John Sturgis

John Sturgis is a freelance journalist who has worked across Fleet Street for almost 30 years as both reporter and news editor

Our strange relationship with columnists

I’ve been reading newspapers since I was a teenager and have become strangely familiar with those who write about their lives, even though I’ve met very few of them. Recently, this has gone from being a moderately amusing side interest to an increasingly sad one.  In the late 1990s we lived a few doors down

There is nothing common about the northern lights

It was 10.45pm and our film had just finished. I checked my phone and saw a friend claiming he had just seen the northern lights — in Wembley. It had been trailed as a possibility, but I hadn’t given it much credence. Not with the light pollution inside the M25, surely. You’d need to head

The stupidity of the former footballer pundits

It was the most dramatic moment of the whole football season. Having trailed 3-0 to the millionaires of Manchester United in their FA Cup semi-final, lowly Coventry had bravely fought their way back to 3-3 and extra time. And now, in the last minute of that extra time, they had broken away to score an incredible

In praise of peculiar names

It began, as these things often do, in the Births, Deaths and Marriages column of the Times. ‘On 29th February, to Olivia von Wulffen and Rupert Oldham-Reid,’ the announcement read. ‘A daughter, Antigone Elizabeth Anna, sister to Peregrine Yorck von Wulffen and Otto the dog.’ The ad was spotted by journalist Harry Wallop who posted it

Love Desert Island Discs? Try this

In its primary Sunday morning slot, Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 finishes at noon. This is the cue for radio cognoscenti to turn the digital dial a single notch – to BBC Radio 3. Because as Desert Island Discs ends, Private Passions, its lesser known twin, is about to begin. I wrote here recently

Could the BBC sink Desert Island Discs?

Desert Island Discs is 80 years old and to celebrate this milestone the BBC has planned an event unprecedented in the show’s long history. It is also one that will surely have its creator and original presenter, Roy Plomley, spinning in his grave. Desert Island Discs Live will take place at London’s Palladium over three nights

The tyranny of the 20mph limit

I was still thinking about the film when I came out of the cinema and got into my car. I can’t have exceeded 28mph. On this wide, well-lit, almost empty London road at midnight, it was hardly reckless. Nevertheless, this stretch of road is one of hundreds to have had their speed limits reduced from

Have I been cursed by a white deer?

It was standing completely still, about 40 yards away, partially obscured by a clump of hazel: a pure white deer. It looked almost iridescent in the gloom of an overcast winter day. My dogs were straining at the lead but otherwise all sense of movement ceased for half a minute, maybe longer. I managed to decapitate it

Glenn Hoddle and the birth of cancel culture

Most England managers lose their jobs over bad results: Roy Hodgson was sacked after being humiliated by Iceland, Graham Taylor for losing a must-win qualifier against Holland, Kevin Keegan quit after a bitter home defeat to Germany. There have been exceptions, though: Sam Allardyce went for bragging to an undercover reporter how he could do

Sven-Goran Eriksson made English football

The former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has terminal cancer, he says he expects to be dead before the year is out. In an age when such grim diagnoses are usually kept private until their morbid predictions have come to pass, it was characteristically candid of the 75-year-old Swede to go public like this, even

Why are writers obsessed with Tunbridge Wells?

It’s just a moderately sized town in Kent, but Tunbridge Wells seems to have a literary status disproportionate to its size. And, perhaps as a corollary, it seems to occur in fiction much more frequently than considerably bigger towns of otherwise greater significance. Or certainly this has been my impression over a lifetime’s reading.  I

Ten novels about flooding

Shropshire was named this week as an unlikely entrant in the top ten global dream travel destinations for 2024 – alongside more predictable contenders like Mauritius. This news received extensive media coverage, most of which featured serene, summery images of Ironbridge, the Georgian engineering marvel that is the county’s most recognisable attraction. There was something wonderfully

The strange return of Cilla Black

She was an unlikely contender for fame from the outset, with a pub singer voice and a nose so  prominent she would later have it surgically reduced. But, with her Scouser-next-door persona and trademark cropped hair, Cilla Black was in the right place at the right time: she rode the popular wave created by Beatlemania and

How to survive the post-Christmas slump

Elizabeth David was a cookery writer who led the British palate away from the grim days of stodgy, post-war rationing towards the adoption of a fresher, more Mediterranean diet. But she saved the most resonant advice of her six decade writing career for an observation on how to survive a typical British Christmas. Describing the festive

The strange life of Alvin Stardust

He had mutton chop sideburns, a vast quiff and was dressed in black leather, even down to murderers’ gloves, over which he wore enormous silver rings, which he then wiggled in a beckoning fashion while staring suggestively into the camera. Nevermind hiding behind the sofa during Dr Who – for me, in December 1973, as

Britain’s curious pub naming conventions

The big London restaurant opening of the autumn has been The Devonshire in Denman Street, Soho, close to Piccadilly Circus. There was a run on bookings as soon as the reviews appeared. Giles Coren in the Times wrote: ‘What a place. What. A. Place.’ Jimi Famurewa’s review in the Evening Standard appeared under the headline: ‘Nothing beats a good

The importance of London’s lost cinema

King’s Cross in the eighties was the scabbiest, dodgiest, scariest and most alternative place in central London – and the crumbling Scala cinema was its beating heart. Memories of this long-shut venue are being revived by the imminent release of a feature-length documentary tracing its brief, colourful history. The film is named after the cinema

Against all odds, I’ve started to like Phil Collins

This isn’t easy for me. In fact, it is perhaps the most difficult public admission I’ve ever made. I’m worried about how people will react, how friends and colleagues might reconsider their opinion of me after reading this. But I can’t keep it locked up secretly inside me any longer. I have to admit it.

Save our unmessed-with pubs!

From the outside, it appeared derelict – not an uncommon thing to find when visiting an unknown establishment based solely on a listing in an old copy of ‘The Good Pub Guide’. But a chap walking past with his labrador reassured us: ‘She usually opens at noon.’ When we returned an hour later it was