Beryl Bainbridge

Archive Diary

For almost three decades the novelist Beryl Bainbridge, who died last week, wrote book reviews and diaries for The Spectator. They were, without exception, brilliant. It has been said over the last week that she was the best novelist of her generation, but she was also (though a life-long Labour voter) the best sort of

Enjoyer and endurer

I approached the late David Nokes’s scholarly book with some trepidation, having heard that it had been criticised for its apparent dismissal of James Boswell. I approached the late David Nokes’s scholarly book with some trepidation, having heard that it had been criticised for its apparent dismissal of James Boswell. As I had gained all

A Literary Life

The days leading up to Xmas are such fun, aren’t they? All those cards and presents to buy and all those charity requests reminding one of starving children, crippled adults and abandoned dogs. Over the last few days I’ve been trying to concentrate on more important things, such as Sight and Time. Obviously the two

Diary – 18 April 2008

Last week several people — well, two to be exact — asked me if I was looking forward to St George’s Day. One of them was a road-sweeper. Apparently it falls this year on 23 April, although in 1861 its date appears to be two days earlier. I know this because I looked it up

The Liverpool that I loved has gone for ever

In June of 2003 Tessa Jowell, the then culture secretary, announced that in 2008 Liverpool would become the European Capital of Culture. The city beat five other hopefuls — Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Oxford. In welcoming the result, the head of the judges, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, declared that it was Liverpool’s stunning dockside development,

Diary – 26 May 2007

This week I’m going to the Hay-on-Way literary festival to take part in a discussion following the showing of a documentary made for BBC4 by Charlie Russell. It’s called The Last Year of my Life. Mine, that is. It was filmed over the past three years, and began because I mentioned that my parents, my

Diary – 4 March 2006

I was revolting from a very early age and more than once thought of taking over a radio station and starting a revolution. In those days the wireless exerted far more influence than the newspapers, at least in our house. I can still remember the opening sentence of my call to arms. Rise up, rise

Diary – 11 December 2004

I was in Woolworths last Friday when a woman hit her little child across the head. Quite a few of us saw what she did, but none of us did anything. To be fair, it wasn’t a hard blow and the victim didn’t burst into tears, but it was shocking. When young, I was often

Scouse honour

I left Liverpool 40 years ago, but I still regard the city as home: I am tied to the past by the unbreakable strings of memories and beginnings. If an uprising broke out in Liverpool — and God knows it’s often threatened — I would rush to the barricades, like those exiled Jews who returned

Diary – 18 October 2003

The Man Booker Prize dinner was held on Tuesday in the Egyptian room of the British Museum. It’s something of an ordeal for the six on the shortlist who have to wait until the pudding to hear who’s won. I’d only read one of the books, but they send you a disc of readings from

Diary – 1 February 2003

I was brought up to pay little attention to vegetables, apart from beetroot, which was served every day, and carrots, of which we had two each on a Sunday, on the grounds that they enabled Spitfire pilots to see in the dark. And then last week I arranged to meet a friend in the bar

A whodunnit below zero

The more one reads about polar exploration in previous centuries, the more one comes to the conclusion that men were different in times gone by, stronger, wilder, possessed of an almost perverse capacity to withstand cold and hunger. They travelled without the benefit of radios, thermal underwear or light-weight sledges; when things went wrong no