Teenage idols

Like any teenager, I had heroes. I’m not talking about pin-ups: that was something different. (Marianne Faithfull and Sandie Shaw, since you ask.) I mean proper male heroes: a sporting hero, a musical hero and a celluloid hero. One of the curiosities of my life is that – thanks to a series of staggering coincidences – by the time I was 20, I had met and talked to each of my teenage idols.   [read more]

We’ll keep the pink flag flying here

Theresa May, it is being said, is showing herself to be a Red Tory. Or, at the very least, a pinko. Her manifesto supposedly turns its back on the traditional Conservative belief in the free market and laissez-faire economics and asserts the need for interventionist policies. It explicitly addresses how people feel, rather than telling them what they should think. It is a complete departure from the party’s past.   [read more]

Stoking the memory

Apart from London, which was my birthplace, my favourite city in Britain is Stoke-on-Trent. It holds a hoard of memories for me, not all of them good, but each with a powerful resonance. Most of all, there are the people. It seems improbable, since people are people and much the same wherever you meet them, that one city should appear to contain nothing but kind, decent human beings. Stoke does.   [read more]

Wherever I lay my hat

Indian notebook 2

High in the uplands of Kerala, surrounded by acres of tea plantations, sits the town of Munnar. We were visiting anyway and, prompted by a friend who grew up there and whose father was a tea planter, we searched out the High Range Club, an unreformed relic of the imperial age. In the bar, surrounded by the stuffed heads of tigers and leopards, we found her father’s hat. Anyone who was a member for 30 years or more was entitled to have their hat hung on the wall. The hats are still there, but not the culture that engendered the Club.   [read more]