Sunday, 4 December 2022

I'm out in Chinese! With the strange tale of the assassin who cut off his own hand



The Chinese translation of my history of assassination, Assassins’ Deeds (Reaktion Books) is out. So Chinese readers can now marvel at the astonishing story of the assassin who cut off his own hand.

About two and a half thousand years ago, Helu, ruler of the Chinese kingdom of Wu, decided to book an assassin to kill off a rival who wanted to steal his throne. He was surprised when a trusted adviser recommended Yao Li, who was barely four feet tall, but the king was assured that anything the assassin lacked in stature he would more than make up for in commitment.

And that seemed to be confirmed when Yao’s first demand was that the king should cut off his hand and kill his entire family. The assassin argued that this would convince Helu’s rival that Yao Li was the king’s sworn enemy. And sure enough, the now one-handed assassin was able to worm his way into the rival’s confidence and, once there, use his surviving hand to plunge a spear into his back as he tried to mount his bid for the throne.

The story goes that the victim was so impressed, he congratulated Yao on his daring and with his dying breath, ordered his soldiers not to punish the killer, but Yao was overcome with remorse at what he had done to his own family, and threw himself into the Yangtse River never to be seen again.

Or if Chinese readers prefer, there is the giant assassin who learned the skills of haute cuisine to open up a path to his target, but that is another story.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Nightmare in Brexitland: The Crown returns! But here's the scene you won't see

Take your seats for the new series of The Crown. But here's the scene you won't be seeing. Its contents were exclusively revealed in this blog on 13 September 2020. Now read on:


Boris Johnson's 115th Dream
Boris and Carrie are sitting watching television. 

 ‘Oh great! The Crown!’

‘Oh yes. World-beating! But wait a minute, Carrie. That caption says May 3, 2021. None of this has happened yet. How can they know about it?’

‘Shh. I’m trying to watch the programme.’

‘Oh God! I don’t look like that. Surely they could have found somebody better looking! And he’s nearly bald!  Where’s the phone. I’m going to get on to that new head honcho we put in – Davey Somebody – and make him take this off.’

 ‘Boris! It’s not the BBC, it’s Netflix. Now shut up and listen.’

‘Oh. I was expecting to see the Queen.’

A hint of a mirthless smile flickers beneath an impressive moustache. ‘I’m afraid Her Majesty is otherwise engaged. She asked me to see you on her behalf.’

‘Hold on!  I recognise you. You’re Tommy Lascelles. You were in the last series or the one before. You can’t meet me, because you’re dead.’

Unlike his interlocutor, the urbane functionary is not in the least nonplussed. ‘Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia, Mr Johnson. It sometimes…….exaggerates.’

‘You mean “prime minister”’

‘Mr Johnson.’ The mirthless smile was back.

‘Well, the point is that once parliament has passed this ‘Unilateral Cancellation of EU Trade Agreement Bill’, I’ll need HMQ to give the Royal Assent pronto, so we can implement the populi voluntatem without delay and all that.’

‘And, of course, if you ask Her Majesty to take that action, she will have to comply.’

‘Exactly.’

‘Which is precisely why you will not do it.’

‘What do you mean, Lascelles? You can’t obstruct the will of the people.’

‘I have here a few papers for your perusal.’ (The phrase: ‘Restricted. Top Secret. Not for Fatman’s eyes’ are fleetingly visible on one.)

‘Oh. I’ll take them back to number 10. Dom reads that kind of stuff for me.’

‘The papers will not be leaving this room, and, Mr Cummings is (Lascelles consults his watch) as of now, ‘a guest of Her Majesty’, as I think they say in the films. Apparently something about his time in Russia?’

‘There’s no point trying to frighten me about leaking stuff to the press. The ephemerides are all in my pocket and the BBC daren’t sneeze without my say so.’

The immaculately turned out royal servant produces a newspaper and eases it across the table. ‘If the papers I showed you a moment ago are too voluminous, perhaps you might cast your eye over this?’

“‘Bang Up Boris’ call. Gove poised for No 10.” What’s this?

‘The front page of tomorrow morning’s (Lascelles raises his eyebrows and utters the next word as though wiping something nasty off the sole of his Berluti Oxford) Sun. I managed to persuade them to tone it down from ‘string up’ to ‘bang up’.’

‘That bastard Gove! It’s a fake, Rupert would never do this to me.’

