Gra (My Grandmother) and the Start of World War One: A Contribution to History

Here is the brief article about my grandmother that appeared in the New York Times in August 1914. (This follows on from the article I wrote for the Guardian Family of Saturday 26th July, 2014.) My grandmother, known in the family as Gra, lived on in Lytham St Annes to the age of 105. A […]

Hanging with the Dead Boys

  ‘Neil Gaiman has given me permission to write Death.’ About nine months ago, I found myself whispering this sentence to a comics’ fan. It was an attempt to impress them. They were impressed. I was impressed. I was also scared. Although I wasn’t really supposed to tell anyone, I had been given the extraordinary […]

If Libraries Die

(This was given as a talk to the Friends of West Norwood Library, at their Annual General Meeting, on Saturday 7th June, 2014 – in a sun-baked room in the West Norwood temporary library. Copper nicked from the roof and ongoing conversion to a Ritzy Cinema have closed West Norwood Library for months.) Stand-up comedians have the […]

Poets, Composer Emily Hall Needs Your Words

      Lewis Carroll’s lovely square 6×6 poem is the lead in to a request from a friend of mine, composer Emily Hall. If you’re a poet, and like formal challenges here are the rules… Emily Hall (@emilyhally) is looking for some (sorry fb) twitter-generated text to set to music, for performance by the […]

Why Andrei Tarkovsky’s Boring Films Are Not Boring

It’s undeniable: many people find Tarkovsky’s films uniquely boring. They also find them precious, pretentious, unendurably slow and finally mystifying – or just mystificatory. Here’s one reviewer: ‘Um, if you were driven to distraction by the slow pace of 2001: A Space Odyssey, then you’ll be well advised to stay clear of this film. Solaris […]

When Is It Impossible To Be Distinctive and/or Original?

Here follows a thought experiment. It’s very unlikely – I know – that this experiment is itself original, but I haven’t consciously read it elsewhere. I start with a question: What is the least within which it is possible to be distinctive or original? The least what? The least stuff, scope, area. For the moment, […]