Showing posts from 2020


1. We live wrapped in comforting historical myths, from plucky Elizabethan privateers, heroic Empire builders, Nelson at Trafalgar, infantry squares at Waterloo, Jutland, the Somme, to the Battle of Britain and the blitz. All have supplied rich sustenance for the nationalist and populist demagogues to feed on. But not only demagogues and the hard right buy into such mythology, they have entered the public imagination to such an extent that even people born long after the end of the Second World War seem to imagine that they participated in the ‘blitz spirit.’ The writing of history must attempt to understand what happened, to untangle complex events and deal with ambiguity and nuance. Historical myths might best be called ‘faction,’ that is the dealing with historical facts but presenting an idealised version of events with inconvenient truths airbrushed out.


As the trees blossom like flowers and the days become longer it feels like a strange spring, nature unaware of the clammy disaster that has invaded the city. We seem to be paused momentarily at the point just before the contagion is about to devour significant numbers of the unwary and foolish, who flock to the London parks, many who will soon be ill, while others fill their shopping trolleys with kitchen towel, toilet roll, pasta and anything else they can find on the shelvesin a daze of angry panic. The citizens will not submit without a fight, albeit for the last pack of Andrex toilet tissue. There are no potatoes, or indeed any fresh veg in Tesco. Where once there were carrots, onions and purple sprouting broccoli in abundance there are only empty pallets. I find some sea bass which fills me with joy as I place it in my basket. In the freezer there is little to buy, bar ice cream, potato waffles and chocolate cake. However, I do find some breaded mushrooms which I can have with my…


The Thatcherite FallacyIn an interview with Woman’s Own on the 23rd of September 1987 Mrs Thatcher made what was to become her most famous statement, a statement that more than any other revealed her underlying philosophy when she proclaimed “There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families .” The moral bankruptcy and failure of imagination that such an asinine statement involves have rightly stained her reputation ever since.
There are of course some who thought she was right; some still do, and they sit as Conservatives in Parliament. There is however a spectre that haunts such a shallow worldview ¸a spectre many believed had vanished, a spectre Samuel Pepys would have recognised, the Plague. Few things highlight how we are all interconnected more than a spreading virus. Pepys might survive, as would the king and anyone else wealthy enough to escape London or other denser concentrations of population. But Pepys bookseller cook, tailor might not. The fabric of d…


The Secret of the Jack of Clubs Circle A short distance from St James Park underground station, down a narrow side street, so narrow and nondescript, with an entrance almost hidden by a tree, that most people miss it. Going down a short flight of steps, you enter a short street, leading to the park dominated, on the left-hand side, by a late 18th century terraced house. Some well-worn steps lead to an imposing black door, but this is not the interesting entrance. No, if you walk a little further on, to the right side of the main entrance there is a short metal spiral staircase leading to the basement. Should you walk down these stairs you would come to a dark green door. This used to be the entrance to the servant’s quarter, but now it serves as a meeting place for the Jack of Clubs Circle. I have deliberately omitted the name of the Street or the number on the door, since knowing these small details could put your life at risk. Indeed, I may have already told you too much, and shoul…