‘If you examine the papers I suggested you should read, you will see that some (the pause is followed by the same tone of voice used for ‘Sun’) gentlemen who had hoped to profit from certain actions of yours felt they had not received the degree of forewarning you promised, and so have not profited as much as they had anticipated.’

‘Can I get my mobile?’

‘As you know, these audiences are strictly mobile-free.’

‘Then I need to get back to Number 10 right now.’

‘I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Some kind of security alert. The police say there’s a suspected criminal in the building. However (it’s that mirthless smile again) should you wish to avail yourself of a generous offer from President Putin, you may leave now and take asylum in Krasnoyarsk.’

‘What the hell is that?’

‘A place in Siberia. The president has provided special transport from here to the airport, and your flight leaves in a couple of hours. Aeroflot. I’m afraid he couldn’t get business class.’

‘You can’t do this. I’m the prime minister! I’m the prime minister!’

‘Oh Boris, do shut up! That’s the third time this week. Anyway it’s eleven o’ clock. Time for even you to get up. What are these dreams you keep having? Is it always the same one?

Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Dear Tory voters, don't say I never warned you

Oh my prophetic soul! This is what I wrote before the 2019 general election when I warned people not to vote Conservative. Much of the personnel has changed, but the disaster remains.

THURSDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2019

Electionwatch: pity Conservatives - they have no one to vote for



Conservatism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary means ‘commitment to traditional values and ideas.’ So neither Boris Johnson nor any of the maniacally nodding acolytes lining up as Tory candidates are Conservatives.

Johnson is not a detail man and has only a very tenuous grasp of facts, as numerous interviews have shown, which means he needs people to work out policies for him. So the person running 10 Downing Street’s policy unit is very important. And who is she? Step forward Munira Mirza, a ‘former’ member of the Trotskyite Revolutionary Communist Party, who has been helping to write the Tory manifesto.

Perhaps that explains its attacks on democracy on the now-notorious page 48, with its threats to undermine the independence of parliament and the judiciary and to elevate the prime minister above the law.

Even more important than Mirza is ‘Johnson’s brain’, Dominic Cummings, who has never denied that he is not a Conservative. Indeed, Cummings seems to be consumed with contempt for anyone who is not Dominic Cummings.

He was formally ruled to be in contempt of parliament because he refused to be questioned by a committee investigating fake news. Cummings has a particular disdain for our politically independent civil service and wants to abolish it. Civil servants have an infuriating habit of telling the truth.

And then there were those three mysterious years in Russia. Of course, the degree to which Boris Johnson and his party are under Putin’s thumb remains shrouded in mystery because Johnson is suppressing the official report that might shed some light on it. But what was Cummings doing while he was there? What links did he form with politicians and the security and intelligence services?

The modern Conservative Party is decidedly not conservative. A better label would be 'anarchist' or 'nihilist'. More than anyone they remind me of the 19th century left-wing Russian extremist, Mikhail Bakunin, who said he would be happy only ‘when the whole world is engulfed in fire.’ He advocated smashing everything up in the hope that something better would arise to replace it.

Just so for today’s Tories: smash up the UK, the NHS, our links with the EU, Parliament, the judiciary, the civil service, your jobs, rights, opportunities, etc. And maybe a phoenix will rise from the ashes: perhaps a hyper-Thatcherite capitalist paradise, red in tooth and claw, with no nonsense about a welfare state or workers’ rights or the rich paying tax?

If you really have nothing to lose, you might consider voting Conservative. If you have ANYTHING to lose, think very, very carefully before you put the nihilists into power.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Truss and Kwarteng: it's the same old song


Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng (what WAS he doing at the Queen's funeral by the way?) - bless their little cotton socks: 'We want to speed up growth. We want to create a high wage, high productivity economy'.

Don't you love the way they say it as though it's some wizard wheeze no one else has ever thought of ?  I mean British governments are always saying: 'We want lower growth, lower wages and worse productivity,' aren't they?

In fact, every British government I can recall has said it has the same aim as Truss, but I don't recall many others who thought the way to achieve it was to borrow hand over fist saddling your children and grandchildren with massive debts so they can give huge handouts to the super-rich. 

Bodes well for the latest Brexit-crazed Conservative government, eh?


Tuesday, 13 September 2022

What can a top crime writer tell us about Brexit?

Quite a lot, it turns out. 

I have just finished the American James Ellroy's compulsive hard-boiled novel The Big Nowhere (Arrow 1990), set in Los Angeles during the McCarthy era, when lives were ruined by hysterical false accusations thundered at anyone who dared to espouse vaguely left-wing views. Condemned as 'Commies', many lost their jobs and some their liberty.

