Observatory

How It All Fell Down

My father, who was a scientist, always told me that he preferred American science textbooks to British ones because of their clarity and simplicity. It allowed them to communicate ideas more easily. A few of his colleagues were snobbish; ‘They write in baby talk’, said one. My father felt that the style didn’t matter if […]

Press Clippings From Hell No.2

  ‘How did we get here from there?’ someone asked me in all seriousness. My 30-year collection of press clippings, kept to remind me of the context in which I wrote certain stories, highlights that slippery path… There’s a plastic George W Bush toy that spouts some of his more scrambled public statements. Play them […]

Press Clippings From Hell No.1

An odd article in the New York Times grabs my attention today. A man who runs an online spectacles company has been threatening to rape and murder customers who complain about the poor quality of his sunglasses. The 6′ 5″ Ukranian admits he may have a bad attitude. An older clipping is sent by a […]

One Year On: Defiantly Yours

Illness is as boring as baby photos. March 23 is not a date I’ll easily forget. One year ago on that abnormally sunny day the UK entered its first lockdown and with immaculate timing I started chemo/radiotherapy for cancer. The experience of having to visit a hospital at the epicentre of London’s Covid pandemic every […]

The History Of A Phrase

The language I grew up with isn’t yours. Family members don’t speak to each other as people on the street communicate. Familiarity changes the way we speak. Parents shorthand and pepper their conversations with odd phrases. The family language I grew up with won’t be yours. Much of my father’s conversation was filled with references […]

Why Writers Aren’t All There

If there’s one thing the lockdowns have taught us, it’s the importance of developing an interior life. My father, first and always a scientist, spent years staring out to sea, working out the cubic capacity of ocean ships through water displacement or trying to figure out how electronic circuitry could be reduced in size. My […]

A Disruption To Your Usually Fine Service

Advance warning for an approaching problem; regular readers will know that this summer was especially challenging for me. Unfortunately the pandemic delayed my scans by several months in the autumn and now the challenge has returned. The reason I’m forced to mention this is that it will soon affect my output. It seems my cancer took […]

A Merry Christmas From Raymond Land

The Old Warehouse 231 Caledonian Road London N1 9RB   A Message from Raymond Land:   Hullo there. As the Chief of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s oldest specialist police division, I’ve been asked to bring you a message at this very special, magical time of year, when we celebrate the tradition of Christmas. My […]

The Christmas Quiz For Those Of A Certain Age: Answers

A still from a later edition of ‘Crackerjack’ and yes, it has blackface cannibals, a standard comic trope based on cartoon clichés divorced from anything real, but still awkward now. I have an ambivalent attitude to nostalgia. Is it fun to look back? Yes. Would I want to live there? No. The Answers 1. George Cole […]

A Christmas Quiz For Those Of A Certain Age

I’m fed up with popular quizzes about Taylor Swift, Little Mix and Tik Tok. I for one gave up chasing the Yoof vote long ago. I love the young because the remnants of our world are in their hands and I have a feeling they won’t screw up this time, but they get enough coverage, […]