Alec Marsh

Alec Marsh’s latest Drabble & Harris book is Ghosts of the West, published by Headline Accent.

What Ridley Scott gets wrong about history

The film director Ridley Scott says that those who worry about the historical inaccuracies in his new biopic of Napoleon should ‘get a life’. Or as the told The Sunday Times last week: ‘When I have issues with historians, I ask: “Excuse me, mate, were you there? No? Well, shut the fuck up, then.’ If

We need an international University Challenge

As the autumn nights close in and the heating goes, there are few pleasures so improving for body and soul than half an hour spent in the company of University Challenge. Not only do you learn a bit (well, until you forget it) but nothing makes a middle-aged man or woman of a certain disposition

Is a Great British Space Race about to take off?

Brits have, for many years, taken a back seat in the Space Race, but that could soon change. An all-UK team of astronauts could soon be heading into orbit, as a result of a deal signed by the UK Space Agency and Axiom Space, an American company that organises visits to the International Space Station

The joy of shaving brushes

Have you ever considered the harm that men’s daily shaving regime does to the world? I know, if you considered the harm of everything you do on a daily basis then none of us would get up in the morning, but… Think of it: assuming there are three billion men in the world who each

A driver’s case for 20mph limits

Speeding kills, we’re told. But in the right circumstances, exceeding the limit is no bad thing. Take motorways: few drivers seem to stick to 70mph, yet most journeys are perfectly safe. Indeed, when I’m behind the wheel, I like putting my foot down as much as the next driver. Fortunately in the 30 years since

Mad Max meets Mr Toad: The Morgan Super 3, reviewed

When you first lay eyes on Morgan’s new Super 3 – a three-wheeled car categorised, intriguingly, as a motorbike in the US – it does take a moment to get your bearings. First, in an age when all cars essentially look the same, this one appears to be back to front. Set wide, two front

Why the British seaside still reigns supreme

It’s the time of year to revisit one of life’s great imponderables. British seaside holidays. Why do we do them? Which other experience – save perhaps attending a British boarding school in the past – does as much to remind you of the essential unfairness of life? Forget the costs involved (if Marianna Mazzucato wants

Get ready for the petrol station renaissance

Do you have a favourite petrol station? I do. It’s a scruffy little place in East Bergholt in the wilds of north Essex. It has two elderly-looking pumps that I think have padlocks on them when no one is around. I’ve never managed to buy fuel from them, but I’m determined to before it’s too

The joy of Suffex: England’s county that never was

There is a point on the dreaded A12 – a road so soulless it makes the M4 looks like Shangri La – when you reach the end of Essex. If you’re driving from London it takes you a surprisingly long time; there’s a lot of noisy beige concrete to go over – about 60 miles’

Glastonbury has become the new Last Night of the Proms

Time was when the pinnacle of the summer’s musical experiences – certainly from a UK television perspective – was the Last Night of the Proms. Preceded by weeks of more staid performances of classical music which most people did not tune in to, the conclusion of the Proms season, which dates back to 1895, was

The forgotten genius of Alfred Munnings

At first glance, the substantial yellow house on the turn of the country road could be a Trollopean rectory, one long sold off to a lawyer or boardroom executive. This is Castle House in north Essex – set in the flat, luscious landscape made famous by John Constable – which was for 40 years the

Is it time for the £100 note?

Thanks to the recent spike in inflation, never have indisputable luxuries such as Sharwood’s mango chutney or Anchor butter quite so tested the domestic purse strings. The sad truth is, however, that it’s much worse than you think. Because unlike the watched kettle, the frog of devaluation hasn’t just arrived at a nice simmer, it’s

It’s time to ban young children from restaurants

When you have small children just getting them out of the door can be traumatic. Finding and applying each shoe can be enough to provoke a tantrum – and not just in the parent. And no, they can’t bring their Power Rangers swords, because we are going out to lunch and everyone knows that plastic

Why speeding is good for us

What’s your go-to speed on the motorway? Do you snuffle along at 70, slowing down the lorries in your Rover 75? More likely you cruise the middle lane on the cusp of 80 – just on the wrong side of the law, plus 10 per cent and then some. That’s what I like to do,

Gentlemen’s clubs for all!

Is it a stage of life thing? Recently I’ve got a hankering to join a gentlemen’s club. It might be the creeping realisation that having put it off for so long – drifting in and out of London’s clubs over the years as a guest thinking ‘This is rather nice…’ – as I near 50,

The purgatory of soft play

Are you familiar with the child-focused phenomenon generally known as soft play? Often located in the windowless recesses of garden centres with an innocent-sounding name like ‘Snakes and Ladders’, these are compounds dedicated to the frenetic, ergonomic joy of children – assault courses for mites, with slides, chutes, ball baths and various dangling hazards all

Stop demonising cyclists

If you were to ask me how many bicycles I’ve had in my life, my response would be about as precise as Boris Johnson’s to the question of how many children he’s fathered. In my case, so many bikes have been stolen over the years – including one attached to a signpost (which vanished along with

Why do we expect to buy tomatoes and cucumbers all year round?

When did it become an inalienable human right for 65 million Britons to have a cucumber in March? When did we suddenly regard the possession, weekly, of a half kilo or so of vine-ripened tomatoes as fundamental to our very being, when our corner of the northern hemisphere is still essentially frozen and has been

Why Greggs is the modern-day Lyons Corner House

My family has a dirty secret. I’m ashamed of admitting it in writing because I feel I may be permanently marking my card in life. And not just my card. There will now be an upper ceiling against which the heads of my children will bump. The secret is this: we go to Greggs. I

Bring back the railway restaurant car

It’s six o’clock and you’ve fought your way on to a train at a major London terminus. The carriage is rammed – heavily pregnant women, the stricken and the young stand in the corridors like it’s A&E – and everywhere people are diving into takeaways. The pungent egg and cress sandwich from Pret is bursting