A.S.H. Smyth

A.S.H Smyth is a journalist and radio presenter in the Falkland Islands. He was once selected to play cricket for the national side but couldn’t make it.

Falklanders won’t forgive the EU’s ‘Las Malvina’ blunder

This week, the European Union, in its infinite wisdom, made pretty much the only blunder which, in the eyes of Falkland Islanders, there is no coming back from: referring to the Falklands as ‘Las Malvinas’.  The row was sparked after the EU chose to sign a declaration with Argentina and 32 other South American countries, referring to the UK overseas territory as both ‘Islas Malvinas’ and the ‘Falkland Islands’. Brussels

How we’re marking Remembrance Day in the Falklands

Last Saturday was pure sunbathing weather. I mention this because a) I’m writing from the Falkland Islands, where such occurrences are not exactly regular, and b) I spent the whole beautiful day, with two or three dozen other volunteers, drilling through rock to stake out a couple of hundred 6ft metal figures. I even had

Why Falklanders are the ones to watch at the Commonwealth Games

Stanley, Falkland Islands I’m not saying the Falklands is a tiny place, but last month, over the course of just a few hours, I had my hair cut by one international athlete and then my passport processed by another. Soon-to-be international athletes, anyway. They’re both part of the Islands’ team for this year’s Commonwealth Games, which

Proof at last that the Great Pyramid wasn’t built by aliens

Because I once made the mistake of dabbling in Egyptology, some ‘friend’ will schwack me every other week with a meme, cartoon or article about people who still believe the pyramids were built by aliens. I have longed for a handy single volume to present to these loons, full of unarguable evidence putting this business

A pawn in the Great Game: the sad story of Charles Masson

‘Everyone knows the Alexandria in Egypt,’ writes Edmund Richardson, ‘but there were over a dozen more Alexandrias scattered across Alexander the Great’s empire.’ By the early 19th century, though, very few had been identified. Moreover, the prevailing scholarly view was that there remained ‘not a single architectural monument of the Macedonian conquests in India’ —

The scholars who solved the riddles in the sands

In 1835 the first two Egyptian antiquities were registered in the British Museum: a pair of red granite lions from Nubia. Each bore the name of Tutankhamun — not that anyone had ever heard of him. All serious understanding of the millennia-spanning Nilotic civilisation had disappeared before the last hieroglyph was carved in 394 AD.

How to scale a mountain without leaving home

In January a friend visited me at my home in Colombo, and I promised him that we would climb Adam’s Peak. That plan was scotched when, days before he landed, I went down with dengue fever. But I’d done Adam’s Peak before (twice, actually), and there would always be another chance to do it, right?

Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King is certainly no Abyssinian Andy McNab

In 1935 the troops of Benito Mussolini’s sinister-clownish Roman Empire II invaded Ethiopia, in large part out of spite for Italy’s embarrassing defeat there 40 years earlier. Initially largely uncontested — thanks both to Emperor Haile Selassie’s desperate faith in international brotherhood and to a hearty dose of Quislingism from his leading nobles — when

The great American trauma in minute detail

Why, I asked some months back in these pages, do the protagonists in American fiction these days seem so lost? What is it they’re all so het up about? Well… everything. At least according to the narrator of Ducks, Newburyport. Lucy Ellmann’s monster novel is a more or less non-stop narration of the thoughts of

More dystopian futures

Only Helen DeWitt would start a book with an epigraph of her own pop-culture mash-up poetry and end with an appeal to buy the writer coffee. The author of just two previous published novels (about a multilingual child prodigy, and an encyclopaedia salesman turned sex-peddler, respectively), DeWitt keeps a pure flame, and doesn’t want to

A story from a grain of sand

In 1945, on a Putney side street, in a city full of darkness and half in rubble from the Blitz, the 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister are abandoned by their parents into the care of men they think may well be criminals. Their father is still troubled as a result of the war; their mother

The weird world of the hapax legomenon

Today is National Indexing Day (#indexday) – at least according to the UK’s Society of Indexers. ‘Celebrating book indexes, indexers, and the profession of indexing.’ As I write, they’re wrapping up their annual jamboree, at London’s Foundling Museum. A few months back, I was out walking the dog and listening to Dracula on my phone

Cannon law

Many and various are the things one finds in Kentish pubs (I’m told); but few could top the sepoy’s skull discovered at The Lord Clyde, Walmer, complete with brief biography: Skull of havildar ‘Alum Bheg’, 46th Regt. Bengal N. Infantry… blown away from a gun. From this grisly starting point, Kim Wagner, lecturer in British

Fair tradesman

Ole Thorstensen has been a carpenter for 25 years. A master craftsman, in fact. He is busy working on a minor job — ‘replacing a few windows, putting down decking and doing a number of other odds and ends’ — when he gets invited to bid for a loft conversion in a 19th-century apartment block

Swash and buckle aplenty

A feeble king and his scheming minister, a hunchback noble and the Daughters of Repentance, a botched assassination and a walled-up prisoner, some comic horse-sex, cross-dressing valets, a handful of gay jokes, a dwarf, and a literal éminence grise. The latest instalment of Game of Thrones? No, actually: a sequel to The Three Musketeers. December

The spell of the pharaohs

Here’s a book to make an Egyptologist of everyone. A compendium of accepted gen on the gift of the Nile, Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen’s (updated and reissued) Egypt: People, Gods, Pharaohs ‘aims to answer some basic questions about life in Ancient Egypt and whet your appetite to find out more’, and achieves both in appropriate

Heroes in error

In the first year or so of the Iraq occupation — or ‘big Army goatfuck’, as it is not quite specifically referred to in former US Army soldier Roy Scranton’s debut novel — three central storylines move through and around each other. Specialist Wilson, whose commanders can’t read maps but watch Black Hawk Down for