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Guilty Men

Michael Neve, 5 March 1981

The Fate of Mary Rose 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Cape, 208 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 224 01791 8
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Darling, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble 
by Caroline Blackwood and Anna Haycraft.
Cape, 224 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 224 01834 5
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... in the metropolis. Guilt is at a minimum, and sensualists can get on with it – i.e. drink and cook at the same time. Olive oil is essential; instant potato has its place; lump-fish roe is caviar, if you think about it. Children get properly treated – special recipes for them (but not hot curried spam, surely, not even in Beckham). And they get extra ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett, 23 May 1985

Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... tidiness as he was for punctuality he would never have had his pinny off. Chester was an inspired cook, though wasted on Auden, who preferred good nursery food and lashings of it. A toilet innocent of Harpic, a sideboard barren of Pledge, the New York set-up on St Marks Place was not an apartment for the fastidious. Those who are not as other men are often ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... to provide such posthumous attestations of one another’s genius. It happened when Peter Cook died and with the same maudlin affection. ‘Dear Cooky’, ‘Dear Spike’. The necessary element of suffering, the cost always sought for in the deaths of comics, and which in Peter’s case came with the drink, is here supplied by mental illness (‘No ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2010, 16 December 2010

... the world since Mrs Thatcher in that gritty hard little word. 2 May. Several of the obituaries of Alan Sillitoe who died last week mention how, when as a child he was being hit by his father, his mother would beg ‘Not on his head. Not on his head.’ My father was a mild man and seldom hit my brother or me but when he did my mother would make the same ...

Corbyn in the Media

Paul Myerscough, 22 October 2015

... she would surely be more open to the ‘new politics’ than the paper would have been under Alan Rusbridger. It hasn’t worked out that way. What started with denial, as the unions and constituency Labour Parties came out for Corbyn and people registered as supporters in their tens of thousands, soon turned to horror, and finally to stunned ...

Who was the enemy?

Bernard Porter: Gallipoli, 21 May 2015

by Alan Moorehead.
Aurum, 384 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 1 78131 406 7
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Gallipoli: A Soldier’s Story 
by Arthur Beecroft.
Robert Hale, 176 pp., £12.99, March 2015, 978 0 7198 1654 3
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Gallipoli 1915 
by Joseph Murray.
Silvertail, 210 pp., £12.99, April 2015, 978 1 909269 11 8
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Gallipoli: The Dardanelles Disaster in Soldiers’ Words and Photographs 
by Richard van Emden and Stephen Chambers.
Bloomsbury, 344 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 4088 5615 4
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... is another – that the British seem almost to revel in, even to gain strength from. As Peter Cook said in Beyond the Fringe, ‘we need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.’ The general verdict today is that it could never have worked. The strategy was foolish and hopeless. One major of the Gurkhas thought that this ...

Our Flexible Friends

Conor Gearty, 18 April 1996

Scott Inquiry Report 
by Richard Scott.
HMSO, 2386 pp., £45, February 1996, 0 10 262796 7
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... a sort of political bible with Sir Richard Scott in the role of the Yahweh/ Saviour and Robin Cook and Ian Lang fighting it out to play St Paul. In fact, the occasional double negative aside (these alone have been enough to drive our illiterate media into hysterical denunciations of prolixity), the Report is a model of clarity. Its narrative is compelling ...

Don’t Ask Henry

Alan Hollinghurst: Sissiness, 9 October 2008

by Howard Sturgis.
NYRB, 345 pp., £8.99, May 2008, 978 1 59017 266 7
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... as Leon Edel remarked was ‘not at all intellectual’ himself. Sturgis had an exceptionally good cook, and the dyspeptic Henry James complained of a sense of ‘repleteness before (even) dinner’. Still, he clearly enjoyed the Qu’Acre atmosphere of gossipy companionship mixed with intense reverence for himself. It was an indulgent contrast to the lonelier ...


Alan Bennett: A Round of Applause, 7 January 2021

... Unsurprisingly, this left my mother perpetually anxious lest we catch it. Mrs Sherwood was a good cook and often invited my brother and me to sample her dishes, which we were strictly forbidden to do. On one occasion, though, I succumbed (Yorkshire pudding) and foolishly saying so at home it was as if I’d signed my own death warrant.TB was to blame for ...


Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... eventful. Not only do I hardly drink and Rupert neither, but I don’t know anyone who does, Peter Cook about the only drunk I’ve ever known. In New York in the 1980s I used to like a screwdriver. Two was my limit, with three making me tipsy, which I found delightful. Had I been able to remain in that intermediate state I suppose I could have been a ...


John Lanchester, 5 June 1997

Journals 1990-92 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £20, May 1997, 0 434 00430 8
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... interests. Here is the entry for one relatively minor character, Albert Creech: The Jenkinses’ cook (formerly hall-boy to Jenkins’s grandmother) at Stonehurst in 1914: ‘Albert, fleshy, sallow, blue-chinned, breathing hard, sweating a little, fitted an iron bar into sockets ... Rolled shirt-sleeves, green baize apron, conferred a misleadingly ...

The Lady in the Back Seat

Thomas Jones: Robert Harris’s Alternative Realities, 15 November 2007

The Ghost 
by Robert Harris.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 09 179626 6
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... Bletchley Park to enable the British to regain the upper hand in the cryptographic struggle is not Alan Turing, however, but a neurotic Cambridge mathematician who fancies girls: Tom Jericho’s heart has been broken by a cruel, icy blonde who has mysteriously gone missing from Bletchley. Investigating her disappearance, Jericho also finds time to solve the ...

His Own Peak

Ian Sansom: John Fowles’s diary, 6 May 2004

John Fowles: The Journals, Vol. I 
edited by Charles Drazin.
Cape, 668 pp., £30, October 2003, 9780224069113
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John Fowles: A Life in Two Worlds 
by Eileen Warburton.
Cape, 510 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 224 05951 3
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... of curates and Edwardian ladies; prisoners of conscience; Anaïs Nin; Richard Crossman; Tony Benn; Alan Bennett. But on the whole, no. And yet we can’t stop ourselves. These days, if you’re a young writer and you don’t do your own weblog you’re something of an exception, and even for the amateur, the ‘journaler’, there’s now a whole industry ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers: The Menopause, 10 October 1991

... which was, roughly speaking, all the time that was left from thinking about what to wear, what to cook, and what colour to paint the downstairs lavatory. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but not nearly as much of one as I would like it to be. I am the same age as Germaine Greer and therefore in much the same relation to the subject of her new book, The ...

Iniquity in Romford

Bernard Porter: Black Market Britain, 23 May 2013

Black Market Britain 1939-55 
by Mark Roodhouse.
Oxford, 276 pp., £65, March 2013, 978 0 19 958845 9
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... Army who slips the buxom Mrs Fox a couple of sausages on the side. (In his LRB Diary for 2002, Alan Bennett cited a letter from a Grantham evacuee reporting the rumour that Alderman Roberts was ‘thought to be into the black market’. It is tempting to imagine that this was where Thatcher learned her neoliberal ethics, but ‘a bit under the ...

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