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.