Inventing Creepy-Crawlies

When I was a little boy, living near Greenwich Park in a suburban London street, we were surrounded by creepy-crawlies, the best being the prehistoric but weirdly adorable stag beetle. You could tie cotton to its legs and make it drag things. Then came daddy-long-legs (legses?), and you could pull all its legs off to […]

True Stories: These American Tales Are Damn Brilliant

My father’s early years as a scientist left an indelible mark on him. He told me; ‘When you want to read an true account or a manual on any subject, make sure it’s written by an American. They explain better and more clearly than anyone because they don’t preach to class.’ I took his advice […]

The Wonderful World Of Podcasts

‘I couldn’t live without Radio 4’ is a sentence you hear a lot in Britain. The channel is a riveting mix of erudite factual series, but it has been challenged by the inexorable rise of the quality podcast. Downloading a whole online audio series became more popular than ever after ‘Serial’ explored its real-life murder […]

Halfway Through A Good Book

Slow Reader I’ve always had a slight problem with reading – I read the books I enjoy most very slowly. This becomes tricky when I’m reviewing novels or judging books for awards. And there are some writers – I won’t mention names – who write as if their words were housebricks, and I keep stubbing […]

What’s That In Your Ear?

I’ve been listening to WNYC’s terrific Radiolab podcasts for a while, and was pleased to see it in the British press recently, with full-page articles praising the show. While I don’t agree that it’s quite the audio revelation that the Guardian suggests (they rather condescendingly said that audiences below forty would have trouble following the […]