The symbolism of the cemetery: the draped urn, popular among the Victorians, is usually taken to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its journey to heaven

How to Read a Graveyard, by Peter Stanford - review

4 May 2013
How to Read a Graveyard Peter Stanford

Bloomsbury, pp.263, £16.99, ISBN: 9781441174777

Peter Stanford likes cemeteries. Daily walks with his dog around a London graveyard acclimatised him, while the deaths of his parents set him wondering about customs of mourning and places… Read more


Tanya Gold reviews Potato Merchant

4 May 2013

Exmouth Market is a small collection of paved streets near the Farringdon Travelodge, which specialises in monomaniacal restaurants and has a blue plaque dedicated to the dead clown Joseph Grimaldi.… Read more

Barry Humphries

13 April 2013

Whenever feminists have complained in my presence about neglect of female high-achievers, other than rock singers and courtesans, I always like to mention brilliant Margaret Thatcher. It always makes them… Read more

Ali G at MTV Europe Awards 2001

From Cockney to Jafaican

23 March 2013

My mother always had a keen ear for slang and lazy pronunciation when I was growing up. Because my siblings and I were working class and attended an absolutely dreadful… Read more


The birth of the Walking Book Club

9 March 2013

In they stride, in muddy trainers or wellies, swirls of cold air caught on their clothes, children in off-road buggies, dogs bedraggledly in tow. I’ve always been thrilled that so… Read more


Investment special: Gaining from a housing recovery

9 March 2013

The long period of dormancy for Britain’s housing market looks as if it is coming to an end — though there are huge regional differences. Central London remains exceptional, with… Read more

Tanya Gold reviews Balthazar

9 March 2013

Balthazar is a golden cave in Covent Garden, in the old Theatre (Luvvie) Museum, home to dead pantomime horses and Christopher Biggins’s regrets. It is a copy of a New… Read more

At least Prince Charles should be happy with the roof of the new Design Museum in Holland Park

The new Design Museum: Prince Charles will prefer it. But should we?

2 March 2013

Twenty-five years ago I went to St James’s Palace to ask the Prince of Wales if he would open the new Design Museum. Before us was the model of the… Read more

Hailo matters more than HS2 – but we just can’t see it

2 March 2013

One of Britain’s exam boards was attacked last year for a question in a GCSE religious studies examination: ‘Explain briefly why some people are prejudiced against Jews.’ Is this really… Read more


Rus in urbe

The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

Yale, pp.304, £30

One of the pleasures of my week is walking across St James’s Square. The slightly furtive sense of trespassing as one opens the ironwork gates; the decision as to whether… Read more


Bookends: … and the inner tube

28 April 2012

In the early 1990s, when Boris Johnson was making his name as the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, Sonia Purnell was his deputy, and last year she published a biography of… Read more


Last of the swagmen

17 March 2012
Spitalfields Life the Gentle Author

Saltyard Books, pp.448, 20

I have hitherto resisted my wife’s frequent recommendations that I should read a daily blog about the life of the denizens of Spitalfields, but, now that they have been published… Read more


The making of the modern metropolis

18 February 2012
London in the Eighteenth Century: ‘A Great and Monstrous Thing’ Jerry White

The Bodley Head, pp.682, 25

Why in 1737 did Dr Johnson choose to leave his home in Lichfield in the Midlands and travel to London to make a fresh start as a writer, asks Jerry… Read more


The past is another city

14 January 2012
Panoramas of Lost London: Work, Wealth, Poverty and Change, 1870-1945 Philip Davies

English Heritage, pp.320, £40

This absorbing book is — in both format and content — a much expanded follow-up to the same author’s very successful pictorial anthology Lost London of 2010. It replicates some… Read more

The Ritz in the Blitz

3 December 2011
The West End Front Matthew Sweet

Faber, pp.362, 20

‘It was like a drug, a disease,’ said the legendary Ritz employee Victor Legg of the institution he served for half a century. There’s something magical about London’s grand hotels.… Read more

Chagrin d’amour

19 November 2011
The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London Lisa Hilton

Orion, pp.263, 20

The horror of love: Nancy Mitford’s first fiancé was gay; her husband, Peter Rodd, was feckless, spendthrift and unsympathetic, and her great amour, Gaston Palewski, was endlessly unfaithful. She met… Read more

Don’t blur the lines

30 July 2011
Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground Mark Mason

Random House, pp.376, 12.99

Did you know that on the Central Line’s maiden journey to Shepherd’s Bush, one of the passengers was Mark Twain? Or that The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Sign… Read more


Talking about regeneration

23 July 2011
Ghost Milk Iain Sinclair

416, pp.20, 9780241144350

Iain Sinclair, the London novelist and poet, is always on the move. From the industrial sumplands of Woolwich to the jagged riversides of Gravesend, he rakes unfrequented zones for literary… Read more

Rage against the tagine: Capital mistake

30 June 2011

There’s nothing like following a theme: playing it safe, being on-message. Thus, we hear endlessly — from Michelin-starred chefs to their adoring throng — the mantra that ‘London is restaurant… Read more

We are the past

4 June 2011
Then Julie Myerson

Cape, pp.296, 12.99

Julie Myerson’s eighth novel is told by a woman who roams the City of London after an unspecified apocalypse (no power, bad weather). Julie Myerson’s eighth novel is told by… Read more


Deep, dark mysteries

4 June 2011
London Under Peter Ackroyd

Chatto, pp.192, 12.99

The Stones of London: A History of Twelve Buildings Leo Hollis

Weidenfeld, pp.456, 25

For Peter Ackroyd, the subterranean world holds a potent allure. London Under, his brief account of the capital’s catacombs and other murky zones, manages to radiate a dark mystery and… Read more


Liquid hideaways

7 April 2011

Last year, in a nod towards austerity, I gave up my membership to Milk and Honey, a cocktail club in Soho. I rationalised that as a non-member, I could still… Read more

Bookends: Capital rewards

26 March 2011

London has been the subject of more anthologies than Samuel Pepys had hot chambermaids. This is fitting, as an anthology’s appeal — unexpected juxtaposition — matches that of the capital… Read more

Desk-bound traveller

5 March 2011
The London Satyr Robert Edric

Doubleday, pp.367, 16.99

The Lives of the Savages Robert Edric

P.S. Publishing, pp.126, 11.99

With a new novel each year, Robert Edric cannot have much time for courting London’s literary establishment, but does he stay at home in East Yorkshire? The London Satyr is… Read more


Enlightened patronage

12 February 2011

Alberto Della Ragione (1892–1973) was a naval engineer from Genoa with a passion for music, poetry and the visual arts; he also had the collecting bug. Alberto Della Ragione (1892–1973)… Read more