The Founder

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There’s a good reason why Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ remains such a touchstone in the American psyche. The national ambition is to sell big (Britain, let’s remember, was accused of being ‘a nation of shopkeepers). In ‘The Founder’ Michael Keaton plays Ray Krok, the desperate salesman who goes from flogging milkshake machines to […]

On The Move Again

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  London’s winter has been frosty and blazingly azure-skied this winter, and although in my flat it felt and looked like midsummer (no danger of getting SAD there), there was no snow. After a couple of days back in Tallinn, Estonia I rediscovered snow along with the charm of the people, the food, the atmosphere, […]

How Low Can You Go?

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I’m back in Tallinn, Estonia, for the weekend, where it’s currently about, oh, -15C. Tallinn’s old town is not just graceful and evocative of old paintings but f*cking cold, in a ‘bite-your-fingers-off-and-my-God-I-can’t-feel-my-face’ way. My pants are frozen. My iPhone has packed up. Everyone is in furs, although there’s a guy on the corner in shirt […]

On Invisibility

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Writers tend to be prickly outsiders, because if they’re any good they work so many long hours alone that they often lose their social skills. But paradoxically we need to connect with our readers, and lose this connection at one peril. My old boss, a great mentor, told me, ‘If five million people are interested […]

Why ‘2001’ Still Rules SF

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  There’s a problem with most filmed science fiction. It’s just surfaced again in the flawed but enjoyable Chris Pratt/ Jennifer Lawrence starrer ‘Passengers’ and it’s this; most SF films are about earthly, human situations with the words ‘in space’ added. Outland = Cop chases villains – in space. Alien = People fight beast – […]

Another Part of Britain Plans To Split

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They could be anywhere this winter, these fifth columnists. You have to remember that they look like us, all warm and liberal in their patterned ‘hygge’ woollen gloves and trendy sneakers, until you find out that they voted Brexit. Or worse. At a dinner party the other night we were told of friends whose children […]

Dippy’s Off, But What’s The Real Reason?

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The diplodocus has always been there, right in the centre of the Natural History Museum, causing kids to crane their necks and work out how many London buses-long he was (why were dinosaurs always measured in buses?). But after 112 years he’s off. Dippy was the first upright skeleton of a diplodocus ever to have gone […]

The Most Haunted ‘House’ In London?

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Surrounded by venerable museums, pubs and churches, Senate House in Bloomsbury is the admin centre of the University of London, and has proved a source of inspiration for British writers. Books partly set there include include Graham Greene’s ‘The Ministry of Fear’, and George Orwell’s ‘1984’ – his wife Eileen worked inside it for the Censorship […]

Happy New Year!

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This year I resolve to read more novels of every kind, and to ignore all news articles featuring Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and anyone else who has sought to undermine my country. This year I resolve to be kind to people of all creeds, colours and ages, and try to see the world from their […]

Class Will Always Be The Last British Taboo

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It’s the end of 2016, and evidence of growing class separation is suddenly all around us. ‘I ruined a goose last week,’ said the lady behind me at the theatre. ‘Then someone told me about this shop called Lidl. The most extraordinary place. They sell frozen geese. Do you know, it was every bit as […]