It’s not about Islam, it’s about Syria

I was trying to put together some thoughts on the election when the news came in from London. Three nobodies run amok in the heart of the city, people mown down in the streets, women stabbed to death. They murdered the innocent and said they were doing it for God. The script's become familiar but the horror never gets any less. Fifteen years ago I was covering this sort of madness in the Middle East; now it's come to Europe and no one seems to know what to do about it. Enough is enough, … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith) ★★★★★ It was a clever idea of J.K.Rowling's to publish this book in secret, under an assumed name. Because The Cuckoo's Calling is all about identity -- and specifically the way in which we mistake people's real identities, especially where the famous are concerned. Of course, on one level it's blindingly obvious that it's a book about identity: it's a whodunnit, after all, a detective story in which we are supposed to keep … [Read more...]

Apocalypse UK: Warmwave of Death

There are times in life when you feel you must have been born in the wrong place. It's happening to me this week in London. All around me people are shaking their heads and sighing, declaring that it's "sweltering", "baking",  "too hot to breathe", that they are "dying from the heat", that they can't sleep at night. The government has issued a Level Three Heatwave Alert. MPs are calling for people to be given time off work because of the devastating heat. And the temperature? A mild and pleasant … [Read more...]

Red Alert! Snow of Death!

Nothing, it seems, distinguishes sane, normal, well-adjusted people from journalists quite like snow. By lunchtime today, London was covered in a soft blanket of snow. Snow on the rooftops, snow on the windowsills, snow covering up the officious no parking signs outside old Spitalfields market, snow being tramped in between the stalls on people's feet, snow on the spire of Christ Church, snow dancing in the wind. London transported, it seemed, to its Dickensian past. Down in Artillery … [Read more...]

The Summer of the Mobot

For me, the 2012 Olympics will always be a thousand people crammed into a tiny pub to watch Mo Farah in the 5,ooo metres final. People jammed in so tight no one can move, even if you wanted to. People spilling out onto the streets, people watching through the windows. They’ve been coming all afternoon, all evening, from all over London, and all anyone wants to know as they come through the door is “What’s the latest from the Olympics?” People are greeting complete strangers like long-lost … [Read more...]

London 2012…Welcome to the maddest Country on Earth!

What the hell was that? There were times, watching the opening ceremony to the London Olympic Games, when it was hard to escape the impression that the whole thing had been sponsored by the manufacturers of LSD, or mescaline, or some other potent psychotropic. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to carp or denigrate. I loved it. But it was completely and utterly mad. What must the rest of the world have thought, looking on? At times the whole thing seemed designed to confirm the long-held … [Read more...]

Theresa May, Lord Byron and trying to get out of St Pancras Station

Arriving back in London by Eurostar is a demoralising experience: as the train slips into the glories of St Pancras station, my spirits sink. It's not the slate grey skies or the unrelenting drizzle outside, it's the fact that, as the tourists stop and point at the dizzying vault above, I know what awaits them in the cellars beneath. St Pancras was restored to provide visitors with a grand entrance to London. Not for us the drab greys of Paris' Gare du Nord or Brussels' Gare du Midi, we would … [Read more...]

Diamond Jubilee…like a wet weekend in Southend

So, that was the Jubilee then. A strange time to be back in London, the streets hung with bunting dripping in the rain, Union flags hanging limp, the skies grey, pictures of the Queen everywhere, the air cold and damp. Just across from where I live, the local pub was festooned with red, white and blue balloons, and there was a lifesize cardboard cut-out of the queen with drizzle running down it. The fish-and-chip shop next door was busy. At one point, some one called for three cheers for the … [Read more...]

Let’s decide the London mayor contest with a wrestling match

So, Boris or Ken? The elections for London mayor are upon us, and I'm tempted to say we should delay the whole thing a few months and let them wrestle each other for the job as an event at the Olympics. Except I don't think the sight of either Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone semi-naked and oiled up would be particularly appealing for anyone -- although Boris does seem to have his share of female admirers. In many ways a wrestling contest would be the natural conclusion to an election … [Read more...]