Ellroy's novel tells the story of a number of people supposed to be public servants, who don't give a damn about the public and instead use the mendacious Red Scare to advance their own careers.

But one policeman sees through the tissue of falsehood: 'A big fuckload of lies glued together to prove a single theory that was easy to believe because believing was easier than wading through the glut of horsehit to say, "Wrong."'

Could be a summary of what Brexit has done to the UK and of why no leading Conservative or Labour politician seems willing to tell the truth about it.

Fun fact: Senator Joseph McCarthy was eventually unmasked as a liar, and became one of only a handful of senators to be formally censured by a vote in the upper house.

Monday, 22 August 2022

The assassination of Michael Collins and a strange quirk of fate


100 years ago today, the Irish Republican leader Michael Collins was assassinated. Collins was a leading organiser of assassinations himself, but, in his own words, he signed his death warrant when he made a peace treaty with the British.

It sparked a vicious civil war in Ireland, and a group of anti-treaty fighters ambushed Collins in his native County Cork. When they opened fire on his car, one of Collins' comrades told the driver to 'drive like hell', but Collins ordered him to stop so they could fight it out, even though he was armed only with a rifle.

By a twist of fate, Collins' regular drivers were not with him that day. The Republican hero was known to be impetuous, and some believe if one of them had been at the wheel, they would have slammed a foot on the gas before pausing a few miles up the road to inquire of Collins: 'Sorry, what was that you were saying back there, chief?'

For more on Collins' assassination and many others, see my book Assassins' Deeds. A History of Assassination from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. (Reaktion Books)

Sunday, 21 August 2022

The dilatory Tory contest over who will be your next pm drags on.....and on


It's more than six weeks since Boris Johnson resigned, but because of the extraordinarily leisurely timetable devised by the Conservative Party, it's still going to be another two weeks before we discover who they have decided to foist on us as our next prime minister.

Do you remember when the Tories told us we couldn't possibly change pm because of the multiple crises besetting Brexit Britain? So why is it ok now to endlessly dilly and dally with no one in charge? 

Johnson was never very keen to do the hard graft even when he was pm (remember all those COBRA meetings he ducked?), so what did the Tories think he would do once he'd been given his marching orders? How about: take endless holidays, set up lavish parties at other people's expense, play at being a soldier or a pilot?

Pretty well everything, in fact, apart from dealing with the cost of living crisis, the climate crisis, the water shortages, the galloping inflation, the summer of discontent and the other horrors the Tories have inflicted on us.

Now as Truss and Sunak continue to knock lumps out of each other, apparently even the Tories are beginning to wonder whether they have let the contest go on too long, and whether this undignified battle over the greasy pole is doing terrible damage to what's left of the party's reputation. My heart bleeds.


Monday, 8 August 2022

Boris Johnson: Don't say I never warned you!

Well I told him more than two years ago: 'If there is something you need to do, do it today. There may be no tomorrow.' I warned Boris Johnson the history books would judge him very harshly unless he tried to mend fences with the EU and establish a close relationship, of the kind he promised when he was conning people to vote for Brexit, without which the UK's future would be very bleak indeed.

Instead he spaffed away two years, and now it's too late. He will go down in history as the UK's worst ever prime minister, except perhaps for Liz Truss.  Here's what I wrote back in April 2020:

FRIDAY, 24 APRIL 2020

Brexitwatch: Boris Johnson - intimations of mortality



‘When a man is about to be hanged,’ said Dr Johnson, ‘it concentrates his mind wonderfully.’ Assuming that, during his time in the intensive care ward, Boris Johnson felt acutely reminded of his own mortality, what effect might that have?

Because you can’t believe a word he says, anything you write about Johnson is highly speculative, but I spoke to someone who claimed to know him, who told me something I found reassuring. He said the prime minister cares a lot about what the history books will say about him.

If he had died during his brush with coronavirus, they wouldn’t have made great reading: ‘He knew leaving the EU would be highly damaging for the UK, but he pressed on with it because he thought it would advance his own career. He undermined prime minister Theresa May on the pretext that her Withdrawal Agreement was not good enough, then once he had replaced her, negotiated one that was worse. He won an election under a slogan he knew was mendacious, and then when he was confronted with the worst crisis the UK had faced in decades, he proved completely unequal to the task.' Though the charge sheet would obviously be longer than this.

