Category: Reflections

Veganism and Modernism

I am currently working on a chapter for the forthcoming Edinburgh Companion to Vegan Literary Studies edited by Emelia Quinn and Laura Wright. In researching it, I came to a few surprising conclusions about the history of concern for animals over the past two centuries in the UK.

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Response to Dominic Cummings on the subject of Oxbridge English graduates

The full text of a letter published in edited form by The Evening Standard on 6th January 2020. I was invited to write it by The Evening Standard in response to a blog post of 2nd January by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Chief Special Adviser Dominic Cummings. This post invited applications from young, unconventional thinkers to positions at Downing Street, with Oxbridge English graduates being specifically discouraged from applying.

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White Angels: the Perversion of Good Impulses to Negative Ends

A propos of the event in support of Julian Assange (‘Free The Truth’, 28th November 2019), I’ve been thinking through why so few young people seem to support Assange, and the effect that the weaponisation of feminism in the smear campaign against him has had…

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On going vegan

An account of the tribulations and joys of my – permanent – transition to veganism.

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Ambiguous Words

I have long been fascinated by contronyms – words that mean opposite things, whether because different words of separate origins have arrived at the same form over time, individual words have reversed in meaning over time, or because of ambiguity concerning activity or passivity. I have started a series of Tweets to gloss them, and will, as I publish them, collect them here.

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Athens Diary 2018

In the last three months I have visited my family in Athens three times, for reasons of life and death. This is my retrospective diary.

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‘And What Did You Do in the War, Vati?’ My German Family’s Second World War

Having parents who lived through the war as children on opposing sides – and uncles on each side who fought – I reflect on the German half of my family’s experiences: the grandfather who fought on the Eastern front, the grandmother who negotiated depression at home, and the aunt and uncle who tried to stop the Americans advancing.

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Reflections on the Death of an Aunt

This morning my German aunt died, leaving my mother as the last survivor of four German siblings. I recall a few things in tribute to her.

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In Memoriam Derek Walcott Part I: A Reminiscence of Meeting Him in 2001

In commemoration of St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott’s death on 17th March 2017, I recall the one time I met him, Port of Spain, 2001 – and my regrets at having been jejune and prickly..

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Lipstick on Your Collar: My Fascination for the Nineteen-Fifties

  There are, I find, many advantages to being born relatively late for your generation. Your parents know pretty much what they are about; they grow old when you still have a strong arm with which to support them; and,

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Whistlejacket Forever

In my home hangs a two-thirds life-size reproduction of George Stubb’s almost life-size portrait of the second Marquess of Rockingham’s favourite race- and stud-horse, Whistlejacket. Painted in 1762, it resonates with every artistic and intellectual movement going from its own time onwards, and induces a meditation on life – horse life – and art.

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Moscow: History of a Symbol

Invited by the students of New College of the Humanities to contribute to an edition of their newspaper with the theme ‘Metropolis’, I considered the kind of symbol that Moscow has been over the centuries, and whether it is one now.

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Uncustomisable Orthodoxy

I attend an Orthodox funeral and reflect on the appeal of Orthodoxy’s uncustomisability…

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Corfus of the Mind

The recent ITV series ‘The Durrells’ has prompted some reflections on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, on Lawrence Durrell’s and Theodore Stephanides’ own memoirs of Corfu of the 1930s, and on the exclusions that they make in their memoirs of that happy time and place.

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Of Man and Dogs

John Bradshaw’s ‘In Defence of Dogs’ has inspired a few thoughts on the good ways in which humans resemble dogs..

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Some Things That Are True of My Dad

My saintly Dad has a few quirks in spite of his saintliness. It has come over me to share them.

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On Being at Home on Easter Morning

This morning I felt unsettled at being at home on Easter morning. So I wrote this blog, recalling the intensity of Easters past, and how strange is the waxing and waning of the great stories in our lives. Happy Easter!

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Two Ways of Seeing Things

There are two ways of looking at things: tragically and comedically. Tolstoy recommends tragedy. But when it comes to personal troubles, there’s everything to be said for comedy.

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Opportunity Missed at Tottenham Court Road Station; Capitalist Sublime at Centre Point

The newly-reopened Tottenham Court Road Station is a crushing disappointment. But the sinister Centre Point which soars above it still inspires me.

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Ten Things that I have Learned about Dog-Owning – and Listicles

A yearling dog-owner, I decide to write a numbered list – of the kind that I adore to read – of that things that I have learned that no listicle had ever alerted me to.

Cambridge Revisited

I do something that I try to avoid doing, and revisit my old university. Nostalgia-averse, the day turns out better than I’d expected, and much better than a similar visit was for Nabokov in 1937.

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Whataboutism in the Gulag

A few weeks ago I visited one of the only Gulag memorial sites – Perm-36 in the Urals. In the company of my English friends, I tried to work out what I – and we – were doing there.

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Broadside Against Ageism

I try to argue why contempt for age, not age, is the real enemy of life…

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The Saracen’s Head at Southwell

I recently visited Southwell and thought, not just of its Civil War past, but of D.H. Lawrence’s characters, for whom Southwell represented, variously, the past and the future.

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On Friendship

On the occasion of a friend’s namesday, I meditate on friendship.

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Helen Bamber

Helen Bamber, founder of the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, died 21st August 2014. I recollect the one time I heard her speak.

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Deconstructing Russophobia

This post is the text of a talk which I gave at the 6/20 discussion society today in London, and which I hope to develop and publish elsewhere.

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