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 […]

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 […]

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?” […]

My (Mild) Obsession with Professor A.C.Grayling

We don’t have a word in English for “the opposite person to oneself”. People sometimes say “nemesis” in this context, but this really means the agent of one’s unpleasant destiny who may or may not be like oneself. Thus, by extension, it can mean in sport a “bogey team” or a curiously unbeatable opponent. I […]

A Box of Love Letters

Most people, I guess, found that in “lockdown” they got round to doing things that were only on their really long list of things to do. In my case this included opening up the box file containing my father’s letters to my mother during the Second World War. He was in the Eighth Army in […]

The “Right Wing” Case for the NHS

I am inclined to be snotty about the NHS. Debunking things that everyone else seems to believe in is one of my stocks in trade and I found all that clapping to be a bit North Korean. Moreover the service is the last proud moral possession of the Labour Party, not an organisation I’m fond […]

The True Meaning of Alastair Campbell

About thirty years ago my wife and I attended a wedding at the House of Commons. At the drinks between the ceremony and the reception proper the two of us were talking to a young journalist. We asked him exactly what his job was and he said he was the political editor of the Daily […]

In Which America Goes Crazy

So this is me doing what I am sworn not to do. That is, write briefly about the contemporary events that everyone else is writing about and for no money. It’s almost like tweeting – but not quite. On January 6th 2021 a bunch of hooligans as we would call them became the first people […]

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