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19 delightful things about second-hand books


Pristine books are rare in second-hand bookshops. Instead the books you find there each bears the marks of their past lives. Online second-hand stores grade their wares with descriptions such as ‘nearly new’, ‘good as new’, ‘used’ and ‘fair’, but though a fresh book is special, so is one that shows its age. It shows… Read More

More past posts


As previously noted, I am republishing a number of old posts from blogs that I have previously managed that are now defunct and/or difficult to find. I’m republishing them with the date adjusted to the date on which they were originally posted, so that gradually this site will build up to be a single source… Read More

Cupid’s darts

David Nobbs, via

The obituaries for the late David Nobbs have all concentrated on the television series that he wrote, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79). This was inevitable. It’s the work of his with which most people in Britain around at the time will be familiar, and it bequeathed to posterity a number of catchphrases… Read More

15 favourite paintings

William Scott, 'Morning in Mykonos', 1960-61, British Council collection

On we go with the lists, and now we have fifteen favourite paintings of mine. They’re not all great works, but each has struck me in a particular way and lingered in the mind. Often they represent a particular time and place (London, Dublin, Canterbury, Manchester) that help make them specifically memorable for me. I’ve… Read More

13 unread classics

Image via

Next up, a confessional list. Here are 13 great novels that I have failed to finish. They sit there on the shelves, bookmarks positioned halfway through, taunting me for my lack of staying power. Characters with their lives unfinished, stories left hanging, conflicts unresolved, lessons unlearned. Such books are different to those classics I have… Read More

14 favourite pieces of classical music


OK, time to start up an occasional series of lists, because I like making lists – indeed, professionally, it’s probably the only thing I’m any good at. They will be personal lists: some favourite things, some least favourite things, some purely arbitrary. So, to kick things off, here are fourteen favourite pieces of classical music… Read More

Look up and relax

American dental office with ceiling TV, from

Video screens are everywhere nowadays. TVs, tablets, phones, railway stations, bus shelters, airplane seats, tube station walls, you name it – but until last week I had never seen a video screen on a ceiling. This new experience came about when I had to go to the dentist. I sat back in the chair, stared… Read More

It speaks for itself


‘A million minutes of filmed history’ – someone in the communications team of the AP Archive must have been mightily pleased when they came up with that tag line for promoting their release online of the entire British Movietone newsreel archive onto YouTube. For that is what the have done. Apparently every story from every… Read More