If Johnson is serious about being treated more kindly by history, he must realise there are a number of policies he is going to have to reverse. Most obviously, limiting the damage from Brexit by agreeing a close relationship with the EU to secure the frictionless trade on which the UK’s future depends.

So far the signs aren’t good. He has bizarrely ruled out any extension of the transition period which ends on December 31 at which point, the UK is in danger of crashing out of Europe with a huge hit to jobs, public services, businesses etc.

But the lesson for Boris Johnson of his intimation of mortality is surely this. If there is something you need to do, do it today. There may be no tomorrow.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Thought for the day: the triumph of delusion

I have seen a lot of political contests in my time, but surely none so deluded, dishonest and divorced from reality as the alarming battle for the votes of Conservative members between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in order to be your next prime minister. Unless you are one of those Tory members, who are now, judging from the promises being made to them, very, very far to the right indeed, of course you get no say in who's going to run your life. Apparently that's democracy.

It's bad enough to have Sunak promising to set up Chinese Communist-style 're-education' camps for anyone who dares to criticise the Tories, but surely even worse are super-lightweight Truss's innumerate plans to 'take risks' with the British economy. Translation: risks with your job, mortgage, savings, pension, business, life.

Following the trusted Brexit formula of 'promise them anything', and never take a tough decision, the failed Thatcher tribute act is going to raise spending AND reduce taxes - primarily for the rich obviously. Never mind the debt burden this will impose on your children and grandchildren, never mind the runaway inflation the ship of fools is stoking. Never mind that virtually every economist thinks it's mad, apart from Patrick Minford of 'Brexit is great but it will destroy industry in the UK' fame.

As a born again Brexit-er, Truss thinks that if she just BELIEVES hard enough, the British economy will grow so fast that magic money trees will spring up everywhere, no doubt creating forests in which those elusive Brexit unicorns will finally appear and gambol. 

Truss will win and be your next prime minster. They may call her 'Thick Lizzie' but she has sussed that there is no market for truth and realism in the modern 'Conservative' Party. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Thought for the day: the great Truss mystery

 

How many of the Tory MPs trampling over each other in the desperate, undignified scramble to endorse unprincipled, mendacious incompetent Liz Truss for prime minister in a pathetic attempt to advance their careers are privately sh*tting themselves because they’ve realised she’ll be a total disaster, and perhaps even worse than Johnson? Or do Conservatives just no longer care about stuff like how much damage they inflict on the UK? That’s certainly what the evidence would suggest.

But wouldn't it be funny if Sunak won and the Truss brown-nosers all had to claim they'd been 'wilfully misrepresented' and had really supported Rishi all along?

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Brexitwatch: the fall of Johnson. Did I get it right?

So, Boris Johnson, the great liar has finally gone (sort of). Back in September 2020, I prophesied how he might fall. Want to check how close I was? Here's what I wrote:

SUNDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2020

Brexitwatch: this wasn't meant to happen! Part 3 - Boris Johnson's 115th Dream


Boris and Carrie are sitting watching television. Now read on:

 ‘Oh great! Season 4 of ‘The Crown’!’

‘Oh yes. World-beating! But wait a minute, Carrie. That caption says May 3, 2021. None of this has happened yet. How can they know about it?’

‘Shh. I’m trying to watch the programme.’

‘Oh God! I don’t look like that. Surely they could have found somebody better looking! And he’s nearly bald!  Where’s the phone. I’m going to get on to that new head honcho we put in – Davey Somebody – and make him take this off.’

 ‘Boris! It’s not the BBC, it’s Netflix. Now shut up and listen.’

‘Oh. I was expecting to see the Queen.’

A hint of a mirthless smile flickers beneath an impressive moustache. ‘I’m afraid Her Majesty is otherwise engaged. She asked me to see you on her behalf.’

‘Hold on!  I recognise you. You’re Tommy Lascelles. You were in the last series or the one before. You can’t see me, because you’re dead.’

Unlike his interlocutor, the urbane functionary is not in the least nonplussed. ‘Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia, Mr Johnson. It sometimes…….exaggerates.’

‘You mean “prime minister”’

‘Mr Johnson.’ The mirthless smile was back.

‘Well, the point is that once parliament has passed this ‘Unilateral Cancellation of EU Trade Agreement Bill’, I’ll need HMQ to give the Royal Assent pronto, so we can implement the populi voluntatem without delay and all that.’

‘And, of course, if you ask Her Majesty to take that action, she will have to comply.’

‘Exactly.’

‘Which is precisely why you will not do it.’

