A Flaming Nuisance

20th December 2014 0

One of my earliest memories is seeing my father in the early morning raking out the ashes of our coal fire. I was interested in the blue veins around his ankles and bare white heels as he strained  forwards with his short shovel. After the ashes he carefully placed balls of newspaper, which he called ‘spills,’ and built a tent … [Read on]

Theodore Dalrymple hires a Black Maria?

18th December 2014 0

In one of those many English towns that, like Betjeman’s Slough, is not fit for humans now, I took a taxi from the station to the court in which I was to appear as a witness. If I had been the type, I would have been panic-struck by the notices inside it directed at the poor passenger. I was taking … [Read on]

The Good Old Days; Curing piles with red hot poker.

15th December 2014 0

Conservatives are fond of harking back to the good old days when ‘medicine was an art not a science,’ it was also nasty. Save for sawing off limbs, curing piles with a red-hot poker or a knife in the groin to relieve bladder stones, there were few cures. The bewigged physician rode up to the house, the relatives assembled around … [Read on]

Counter Jumpers on Question Time

15th December 2014 0

I recently re-visited an old (1973) radio debate between Michael Foot, Enoch Powell, Roy Jenkins and Reginald Maudling. Of course, the economic context under discussion is now redundant. At that time there was still a general assumption that a controlled, or pseudo-socialist economy, was the best one. Foot, then 60, was at his peak, the man of the left before … [Read on]

More Christmas Cheer

14th December 2014 0

We should pay closer attention to the words people use, for they often reveal hinterlands of thought, or at least of assumptions. Reading my local paper recently, I noticed what a policeman said about an attack carried out by a man with a hammer on a garage mechanic. The man was annoyed, apparently, that the owner of a local garage … [Read on]

Ghost Trains

13th December 2014 0

‘Tis the season of goodwill again and with similar regularity the railways decide to interrupt their service. Ten percent of rail transport on the busiest passenger lines, even the rail line to Gatwick airport, will be removed over Christmas for repairs. Most of us think this might be the busiest time of year, but according to the railways, only a … [Read on]

Battery Farms for the Working Classes

10th December 2014 0

The sense of floating timelessness I get when I roam around the lovely Oxford streets fades fast if I take a bus to the other end of the town, a journey of about three miles. Seeing Temple Cowley, once a pretty village, is like waking up to a punch in the head. In contrast to the city of dreaming spires, … [Read on]

White Van Man

9th December 2014 0

The apparel oft proclaims the man, said Polonius, full of the wisdom of the obvious. But these days the vehicle just as oft proclaims the driver: bright red, for example, for the aggressive, apple green for the tasteless, black for the serious or the depressed. As for the drivers of white vans, they have become a political category, white van … [Read on]

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