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Low life

Low liferss

Life in the trenches Photo: Getty

'My boy was my all': letters from a bereaved mother to a Somme widow

1 November 2014

My maternal grandmother (née Clarke) had six brothers, all keen poker players. All six volunteered to fight in the Great War, and only one, Sergeant Herbert Clarke, of B Company,… Read more

TUC Demonstrate For 'Britain Needs a Pay Rise'

Hello trees, hello sky, hello armoured riot police

25 October 2014

What a beautiful day, I thought, as I nodded to the porter in the bowler hat and stepped out of the Westminster hotel into October sun and wind, with a… Read more

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The karmic rewards of becoming a vegetarian

18 October 2014

 ‘Is that you, Sister?’ It was Tom misdialling again with those thick, stubby fingers of his. ‘No, it’s me: Jerry,’ I said. I held the phone away from my ear… Read more

Former literary critic of the Spectator and founder of the London Review of Books  Karl Miller

I didn't really know who Karl Miller was. But I know how much I owe him

11 October 2014

As I think I said in this column the other week, I used to sneak into English lectures at University College London, while officially studying at the School of Oriental… Read more

New Zealand-born British writer Katherine Mansfield

Chatting up Katharine Mansfield

4 October 2014

I like the New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield, who according to Virginia Woolf smelt like a civet cat and had a hard, cheap face, and who was the only contemporary… Read more

Miss Brazil 2012. Not pictured: fishmonger. Image: Getty

A visit to a drugs den above a fishmongers with Miss South America

27 September 2014

‘Stand outside the fishmongers in 20 minutes and call this number,’ she said, ‘and I can arrange it.’ On Saturday evening I was scrubbed up for a big night out.… Read more

Things could be about to turn ugly... Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

A game of dominoes turns ugly

20 September 2014

I’m round at Amy and Bill’s for Sunday afternoon tea. Amy and Bill are my in-laws, kind of. When I was courting their daughter, I used to spend most of… Read more

Pigmy. Zaire. Africa

The bump in the night that changed my mind about pygmies

13 September 2014

Music of the Forest on Radio 4 last week was a profile of the anthropologist Colin Turnbull, 1924–1994, who achieved celebrity with his book The Forest People: A Study of… Read more

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An undergraduate anorak at 32

6 September 2014

When I was 32, tired at last, for the moment anyway, of seizing the day, I stopped drinking and gave up smoking and enrolled for two A-levels in one year… Read more

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Glazed tiles, a barred window: it must be another morning in a police cell

30 August 2014

In my late twenties, it was not unusual for me to wake up in a police cell wearing a paper suit. Waking to glazed tiles and a high barred window,… Read more

Reverend Billy Graham Photo: Getty

What I learned working in the lunatic asylum

23 August 2014

In 1984 I was 27. Since leaving school I had done unskilled manual labour, when I could get any. Then l worked as a nursing assistant and then a trainee… Read more

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A road trip in the company of Long John Silver and an exciting pair of thighs

16 August 2014

I live in south Devon. Last week I went up to north Devon, to visit a friend who was renting a cottage on the coast for a week. Devon is… Read more

Low

How I'm different without testosterone

9 August 2014

I’ve might have no testosterone. (My production is currently being stopped by injection once every three months.) But what I do have is a Fiat Barchetta, bought for a grand… Read more

Celebrity Big Brother - Contestants Enter The House

The indiscreet charm of Jim Davidson

2 August 2014

Le tout Torquay was there, cramming into the Princess Theatre with a drink in each hand ten minutes after the show had begun. I pressed in among them. Jim Davidson,… Read more

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'Oscar sat and clutched his lunchbox as the practice nurse punctured grandad in the buttock'

26 July 2014

‘Oscar!’ cried Miss Herd as I arrived. She was standing at the classroom door releasing her charges one by one as the parent, or in my case the grandparent, arrived… Read more

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I am walking to the Spectator party — sober, clean and in all my finery

19 July 2014

They do love a party at The Spectator. I was invited to four in ten days last week: the Apollo Summer party, the Spectator ‘At Home’ Summer party, the annual… Read more

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Honesty, simplicity, integrity: not what I want the morning after

12 July 2014

Tap tap tap at the door. I opened my eyes. ‘Check-out 10.30,’ said a neutral or possibly slightly hostile female voice on the other side of the door. I looked… Read more

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A circle of love with Brown Eagle Feather

5 July 2014

‘I’m wasted,’ said Trev, meaning not that his life is futile, but that his mind was overwhelmed by illegal drugs. He conceded it. It wasn’t often that drugs ruined him,… Read more

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My night in a room haunted by falling cannonballs

28 June 2014

On Saturday night I went to Charlie’s 69th birthday party. What a gaff he’s got. The rather snooty description of the Grade II listing sums the place up as ‘a… Read more

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An orgy of violence at the summer fête

21 June 2014

After three days tête-à-tête (and sometimes tête-à-pied) I walked into town alone to get some air and see what the town was like and the people in it. In one… Read more

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A free gin, a cheeky joint: welcome back to the local

14 June 2014

My first time back in the local for eight weeks. The manageress lifts the flap, comes around to my side of the bar and kisses me on the lips. We… Read more

Fiesta De San Fermin Running Of The Bulls - Day 8

Sharon took to the madness of Pamplona like a duck to water

7 June 2014

Then there was the time I took Sharon to the Pamplona bull run. She looked very fetching in the traditional St Fermín costume of white T-shirt, white cut-off jeans, red… Read more

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Two narcissists trapped in one static caravan

31 May 2014

I was two days alone in the caravan and no signal or reception of any sort. It was like a Buddhist silent retreat, where you have to listen in horrified… Read more

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In the soft Cornish air, with the pressure off, I caved in

24 May 2014

Just when I was beginning to think I’d had enough, I was offered a free week in a caravan. I took it like a shot, threw a few shirts in… Read more

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'I know what you are, and where you've come from. Be aware we are under God's protection'

17 May 2014

I couldn’t find the house so I called the number again. Instead of the man I’d spoken to previously, this time a woman answered. ‘I’m surprised you couldn’t find the… Read more