Observatory

On Or Off The Beaten Track?

I’m here in Spain visiting monasteries and vineyards, and should probably not be standing on a rock protruding over a sheer drop when there’s work to be done. Priorat has not yet become a popular region to visit. Like Penedes, it’s home to some of the finest cellars in the world, has fabulous restaurants, walks […]

My Father (Part 2)

(Contd) My dreams of a university education evaporated when I saw that I would have to get a job and ease the family’s finances. I went knocking on the doors of advertising agencies, and was immediately offered a placement as a copywriter in a Regent Street company on the condition that I learned to type […]

My Father (Part 1)

A year or so ago I wrote a column for the Guardian about my father. It expanded on a piece I had written for my first memoir, and after it came out I received a lot of mail about the piece, so it clearly touched a nerve. I’ve not run it here before. The first […]

Med And Alive

On the Cote D’Azur, Marseille was always the odd destination out. France’s second city is the sunniest, driest coastal area thanks to both the Mistral and the Sirocco. It’s a complex port town with a working class multi-ethnic population, hard to traverse, confusingly filled with hilly streets and back alleys. Founded in 600 BC, it […]

Med And Buried

  The Mediterranean gets a bad rap from the British these days; too expensive, too crowded, no longer the playground of the those rich young playthings about whom Noel Coward wrote ‘Mentally congealed lilies of the field, they lie in flock along the rocks because they have to get a tan.’ Before then, nobody tanned […]

Are We There Yet?

No. And we’re not going to be, either. Sometimes don’t you catch yourself thinking ‘If only I could suffer all the pain of airports without having to go through the boring holiday bit in between’? Well, I just did. Yesterday morning I set off for Marseilles from London. Eight hours later I was still in […]

‘Overtourist’ Is Now A Verb

Above shows a serene Tokyo photograph, but it’s the top half only – I’ve divided it into two. For the other half, see the bottom of the article. There have been some fascinating press pieces this month on a global problem that has been building for many years. Even in the times of the Grand […]

Was Blade Runner Right All Along?

I grew up with a very fixed idea of what the future looked like, architecturally speaking. Off-world it would be ‘2001’, at home it would be ‘The Jetsons’. What I failed to appreciate was that the future would not eradicate the past and be less ‘Tomorrowland’, more ‘Blade Runner’. I’d seen something similar in the […]

From Mice To Penguins

As 92 year-old David Attenborough launches his namesake polar ship, popularly known as ‘Boaty McBoatface’, I’m reminded that planet management never gets easier. On the island of Macquarie, between Australia and Antarctica, problems started soon after it was discovered in 1810. The island’s fur seals, elephant seals and penguins were killed for fur and blubber, but […]

Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly…

…although I might as well stay in London, which has started to resemble the ending of ‘The Day the Earth Caught Fire’. It’s well worth watching that film again, BTW, it’s barely SF at all, more about the workings of old Fleet Street, because it was written by a newspaperman. I once met the film’s […]