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 […]

‘Blithe Spirit’: The Coward’s Way Out

Like many other prolific 20th century writers, Noel Coward – if not entirely forgotten – has now been abbreviated to a handful of clichés; dressing gown, cigarette holder, clipped speech, epigrams. In the same way that Agatha Christie is defined by the drearily rote ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ rather than the far better ‘Endless Night’, […]

Consigned To History: The Concept of Shared Entertainment

More than half of British homes no longer have a dining table. While I hate having my predictions proved correct, it does now seem that the future of western entertainment will be in the home, not the cinema. Netflix has announced its slate of 70 major motion pictures, more than any studio slate could ever […]

Did Reading Just Become Fashionable Again?

For some of us it was never unfashionable. A new documentary, ‘The Booksellers’, looks at the annual Antiquarian Book Fair in New York, the biggest and best such fair in the world. Tales abound of discovering folios and rarities, but there are sad tales too, like the bookseller who was devastated to discover that a […]

Where London Began

It must unfold like a half-remembered legend When you’re denied interactive activity with others and have no face-to-face conversations or see no new sights, how do you keep ideas fresh?  Perhaps by looking into the London of the imagination, of China Miéville, Ben Aaronovitch, LaVie Tidar and Kim Newman. London is a springboard for myths. […]

Today’s Nature Walk: Through Leicester Square

If you’re going to spend a lot of time at home, you’d better learn to love being there. A friend lives in a flat so small that she puts her laptop on her draining board. Can we do this for over a year without going crazy? Not many of us live in the centre of […]

What Did You Do In The Apocalypse?

I feel like one of those determined cellmates in a prison movie, the one who finds new ways of exercising in a tiny space and keeps peering at a shaft of sunlight falling through the bars. Except that there’s no sunlight. I’m not after a physical workout but a mental one. For those who just […]

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 […]

London Without Its Londoners (Updated)

  So, after trawling through comments on this site going back some twelve years and stumbled across Snowy’s description of a statue of a man in a lead tricorn hat who functioned as a rain gutter on the roof of a London house. He  thought it was boring and apologised for mentioning it. If Snowy […]

At Year’s End, Some Trickery & Whimsy

Rowland Emett was an inventor who found fame in the 1950s. He said, ‘The first principle in science is to invent something nice to look at and then decide what it can do.’ His fussy, whimsical automata were exhibited at the Festival of Britain and became hugely popular. He designed clocks and trams, trains and […]