Culture

  • '...  cakes and biscuits will be provided free of charge.' It's a deal. In fact it was a deal before the final incentive. I'll be spending February in Gladstone's library on the Welsh border not far from Liverpool. There is a fairytale quality to the idea of a residential library, a sense that anybody who chooses to stay the night is not only living with the books, but also somehow in the books. Who knows where a library dream will go at night? I'm about to find out, mostly thanks to the energy of William Ewart Gladstone himself. Into his eighties, past even his old man's prime as the Grand Old Man, he founded this library so that his books,

    Jan 29,
  • I've always understood that one of the key revolutions of the internet is to allow small but disparate voices to join together to make a louder noise than would otherwise be possible. I like public libraries. This is a quiet like, but it is one shared by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We will probably not be marching on Milbank anytime soon, but I'd like my quiet voice to be heard, and perhaps to join with other quiet voices elsewhere. I spent Friday in the British Library at St Pancras, where I read some nineteenth century books about political arrangements in first-century Rome. Later, back at my computer, I received a circular email from the BL

    Nov 28,
  • Over on our site in development (wait for it, wait for it), we had an interesting discussion about Scrabble and this year's British National Champion, the fantastic Mikki Nicholson. In principle, I like all games until my children start winning. And until recently I was a big fan of Scrabble. So much so that on my shelves I have a copy of Word Freak, by Stefan Fatsis. I have this book partly because The Times claims that 'Stefan Fatsis is the Hunter S. Thompson of Competitive Scrabble', but also because the book was published by Yellow Jersey Press in the days (2001) when Yellow Jersey published brilliant sports books no-one else would touch. The story follows US sports-writer Fatsis as

    Nov 04,
  • I know I keep promising to post up the first pages of J'suis pas plus con, or rather, I promised once and I always keep my promises. I have, however, been distracted by two issues. Computer malfunctions, which are boring. And stash. As an ambitious rugby player, I used to have the same hunger for stash as everyone else.  'Stash' was the stuff that came with selection to a team.  Stash is the extras, the perks, the over-and-aboves, and in those days, before the ease of printing onto synthetic materials, stash was expensive and therefore reserved most often for representative teams.  It was worth having. Typical items would be tracksuits, training tops, match shorts, maybe even a team-branded bag.

    Oct 17,
  • The noise, the noise.  Oh, the blowing of trumpets.  In the front row of the Internet orchestra are those blowing their own, but these are easily outnumbered by those modelling their brass on John Knox's The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558). Every internet rant is a blast that wants to be first, and ranting is such a natural fit to the form that the temptation ought to be resisted.  Over the past month I have resisted ranting about Ryanair, automated sales calls, and two more subjects that are so rantishly scrawled on a scrap of paper I have no idea what they were.  Paddles, apparently, and errors in tenant paranoia.    Whatever was hurting, the pain has

    Feb 26,