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The Alternative: Politics for a Change 
edited by Ben Pimlott, Anthony Wright and Tony Flower.
W.H. Allen, 260 pp., £14.95, July 1990, 9781852271688
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... British politics at the moment seem curiously provisional. The failures of the present government are so gross and obvious that hardly anyone, even its nominal supporters, attempts to defend it ideologically. Yet at the same time hardly anyone believes that Labour will really win the next election, or that it could cope even if it did. There is also a strong sense that the re-ordering of continental Europe, whose outcome is itself indeterminate, has rendered our political life even more provisional: it has obliterated the old landmarks but made it quite unclear where we now go ...

The Gifts of Aphrodite

Tony Harrison, 4 January 2001

... nuts, ripe figs, pears, a fragrant herb to smell, thyme, basil, oregano . . . a red pomegranate flower a sprig of white jasmine. Then as we walked, hot and thirsty, a groaning green truck laden with leafy oranges driven by a black-clad priest drove past us. ‘Catch!’ he cried. The flung rogue orange rolled down the dusty hill till stopped by a wicket of ...


Tony Harrison, 19 February 2015

... the 35th time.Carpe diem but don’t translate carpe ‘seize’. Think of a day as a fruit or a flower and ‘seize’ at once sounds too grabbing, too rough. The verb carpo goes with flores, violas, lilia, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and in Virgil with rosam, poma, violas, papavera. Once you’ve taken the sense of snatching away you can simply, less ...

Men’s Talk

Alan Bennett, 3 December 1981

... is transformed into a crazed animal. Well, as soon as it’s practicable, Wendy hobbles down to Flower Arrangement, or whatever it is they do on an afternoon, and says: ‘Listen, girls, big news. Drop the macrame, gather round. If you moan, they like it more. Besides which, they get to the point a damn sight quicker. Which will leave us more time for ...

Soccer Sociology

Hans Keller, 3 July 1980

Association Football and English Society: 1863-1915 
by Tony Mason.
Harvester, 278 pp., £15.95, January 1980, 0 85527 797 1
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... and interestingly derives from the Corinthians’ annual event: now at last I (as distinct from Tony Mason) understand how we come to have these singular, unfriendly friendlies (a historic occasion ever since, in one of them, the Spurs goalkeeper Pat Jennings scored – punted – a goal against Manchester United), these uncompetitive matches, the only ...

The Mother of the Muses

Tony Harrison, 5 January 1989

... whose legs now ooze out water, who can’t walk, how she was ‘champion at tap’, ‘the flower’ (she poises the petals on the now frail stalk) ‘of the ballet troupe at Blackpool Tower’. You won’t hear Gene, Eugene, Yevgeny speak to nurses now, or God, in any other tongue but Russian, and your dad’s the same with Greek, all that’s left to ...

Beetle bonkers in the beams

Michael Wood: Tony Harrison, 5 July 2007

Collected Film Poetry 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 571 23409 7
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Collected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Viking, 452 pp., £154, April 2007, 978 0 670 91591 0
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... One of the great pleasures of reading Tony Harrison is the sense of quick passage between worlds, the sudden switch from the local to the international and back. At one moment he immerses us in a Northern (or Midlands in my case) English worry about what happens to us socially when we drop our ‘h’s and pronounce our ‘u’s as in ‘wuss’ rather than as in (the Southern form of) ‘lustre’, the next he is wondering how to memorialise the dead of Hiroshima or the Gulf War ...


Tony Harrison, 24 January 1985

... of flowers cans of beer and more than one grave sprayed with some skin’s name? Where there were flower urns and troughs of water and mesh receptacles for withered flowers are the HARP tins of some skinhead Leeds supporter. It isn’t all his fault though. Much is ours. 5 kids, with one in goal, play 2-a-side, When the ball bangs on the hawthorn that’s one ...

Christ’s Teeth

C.K. Stead, 10 October 1991

Studies in the Ezra Pound 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 388 pp., £25, April 1991, 0 85635 850 9
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Poems 1963-1983 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 205 pp., £8, August 1991, 0 436 25676 2
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Under the Circumstances 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 64 pp., £5.99, May 1991, 0 19 282834 7
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In the Echoey Tunnel 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 73 pp., £12.99, September 1991, 0 571 16252 5
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A Cold Coming 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 16 pp., £2.95, July 1991, 1 85224 186 1
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... and Isaac Rosenberg. Both writers are named in ‘Bog Cotton’, a poem celebrating the ‘desert flower’ that is to his ‘war’ what the poppy was to his father’s. Longley’s poetry is thoroughly grounded, never permitted to track far into a abstraction away from landscapes and weather. (What other poet has so outrageously and beautifully pushed the ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... group of fat, rich nations feeding each other goodies’. Barbara Castle, Michael Foot and Tony Benn led a powerful Labour campaign against the Common Market, in itself a pejorative term on the left. But Roy Jenkins and others on Labour’s centre-right emphasised reconciliation with former enemies, highlighting in particular the community of purpose ...

Milk and Lemon

Steven Shapin: The Excesses of Richard Feynman, 7 July 2005

Don’t You Have Time to Think? The Letters of Richard Feynman 
edited by Michelle Feynman.
Allen Lane, 486 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 7139 9847 4
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... public domain. The hand-waving, the shifting from foot to foot, the rapid-fire presentation, the Tony Soprano accent promising infinitely less intelligence than it delivered, the only-seeming lowering of the scientific tone – a pose that Feynman himself called ‘aggressive dopiness’ – were all part of the most magnetic modern scientific act. To ...
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... which can’t be bad,’ said the New Musical Express of the young Bowie. ‘Yes, we have another Tony Newley. A very promising talent.’ The style of the NME in 1967 was different from what it is today. During Bowie’s adolescence homosexual behaviour ceased to be a crime: moral principles changed, as if by magic. Three years before this ...


Iain Sinclair: Ronnie Kray bows out, 8 June 1995

... by thumbing through red pulp memoirs, to be sure that they’d recognise Frankie Fraser or Tony Lambrianou when they poodled into the churchyard. Researchers were busy inventing quotes, hammering golden nuggets into the carious mouths of bemused recidivists. Photographers risked everything, setting rickety ladders on traffic islands, dangling from stop ...

Making Lemonade

Sarah Rigby, 8 June 1995

The Best of Friends 
by Joanna Trollope.
Bloomsbury, 261 pp., £15.99, March 1995, 0 7475 2000 3
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... her husband, the vicar) sees this as an act of betrayal and defiance; she neglects the church flower rota and her parish duties, and is no longer considered capable of ministering to her family’s needs. Alienated, she succumbs to one of many fascinated men, and by doing so precipitates a chain of events which leads to the death of her husband. She makes ...

A Proper Stoic

John Bayley, 8 May 1986

Duff Cooper: The Authorised Biography 
by John Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 265 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 297 78857 4
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... fairly obvious reasons, and the spirited Lady Agnes had gone off with a young man called Herbert Flower. He was the man she really loved, but he died suddenly at the age of 27. Neither parents nor society were at all forgiving, and in getting over her grief Lady Agnes once again showed spirit and resource. She went to London and took a humble job at a ...

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