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Ages of the Train

Christopher Driver, 8 January 1987

The Railway Station: A Social History 
by Jeffrey Richards and John MacKenzie.
Oxford, 440 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 19 215876 7
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The Railways of Britain: A Journey through History 
by Jack Simmons.
Macmillan, 255 pp., £15.95, May 1986, 0 333 40766 0
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... and the ‘bewilderment and alienation’ of communities robbed of their ‘nodal points’. Jack Simmons’s history – a much revised and now copiously illustrated version of a book first published in 1968 – shows a fairer sense of proportion, alluding to the ‘scandalous personal vilification’ to which Lord Beeching was subjected and ...

Urban Humanist

Sydney Checkland, 15 September 1983

Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in Urban History by H.J. Dyos 
edited by David Cannadine and David Reeder.
Cambridge, 258 pp., £20, September 1982, 0 521 24624 5
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Themes in Urban History: Patricians, Power and Politics in 19th-Century Towns 
edited by David Cannadine.
Leicester University Press, 224 pp., £16.50, October 1982, 9780718511937
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... can make its mark, building on the work of predecessors – in this case, H.R. Finberg and Jack Simmons – and sustained by its press. At conferences Jim Dyos would be accessible to all, urbane as the doyen of urban historians ought to be. Any new approach to towns and cities interested him. But not many proposals reached him from the British ...

Looking back in anger

Hilary Mantel, 21 November 1991

Almost a Gentleman. An Autobiography: Vol. II 1955-66 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 273 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16261 4
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... would not have shown these off to advantage; the opportunity to loll among the palms with Jean Simmons went to the Welsh actor Donald Houston. Houston was blond and wholesome, and had a long career, much of it in B-movies; it’s interesting to think that John Osborne might have enjoyed it in his stead. Osborne as the fourth intern in Doctor in the ...


Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... are flowers and little candlelit shrines; flowers fixed to trees, poems, painted messages; a Union Jack and teddy bears (which always bode ill). Many are Asian and the populousness of it, as well as the random milling about, make me think that this is perhaps what India is like.The evening is redeemed by an extraordinary sight. Despite the hundreds and ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1996, 2 January 1997

... children’s cartoons. Telephoned by the same company last week I agree to do another in a Posy Simmons animated film about a pig who acts a theatrical dresser; this seems right up my street. Except I am called today to say that, unaware of my interest, the casting director has approached someone else and ‘his agent is standing firm.’ Clearly Stephen ...

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