Showing posts with tag: History


Between Myth and History: An Interview with Travis Elborough

When we learnt the nursery rhyme about the bridge at school our teacher made a remark about it being sold to America, and my interest was piqued at a young age. When researching my book The Bus We Loved, I discovered a Routemaster had been shipped to the States, and stood at the foot of the bridge serving as an ice cream parlour, which got me thinking about the whole story again. Read more →

Tales of the Thames

Last Saturday in London, a host of writers and historians – poet laureate Andrew Motion, architectural guru Dan Cruickshank, Iain Sinclair (Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report), Susan Brigden (New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603), Robert Douglas-Fairhurst – came together for one day at Somerset House to explore the remarkable history of the capital’s much maligned and exalted waterway. Read more →

Letters from Prague by Ruth Brandt

Hotel Koruna



29th July 2009

Dear Damek,

I am in Prague! Surprised? I am. I’m here for the weekend, till Sunday, arriving this morning. Yesterday I had no idea I would be here today. And now I don’t know what to think, or do.

We flew in to Ruzyne Airport early this morning, came into the city on the bus.

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Soul Glass by Alma Sinan

I was there when he took his last breath, and God forgive me, I captured it within the soul glass …

Monsieur Etienne had been ill for days. His ragged breath tore through the room, until I could scarce breathe myself. I longed to throw open a window, to air out the sour odour of sickness and sweat; but his wife, Madame Charlotte, would not hear of it.

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Job by Barry McKinley

To quote Jean Paul Sartre:

I would have taken the job in the tampon factory…

But I knew there were strings attached.”

December 1978. London smelled like a city gone bad. Rubbish had been turned into towering, tottering architecture on the streets; the stacks of black plastic bags cushioned the traffic noise and blocked out light from shop windows. The smell was bad, but not unbearable.

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Gertrude and Ernest, Paris 1926 by Mark Victor Young

There was a message from Gertrude Stein the day he arrived back in Paris. The desk clerk at his hotel gave him the card. It had a picture of a farmer’s market somewhere in the 17th arrondissement, and said: “Ernest. Looking forward to seeing you. Let’s meet on Friday. Gertrude.” It was Friday, and the message had been there for some time.

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Dead Leg by Jo Gatford

Paul Jacobsen used to give me a dead leg in Sunday school and I used to bite my tongue so hard to stop from crying that I swear there’s still a dent left on the tip from my two front teeth. Then he got his leg blown off in Korea – his right leg, which made me think something was odd because it was my right that he used to knuckle numb each week, since he always sat on that side of me – and a part of me wondered if it wasn’t some sort of divine retribution.

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Extract from Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen

1. Trapped

For fear of Chinese soldiers, they only dared walk through the freezing nights, with no light to guide them but the stars. The mountains were black towers before the dark sky. The group, numbering a dozen or so, had set out shortly before the Tibetan New Year festival, which, like the beginning of the Chinese calendar, usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

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Assignations by Simon Jones

Better this way, thought Veldram as he drained his glass. There is no wine in the world can sour as quickly as secrecy in an affair of the heart. At first the letters hidden in a tree bole or behind the jardinière, the assignations, the flimsy errands to send the servants away, waiting for a flutter of a fan, a swish of her skirt – these are the happiest, most addictive games one can play.

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