A.a. milne

A.A. Milne and the torturous task of writing

For those of us lucky enough to have been regular contributors to Punch magazine, April is a slightly crueller month than most, since it was on 8 April 32 years ago that the last edition collapsed, exhausted, on to the newspaper stands. By then it was way past its best, but in its day it had employed some of the very best brains in the business, led by some of the very best editors. I was lucky enough to be around when Alan Coren was in his prime. He led the magazine from the front, literally, and set a standard that the rest of us did our hardest to emulate,

The case for dodging cracks in the pavement

It is interesting to consider what would have happened if the Covid virus had emerged in 1921. Or 1821. Or 1521. There would have been no vaccine, for one thing. Treatment would mostly have been worse. In the 17th century we would have blamed the entire thing on Catholics. But in a few respects, bizarrely, we might have done better. For instance, miasma theory, although technically wrong, might have protected us better against airborne transmission than the early scientific consensus that the disease was spread via droplets on surfaces. A believer in miasma theory might have practised mask wearing (ideally with a large beak), indoor ventilation and outdoor gathering more