Up until just a few days ago the the overwhelming consensus would have been that political parties on the left were in a tailspin.  Blasted from the sky by right-wing populists and their unassailable arguments, pitting good common folk against a liberal elite which has slyly sought to ease its own existence through open borders and immigration.

Demagogues such as Trump, Farage, Johnson and Orban have peddled narratives such that only by voting for them can the man on the street be freed from the wicked spells cast by the faceless bureaucrats and intellectuals who are portrayed as running the world purely for their own ends.  In the UK this has manifested itself in a pervasive and almost irrational distrust, verging on hatred, by some sectors of society towards public figures such as civil servants, judges and scientists. People who’s only crime was to question or point out inconsistencies in the political arguments have been pilloried and frightened into submission by the government’s attack-dogs in the popular press and the media.

That was all easy to do from a position of strength. It is easy to whip up anger and hatred in a population which has always believed in its undeniable rights.  It is easy to hate strangers for wanting to escape their situations in poor and war-torn motherlands when there is no concept of what real hardship or strife is actually like.  But that isn’t the case any more. People in the West are threatened and frightened in a way they haven’t been since the Second World War.  And unlike terrorism, which is largely an abstract threat for most people, no amount of bombing is going to make the coronavirus go away.

At the moment borders are closing and communities are becoming more isolated and for the next year or two we will be a less inter-connected world than we have been in decades. But these new barriers are subtly different to those we have seen be put up at the edges of Europe and the USA recently.  Those closures were to keep an identifiable threat out. Now when we slam the door shut, we can’t tell whether we have trapped ourselves inside with the monster.

The expert too is having a renaissance.  They cannot be portrayed as an enemy of the people when their experience and knowledge is keeping you alive.  No longer will our civil service be seen as an irritant, stealing our hard earned money and wasting it on the feckless and undeserving. Instead after decades of parsimony governments are suddenly spewing fountains of cash in a desperate bid to stop the world from crashing around us. This time the money they are spending is to save all our souls.

It is hard to predict what the world be be like after all this. Will we stay isolated and fearful and slowly drift into nationalism and war like we did after the Spanish Flu pandemic or will we unite in recognition of our common weakness against a threat which understands no national identity or border? Will neoliberalism manage to reassert itself or will the electorate decide that for a while at least, there are some things that are more important than saving a few pounds in tax?




































































































Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp were never going to give us something we expected. In their fourteen year, six album, career they have constantly reinvented themselves and on the way, if they haven’t actually created the genre they most probably provided us with the definitive benchmark of how it should sound. The only exception to that rule was their last album, Head First, which lacked the emotional depth of their previous output. Tales of Us however, finds them back in full effect and in many ways this album takes us full circle by rekindling the essence of their first album.

The tracks on the album are all, bar one, named after people. The Album starts with Jo which has a simple arrangement layered with sparse strings and harp. The second, Annabel, one of the more instantly striking tracks, relates the story of a hermaphrodite who was forced to live as a boy. It has also been released alongside a short film which you can see here. The overall impression of this record is subtly cinematic, themes of Ennio Morricone crop up in places, Stranger for example, the soundtrack of which serves as a sumptuous backdrop for Alison Goldfrapp’s vocal. Hints of the pastoral also emerge, reminding us of the shimmering folk melodies from their fourth LP, The Seventh Tree. Will Gregory’s instrumentation is exquisite throughout and the pared-back nature of the arrangement serves only to highlight the astonishing range and quality of Alison’s voice.

All in all this release is a pleasant surprise. After the last record which left fans wondering where they could go, they have managed to deliver a piece of work which will stand up to the test of time and repeated listening.


Simon Prichard’s well written account of his half year touring the fiestas of Spain provides a unique perspective of this colourful country. From the pub lined lanes of Benidorm to the solemn streets of San Vincente de la Sonsierra, he sought out the most interesting examples of the nation’s local festivities. Almost always religiously inspired but seldom formal, the fiestas he discovered were as varied as the landscape. The Spain he visited was not one constrained by the concerns of health and safety, he witnessed a horde of inebriated lumberjacks fell and drag an enormous tree through the streets of Pollenca and had his clothes singed by men wielding flaming witches brooms as they chased him through the streets of Jarandilla. Prichard’s style of writing is lively, engaging and a pleasure to read. I would strongly recommend this to anyone who is on the look out for their next book.

You can click here to buy it.


Why So Pale and Wan?

This is a record which was never going to set your pulse racing. In fact it is far more suited for wafting round the house or for suffering from a nasty dose of unrequited love. The landscapes of the London trio’s first album are certainly starkly beautiful yet the lyrics show us far darker places. The album starts with a minor discord before singer/guitarist Ellena Tonra’s soothing voice lulls us and deceives us, ‘I needed you to run through my veins like disease’. There is a resonance of Florence in that first track, Winter, which thankfully this fails to re-appear in the rest of the album. Tonra’s voice is far more fragile and subtly haunting than that.

The album’s instrumentation which comprises of Elena and Igor Haefeli’s shimmering guitars and Remi Aguilella’s suppressed drumming is mostly shrouded in reverb and it is not until the eighth track that we hear anything as prosaic as a snare drum. This is all well and good but sometimes you just want them to let go and reward you with something normal like a crash cymbal (one that isn’t going backwards that is). This is especially true with Youth, which is probably the strongest track on the album but one which finally disappoints when it builds and builds but doesn’t quite deliver the goods in the end.

