Marcus Berkmann

Marcus Berkmann’s Berkmann’s Pop Miscellany is out in June.

A choice of this year’s gift books

Obviously, the best and funniest gift book out this Christmas is my own Still a Bit of Snap in the Celery (Abacus, £16.99), about the horrors and delights of being 60, but I am far too humble and modest to mention it, so I won’t. Very nearly as good is Bob Cryer’s Barry Cryer: Same

Has the vaccine cured my long Covid?

Everyone has their own Covid-19 story, and here’s mine. I caught it in Marks & Spencer in late March last year, when 200 clearly deranged panic-buyers set about stripping the store of its every last ready meal. Web designers grasping the last known packet of Our Best Ever Prawn Cocktail, estate agents fighting over the

Is it too late to save cricket?

The news that cricket is returning to Channel 4 for the forthcoming series between India and England has been greeted with relief by cricket fans and absolute mystification by everyone else. In 2005, after the greatest Ashes series any of us will ever see, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) signed a long-term deal

The magnificence of the Covid ‘business lunch’ loophole

A friend of mine went for a walk in the Cotswolds last weekend with his wife. At around four o’clock, tired but happy, they fetched up at a country pub. ‘You’ll have to eat a substantial meal,’ said the landlady, crossly. ‘But it’s four o’clock,’ said my friend. ‘We’re not hungry.’ The landlady tutted and

Gift books for Christmas — reviewed by Marcus Berkmann

We have a fine crop of Christmas gift books this year, so good that some of them actually qualify as real books. This is a rare and beautiful thing. What Cats Want (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is by Dr Yuki Hattori, billed here as ‘Japan’s leading cat doctor’, as though anyone is going to argue with that.

Why are so many people still going to the pub?

Pubs are fascinating at the moment. On the day that the Prime Minister advised us not to attend them, I turned up at one in leafy Highgate, London N6 to find it much fuller than you might expect. I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing. People are still getting out, having a jolly time

The unwritten rules of sending Christmas cards

No one sends Christmas cards any more. Except that I do, and you might, and a few other people do too. But overall, cards have become so expensive, time-consuming and, let’s admit it, unfashionable that many people have abandoned them with some relief. Some of them rather piously tell us the money thus saved is

Children’s questions about death are consistently good fun

What strikes me most about the Christmas gift-book industry — for industry it surely is, as I can confirm, having toiled on that production line myself — is the incurable optimism of everyone concerned. After all, most of these books are terrible. Some are merely appalling. But the simple act of writing and publishing them

The lessons I learned at my Oxford gaudy

I went to a gaudy last weekend. Several British universities now host these splendid events; mine was at Worcester College, Oxford, from where I graduated in 1981 with a double third in mathematics. A gaudy is essentially a reunion weekend with knobs on. At Worcester they are blessedly free, which is great for paups like

The elegance and humour of Neville Cardus

As a fully paid-up, old-school cricket tragic, I astound myself that I have read almost no Neville Cardus. How can that be? He was, in his lifetime, the doyen of cricket writers, mainly because he effectively invented the form. Before he started writing for the Manchester Guardian in 1919, cricket journalists reported the score and

Top of the Christmas lists

The ‘gift books’ are out again, piled high in Waterstones, books that have only one reason to exist: to be given to people who don’t want them on Christmas Day. Having written one or two myself, I have seen the look on the faces of potential purchasers as they pick one up and leaf idly

Question time | 25 January 2018

Last year was a bit of a year for Radio 4 anniversaries; maybe most notably, Desert Island Discs celebrated 70 years on air. But oddly enough, so did another show. Round Britain Quiz, which you may remember vaguely from your childhood, or possibly your parents’ childhood, also reached 70 in 2017. There have been one

Fiendishly puzzling

There can be few challenges more daunting for the assiduous reviewer than a pile of Christmas ‘gift’ books sitting on his desk exuding yuletide jollity. But this year’s aren’t bad at all. Some are serious works of quasi-academic research, others are tooth-pullingly funny and one or two are utterly bizarre. For sheer magnificent pointlessness, you

More matter with less art

When A.A. Gill died last December, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth across the nation. I must admit this came as a surprise to me, but then I hadn’t read him for many years, having developed a ferocious dislike for the Sunday Times too long ago now to remember quite why. My memories of


Every Christmas, I ask my loved ones for at least two pairs of corduroy trousers. Off with a sigh tramps my girlfriend, who knows that fashion cycles dictate that corduroy will be ‘in’, and therefore purchasable, only every fourth or fifth year or so. For three or four years corduroy will be invisible. Shop assistants

Pub quizzes

For more than 20 years now, I have been trudging up the hill to the Prince of Wales in Highgate on Tuesday evenings to take part in that tiny pub’s venerable weekly quiz. Each evening promises something different and yet somehow the same: ferocious competition, ridiculous arguments over the answer to question four, several glasses