Great Britain

The Lockdown Diaries 2

Excerpted from ‘Paperboy: A Memoir’ ‘My formative years were filled with orderly lassitude, like those of a soldier posted to a peaceful backwater. They were days of strawberry jam on white bread, the squeak of chalk in hushed classrooms, Hancock’s Half-Hour, cold mutton on Mondays, back-fence arguments, kicking about in the garden and walking alone […]

Unfashionable Pursuits: Can We revive Childhood Hobbies?

I wasn’t capable of building models without gluing my eyelids. Like many of my friends, I grew up without a television. My grandmother disapproved of shouting and running on a Sunday, and never bought a TV because she thought it would irradiate the brain and destroy the art of conversation. When she finally succumbed, she hung […]

Don’t Let Your Brain Die In Lockdown

On one level at least, lockdown has not been as awful as I’d imagined. Suddenly there’s time to focus and consider what’s important, and as Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis pointed out, it had nothing to do with courage or fortitude but decency and respect. The importance of things has reshuffled itself into a new order. […]

Making Friends With The Apocalypse

My friend Dan decided to by a flat near us in Barcelona and told his wife to only look in the areas he had marked on the map. Why those areas? They were all a certain height above sea level. How we laughed at him. He was right, of course; Barcelona was extended into the […]

Doomsday! Apocalypse! A Postscript

While many of the palaces of the maharajahs survived in India, it has been more normal globally to wantonly destroy the artefacts of other faiths. British soldiers may have chiselled genitalia from non-Christian statuary and smashed up the old Chinese Summer Palace, but they did it while singing of doing good deeds in God’s name. […]

Doomsday! Apocalypse!

Did you ever have the feeling that you arrived too late in this world? The Britain into which I was born felt very much like the aftermath of cataclysmic events; post-war, end of empire, a nation with its glory days behind it. Today’s young must be feeling something similar, arriving when the climate is beyond […]

The Morning After

How do you commemorate the final result when you’re on the losing team? If the whole of London voted to remain in Europe (including, famously and on multiple occasions, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson) it was partly because we were the ones who travelled to and from Europe on a weekly basis, who worked alongside Europeans, […]

Upon Brexit Day

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks […]

British Eccentrics: Fannying About With Food

Fanny Cradock (real name Phyllis Nan Sortain ‘Primrose’ Pechey) was primarily a live performer. Her parents, Bijou and Archibald, were usually bankrupt so Fanny tried various menial jobs before entering the restaurant trade, hailing Escoffier as a saviour of British cookery  She and her monocle-wearing Major Johnny ran a Daily Telegraph column (where they probably appeared […]

Bah Humbug! The Modern Scrooge’s Christmas

There’s so much Christmas around here I could expectorate tinsel. Christmas used to be fun with granddad smoking rolling tobacco indoors and grandma swearing at him and Mum force-feeding everyone her strange homemade mince pies that tasted vaguely of cigarettes and Dad building train-sets that caught fire. Now they’re all dead, so Christmas is a […]