I really like this album, it is beautiful and I will play it a lot. But you get the impression there are some much bigger songs that want to get out.


Well I enjoyed reading this book immensely but I really haven’t got a clue what the hell it was about. It masquerades as a novel but basically it is a collection of short stories.  It starts off (and finishes) well, with Hawthorne and Child racing to a call-out, but the intervening chapters veer off in wildly different directions.  All the time you feel that the characters and stories are connected but you can’t really put your finger on what it is that links them.

The writing is both in-your-face and arrestingly beautiful at the same time.  The voices of some of the madder characters were truly haunting, and in places it moved me a lot. But when I finished, I felt like I’d woken up after some crazy drunken night out. One where you managed to make it safely home but you haven’t got the foggiest idea how.

Posted: February 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Having just watched the last episode of The Killing last night I found this very interesting..


A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to have a very interesting conversation with Val McDermid about Sarah Lund and The Killing. I caught her before she gave a reading from her new book, Vanishing Point, at Bristol Central Library for a piece I was writing for Diva Magazine. Word count restrictions meant that, sadly, I was only able to use a few quotes from our conversation but I think what Val said was fascinating and it deserves reading in full. So here it is. The interview was conducted, of course, when we were innocents, long before we knew anything about what would happen to Lund in the third and final series.

You’re a well-known fan of The Killing – why do you love Lund?
I love her tenacity and her doggedness and her refusal to be palmed off, and her refusal to be seduced by…

View original post 2,176 more words

I was so inspired after attending the Festival of Writing that today I spent my train ride to London writing a to-do list. It’s the sort of thing people often do in the morning, although I expect my one was a little different.

This is what it contains:-

Create more conflict in the office.

Introduce more chaos.

Research mind control drugs such as Rohypnol and LSD.

Murder someone.

Torture Detective Sergeant Glamis.

Let’s hope no one was looking over my shoulder.

Happy days are here again

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Stuff
Tags: , , , ,

We’re going camping. Whoopee.

There’s a big ol’ storm heading our way and we’re going to be stuck  in a tent. I can’t wait.

It’s summertime in England so that means that we all get out there and commune with nature; except we wont be. What we will actually be doing is enduring another hellish weekend cowering inside our tent while it is being flailed by high winds and rain. But that’s OK though because we’re British, which means that our stiff upper lip and steady resolve enables us to put up with situations like this with dignity and decorum.

Experience has taught me that that there is no point getting down in the mouth about all this. There is nothing to be gained from being sad and moping around because you just end up tripping over cold wet guy ropes and pissing everybody else off.  It seems that whenever I go camping,  everyone else begins to suffer from some sort of a group hysteria, it manifests itself in a strange form of irrational optimism. They start to say things like, ‘Don’t worry it’ll brighten up in a minute,’  or ‘Shall we go to the beach tomorrow?’ when it should be patently obvious to anyone with even one eye that the sky is getting darker and and it’s getting colder and colder.

These days I take solace in two things, firstly skin is waterproof, and secondly I can always get drunk to dull the pain.

I did something today that will change me for ever. I went to my first ever literary seminar. It was at the Bloomsbury Publishing offices in London and it was amazing. I’m not kidding you when I tell you that there were real authors there, people who have actually written books that the public have read and love and keep in their bookcases. And there I was in the same room as them, I was completely dumbstruck.

I arrived hot and flustered from the Tube in time for wine and nibbles and stood like a wallflower, glass in hand, while the other delegates mingled and chatted around me. I must admit I felt just a little out-of-place. Then we were shepherded into the to the grand old salon which is a beautiful room complete with an enormous book-case which runs the entire length of one wall and which is crammed with Bloomsbury first editions. There we listened to a talk by three established and experienced crime writers.

It was chaired by the very talented Claire McGowan whose debut novel The Fall I couldn’t put down and Anne Zouroudi and James Runcie whose books I can‘t wait to pick up.  They gave us tips about plotting, characters and research but more importantly they gave us an insight into their modus operandi as crime writers. I loved every minute of it.

Everyone was friendly too. I said hi to Claire and it’s probably good news that at the time I didn’t know that James Runcie has made a film about J.G Ballard otherwise I might have got a bit scary and stalkery and on top of all that I met lots of other very nice people.

I feel different somehow. I feel like I have come of age as a writer.

My dishwasher has started beeping recently. I don’t know how or why it’s got this habit but it is bloody annoying. It’s almost as if it’s saying:

‘Look at me, I’ve just done your washing up, aren’t I great!’

Well big deal! I don’t really care. I’ve had dishwashers before and that’s what you are supposed to do. The reason I got you is so that I can just shut your door and forget about the dirty dishes. What I don’t want is you pestering me half way through True Blood to tell me that you’ve finished cleaning them. OK?

I have a suspicion that the reason the dishwasher started doing this  is because it’s heard our new washing machine doing exactly the same thing. That new super-efficient shiny appliance announces the culmination of each and every wash cycle with a series of Teutonic beeps. It’s driving me bonkers. What is it with modern appliances?