The Pastoral Calling

There is a member of the House of Lords who always says nice things about me. He says them on the rare occasions we meet and I am told he says them in my absence. He credits me with an important role in his surviving his first year at university. Having survived he went on […]

Being a Writer (or not)

I suppose I am a writer as there are fourteen different books with my name on the cover and I’ve also published over a thousand articles. I also suppose that I always wanted to be one because if you look carefully at the Lancastrian magazines of the early 1960s you will find (very) short stories […]

Watching Jerusalem

Here’s a really good trick: you charge hundreds of middle class people a three-figure sum each to sit in a place called a theatre. There you put in front of them the kind of tattooed, drug-dealing thief and marginal pedophile whom, if he appeared in the field at the back of their house, would have […]

The Rise and Fall of the School Story

Among the most treasured possessions in my study, gathering dust but re-read from time to time, are my bound volumes of The Captain magazine. They are a good selection, amounting to about a quarter of the total, of the output of the magazine during its existence between 1899 and 1923 and they’ve been around pretty […]

Four Girls, Four Countries, Eight Days

For us June 2022 had become the era of the postponed trip. There was the trip to Northumberland, postponed since before Covid and the trip to Madeira postponed since March when we actually had Covid. But most of all there was the road trip to Europe with the four granddaughters who live in the same […]

How to Enjoy Art (nearly all of it)

We were walking the banks of the Thames on one of those bright winter days early in 2022 while waiting to pick up the grandchildren from school. We came to Tate Modern and we can no more pass a gallery than I can pass a pie shop so in we went despite the complex Covid […]

The Alternative Winter Holiday

We gave up on M. Macron and his country about a week before they gave up on us. That is to say we abandoned our plans for a skiing trip in January because of all the tests and documentation required and the possibility that we wouldn’t be allowed into restaurants or cable cars and then […]

Another History of Ideas

David Runciman, Confronting Leviathan, A History of Ideas, Profile Books, 2021, pp. 279. Decades ago – generations, really – I used to teach political philosophy including the history of the subject. Curiously, as it seems now, I managed to do this in two universities before my twenty third birthday and before the sixties were over. […]

The Erasmus Fantasy

In a long career of university teaching – 1968-2014 – many of the most interesting and satisfying moments involved overseas students. There was the robust Finnish girl bursting into my room demanding clarification of what I had said about rowing in my book on amateurism. The quiet Italian lad with a slightly aristocratic demeanour (echoes […]

American Freedom?

I’ve lived in the USA and been often on holiday there and attended many a meeting and conference there and the idea that it is the “land of the free” has always left me chortling with a mixture of scorn and indignation and demanding rhetorically, “What exactly is it that you are free to do?” […]

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