The Last of Sherlock

We’ve been rewatching the four series of Sherlock – the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman broadcast between 2010 and 2017: what has been called a Sherlock for the 21st century. More accurately, it might be called a Sherlock for the Cameron years. Certainly, the first series has a sort of quaint nostalgic …

Leo Baxendale and the Badtime Bedtime Books

I first got to know the name Leo Baxendale in 1976 when I was a small boy, and our parents bought for me and my brother (I think technically for my brother alone, but you know how it is) a cartoon book called Willy the Kid. It was anarchic, rude, mischievous, and very funny. A …

Being funny is not the same as being happy

Well, it isn’t, is it? It seems so obvious that it isn’t worth saying; the “tears of a clown” thing is a very old cliché indeed. And yet it’s something that still causes a lot of misunderstanding. Take, for instance, Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, premiered in 1946. The last movement is fast, bright, manic music, exciting …

Reading Isn’t Believing

Last year, during lockdown, I wrote a short novel. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a publisher for it. I’m still trying. Writing (I mean the creative sort) has been my main ambition and motivation for most of my life. I have written plays that have been performed in my home town without disaster. …

The Modernity of “Melincourt”

“How can I seriously call myself an enemy to slavery, while I indulge in in the luxuries that slavery acquires? How can the consumer of sugar pretend to throw on the grower of it the exclusive burden of their participated criminality?… If every individual in this kingdom, who is truly and conscientiously an enemy to …

All What Jazz: The Shostakovich Jazz Suite that Never Was

It’s just one of those extremely trivial things that nevertheless irritate me beyond all measure. As is well known, the great Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote two Jazz Suites: the first in 1934 and the second in 1938. They became well known after Decca released a “Jazz Album” of this music in 1993, the Royal …

Cosima’s Birthday: An Episode in the Life of a Genius

(Inspired by the well-known story of the origins of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll.) COSIMA WAGNER IS IN BED ON CHRISTMAS DAY. ENTER THE GREAT WAGNER. WAGNER: My wife, I wish you a very happy birthday. COSIMA: That was yesterday. WAGNER: Was it? Ah, what do days matter? Yesterday, today, tomorrow, they are all the same in …

Ian Fenwick and Wodehouse

Sometimes, my interests lead me to strange places. A few weeks ago, I was tweeting about first edition covers to the works of P.G. Wodehouse, as you do, and I wondered if the cover of The Code of the Woosters was by the famous cartoonist Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird). I don’t want to keep you …

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