Cutting Down the Trees and Capitalism

The earliest form of modern capitalism began in 1420 when Portuguese settlers arrived on the island of Madeira in their tall galleons and began cutting down the trees. Spread out before them was a sub-tropical forest with rare species of animals. But what they saw wasn’t an island paradise. They saw an opportunity. They saw […]

What is Spanish Fly?

They say in Amsterdam you can buy anything – even girls appear semi-clad in shop windows. Smoking cannabis is decriminalised and I was once offered Spanish Fly in a bar in De Wallen by a man wearing an eye patch. ‘It will make your dreams come true,’ he said and winked.  Gabriel García Márquez may have […]

Death and the Maiden

In the story Death and the Maiden, a pretty young woman – innocent, probably a virgin – is seduced by Death, in the shape of a monstrous old man – sometimes with horns, sometimes just a skeleton. The two images capture the yin and yang of all things, all opposites. But, like yin and yang, each […]

What Are You Writing?

When someone says: what are you writing? It sounds in my ears like they’re saying: I’m going to set fire to your house. Or I’m going to kill your dog. And I don’t even have a dog. It’s like asking a man: are you still beating your wife? He is condemned by the question. Asking […]

Poetic License and La Bohème

Pucccini’s opera La Bohème isn’t a love story. It is a warning to women never to fall for a poet. Poets – like politicians – tell you the grey sky is blue and you believe them. It’s what they call poetic license. Politicians we can get rid of. Poets live on with their rhymes and rhythms wriggling […]

That Sense of Having Arrived

It was a feeling hard to put into words, that sense of having arrived, perhaps. It was like opening a locked box and letting all the dead air out. Or going to bed in one place and waking in another. It was the summer of 1990. Sam Roxburgh and his wife Rosaleen were having one […]

Rules of the Bullingdon Club

  The Rules of the Bullingdon Club are simple. You must be: Rich Posh Sociopathic Misogynistic Secretive Well-tailored The Bullingdon Club is for wealthy young men at Oxford University who, it is said, burn £50 notes in front of beggars as part of the initiation ceremony and trash restaurants and public houses after elaborate dinners– […]

Prince Charles and the Lost Copyright

Has Prince Charles read Sex, Surrealism, Dali and Me? Seeing how he was for a brief time the copyright owner, I rather like to think that he has and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wrote ‘Sex, Surrealism, Dali and Me’ long before I became cynical and had the rare pleasure of reading the translated version in Spanish […]

The Secret Life of Sunflowers

On Monday I bought two sunflowers at the market and planted them in a pot outside our house. Everyone who passes sees their smiling yellow faces and smiles back. Sunflowers know the secret of life is to follow the sun. The Sun God Apollo once fell in love with a water nymph named Clytie. When his […]

From the First to the Last Paragraph

I have put off writing this piece for some time because I couldn’t think of a first paragraph. In this I detect a common dilemma. Reading through a collection of short stories recently, I realised that several were rather good – except for the first paragraph, the one sculpted to such perfection they said nothing […]

Hancock Lies Unzipped by a Kiss

It’s enough to make you laugh. Or cry. Or throw up. Health Secretary Matt Hancock lies to the public over serious life and death issues and resigns after getting caught in a kiss. Hancock caused the unnecessary deaths of many thousands of elderly people by sending them from hospitals back to nursing homes with Covid. […]

Dylan, Duende, Death and Lorca

Does Bob Dylan have duende? Do you have duende? What is duende?  Duende is a Spanish word with two meanings. A duende is a goblin or a pixie that probably lives at the bottom of the garden and gives three wishes to old ladies who deserve a break. The duende was best defined by Spain’s great […]

5 Key Writing Tips by Ernest Hemingway

The 5 Key Writing Tips by Ernest Hemingway look straightforward enough, but then, nothing when it comes to writing is ever easy. This is Hem’s advice: Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative. Never have only 4 rules. Tip No.1: use short sentences says avoid sub-clauses bracketed in […]

An Invention Without a Future

On a cold December night three days after Christmas in 1895, guests filed into the dimly-lit basement at the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. In this age of marvels and miracles, what the people had come to witness was what Louis Lumière described as ‘An invention without a future.’ Louis and […]