Observatory

Today’s Conversation Pieces

Morocco Is Timeless Yet Fast Evolving Travel has become more complicated since Brexit. Now that the UK is designated as a ‘third country’ we have different entry requirements and are checked separately. For many travel is no longer the get-up-and-go experience of the past but an elaborate and expensive maze of paperwork. Officials in other […]

Morocco Bound

‘Fez is for culture, Casablanca is for trade, Marrakech is for tourism,’ said the driver. Marrakech is a city of two halves; the post-colonial remnants of its former French incarnation and a far older Berber Medina of clay walls, narrow souks, feral cats, bread-carts, overladen motorbikes and those old men who sit in hatches surrounded […]

Call Me Scheherazade

Good morning. There’s an old Stanley Holloway music hall song called ‘My word, you do look ill’, in which Holloway is stopped by various acquaintances who tell him he looks terrible, until one says he never looked better in his life. It’s amazing how easily we can be affected by outside news and the opinions […]

A Marvellous Cure For Stress

Seeing others having a worse time than yourself is strangely calming. Sometimes the public is right. In Alwyn Turner’s ‘All In It Together’, his study of England in the 21st century, a pattern becomes discernible. Turner has been obsessively chronicling decades of political and social rule and misrule for years, and has now reached events […]

What I’ve Been Doing

Iceberg Ahead A couple of weeks back I slipped over to Barcelona to pay bills, do repairs and clear up our flat after the upstairs neighbours had 1. flooded it for the third time and 2. projectile-vomited from their balcony onto ours, which really takes some doing. And this is in a good part of […]

A Very Little Christmas

My family was never big on occasions. My parents forgot my 21st birthday (back when it was the ‘key of the door’, the key of the door now being 14), we all regularly forgot or failed to mark each other’s big birthdays. My brother always actively avoided his and my mother decided that it was […]

Good Morning From Madrid

  I love mornings in Madrid – there’s no-one about until relatively late, then the city slowly comes to life; the owners of market stalls, cafés, fruit and vegetable stores commence the ritual washing of pavements, and awnings are put up against the sun. The fierce invading light washes over everything, but can’t reach far […]

Six Things To Carry With You

Whenever I travel I spend the final hours before leaving in a frenzy of charging-up. It seems that travelling light now involves hauling 10 kgs of tech around, and it all has to be filled with ‘the new electricity’, as my great-grandmother called it. Thank god I gave up my car, otherwise I’d be charging […]

So You’ve Got Cancer!

I’ve gone a bit Henry Miller today, for which I apologise in advance. It’s a work-in-progress from ‘Word Monkey’, the third part of my memoir trilogy, which began with ‘Paperboy’ and continued with ‘Film Freak’. So, you’ve been worried about your health for a while but you’re like Cleopatra, in denial. You think if you […]

Genesis Of A Blog

In August 2008 I started this blog with a post about the neighbour in ‘Bewitched’. The posts were short and funny. They were not often about books. Sometimes we had songs or musical numbers. We had competitions, crosswords and treasure hunts, as if we were big children. Most author websites discussed literature, but I didn’t […]