Pop while you Piss

12th September 2017 2

At Nîmes station, you pay 80 centimes to go to the lavatory (it recently went up from 70 centimes). What do you get for your money? The facilities have recently been refurbished. There is now an automated entrance machine, into which you pay your fee: though the supervising lady is still there, who seems mildly disapproving of the basic human … [Read on]

The Fulminating Niceness of Canada

27th August 2017 7

Recently invited to Canada to give a paper at a conference, I had to apply for a travel document on-line. When it came to gender (not sex, of course), I was given a choice of three possibilities: male, female or unspecified. I was outraged. Only three? Surely, if there is one thing we have learned in the last few months, … [Read on]

Into the Abyss

3rd July 2017 4

In so far as I have heroes, one of mine is the late Pierre Ryckmans, better-known as Simon Leys, the great Belgian sinologist who lived more than half of his life in Australia, and retired early from his chair at Sydney University because he said that universities had become mere degree-mills. As a colleague of mine put it with regard … [Read on]

Chancellor McDonnell; Murder will Out.

26th June 2017 7

The demagogic statement by the Shadow Chancellor, Mr McDonnell, that the residents of Grenfell Tower were murdered by political decisions, is proof  that he is unfit for public office. It was a grossly inflammatory, as well as erroneous, thing to say; no doubt he would defend it in his own mind as conducing to a Leninist heightening the contradictions. As … [Read on]

Sexual discrimination in the second hand book trade

21st June 2017 7

Ideological obsessions manifest themselves nowadays in all the nooks and crannies of intellectual life. The other day, for example, I received an antiquarian book catalogue through the post and enclosed was a bookmark advertising book fairs taking place in the near future. The bookmark also advertised the 30th Annual Conference on Book Trade History to be held at Stationers’ Hall … [Read on]

Ian Brady

17th May 2017 1

Just over twenty years ago I published a short, fictional self-justification of a serial killer. Shortly thereafter, Ian Brady (who died recently as one of the most unlamented men in the world) published his autobiography. I was asked to review it by the Sunday Telegraph. I was surprised, gratified and horrified to discover how closely Brady’s book and mine coincided. … [Read on]

Back to Marie Antoinette

15th May 2017 4

It is a commonplace of modern social thought that western societies are dividing into two opposite castes: those who are doing well (and whose children will do well) and those who are being left behind (and whose children will be left even further behind). This thought is common both to left and right: they differ mainly in the supposed causes … [Read on]

Call Centres; the west’s version of North Korea

8th May 2017 3

Recently I bought something on-line. My payment was twice refused until I had contacted my bank – by automated call, of course. It was very efficient and after I confirmed that it was indeed I who was making the purchase the payment went through. A few hours later, I received a message asking me to phone the vendor which I … [Read on]

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