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Robespierre’s Chamber Pot

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Fifteen days from now

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson


Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster


My cousin sent a baby doll for me –
hairless and clammy, waxen yellowish-grey
with sunken pale blue eyes and a mouth pursed
for pouring water in so it came out
through a small aperture between its legs.

I called it Peter though it had no prick –
it looked too ugly for a girl I thought.
I used to fill it up and souse my lap.
Sometimes I’d press its squashy latex head
to force the liquid out at higher speed,
yellowing the pee by adding mustard in,
or making diarrhoea with chocolate milk.
Sometimes it vomited and pissed at once.

At last, my mother took my toy away –
afraid I’d show it to some visitor.
Several days later, it was back again,
seated amongst my other dolls and bears.
She’d used half an old shoe-dye on his face,
giving him hair and beard, and togged him out
with a sharp suit of black and white checked tweed.
‘Peter’s grown up,’ she said. ‘Adults don’t wet themselves.’

His lips looked red against his blue-black beard.
You can do anything at any age,
I thought. I filled him up again. He peed,
marking his breeches with a yellow stain.

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