‘The Burning Man’ Comes True


It’s the fiery season – a time of insurrection and flame. In ‘The Burning Man’, Bryant & May’s twelfth outing, London is on fire. Rioters are protesting against a banking scandal that has allowed a financier to make a fortune from insider trading. The book was based on the recent banking riots and suggested that […]

The End Of Summer


I’ve just woken up. It’s hot, but the air has changed. Summer is dying. It’s not something we particularly celebrate or commemorate in any form in London, but across Europe the end of summer is a special event in the calendar. In Spain and Italy it’s marked by fireworks, bonfires and festivals. In France the […]

A Postcard From…


No post today, I’m in…Sardinia. Let’s just say the wi-fi is unusually difficult to pinpoint where I am, in the hills. I’ll keep trying!  

A Postcard From: Barcelona


Today is National Independence for Catalunya day (you’re reading this after the event), and the atmosphere on the street – as always – is intensely pro-separatist. I can think of few nations in history which have flourished after partition (I think of the horrors after Tito’s Yugoslavia) but it’s hard not to feel the intense […]

What’s Your Favourite Place?


There are cities where people never smile; I’ve been to a few in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. I like to think people are naturally predisposed to smiling, but sometimes the pace of life or the relentless grimness of their surroundings makes it hard to think of anything but just surviving. In the need to earn, […]

When Voters Get Extreme


When this website began back in 1953, one of my very first posts made fun of Sarah Palin. Oh how we laughed. Now, many years later, it’s time to wipe the smirk from our faces. But it’s an international disease; around the world, voters are choosing some very strange candidates. In the UK, the rise […]

A Postcard From: Lisbon


Ah, the steep hills and winding gardens, the trolley-buses, the great spanning bridge, the earthquake. I must be in Lisbon. I could have added ‘the Fado’ and given the game away – that mellifluous, doom-laden guitar is never far from any street corner. But the first thing you notice is how Lisbon glitters. Its streets […]

Crime: When Bad Thoughts Cross The Line


As writing novels in the crime genre is a big part of what I do, I thought I should start an occasional column about crime. I’m particularly interested in unconventional incidents. Following on from Jon Ronson’s book about public shaming, I started looking up more unusual cases in which someone has ended up in court […]

Silence & Boredom


Last year, the author Dame Marina Warner resigned her professorship from the once-co-operative University of Essex in protest of the government changes made to grants, fees and the rewarding of ‘impact’ over quality of thought. Out went dreaming, imagining and challenging, and in came getting results. Since the end of WWII Britain has had a […]

The Greek Debt Explained


 It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating  down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling […]