Friday 25 December 2020

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Thursday 10 December 2020

Urban Diary


I call these days the “mulchy” season. The combination of October’s falling leaves, November’s annual trees’ divestment and December’s intermittent cold drizzle floods the ground with a moist, compost-like spread.

This is the perfect time for a walk in Epping Forest, the ancient woodland that lies northeast of Greater London. First, we need to layer up, though. We’ve had a northerly this week and the temperature today feels below zero. However, we have the good fortune of fair weather, albeit still on the icy side.

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Friday 18 September 2020

Killer Opening Songs (Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love) “Phallic rock” at its best


By the time Led Zeppelin came off stage at the Chatenay Malabry (Piston 70) in Paris on the 6th December 1969, The Rolling Stones’ free concert in Altamont had yet to start and its sad ‘end of the sixties’ label yet to be coined. In the meantime, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet had already made its debut and the first draft lottery in the US since World War II had also taken place. It is in these circumstances that one of the better Killer Opening Songs of all times must be analysed.

Following their well-received debut album, ‘Led Zeppelin’, released in January 1969, the British band embarked on a series of concerts during the same year promoting material for their sophomore record. From the US to Sweden, from Denmark to Canada, Zep’s bluesy, raw sound seduced thousands of youngsters and enticed a whole generation.

The chemistry between Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played a major role in the band’s ascension to the pinnacle of rock’n’roll. Although, to be fair, it was the group’s ‘fifth’ member, manager Peter Grant, who made the impossible possible: Led Zeppelin remains one of the few bands (K.O.S. cannot think of any other) that never released singles in its entire musical career in the UK, only albums.

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Thursday 3 September 2020

Being John Malkovich


The world doesn’t need more ego-driven individualism, the consequence of which is uncertainty, both economic and political. The world needs more consistency. The world needs more John Malkovichs (or should that be Malkoviches?).

Consistency has been key to Malkovich’s output. This does not always translate as quality, but the actor is renowned for going where few of his peers dare to.

In a success-focused, happiness-chasing society where we are taught from an early age to try for the summit, it is useful to know that some people are just as content with soul-enriching projects, even if they are less financially remunerative. In Malkovich’s case, this scenario has played out in films where the process of building a character and exploring the depth of it has been more important than the amount of zeroes on the cheque.

(Continue reading here)

Thursday 20 August 2020

My Introduction as one of Illumination Writers

For the last few months I have been writing for an online publication called Illumination. Here’s my formal introduction to both fellow writers and readers alike. If you have been a member of this parish for a long time, you might remember that I wrote a similar post to celebrate one of my birthdays. Well, the green revolution is here. Recycle and reuse!

Continue reading here.

Saturday 1 August 2020

What Makes a Good Writer? (originally written by Zadie Smith)

Third part now.

What writers know

First things first: writers do not have perfect or even superior knowledge about the quality or otherwise of their own work — God knows, most writers are quite deluded about the nature of their own talent. But writers do have a different kind of knowledge than either professors or critics. Occasionally it’s worth listening to. The insight of the practitioner is, for better or worse, unique.

(Click here to continue reading)

Thursday 9 July 2020

What Makes a Good Writer? (originally written by Zadie Smith)

Still from the archive. 2nd part.
The craft that defies craftsmanship
That is the end of the tale of Clive. Its purpose was to suggest that somewhere between a critic’s necessary superficiality and a writer’s natural dishonesty, the truth of how we judge literary success or failure is lost. It is very hard to get writers to speak frankly about their own work, particularly in a literary market where they are required to be not only writers, but also hucksters selling product. It is always easier to depersonalise the question. In preparation for this essay I emailed many writers (under the promise of anonymity) to ask how they judge their own work. One writer, of a naturally analytical and philosophical bent, replied by refining my simple question into a series of more interesting ones: I’ve often thought it would be fascinating to ask living writers: “Never mind critics, what do you yourself think is wrong with your writing? How did you dream of your book before it was created? What were your best hopes? How have you let yourself down?” A map of disappointments — that would be a revelation.
(Click here to continue reading)

Thursday 2 July 2020

What Makes a Good Writer? (originally written by Zadie Smith)

From the archive.

The tale of Clive

Wednesday 17 June 2020

3 Tips to Develop a More I-Based Writing Style

Can there be a more powerful artistic statement than Rachelle Ferrell’s album Individuality (Can I Be Me?)? The American singer had already shown her vocal prowess on her debut, First Instrument (especially her own take on famous melodies such as You Don’t Know What Love Is and My Funny Valentine). Yet, brilliant as that record was, it felt lacking, as if Rachelle’s creative output were not being totally showcased. Enter Individuality, Ferrell’s opportunity to put her “I” centre stage.
Similarly, in writing (more specifically the non-fiction variety), “I” is an unashamed attempt to establish character and voice. By character I mean our personality, and by voice our inner thoughts.
(continue reading here).

Thursday 4 June 2020

“Invisible Man” in the Times of George Floyd

No sooner had I started re-reading Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s classic novel, last week, than news of what had happened in Minneapolis filtered through.

(continue reading here)

Thursday 21 May 2020

Killer Opening Songs to Listen to During the Lockdown

Some artists manage just one Killer Opening Song in their whole musical career. Some others get to release just a handful. But there are performers for whom KOSs are part of their DNA. Step forward, Queen.

Carry on reading here.

Friday 1 May 2020


The story of two people longing for each other, yet limited by their circumstances. I first posted a draft on this blog many years ago and in 2012 it was published in The Voice.

“Is he asleep?” he asks.
“Of course,” she snaps. But should there be an “of course”? After all, many a night she has been up until the small hours consoling her husband after a fit. It’s not the convulsions she fears, she’s got used to those; it’s the aftermath, his sense of disorientation. Her voice softens. “Yes, he is asleep, sorry.”
“You don’t have to say sorry. It’s not easy. I understand.”
“Do you?”
“Well, I try. I know it’s difficult to put myself in your place.”
“I wonder if anyone could put themselves in my place. I wonder if even I want to be in my place.”
Silence. The unsayable is usually followed by quietness. This is not what she’s come here for, however. She saw the balcony light on, heard the soft, mellow notes of Miles Davis’s A Kind of Blue playing and knew he was out there. She found him with a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other one.
Their eyes kiss. It’s a lingering, embracing kiss, the type they know they’ll never be able to replicate with their lips.
(Continue reading here)

Friday 17 April 2020

Urban Diary During Lockdown

The cool, orange spring sun is slowly sinking, leaving one side of Stamford Street in the shade and the other one caressed by an auburn glow. I stop on the corner of Hatfields, get off my bicycle and lean against the wall.
It has now been more than four weeks since I last saw the rush-hour crowd moving up and down this road, either on their way to or from Waterloo Underground Station. The Covid-19-caused lockdown has rendered the hustle-bustle silent.
(Continue reading here)

Sunday 12 April 2020

Top Tips for Editing Your Writing During the Time of COVID-19

There’s a beautiful scene in High Fidelity, Stephen Frears’ 2000’s film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel, that I never tire of watching. Facing the camera, Rob Gordon, the character played superbly by John Cusack, shares his top tips in making the ultimate mixtape:
The making of a book, regardless of its future standing in literature’s canon, is equally hard to do and it also takes ages to complete.
Continue reading here.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

The reporter, staff writer and non-fiction author Deneen L Brown has an invaluable piece of advice for writers. She says “The hardest thing about the beginning is the blank screen. Writing is like scraping off a piece of yourself, people can see beneath your skin.

Continue reading by clicking here.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

A deserted Long Acre, Covent Garden, London

In my previous column, I wrote about freeing up our creativity while self-isolating. This one will deal with what happens when we’ve managed to complete that much-longed-for first draft.
Imagine your name IS NOT Steve. Or Martha. Imagine you are the editor of a prestigious publication. And now imagine a freelance writer submitting a piece addressed to Editor-in-Chief Steve. Or Martha.
Yeah. You, aspiring writer, cocked up big time.
(Continue reading here)

Sunday 22 March 2020

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

After all, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza were just two characters in Garcia Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera. You, fellow writer, on the other hand, are the only character in your own life’s novel. And you’re coming back to port now.
Continue reading here

© 2020

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Urban Diary

The low winter clouds leave Farringdon Road decked in grey, but if you want to find dullness here you will fail. The Deliveroo and Übereats cyclists put paid to that. The way they spread evenly on Blackfriars Bridge (both on the foot traffic side and the A201 road), hogging almost every single space available, is a sight to marvel at. That is, if, unlike me, you’re cycling yourself. Then, the view, far from enjoyable becomes bothersome.

Although busy and noisy, the bridge today is a far cry from the time when the Blackfriars Monastery was located on the riverside. It was there that the “Black Parliament” met a few years before the start of the Wars of the Roses. Today, no one carries the white rose of York, or its red counterpart from Lancaster as they cross the Thames, but we still fight over the equivalent of the English throne in the 15th century: space.

You notice it in our postures: heads bent down, taut, veiny necks shooting forwards, muscles tensed up, our bodies and bicycles poised over the bridge like human daggers. Clicks, clacks and clatter signal gear changes. A symphony of bells betray the presence of a distracted pedestrian walking into the cycle lane. In the distance, St Paul’s Cathedral stands majestically amidst the architectural Johnny-come-latelys: the Shard, the Grater and the Gherkin.

Meanwhile on Blackfriars Road, the Deliveroo and Übereats cyclists move with the grace of birds. Tilting from left to right and viceversa, they zero in on whatever little space is available, attack it, conquer it and leave it for the next one; the wind (or lack thereof) acting like a loose rudder. The effect is a “now you see them, now you don’t”. And you would marvel at their efficiency. Of course, you would. That is, if you weren’t a cyclist. In which case, you would probably carry a rose in your pocket. The colour would be up to you.

© 2020


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