School, war, and disaffection

CSLewis
C S Lewis, scholar and author of the Narnian children’s stories, served in the Royal Artillery 1917–18, and was seriously wounded. He joined the Home Guard in 1940 as a middle-aged man.

It’s natural for us to assume that the Great War was not just a formative experience, but the formative experience for anyone who fought in it. We also tend to assume that the experience was disillusioning at best, and psychologically ruinous at worst. The truth is, unsurprisingly, more subtle and varied. Continue reading

Partners in the hazard of life

Otago_bark_1869-2
Painting of the barque Otago (which Conrad captained 1888–9) from the cover of The Mirror of the Sea. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

The Mirror of the Sea, Joseph Conrad’s book about people, ships and the sea, is full of good things, even if you’re only really interested in people. Here he discusses handling ships and dealing with people—this passage is what I used to think about when being trained in communication, assertiveness, management techniques and the like on work courses. Nothing in the HR-approved training material ever came close. Continue reading

The revolution will be serialised

Orwell Lion and UnicornRussell Brand doesn’t vote. Having been goaded about this by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in 2013, Brand wrote a book, Revolution, to show that he’s both right and in earnest. Many people are angered by others not voting, it’s a shibboleth of sorts, but Brand’s position seems reasonable to me; there are many causes for indignant scepticism in public life and much of it is a sham. I don’t share his seeming surprise, though, that wealth buys influence and that rich and powerful people generally want to protect and expand their wealth and power. You’d think someone on the threshold of middle-age (he’s 39) would have noticed a little earlier. This is what George Orwell published in 1941, when he was 38. Continue reading

The terrible boredom of existential threats to the universe

terrible-boredom-headerSome of the best BBC dramas can be the most irritating. By the best I mean those they’re most pleased with, whose cushions they are forever plumping, whose production values are the most ambitious. Take, say, the increasingly indistinguishable Sherlock and Dr Who, for which the structure, pacing, editing, characterization, mannerisms, tics and assumptions have become hauntingly similar. Continue reading

An Interview with Andy Hamilton

andy-hamilton-wpcf_216x216An Interview with Andy Hamilton. I talk to Andy about becoming a writer, free booze, the future of beer and what he plans to write next. My interview for Nudge .


Andy Hamilton is an author, broadcaster, foraging guide and accidental expert—he has an unusual dedication to following wherever his interests take him. Mostly this has been to the areas of alcohol and self-sufficiency, frequently in the overlap between the two. His published books include The Selfsufficient-ish Bible (2009, co-authored with his twin brother), Booze for Free (2011) and Brewing Britain (2013).

Andy contributes to various TV and radio shows on subjects ranging from survival and foraging through to home brewing and gardening. Highlights include telling BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo how to make the perfect elderflower champagne and nearly taking the Autumnwatch cast’s teeth out with his toffee apples. His most recent appearance was on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme (‘Wild Booze’). He regularly blogs about home brewing, beer, foraging and gardening on his website, while you can also follow him on Twitter.

Read the full interview on Nudge

King Arthur and the cavern of jewelled fishes

Eve Stockton Woodland Landscape II

Image reproduced with permission from Woodland Landscape II (36″ x 72″, woodcut, ed. 5), © Eve Stockton 2005.

This began with a wager—write a children’s novel in six weeks. I didn’t win, but then there’s this adult short story instead. It’s something of a curiosity, a period piece and a Great War not-coming-of-age tale. Continue reading