Are there any circumstances under which people won’t go on holiday?
In summer 1917, Russia was three years into a war that it was losing badly, there had been a revolution in February and there would be another one in October, and after that there would be years of civil war. Casualties in the army were shocking, as were civilian deaths from hunger and disease. Everything was chaotic and unstable; all that was solid had melted into air.
But when Lenin fled from possible arrest in St Petersburg in July 1917, leaving from Sestroretsk Station, the terminus for a small coastal railway, the trains were busy with holidaymakers:
It was the peak of the summer season and the trains were packed with middle-class passengers leaving the capital and going off to enjoy the seaside and the fresh air.1Continue reading →
The Covid-19 pandemic was drawing closer, like that faint mass screaming you hear in films as a portent of approaching disaster, but meantime it was months of rain in a day and floods in Cumbria. Continue reading →
My last piece on TV Licensing caught fire and is now the most read thing on my website. A few things came up in the responses on social media and elsewhere that I wanted to mention1. Continue reading →
I first read something by Muriel Spark in my late twenties and instantly loved her writing; I had that feeling that there was something new and great in the world that grows rarer the further you are from childhood, and that I hadn’t experienced for a long time. It wasn’t just how much I liked what she did, but how different it was, how individual. Continue reading →
We tend to associate carnivorous barbecuing with Argentina (asado), South Africa (braai), Australia (barbie), the US, etc, but in parts of Italy meat is master and cooking it over charcoal or wood is a serious tradition. Think of Tuscany’s famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Continue reading →
The martini is a simple cocktail, with few ingredients and one overarching principle—it should combine maximal coldness with minimal dilution. However, it’s also quite technical and a beautiful example of the narcissism of small differences; add the wrong quantity of vermouth or cool it the wrong way and there are people who will think you’ve revealed yourself as being lower than a monkey and more vicious than a cat…