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From The Blog

Dooby Dooby Do

Andrew O’Hagan, 4 December 2009

... It's nice to see Marilyn liked pot. It's so much more sociable than Nembutal, Seconal, Dalmane and Quaaludes, the stuff she took on her own. Somebody at Twentieth Century Fox told me the summer before last that she liked weed: the grips on her films were always happy to dole it out. When I heard that, I immediately pictured her sitting with her dog Maf in Forest Lawn, puffing her face off ...

On the A1

Andrew O’Hagan, 4 March 2021

... The road is a no man’s land on the edge of society,’ Rupert Martin wrote in 1983, introducing Paul Graham’s photo­graphs of the A1, ‘and its inhabitants – the staff of cafés or hotels, the lorry drivers, salesmen and others who ply the road – are often imbued with a solitary stoicism, a kind of self-sufficient melancholy.’ There are those for whom the main road between Scotland and England was more essential to society – James Boswell, for instance, who, in November 1762, travel­led the near­ly four hundred miles in a cold chaise, putting in at Berwick, Durham, Doncaster and Biggleswade ...
From The Blog

When guilty men kill themselves

Andrew O’Hagan, 11 August 2019

... Fred West killed himself in Birmingham Prison on the first day of 1995. I had worked on the story of the murders the whole of the previous year. The police in the case were disappointed: West had just come off suicide watch, and they had been keen to see him stand trial and face the evidence they’d gathered. Apparently, he was depressed by his wife’s rejection of him and he felt he was giving her his life ...

By the Gasometers

Andrew O’Hagan, 2 July 2015

... In the days before Eurostar came to the area behind King’s Cross, before St Martin’s, the Guardian, Camden Council’s offices and (soon) Google UK, there existed a few cobbled streets and a couple of old railwaymen’s tenements. Battle Bridge Road, where the gasometers stood, was within a Victorian triangle formed by the two great railway stations of King’s Cross and St Pancras and the Regent’s Canal ...

On the Bus

Andrew O’Hagan, 29 July 2021

... On London buses, the passengers no longer speak to one another. They speak on their phone, often using a different sort of voice. Most are silent behind their masks. Only the gangs of school kids offer hope for the vitality of the language: they don’t muck about, patter-wise, and they don’t spare your blushes, curse-wise. Harold Pinter once warned that writers have a tendency to lose something when they stop taking the bus and begin taking taxis ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ageing Crims, 4 June 2015

... blended very naturally with the world of other folk heroes in the Glasgow of the 1920s. Michael O’Hagan was the kind of hard man feared and admired in equal measure, and, to this day, such men are spoken about as decent ordinary sorts who bring the spirit of the people along with them on their criminal activity. It is hard to know how this happens, except ...
From The Blog

How the Other Half Die

Andrew O’Hagan, 4 September 2009

... The trouble with living a bizarre life is that you've got a lot to live up to when you're no longer living. In that sense, Michael Jackson has got off to quite a good start. First, he dies at homesurrounded by strange medical equipment and children's toys. Second, there's a doctor standing nearby. Most people, if they're in danger of dying, wouldn't mind having a doctor to hand, but in thecase of bizarre celebrities the presence of a doctor doesn't always guarantee their safety ...

‘Village Politicians’

Andrew O’Hagan, 18 December 2008

... When David Wilkie’s ‘Village Politicians’ first appeared at the Royal Academy in 1806 it caused a sensation. Less than ten years after the end of the French Revolution, less than ten years before Waterloo, we find a room of common Scots not only arguing the political toss but represented in a style that seeks neither to caricature them nor to elevate them ...
From The Blog


Andrew O’Hagan, 29 September 2009

... A strange thing can happen to film directors with a genuine style. It doesn’t always happen, but it often does: their life begins to impersonate their films. It is more typical to think of the process happening the other way round: John Ford is a drunken Irish brawler at heart, so he makes pictures imbued with the experience of hard-nosed pugilists transplanted from the poteen-stills of County Galway ...
From The Blog

After the Deluge

Andrew O’Hagan, 31 December 2015

... The average mid-life crisis ends in a red sports car, but mine landed in a caravan. I bought it during a fearful rainstorm 18 months ago and moved my fishing rod in the following day. There are two bottles of whisky here and a pot of soup on the hob; there’s a jar of pencils, an old typewriter, and a nice edition of The Mill on the Floss, which contains the best written account of a British flood that presently exists ...
From The Blog

The Queen Mother and the Poet

Andrew O’Hagan, 21 September 2009

... People in England found it very easy to love the Queen Mother. She was, it seemed, a perfect repository of the national theme, Past Caring. She stayed in London during the Blitz, she didn't like foreigners – especially foreign women, especially Wallis Simpson – and she drank like a fish. She liked a party, loved a wheeze, adored a jape, and not far into William Shawcross's very admiring official biography, published this week, we find Elizabeth Bowes Lyon kicking up her heels in Paris in 1924 ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Andrew O’Hagan: Lucian Freud, 26 April 2012

... Titian’s Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto were described by Lucian Freud as ‘simply the most beautiful pictures in the world’. And not long ago, in an act of Alex Salmond-defying co-operation, the National Gallery of Scotland and the National Gallery of Great Britain raided their respective coffers – as well as the coffers of their respective, culturally estranged governments – to buy the pictures from the Duke of Sutherland ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Telecom Rehab, 4 October 2007

... says they have 40 per cent off shoe racks for the months of August and September!’ My name’s Andrew, and I’m a reachaholic. Through the fellowship of other sufferers I’ve come to see there are worse things than not being available for entire stretches of 15 minutes. I’m taking it one day at a time, but I know I am powerless before the influence of ...

At the Half

Andrew O’Hagan, 20 May 2021

... Stage​ actors tend to be judged on how they cope in front of an audience rather than backstage, but dressing room etiquette is definitely a thing. Some performers do great work in the afterglow, pouring drinks and accepting tributes from visitors; others jitter and sniff like voles returned from a savage encounter with daylight. At London’s Duchess Theatre one night, Edna O’Brien and I climbed a million steps to the dressing rooms to congratulate Mark Rylance and his co-star on their performances in Beckett’s Endgame ...

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