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By the Gasometers

Andrew O’Hagan

1 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 ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ageing Crims

3 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 ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: A journey to citizenship

16 November 2006
... Becoming a British citizen is a significant life event,’ the former home secretary David Blunkett writes. ‘The government intends to make gaining British citizenship meaningful and celebratory rather than simply a bureaucratic process.’ The quote is not from Blunkett’s diaries but from the funniest book currently available in the English language, published by the Home Office, and called Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: HBO

10 June 2010
... Somewhere around the time of the second season of The Sopranos, people at dinner parties stopped gossiping about their friends’ sex lives and started talking about American television shows, later designated ‘box sets’. Nowadays, it’s all anybody ever talks about, and the quickest way to feel old or out of it is to find oneself unable to speak, in detail, about why Jeremy Piven is so brilliant as the agent in Entourage ...
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 ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: The Oscars

26 February 2009
... It’s not easy to believe, but people used to think the Oscars didn’t matter. Now the hoopla takes up half a year, much longer if you take into account that many actors, writers and directors begin mugging for Oscars the moment they agree to a project. In previous times a respectable number of the nominees didn’t turn up at all, but now they would sooner be wheeled in semi-recumbent on their sickbeds than forgo the occasion altogether ...

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 ...

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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 ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: Slayer Slang and Bling Bling

21 August 2003
... We are told that the average household’s electricity usage goes up 100 per cent during the summer holidays, the result not of air-conditioning but of an almost total aversion among today’s nippers to the bee-loud glade, in fact to the great outdoors in general, which appears to be a place rather badly equipped to compete with video games called things like ‘Wasp Attack IV ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: Scotland's hirsute folk hero

17 August 2006
... Thomas Sheridan, the father of the more famous Richard Brinsley Sheridan, devoted himself in the 1760s to ‘rubbing away the roughnesses of the Scottish tongue’. His volume of Lectures on Elocution was once a great hit in Edinburgh. The other Thomas Sheridan, known as Tommy to the tabloids and to friends and enemies alike, is the former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, and his efforts to represent himself in a defamation case against the News of the World has been providing the city with a theatrical spectacle the Edinburgh Festival will struggle to equal ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: The Queen

11 May 2006
... The Queen once detained me as I tried to get into an ice-rink. It was one of those hot days in the summer of 1977, and the portly Mr Waddle, or Akela as we liked to call him in Jungle Book parlance, took a pack of us to the Magnum Leisure Centre. I was feeling a bit down as I only had one cub scout badge (for housekeeping) and I thought I might get another one pinned to my jumper for careering across the ice in my toggle and cap ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: Malingering trolley dollies

8 February 2007
... The art of throwing a sickie doesn’t get the recognition (or the funding) it deserves. Even the straitlaced and well-attending would admit that it takes panache to get away with it on a regular basis. Bupa discovered that the most common excuses used by those phoning in sick were food poisoning and flu, though it also found that the majority of managers didn’t believe them ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: Don’t panic

13 December 2007
... Some years ago I went to see the coroner at St Pancras. It was a bright afternoon, and daylight poured in from the old graveyard, a place that, in those days, had no very profound connection with the mainland of Europe, unless you consider the graves of Mary Shelley’s parents (now removed) to summon the connection between France and England more congenially than the Eurotunnel ...

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Andrew O’Hagan: Dinner at the Digs

20 March 2008
... If you are an Inuit or a hummingbird, you are very unlikely to die of heart disease, suffer from diabetes, or be extremely fat. You are also unlikely to drive a Bentley down the Brompton Road, but that’s not what interests the world’s top foodies, who look to ruddy Eskimos and buzz-winged birds to explain the success of a diet rich in Omega-3. Foodies are responsible for thousands of books every year, which people buy in droves, expecting to learn the secret of eternal happiness, but by and large these books always have the same message: eat fish and plants ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Susan Boyle

14 May 2009
... Was there a time when people didn’t know what other people were thinking? I can vouch for the fact that there was: it lasted, roughly speaking, from the dawn of man until the launch of YouTube. In the 1970s, if you wanted to know what other people were thinking you might read a novel, but to do that you would have to make a journey to a bookshop or a library or borrow it from another human being ...

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