‘What do you mean, Lascelles? You can’t obstruct the will of the people.’

‘I have here a few papers for your perusal.’ (The phrase: ‘Restricted. Top Secret. Not for Fatman’s eyes’ are fleetingly visible on one.)

‘Oh. I’ll take them back to number 10. Dom reads that kind of stuff for me.’

‘The papers will not be leaving this room, and, Mr Cummings is (Lascelles consults his watch) as of now, ‘a guest of Her Majesty’, as I think they say in the films. Apparently something about his time in Russia?’

‘There’s no point trying to frighten me about leaking stuff to the press. The ephemerides are all in my pocket and the BBC daren’t sneeze without my say so.’

The immaculately turned out royal servant produces a newspaper and eases it across the table. ‘If the papers I showed you a moment ago are too voluminous, perhaps you might cast your eye over this?’

“‘Bang Up Boris’ call. Gove poised for No 10.” What’s this?

‘The front page of tomorrow morning’s (Lascelles raises his eyebrows and utters the next word as though wiping something nasty off the sole of his Berluti Oxford) Sun. I managed to persuade them to tone it down from ‘string up’ to ‘bang up’.’

‘That bastard Gove! It’s a fake, Rupert would never do this to me.’

‘If you examine the papers I suggested you should read, you will see that some (the pause is followed by the same tone of voice used for ‘Sun’) gentlemen who had hoped to profit from certain actions of yours felt they had not received the degree of forewarning you promised, and so have not profited as much as they had anticipated.’

‘Can I get my mobile?’

‘As you know, these audiences are strictly mobile-free.’

‘Then I need to get back to Number 10 right now.’

‘I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Some kind of security alert. The police say there’s a suspected criminal in the building. However (it’s that mirthless smile again) should you wish to avail yourself of a generous offer from President Putin, you may leave now and take asylum in Krasnoyarsk.’

‘What the hell is that?’

‘A place in Siberia. The president has provided special transport from here to the airport, and your flight leaves in a couple of hours. Aeroflot. I’m afraid he couldn’t get business class.’

‘You can’t do this. I’m the prime minister! I’m the prime minister!’

‘Oh Boris, do shut up! That’s the third time this week. Anyway it’s eleven o’ clock. Time for even you to get up. What are these dreams you keep having? Is it always the same one?

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Assassins' Deeds - now available for Korean readers!


 

암살자의 행위

amsaljaui haeng-wi

The Korean translation of my history of assassination Assassins' Deeds (published in the UK by Reaktion Books) is out!

Now for some proof reading.






Monday, 16 May 2022

WORLD EXCLUSIVE. Leaked letter from UK to the Kremlin


Someone has just leaked me this extraordinary letter. It appears to be addressed to President Putin at the Kremlin, but who can it be from?

Dear Vladimir,

I’m sorry about the delay in getting the trade war with the EU underway, but now we’re motoring. I’m as keen as you are to destroy the EU. I know perfectly well how embarrassing it is to have neighbours who are more prosperous, more efficient and more democratic.

Of course I am aware that without your money, bots, lies, dirty tricks, etc. I would never have got my job, but you have to understand I’m in a very tight corner. Even some of the foolish people who voted for Brexit have begun to see through my lies! So, apologies once again that it has taken so long.

And I appreciate you invading Ukraine so the mendacious right wing press and my stupid MPs could trot out the line about: ‘We can’t change prime minister! There’s a war on!’

And I can understand that you’re cross about me sending weapons to Ukraine, but you have to see it from my point of view. This has got to look good! If too many people start to think I am in your pay and in your pocket, the outlook for me could be really bleak.

Onwards and upwards!

Your friend in the FUK (Former United Kingdom) 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

The real Queen's Speech - Brexit benefits, making us richer by making us poorer etc


For anyone who didn’t manage to sit through all the turgid, lying drivel of the 'Queen's Speech', (note for overseas readers - in the UK what's known as the 'Queen's Speech' is actually the Government's Speech, but ministers are anxious to get someone else to share the blame) below are the main points. I bet the Queen was delighted she had a sick note and didn’t have to read this guff out.

1. We will defend democracy in Ukraine, but not in the UK obviously, where anyone who does not bow down to worship the Great God Brexit and the heroic achievements of Chairman Johnson HAD BETTER WATCH OUT.

2. We appreciate that a lot of you can’t afford to eat or put the lights on, but don’t worry. We will be delivering you a whole pile of BREXIT BENEFITS (details to be announced in due course).

