Puzzled In London: 2

Before… And after… This depressingly blank facade on the Strand was built to protect the original frontage of Coutts Bank which, from 1692 until the mid-1970s, was the grandest-looking of all London’s private banks. Not any more. It looks like a provincial insurance office now. At the height of the British Empire Queen Victoria stashed […]

The London You Don’t Notice

There are hundreds of books and websites covering London’s remaining curiosities but how many of the city’s mundane everyday sights do we notice? Recently I was walking down Gower Street in the rain. Grey pavements, brown bricks, hardly any trees. It’s a walk I’ve always hated, identical terraces on either side, a long, blank featureless […]

The Multiverse Of Mr Ezban

I have limited interest in the Academy Awards (in hindsight their choices are often dubious) and tend to prefer Cannes for the wealth of world cinema it chucks up each year. So I’m desperate to see this year’s winner, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’, about a poor family of tricksters who find jobs with […]

The Complete Short Stories – Update

When I wrote 25 new stories to celebrate a quarter century of writing such tales, I called the resulting double volume Red Gloves Volumes 1 and 2. They were divided into London tales and world tales. Hardly anyone saw the books because they were printed in the small press, but PS Publishing created editions that were very beautiful. […]

The Perils Of Creating A Long-Running Series

  I first noticed it when I went back to check on a character’s name in ‘The Memory of Blood’, Book 9 in what looks like becoming a 20-volume series. One of the characters was using a Blackberry. As far as I know they’re long gone; nothing dates faster than technology. Then a Fax machine […]

Weird & Wonderful London 5

This was taken in 1933 but feels a century older. The villagers are receiving their Maundy peas – 20 bushels of peas and 2 bushels of wheat were given to the poor of the parish every Maundy Thursday, in a ritual dating back to 1572. Maundy money is still handed out today at a service, […]

Puzzled In London: 1

This doesn’t exist. The immense Doric Arch that used to herald the entrance to Euston Station was torn down in 1961 against the wishes of the public and architectural experts, and was dumped to save money, but its pediments still exist and have been turned – inevitably – into pubs. The buildings that replaced it […]

Stowing Thrones

(No spoilers) With the end just a stone’s throw away, it was time to stow the thrones. Watched in 170 countries, winner of the most American awards, it wasn’t the biggest US TV show ever (that honour belongs to M*A*S*H), but Game of Thrones acquitted itself well in the audience stakes. It concluded tidily after […]

Weird & Wonderful London 4

Ploughing through far too many books on London and trying to work out which ones to take with me to Barcelona, where I’ll be working in seclusion next week, I can’t help but stare at photographs that touch me in some way. A lot of people complain that we have an idealised view of London […]

What You Always Suspected About Opera Is True

When it comes to sung classics I’m relentlessly middlebrow. Give me Offenbach or Donizetti over Wagner any day, or Gilbert & Sullivan, although I have a soft spot for most Verdi except ‘Aida’. Despite all efforts to democratise it, opera remains relentlessly upper class, and therefore periodically deserves to be mocked. There are past pieces […]