my visit to Science City in Valencia. The complex was only recently finished, but has been dogged with scandal throughout its construction. It has sadly become a symbol […]

Spain’s Awe-Inspiring Hotel Chain

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We’re currently driving across Spain via paradores. Paradores can be found in most Latin countries, para meaning to stay or stop. In Spain, the paradores are a network of over 90 state-run hotels consisting of restored castles, monasteries, convents, fortresses, manor houses and palaces, and are found in some of the most beautiful corners of the Iberian Peninsula. […]

Lost In Europe

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I’m in that happiest state – between books. I finished one last week and am not planning to start another for two weeks. In this lacuna it’s time for a break, and Europe is England’s garden, just a short hop to a thousand interesting destinations. But one of the problems I have about European travel […]

Why Outsiders Make The Best Writers

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I recently got into an argument about tattoos. We have our first Prime Minister with a tattooed wife, and I agree somewhat with the Joan Collins quote; ‘Once if you wanted to see the fat lady and the tattooed man you had to go the circus.’ The Times just ran an article about the rise […]

Bring It Back: Souvenirs We Love

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The origin of the word ‘souvenir’ is late 18th century, French, from souvenir ‘remember’, from Latin subvenire ‘occur to the mind’, but it has come to mean a keyring made in China. If you have the misfortune to walk around Leicester Square, once a perfectly pleasant and fairly unremarkable set of roads featuring cinemas and theatres, […]

Is This The Least Discovered Square In Europe?

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  Our Easter tour of Romania and Transylvania held many surprises – one of the best was Viscri, a 12th century church and fortress still run by a tiny old lady who’ll tear your ticket and share stories. Reaching this out-of-the-way spot along an avenue of mistletoe-covered trees and finding such an untouched and barely […]

Staking Out Castle Dracula

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Transylvania’s Castle Bran is only the fictional home of Count Dracula, but Bram Stoker used it as a direct model for his novel, which grants it an awkward place in Romania’s history. The government would rather remember Queen Marie than a British pulp author, but the image stuck in the public consciousness, and therefore it’s […]

Back To The Salt Mine…

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We’ve just concluded our epic tour of Romania and Transylvania (mostly without wi-fi), and for me this country came out very high in the list of central/East & Baltic places I’ve been visiting in the last few years. It felt a little like touring India; there were so few of us visiting from the UK […]