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Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream

Bee Wilson: Jonathan Meades, 14 July 2016

An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... writes brilliantly about the kinds of food that were and were not deemed acceptable in postwar Wiltshire. Take cheese. The list of cheese was short. There was basically just cheddar (always called ‘mousetrap’) and Gorgonzola, which his father called ‘gorgon’. At Christmas, there would ‘appear a stoneware crock of Stilton festering in grocer’s ...

Piperism

William Feaver: John and Myfanwy Piper, 17 December 2009

John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art 
by Frances Spalding.
Oxford, 598 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 19 956761 4
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... a wan light on pews reserved for the use of MPs in St Margaret’s, Westminster, are untypical of John Piper. Normally, his stained glass seethes, particularly in Coventry Cathedral, where a Piper sunburst behind the boulder that serves as a font irradiates a great wall of clunky fenestration. In Westminster though, in a building studded with fanciful ...

Urban Messthetics

John Mullan: Black and Asian writers in London, 18 November 2004

London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City 
by Sukhdev Sandhu.
Harper Perennial, 498 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 00 653214 4
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... by the sight of potato-sellers whipping their asses in the street; he visits the theatre to see John Henderson play Falstaff; he takes his family down the Thames to Vauxhall Gardens. He also studies the newspapers, intrigued most of all by the doings of high society. His outraged account of the Gordon Riots of 1780 (‘the worse than Negro barbarity of the ...

Cityphilia

John Lanchester: The credit crunch, 3 January 2008

... all the time, doing up and selling on houses, usually to move to the Old Rectory in Shaghampton, Wiltshire, with the husband spending three or more nights in town until the inevitable happens. (‘Half of my business is “The Old Rectory, Wiltshire”,’ a cheerful divorce lawyer once told me.) I’ve nothing against ...

Excepting the Aristocratical

Ian Gilmour, 23 March 1995

Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 
by John Habakkuk.
Oxford, 786 pp., £65, September 1994, 0 19 820398 5
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... wisdom to laymen. From about the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 19th, as Sir John Habakkuk, who thinks more kindly of the legal profession than Hogg and Godwin, shows in his massive and compelling account of English land-ownership over three hundred years, the most common of the ‘entails created’ by the lawyers was the strict ...

6/4 he won’t score 20

John Sturrock, 7 September 2000

Start of Play: Cricket and Culture in 18th-Century England 
by David Underdown.
Allen Lane, 258 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9330 8
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... a man has broke two heads, he must get off the stage, and fresh men must mount,’ ran a Wiltshire pub’s flysheet announcing an upcoming tournament.Cudgelling wasn’t to the taste of the gentry, who may have turned out to watch the lower orders setting head-breakingly about one another but didn’t mean to do so themselves. Cricket was ...

Turning down O’Hanlon

Mark Ford, 7 December 1989

In Trouble Again: A Journey between the Orinoco and the Amazon 
by Redmond O’Hanlon.
Penguin, 368 pp., £3.99, October 1989, 0 14 011900 0
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Our Grandmothers’ Drums: A Portrait of Rural African Life and Culture 
by Mark Hudson.
Secker, 356 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 436 20959 4
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Borderlines: A Journey in Thailand and Burma 
by Charles Nicholl.
Secker, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 436 30980 7
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... three-quarters. A mistle-thrush dropped half of an empty eggshell at his feet on the lawn of the Wiltshire Vicarage where he grew up: ‘Being unaware, at the time, of the empty cosmos, of the unfeelingness of causal connections, I concluded that this message of brown and purple blotches on a background of browny-white had been intended just for me.’ In ...

Star-Gazing

Tom Shippey, 12 December 1996

Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmas 
by John North.
HarperCollins, 609 pp., £25, July 1996, 0 00 255773 8
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... of the Environment – is not very impressive. Just old stones, in no clearly discernible order. John Fowles, in The Enigma of Stonehenge (1980), quotes a child saying worriedly: ‘Why are there so many doors?’ That is how it now seems: a lot of big doorways leading nowhere. Yet it yields some intimidating statistics. Its outer circle and its ...

A Resonance for William Styron

Gabriele Annan, 7 November 1985

Savage Grace 
by Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson.
Gollancz, 473 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 575 03738 5
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... the entries in Who’s Who. There are some known names: Cecil Beaton, Jasper Johns, James Jones, John Mortimer, Patricia Neal, William Styron, Andy Warhol. Among the rest are antique dealers, decorators, magazine editors, a ‘freelance music co-ordinator for fashion shows’, a princess ‘internationally concerned with matters of spiritual evolution’, an ...

Cad’s Cadenzas

Christopher Driver, 15 September 1988

William Walton: Behind the Façade 
by Susana Walton.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 19 315156 1
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Façade: Edith Sitwell Interpreted 
by Pamela Hunter.
Duckworth, 106 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 9780715621844
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... maggot.’ Laurence Whistler, in his biography of Rex Whistler, hastily excuses this stab from the Wiltshire queen wasp: ‘cad to her meant nothing more dishonourable than street boy, as it still did at Eton, and relates to an evening when in front of them all “with some purpose, Willy told us the whole story of his life so that we should realise that he ...

Diary

C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies, 27 April 2000

... in some chapters glaringly so. Chapter 10 recounts a lunch party at Naipaul’s house in the Wiltshire countryside. Theroux arrives by train and is met by a car sent, as promised, by Naipaul. His gratitude is short-lived. When he reaches the house the driver, Walters, asks for £4 – quite a large sum in 1974. (The book is full of stories of Naipaul’s ...

Opprobrious Epithets

Katrina Navickas: The Peterloo Massacre, 20 December 2018

Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre 
by Jacqueline Riding.
Head of Zeus, 386 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78669 583 3
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... without representation’ became a political demand for liberty, changed everything. Major John Cartwright (who was later to advise the Manchester radicals) and Thomas Paine were influenced by the American programme in their arguments for domestic reform, Take Your Choice! and Common Sense. Yet it was the French Revolution that made the working classes ...

Huff and Puff

John Sutherland, 3 October 1996

We Should Know Better 
by George Walden.
Fourth Estate, 231 pp., £9.99, September 1996, 1 85702 520 2
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All Must Have Prizes 
by Melanie Phillips.
Little, Brown, 384 pp., £17.50, September 1996, 0 316 88180 5
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... flimsy. On the subject of the ‘The National Curriculum Débâcle’ we are told that One Wiltshire teacher recorded that, to his personal knowledge, good teachers had been intimidated by local authority advisers who blighted their careers if they dared to teach children to write correct English. This meant, he said, that a number of schools tended to ...

Arsenals

Nicholas Spice, 18 October 1984

On the Perimeter: Caroline Blackwood at Greenham Common 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 113 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 434 07468 3
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The Witches of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 316 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 233 97665 5
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Corrigan 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 279 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 07467 5
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According to Mark 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780434427420
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... subject-matter fixed with a steady eye, The Witches of Eastwick through the potency of John Updike’s imaginative release. On the Perimeter records what Caroline Blackwood found at Greenham Common and in the town of Newbury, when she visited the nuclear protest encampments there in March this year, shortly before the town council attempted ...

Italianizzati

Hugh Honour, 13 November 1997

A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 
compiled by John Ingamells.
Yale, 1070 pp., £50, May 1997, 0 300 07165 5
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... Mellon Centre in London, which has now published it as this Dictionary, under the editorship of John Ingamells. The Dictionary is unique in its comprehensiveness. No traveller from the British Isles or the British colonies in America who was spotted anywhere in Italy has been omitted, even if no more than his or her surname is known. The Mellon Centre’s ...

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