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Poetry and Soda

Barbara Everett, 5 February 1981

The Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Penguin, 335 pp., £1.75, November 1980, 0 14 042142 4
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The Penguin Book of Light Verse 
edited by Gavin Ewart.
Penguin, 639 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 14 042270 6
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... other good poems he likes that could truthfully be said to do more than mention localities. Gavin Ewart is a very good and very readable writer of verse which, if not ‘light’, is not heavy either. If, therefore, his Penguin Book of Light Verse is less wholly pleasurable, even less admirable, than Geoffrey Grigson’s now nearly ten-years-old but ...


Chris Mullin: The Birmingham Bombers, 21 February 2019

... men involved, who are now dead (I am about to do so), but the man described in my book as the ‘young planter’ is still alive, and I will not name him. Within four hours of the explosions on 21 November five Irishmen – Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, Billy Power and Johnny Walker – were arrested at Heysham in Lancashire as they got off a ...

First words, last chances

D.J. Enright, 13 May 1993

... perforate – A case of jactitation.    Being discovered In flagrante delicto    With a young person In statu pupillari He pleads hypnopaedia.    Dreaming you’re starving Lost in a forest: millefeuilles    Drift down to your mouth.    Sucking at jujubes (Junketing, jabberwocky!)    Sipping mint juleps.    It still disturbs him The ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... is no doubt David Hare would have deputed this to an underling.’ So I was happy to read in Gavin Lambert’s Mainly about Lindsay Anderson* that Lindsay harboured similar thoughts about such self-imposed menialities. On the eve of filming O Lucky Man Lindsay has his ailing mother to stay in his flat in Swiss Cottage. Before she arrives he cleans up the ...
The New Select Committees: A Study of the 1979 Reforms 
edited by Gavin Drewry.
Oxford, 410 pp., £25, September 1985, 9780198227854
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Commons Select Committees: Catalysts for Progress? 
edited by Dermot Englefield.
Longman, 288 pp., £15, May 1984, 0 582 90260 6
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British Government and the Constitution: Text, Cases and Materials 
by Colin Turpin.
Weidenfeld, 476 pp., £25, September 1985, 0 297 78651 2
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Parliament in the 1980s 
edited by Philip Norton.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £19.50, July 1985, 0 631 14056 5
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... have mixed these types of inquiry, with varying objectives and varying degrees of success. As Gavin Drewry, the editor of The New Select Committees, points out in his introduction, ‘the purpose of a report may be to influence a government department, or another public sector agency, or to provide information for MPs to use in a forthcoming Parliamentary ...


Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... 13 January. Having supper in the National Theatre restaurant are Lindsay Anderson and Gavin Lambert. ‘I suppose you like this place,’ says Lindsay. I do, actually, as the food is now very good. I say so and Lindsay, who judges all restaurants by the standard of the Cosmo in Finchley Road, smiles wearily, pleased to be reassured about one’s moral decline ...

Toshie Trashed

Gavin Stamp: The Glasgow School of Art Fire, 19 June 2014

... in 1896 and won by the Glasgow firm of Honeyman & Keppie. The drawings were made by a brilliant young assistant, a policeman’s son from Dennistoun who was born Charles R. McIntosh, but he was not at first given any credit for the design. The plan is admirably clear, with tall north-facing studios placed along spinal corridors. The huge windows that light ...

The Head in the Shed

Gavin Francis: Reading Bones, 21 January 2021

Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind 
by Sue Black.
Doubleday, 359 pp., £18.99, September 2020, 978 0 85752 690 8
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... and facial contours provide a lot of information about ethnicity. She writes about a decomposed young woman bound in tape and folded into a suitcase, who she could confidently say was of East Asian origin: ‘Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Japan or China. I didn’t think she had the facial characteristics that would take her south into Malaysia or ...


Gavin Francis: Lycanthropy, 2 November 2017

... my patients once fell twenty feet from it. Gary Hobbes wasn’t normally a tree-climber: he was a young man with schizophrenia who, after taking a cocktail of MDMA, became convinced he had transformed into a cat. Witnesses recounted that on the day of his fall he had been prowling the local streets examining the contents of bins, before scaling the elm to ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... of life, and standards of civilised behaviour’. In a remote part of Abyssinia in 1933 he met a young Danakil tribesman who had just killed three men: ‘He looked about eighteen, with a ready, friendly smile and considerable charm . . . He struck me as the Danakil equivalent of a nice, rather self-conscious Etonian who had just won his school colours for ...


Zoë Heller: Ronald Reagan, 2 March 2000

Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 874 pp., £24.99, October 1999, 0 00 217709 9
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... that enigma with its own blare and kerfuffle. Eventually, ‘Morris’ gets married and has a son, Gavin. Morris fils grows up to be a left-wing political activist deeply committed to the New Left and deeply hostile to the fascist bastards who run things – guys like, you know, the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. With much the same sense of effortful ...

The Untreatable

Gavin Francis: The Spanish Flu, 25 January 2018

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World 
by Laura Spinney.
Jonathan Cape, 352 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 1 910702 37 6
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... distracted. Frail elderly people often have a less robust systemic response to infection than the young and fit, but even so, Mr Wedderburn was flushed with a temperature of 38°C, and was breathing much too quickly. As I listened to his lungs with my stethoscope his fingers picked at the bedcovers, and his feet knocked against his cot-bars. When I took a ...

Kindness rules

Gavin Millar, 8 January 1987

A Life in Movies 
by Michael Powell.
Heinemann, 705 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 9780434599455
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All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema 
edited by Charles Barr.
BFI, 446 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 85170 179 5
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... published since the war, but I hope to do better than that. It will, I hope, be the story of a young man of the 20th century and his Muse, his dazzling, dancing, fascinating mistress. I owe it to my cock-teasing mistress to get it all down. Much that is attractive about Powell, and a good deal of what makes his compatriots occasionally shy away from ...

Cerebral Hygiene

Gavin Francis: Sleep Medicine, 29 June 2017

The Mystery of Sleep: Why a Good Night’s Rest Is Vital to a Better, Healthier Life 
by Meir Kryger.
Yale, 330 pp., £20, May 2017, 978 0 300 22408 5
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... sleepwalking (which happens during non-REM sleep) and also from night terrors – so common in young children as to be normal. There is an overlap between these conditions and the recurring nightmares that afflict some sufferers of post-traumatic stress. If you’re severely sleep-deprived you may experience vivid dreams as you drift off or wake up ...

‘I’m glad what I done’

Gavin Millar, 13 October 1988

A Life 
by Elia Kazan.
Deutsch, 848 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 233 98292 2
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... and especially, of the core of concern, as distinct from envy, which had driven him as a young man to join the Communist Party. This ‘brotherliness’ is not something he expects to rekindle. With his departure, the misery will remain, while he is ‘safe, well-fed and indiffrent’. A letter from the past provokes him to more metaphysical ...

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