3. We will use the OPPORTUNITIES OF BREXIT, which makes our economy smaller, to make our economy bigger.

We accept NO RESPONSIBILITY for any policies that may prove defective.

Is this all right, Vladimir?

Boris Johnson’s Conservative ‘government’. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Todokimashita! The Japanese translation of my history of assassination


Just received a copy of the Japanese
translation of my book 'Assassins' Deeds: A History of Assassination from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day'. The cover looks very fierce. I've blocked out the next couple of days to check it. Right. First things first. Which way up should it be? 



Wednesday, 2 March 2022

My BBC radio interview: Devon's worst disasters


Really interesting to be interviewed (again) by Pippa Quelch on BBC Radio Devon on the subject of Devon's worst disasters. 

Here are the shipwrecks of the Coronation and the Ramillies, how pilfering of gunpowder led to the Amphion blowing up. The great fires of Tiverton and the blaze that destroyed Exeter's Theatre Royal, the Blitz in Plymouth and the Lynmouth floods. More about all of them in my book A Disastrous History of Britain.

You can hear the interview here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0bmmdxj

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Reading Proust in French for the French - the movie!

Proust Lu. Here I am reading Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu in French - an excerpt from Albertine Disparue, sometimes known as La Fugitive. Honoured to be involved in Véronique Aubouy's wonderful project. 'Beautiful bedroom, great reading' says a comment in Polish. A French comment says my reading has only 'a touch of Britishness'. I'm very flattered.

Credit to skill and patience of cameraperson, Lee Banting.

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Reading Proust for the French - in French!


I am proud to have been involved in the monumenal Proust Lu project of Véronique Aubouy, a French film maker who has recruited 1500 people to read Proust's monumental A la Recherche du Temps Perdu to camera in a kind of literary relay.

Véronique allocated me a couple of pages of La Fugitive, sometimes called Albertine Disparue, the sixth of the seven novels that make up the work. Proust is not the simplest French - often very long sentences - and reading it aloud called for fierce concentration. I needed a lie down afterwards.

I'd first read A la Recherche when I was in my twenties, which was some time ago.

By the time it's finished, Proust Lu will probably run for about 180 hours. 

The 145 hours completed so far was shown at the Médiathèque de la Ciotat, not far from Marseille, in December. Here's an interview with Véronique Aubouy:

https://www.lapresse.ca/arts/litterature/2021-08-16/proust-en-180-heures.php

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

'Milkman' is a masterpiece



I do not say this lightly or often. In my opinion, Anna Burns' novel Milkman is a masterpiece. Its shunning of proper names gives it a universality as it tells the story of a young woman's life caught up in the turmoil of a violent political struggle.

It's written in Joycean, though more accessible, stream-of-consciousness style. I listened to the audiobook, read by the author herself, and found it a completely compulsive listen.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

The Plagues of Britain and Devon - my radio interview



What was the worst plague to hit Britain and Devon? The Black Death, cholera, Spanish flu, covıd? And what can we learn from the diseases of the past about how we should deal with the coronavirus pandemic? I was lucky enough to discuss all this and more with Pippa Quelch on BBC Radio Devon.

How the Black Death killed nearly half the clergy in parts of Devon, how the authorities in Exeter took the right approach to cholera even though no one knew what was causing it, and how one Devon medical officer warned women that low-cut tops and thin stockings were spreading Spanish flu.

You and hear it here -

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0bf7sld


And learn more from my book A Disastrous History of Britain https://www.amazon.co.uk/Disastrous-History-Britain-Chronicles-Plague/dp/075093865X/ref=sr_1_3?crid=WCY5DXBCGGAD&keywords=a+disastrous+history+of+britain&qid=1642507048&sprefix=a+disastrous+history+of+britain%2Caps%2C209&sr=8-3

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Literary corner: Catch-Brexit, with apologies to Joseph Heller

 


'That's some catch, that Brexit catch', said Yossarian admiringly.

'So hit me with it again. So everyone knows this Brexit is crazy, right? But the MPs say they can't do nothing because the referendum was binding, right?'

'So some guys go to the judge and they say: "Hey judge, not only is Brexit crazy, but the referendum was bent." And the judge, he says: "Sure it was bent. It was bent as a nine dollar bill, but I can't do nothing because the referendum wasn't binding."' 

'So Brexit is crazy, but the MPs can't do nothing cos the referendum was binding, and the judges can't do nothing cos it wasn't binding.'

'Man, that's some catch. That's some catch.'