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Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner, 6 December 2018

... remained, as the Kent county surveyor of the time would later admit, ‘little more than a country lane’. As these belching monsters – which were, of course, small by the standards of the EU’s present European Modular System – ground their way along this scarcely improved turnpike road, they crawled through a string of startled villages before reaching ...

Mother One, Mother Two

Jeremy Harding: A memoir, 31 March 2005

... me with the machinery of my investigation and informed me of the name of my natural mother – Margaret Walsh – which my adoptive mother had only ever hazarded or garbled. But after a few days in the Family Records Centre in London, it was clear that there’d be work to do: the number of Margaret Walshes qualifying as ...


Rose George: In Dewsbury, 17 November 2005

... goes, he got on his bicycle and cycled down south. He reached Ashtead, in Surrey, saw a pretty lane overhung with trees, and said he was never going back. My mother still ended up in Yorkshire – and in the centre of the Heavy Woollen District. After the invention of the rag-grinding machine in 1813, Dewsbury entrepreneurs realised they could spin cloth ...

Dying and Not Dying

Cathy Gere: Henrietta Lacks, 10 June 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 
by Rebecca Skloot.
Macmillan, 368 pp., £18.99, June 2010, 978 0 230 74869 9
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... sample of tissue from the tumour on her cervix and sent it off to the laboratory of George and Margaret Gey (pronounced ‘Guy’), two research scientists who were engaged in a frustrating quest to keep human cells alive outside the body. For years the Geys had been taking tissue samples from Johns Hopkins patients, nurturing the cells with ...

Fatalism, Extenuation and Despair

Peter Clarke: John Major, 5 March 1998

Major: A Political Life 
by Anthony Seldon.
Weidenfeld, 856 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 297 81607 1
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... for the Larkhill ward of Lambeth in 1964. The experience of living in rented rooms in Cold-harbour Lane, Brixton, after his father’s business had failed was still fresh. The fact of having left school early, with embarrassingly few qualifications, meant that Major was struggling to get his foot on the ladder – any ladder – at an age when Heath and ...

The Last London

Iain Sinclair, 30 March 2017

... into walls of curved glass and progressive holes in the ground. The darkened showroom of the Brick Lane monumental mason with the Jewish headstones will be an art gallery. So? The Victorian theatre on Dalston Lane is already a windblown concrete slab with optional water jets propping up a reef of speculative towers nobody ...

Who’s the real cunt?

Andrew O’Hagan: Dacre’s Paper, 1 June 2017

Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain 
by Adrian Addison.
Atlantic, 407 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 78239 970 4
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... the first known use of the word in English was in 1230, when an Oxford street was named Gropecunt Lane. Paul Dacre, that nice man who edits the Daily Mail, has become famous in recent times for ‘double-cunting’: a colleague, usually male, will be ticked off via a thunderous, compound deployment of the Old Frisian. ‘You call that a good cunting ...

Unruly Sweet Peas

Alison Light: Working-Class Gardens, 18 December 2014

The Gardens of the British Working Class 
by Margaret Willes.
Yale, 413 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 300 18784 7
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... Apple is out this month.) Less has been written about the history of working-class gardeners. As Margaret Willes acknowledges, the majority of the working classes didn’t have the time or money to cultivate a garden until the 20th century; the worst off, those in cramped tenements or industrial back-to-backs built in the 19th century, had little if any ...

Meg, Jo, Beth and Me

Elaine Showalter, 23 March 1995

Little Women 
directed by Gillian Armstrong.
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... LeRoy’s 1949 remake, with June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Margaret O’Brien as Beth. Peter Lawford played a glamorous Laurie – indeed, the screenplay describes Laurie as looking ‘not unlike our idea of Edgar Allan Poe’. Armstrong’s Little Women is the most British and Pickwickian of the movie versions, set in a ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... The Satanic Verses. One strand in Salman Rushdie’s novel, necessarily under-discussed, was Brick Lane-based, a Bollywood dérive through the territory where I came across Moorcock’s King of the City poster. Both authors have moved on. Rushdie, seduced by the high-definition celebrity culture of New York, new smells, brighter lights, has denounced his old ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... Mabey takes issue with the common characterisation of John as ‘oppressive and cruel’, blaming Margaret Lane’s biographical essay of 1957. Lane, who as well as being a novelist, biographer and countess was president of the Jane Austen Society (along with the Johnson Society, Brontë Society and Dickens ...

From the Motorcoach

Stefan Collini: J.B. Priestley, 19 November 2009

English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Great Northern Books, 351 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 905080 47 2
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... contains several such set-pieces, the best-known being his visit to the street he calls ‘Rusty Lane’ in West Bromwich at the end of his tour of Birmingham and the Black Country. Part of Priestley’s popularity lay in his readiness to pull out the emotional stops. He was not frightened of the hackneyed or obvious. Thus, his visit to Rusty ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... that she was herself French, but we know of two earlier maids in the Mountjoy household – Margaret Brown and Joan Langford – and both were English. Could Mountjoy’s servant and concubine in 1613 be Frances Williams? This is speculation, of course, though it would explain why Mountjoy ends up being charged along with the three Frenchmen. As the ...

A Car of One’s Own

Andrew O’Hagan: Chariots of Desire, 11 June 2009

... if the car industry fails the Labour government will go with it (not that it won’t go anyway). Margaret Thatcher thrived on the effects of recession by positing them as the sad but unavoidable consequence of economic resolve and modernisation. Labour can’t use that vocabulary so easily. The names Dagenham and Longbridge have a haunting effect on the ...

What’s left of Henrietta Lacks?

Anne Enright: HeLa, 13 April 2000

... eight months later but in the meantime some of the cells found their way to the lab of John and Margaret Gey of Johns Hopkins University. They were trying to find a method of keeping human cells dividing in a culture outside the body and had turned to cancer cells for their ability to divide essentially unchecked. These particular cells, named HeLa for the ...

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