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They like it there

Ian Aitken, 5 August 1993

Making Aristocracy Work: The Peerage and the Political System in Britain 1884-1914 
by Andrew Adonis.
Oxford, 311 pp., £35, May 1993, 0 19 820389 6
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The House of Lords at Work: A Study Based on the 1988-89 Session 
edited by Donald Shell and David Beamish.
Oxford, 420 pp., £45, March 1993, 0 19 827762 8
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... is evidence of, or even compatible with, the work of an effective revising chamber. Moreover, Donald Shell and his co-authors point out that most of these production-line amendments were not attempts by the Lords to improve government bills but efforts by ministers to tidy up their own badly drafted legislation. Almost all the amendments carried by ...


David Craig: Barra Microcosm, 24 May 2001

... miles of machair stretch from the western dunes to the eastern rocky moors. This is a plain of shell-sand, where millions of cockles and whelks, razor-shells and buckies, ground into ivory fragments smaller than a baby’s fingernail, have mingled with a little humus from generations of flowers and grasses, dung and discarded thatch, to make a fragile ...

Outposts of Progress

Mark Elvin, 19 October 1995

Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860 
by Richard Grove.
Cambridge, 540 pp., £45, April 1995, 0 521 40385 5
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... in the seas, which both stores carbon dioxide – a ‘greenhouse gas’ – in its shell, and emits dimethyl sulphide, which, suitably transformed, provides condensation sites for water vapour and causes clouds to form over the oceans. More critically, what the natural infrastructure provides is not products or resources, but functions (like ...


Kathleen Jamie: Gannets, Whaups, Skuas, 7 August 2003

... gannet, because it was washed up on the shore on Arran. I left the body among the dried wrack and shell-grit, and took the head home in my bag. It was the skull I wanted, a sculptural form, the sightless sockets and that great piercing bill. I could picture it mounted in a glass box, and hung on the wall; or, better, displayed on the low table here in my ...

Favoured Irregulars

Andy Beckett: The Paras, 24 January 2019

Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper 
by Helen Parr.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 241 28894 8
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... he fires the [rocket] into the cave, and there’s a big explosion.’ Horror: ‘The artillery shell had landed right close to him … he had no hands, and his face was completely missing.’ The high after winning a battle: ‘You were … drunk on happiness.’ And the studied calm that follows: ‘We took up new positions in sangars built by the ...

Smilingly Excluded

Richard Lloyd Parry: An Outsider in Tokyo, 17 August 2006

The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 
by Donald Richie, edited by Leza Lowitz.
Stone Bridge, 494 pp., £13.99, October 2005, 1 880656 97 3
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... or a Paul Bowles. No one has had a greater yearning or been better qualified to fill this gap than Donald Richie. ‘Almost everything I do, everything that is known about me, is connected to this country,’ he wrote. ‘To be a person so intent upon describing a place not his own – isn’t this odd?’ Over sixty years in Japan, he has been a ...

What a Mother

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Marianne Moore and Her Mother, 3 December 2015

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore 
by Linda Leavell.
Farrar, Straus, 455 pp., $18, September 2014, 978 0 374 53494 3
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... Marianne’s most nearly autobiographical poem, published in 1940, describes the ‘thin glass shell’ secreted by the mother for herself and her eggs, a kind of hatchery. It would be a challenge to read it without thinking of Mary recalling Marianne to the shell and the pair crawling inside like two cephalopods ...


David Craig: In the Barra Isles, 30 October 1997

... in the mid-19th century). On an outcrop above the soft ground fringed with yellow irises stood the shell of a stone house, gables still chimneyed, the lintels of door and windows still in place: ‘the MacCormicks’ house, the one good stone house on Pabbay’, according to Chrissie’s husband Niall. Below it lay the higgledy-piggledy of very old house ...

Buckle Up!

Tim Barker: Oil Prices, 1 June 2017

Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices 
by Robert McNally.
Columbia, 300 pp., £27.95, January 2017, 978 0 231 17814 3
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... When​ Donald Trump nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon, as secretary of state, Robert McNally found the choice unremarkable. ‘The closest thing we have to a secretary of state outside government is the CEO of Exxon,’ he said. McNally is an energy consultant, a former adviser to George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio, and a member of the National Petroleum Council ...


David Bromwich: I met a Republican, 7 March 2019

... Donald Trump’s​ strategy for succeeding in the November mid-term elections consisted almost entirely of an effort to foment immigration panic. After it failed and he lost his Republican congressional majority he made a feint at appeasing the Democrats, with a deal to keep government running, then threatened to invoke emergency powers to build the wall his right-wing base demands, and at last offered a hint of moderate conciliation ...

Venus in Blue Jeans

Charles Nicholl: The Mona Lisa, 4 April 2002

Mona Lisa: The History of the World’s Most Famous Painting 
by Donald Sassoon.
HarperCollins, 350 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 00 710614 9
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... her? It is that question, in all its historical and cultural ramifications, which is addressed in Donald Sassoon’s elegant and comprehensive study of the Mona Lisa phenomenon. ‘She is older than the rocks among which she sits’, wrote the Victorian aesthete Walter Pater, poetically if not very gallantly. In more measured terms she is getting on for five ...

Home Stretch

John Sutherland: David Storey, 17 September 1998

A Serious Man 
by David Storey.
Cape, 359 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 9780224051583
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by David Storey.
Vintage, 555 pp., £6.99, June 1998, 0 09 927408 6
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... of Saville is more uplifting than most, concluding as it does with the memorable Storeyism, ‘the shell had cracked.’ Colin Saville makes his break, turning like Paul Morel towards the light of the city on the hill. He’s done with school-mastering. ‘You haven’t any lodgings or anything,’ his lachrymose mother tells him as he prepares to catch the ...


Neal Ascherson: In Gdansk, 19 October 2017

... shops. At the end, you enter what might be the same street six years later: a vast, gutted shell with charred window-holes, and a Soviet tank abandoned on a heap of rubble. Victory? War museums in fortunate countries say: ‘It was terrible, there were tragic losses, but we won in the end.’ It’s different here. Poland was on the winning side but ...

Blood for Oil?

Retort: The takeover of Iraq, 21 April 2005

... the oil business directly into political office. Five ‘supermajors’ (Exxon-Mobil, Royal Dutch-Shell, BP-Amoco, TotalFinaElf and Chevron-Texaco), elephantine oil corporations with wells, pipelines, refineries and subsidiaries in almost every country on earth, and collective sales revenues of more than $500 billion (almost twice the GDP of sub-Saharan ...

Private Lives

Ray Monk, 22 November 1990

... out to be as good as his word. Back came pictures of the 1939 AEC Regent with LCT body (Weyman shell) used in Liverpool between 1939 and 1957, and, for the sake of comparison, pictures of the ST-type buses used in London at the same time. The two are unmistakably different (the tell-tale indicator is the shape of the destination blind, which shows up ...

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