Observatory

Ageism Is An Old Idea

My crime books deliberately use elderly leading characters, which leads to quite a lot of debate with readers. Somebody said to me recently, ‘We really look after older people here – there are care homes everywhere.’ I was horrified by her casual acceptance of the idea that the best thing to do with older people […]

Living In A Box

You can have your genetic code analysed to find out where you’re from, but it can’t tell you who you are. I recently had dinner with some very nice social-data analysts, who told me that statistically I was an outlier who didn’t fit their paradigms. The press is full of data telling us about how we […]

We’re Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly: Travel Horror Stories

Today I’m slipping through the eye of the hurricane between the Catalan protests and the General Strike planned for Friday. The road to the airport has been unblocked and I’m outta here. Oddly, despite my bad experiences in seven years of owning a flat in Barcelona (mugged, robbed, insulted, caught up in terrorist attack etc) […]

Bombage To Catalonia

Only one thing could mess up my travel plans. Summer dies. Autumn storms sweep in. It’s still around 24C in Barcelona, but it’s wild and wet, with the kind of thunderstorms that usually only occur in horror films. The local ladies are now wearing their autumn outfits, which involve padded jackets and layers of scarves. […]

The Future Isn’t That Much Fun

Remember when you first did something that felt like genuinely being in the future and how excited you were? It might have been getting in a new car, or seeing a movie in 3D, or trying a new kind of computer for the first time. For me, it was a trip on Concorde. I went […]

Out Of Control: US & UK Attitudes To Firearms

Here’s a subject I came across in the online Nature magazine (the academic periodical of British sciences). Today many Americans see the gun as a symbol of freedom from state control, and credit 1791’s Second Amendment for having saved the newly freed US from the fate of Britain’s other colonies. But in the UK guns were […]

Selling Snake Oil

In yesterday’s news, Donald Trump snubbed a climate change meeting to attend a prayer meeting. Belief, which once drove the world, has turned into a poison that is destabilising our lives. From the overabundance of information that inspires incontinent thinking, to the storming of Area 51 and the bizarre rumours about the MMR jab, the […]

Fire Festival!

No post today – autumn is being celebrated across Southern Europe with fire festivals, and I’m off to one. Back in a day or so. Two words; Dragon breasts.  

Which Witch?

Today’s story proves that I don’t make up my stories. Don’t you hate it when people thrust flyers at you outside the station? When I come out of the tube at King’s Cross I get energy drink samples, magazines, mad stuff about Jesus and requests for cash. When I come out of the underground station […]

Life Without A Phone

Lily Tomlin once said, ‘New York is always knowing where your wallet is.’ It’s true of all big cities, and longtime residents tend to stay out of trouble not just because of what they know but how they look and which areas they wander into. When a couple I know recently visited from Australia for […]