London

Bulletin From A Hot Zone

The ramping of Covid-19 from mild flu to pandemic killing machine has taken a while in the UK, which was complacent after relatively few deaths and the national trait of bolshiness that encouraged street socialising. I suspect the PM’s rather eerie ‘Not Quite A Lockdown’ speech has a hidden agenda. Since it is hopelessly unenforceable […]

English As Sheer Spoke

That was how my mother referred to idiomatic English, and while there have been dozens of books on the peculiarities of the English language, including fanciful volumes of outdated rhyming slang and even a history of Polari (which was still in common use until the 1990s) few have noticed the everyday oddities because we simply […]

In Rudyard’s Back Yard

‘Do you like Kipling?’ asks the colonel on the 1930’s saucy seaside postcard. ‘I don’t know, I’ve never Kippled,’ replies the shopgirl. But most people had, and they made him one of the most popular writers in England. Remembered mainly for his children’s fables, ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Just So Stories’, Kipling developed an image […]

So, What’s Your Blog About?

Last week somebody asked me ‘Is your blog just about, you know, books and stuff?’ I replied, ‘It’s about books and readers.’ ‘Well, then it could be anyone or anything.’ ‘Exactly.’ But to define it in my own head I took a screenshot of my most recent media upload page. Looking at it, I suddenly […]

Childhood’s End?

I have a history of being massively disappointed with revisits to museums of my childhood – especially the tarted-up National Maritime Museum, where a century of serious, intelligently curated art was largely replaced by too many toddler-friendly ‘experiences’ (sample exhibition: ‘Pirate Girlz!’). One of the only museums to escape this blight has been the revamped […]

No Longer Brutal, Just Beautiful

If you’ve ever been hypnotised, you’ll know that you’re told to imagine a place where you feel calm and safe and happy. I would pick London’s South Bank complex, home of the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall. This is what was written about the formation of a national theatre in 1904 by William […]

Notes From The London Bubble: A British Taboo

Look at the picture – is it in central London, or Wales? Here in the Decaf-Soy-Flat-White hell of London N1, home of the ‘liberal intelligencia’, people love to help their fellow neighbours. When we run out of raclette and have no alpine-based dairy product to substitute just before a wine and cheese party, someone will […]

London’s New Home

Well it looks like the planning application for the new Museum of London, which is meant to occupy the site of the old Poultry Hall at Smithfields, has only just been submitted this month, which pushes back the start date and significantly, the opening date for the museum. As the new home of the London […]

London’s 2nd Most Famous Landmark Vanishes

This vast edifice once came after Big Ben in the list of London’s most visited landmarks. Everyone in the city knew it, and it was much loved. Its history has been almost entirely wiped away, except in the logbook of the London Fire Brigade. I cobbled together this photo from shots taken during its devastating […]

London Puzzles No.3: The Church Of Surprises

What’s this all about, then? A boat sticking out of a wall? That’s the first puzzle you encounter on entering St Magnus the Martyr. It’s just another research day in London. I was heading to a specific London location to see something few people bother checking out. Who, I wonder, is still interested in the city’s […]