Observatory

One Year On: Defiantly Yours

Illness is as boring as baby photos. March 23 is not a date I’ll easily forget. One year ago on that abnormally sunny day the UK entered its first lockdown and with immaculate timing I started chemo/radiotherapy for cancer. The experience of having to visit a hospital at the epicentre of London’s Covid pandemic every […]

The History Of A Phrase

The language I grew up with isn’t yours. Family members don’t speak to each other as people on the street communicate. Familiarity changes the way we speak. Parents shorthand and pepper their conversations with odd phrases. The family language I grew up with won’t be yours. Much of my father’s conversation was filled with references […]

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 […]

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 […]

A Merry Christmas From Raymond Land

The Old Warehouse 231 Caledonian Road London N1 9RB   A Message from Raymond Land:   Hullo there. As the Chief of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s oldest specialist police division, I’ve been asked to bring you a message at this very special, magical time of year, when we celebrate the tradition of Christmas. My […]

The Christmas Quiz For Those Of A Certain Age: Answers

A still from a later edition of ‘Crackerjack’ and yes, it has blackface cannibals, a standard comic trope based on cartoon clichés divorced from anything real, but still awkward now. I have an ambivalent attitude to nostalgia. Is it fun to look back? Yes. Would I want to live there? No. The Answers 1. George Cole […]

A Christmas Quiz For Those Of A Certain Age

I’m fed up with popular quizzes about Taylor Swift, Little Mix and Tik Tok. I for one gave up chasing the Yoof vote long ago. I love the young because the remnants of our world are in their hands and I have a feeling they won’t screw up this time, but they get enough coverage, […]

Fowler’s Miscellany II

But First, A Bulletin From Members Of The Maniac Community Give the people a referendum and you will soon cease to believe in democracy, Churchill pointed out. This week there were mass protests outside our station and through our surrounding streets as Anti-Maskers teamed up with every other dissident group to crowd through the tube […]

Fowler’s Miscellany

Things that should not bother me but do.   It’s probably not bad grammar, especially from the Washington Post, and I hugely admire Americans for taking welcome shortcuts through language, but in my head this reads ‘lose even more badly’. Sorry. I’ve managed to adapt to ‘train station’ instead of ‘railway station’ and even ‘bored […]

Back Open For Business

You never know if it’s real or a robot, do you? I’ve been out of the country for the past week, and as this happened at short notice I wrote a couple of articles in advance. But I didn’t pack my laptop. I hadn’t expected to end up chasing turtles off the coast of West […]