Observatory

Ten Ways You Know You’re A Townie

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The last time I felt that maybe I’d travelled out of my comfort zone was when I caught an overland train to Dalston. It’s two stops from where I live. And this from a man who happily will go to part of the Middle East that’s so obscure and unvisited that he’s the only non-Muslim […]

Lights Out One Last Time

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  Last night, 1,700 people attended a final concert from Westminster Abbey featuring poetry, music and speeches from the First World War, and the televised event proved an extraordinarily moving and powerful experience. The service of remembrance was conducted surrounding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier As lights were turned off across the nation to […]

Oh No It Isn’t! America Discovers Panto

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Every winter for the past 300 years Britain has been putting up with pantomimes. They’re a rite of growing up; the chance to sit with a thousand screaming, sticky-faced anklebiters and their parents while some washed-up TV actors and one-hit singers (Susan ‘Bobby’s Girl’ Maughan! Denise Nolan! Bobby Davro!) ham their way through a script […]

Letter From Europe 2: Do It Yourself

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Last week I was in a European shop when a child toppled a huge crystal statue. It exploded, badly cutting the counter girl’s leg. Mortified, the mother offered to pay. The child was upset and burst into tears. The counter girl bandaged her leg and swept up, telling the family not to worry. It was […]

Letter From Europe 1: A Room With A View

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A brief hiatus in service there while I spent the weekend pottering in the countryside. I hadn’t intended to spend it sleeping next door to Europe’s largest Battle of Waterloo model, but you know how these things turn out. Said vast model, the work of some twenty years, survives in a converted castle in Southern […]

On The Street Where You Live

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My twelfth Bryant & May book is about a young man who becomes homeless, a rough sleeper who gets caught up in a turf war of sorts. I didn’t have to go very far for research; we recently had a new rough sleeper outside our front door. Through an unfortunate set of circumstances, I ended […]

Yet More Bad Boris

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  This just in: ‘Boris Johnson’s office said that since he was elected, the number of Londoners living in areas exceeding legal limits had halved.’ It doesn’t say whether this is because he’s killed them or they’ve had to move to cleaner areas. The row is over new figures just out pointing to Oxford Street as […]

Writing Out Stereotypes

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The other day my Italian barista in London made an old joke about the lack of Indian football teams (‘If someone tells them to take a corner they open a shop on it’) and as I walked away I thought, ‘That was a bit dodgy’. Although you could argue that it was in praise of […]

So Much For Technology

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After raising my hopes with fast 4G Broadband speed decoupled from my phone’s hard line, new company Relish failed to deliver their much-touted high speed service thanks to repeated dropout and an upload speed at less than a quarter of the level they’d promised, so the box went back. I love technology, but it’s only […]

Crazy Ladies

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The postwar years were a golden time for the suspense thriller, climaxing in ‘Psycho’. There was also a slew of wonderful novels from American women, many of whom I’ve discussed in my ‘Invisible Ink’ column. A number of Hammer thrillers with titles like ‘Scream of Fear’ and ‘Nightmare’ were produced, mostly shot around the familiar […]