The true enemy of political interviews

The rhythm of the big party conference leader interviews is a strange one. First come days of slow, repetitive, detailed preparation, much of which we know will be junked on the day. My brilliant team play Keir Starmer or Boris Johnson, being as cheerily obstructive, long-winded and deflecting as possible, until all of us could repeat the key facts and graphs and quotes in our sleep. Next, a frantic early Sunday morning (up well before five) to fillet the latest news, discarding what had been favourite questions and lines of attack, and boil everything down to a manageable size. By now my heart rate is rising and I’m eating more

How I learned to love audio books

According to a charity called Fight For Sight, 38 per cent of people who’ve been using screens more during lockdown believe their eyesight has deteriorated. I am definitely in that category. This time last year, I didn’t need reading glasses; now I do. When I’m working at my desk this doesn’t much matter, but it has made reading in bed more difficult because I was in the habit of doing this on an iPad under the covers so as not to wake Caroline. Keeping my glasses in place while lying on my side, with one hand clutching my iPad and the other pulling the duvet tight over my head to

Homer is a hard read – made easy with earbuds

Mention Homer now and most people will picture yellow, rather than bronze. But Homer Simpson’s comic status as a modern anti hero only makes sense with a knowledge, however vague, of the heroes in The Iliad and The Odyssey.  They underpin the last three thousand years of western culture. Achilles, Hector, Odysseus and Helen… these are the chess pieces that poets, painters and sculptors have been playing with ever since. Odysseus, the Trickster, is there at the dawn of classical literature – and then again, Romanised as Ulysses, at the dawn of Modernism. What a gift. Trust the Greeks. Still, there is a reason no-one reads them anymore – at

Tacky and incomprehensible: The Sandman audiobook reviewed

Listening to the tacky and incomprehensible audio-adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series Sandman, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 19th-century Swiss artist Rodolphe Töppfer. Did Mr Töppfer realise what he was doing when he one day decided to draw a narrative in sequential panels with captions underneath? His satirical novel in pictures, Histoire de M. Vieux Bois, was published in 1837, and made its way to America five years later as The Adventures of Mr Obadiah Oldbuck. ‘Mr Oldbuck drinks ass’s milk’ reads one caption, and then overleaf: ‘His physician recommending exercise, he buys an Arabian courser.’ Riding the courser, ‘Mr Oldbuck increases his speed, advancing at the rate