For at least three days in June 2019 gangs of drunken English soccer ‘fans’ laid siege to the beautiful Portuguese city of Porto. Apparently, they were there for the Europa Cup but sport had nothing to do with their behaviour. All night they roamed the streets singing and chanting inane songs punctuated with God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia. Shirtless, tattooed, short back and sides and loafers were their uniform. Their days were spent drinking and littering the streets. The amount of rubbish they left behind was astounding; much of it plastic beer cups strewn everywhere and no doubt, […]
Moby-Dick—strange portents and leviathan obsessions I’ve been obsessed with whales since I moved to Newcastle, Australia, from Sydney two years ago. The day after moving I walked to Strzelecki Lookout, my favourite place in Newcastle, high above the sea. It was the first day of September—one of those clear Spring days when the wind is cold but the sun is shining. Just off the cliff, in the wide expanse of blue, I spotted a puff of white like a small cloud. If I’d been a whaler I might have cried out: ‘Whale Ho! Thar she blows!’ Instead I laughed with […]
Queensland killed Georges Perec. It was one of the campus legends we heard as English undergrads at the University of Queensland. The legendary Ouilpian author of Life: A User’s Manual was, improbably, a writer-in-residence for a month in 1981. (For a more thorough, and undoubtedly accurate, account of Perec’s time down under see Peter Salmon’s fantastic article here.) Back then Queensland was still in the thrall of The Joke, the web of systematised police corruption that reached all the way to the Premier Joh Bjekle-Petersen. This was before the transformative troika of the Commonwealth Games, Expo ’88 and the Fitzgerald […]
The very last thing I read was a US magazine piece online?about 9-11, because I was chasing a curious and allegedly true fact circulating the internet that ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ by the Bee Gees was playing in a Twin Towers foyer when the planes hit. It turned out to be half-true—it was a muzak version. But still. ‘…and you come to me on a summer breeze, keep me warm in your love then you softly leave…’ The song is now rendered differently, as if it’s gone through some sort of machine that has made it more haunting than […]
Google has this handy and terrifying feature called Timeline, which shows you everywhere you’ve ever been, how many times you’ve been there, and how long you’ve been there each time. It collects data from your phone, constantly if you have an Android, and if you have an iPhone, it logs your location every time you open the Google Maps app. Nothing disappears: your every movement is a collection of data points, fed into algorithms that use this information to do everything from alert you to traffic jams in your area to notify you when you’re running low on nappies for?your […]
There is shock and horror in the Californian almond region tonight.
Initial reports suggest ten dead and at least a dozen more injured.
I have always thought of myself as a good person, but I recently began to suspect that I have been kidding myself. What’s more, I began to believe that my failure to be a good person is inseparable from me being a writer—an activity that has taken on the character of something diabolical. I should clarify that I am in the habit of second-guessing myself, of being self-critical. Generally speaking, scepticism rather than faith, self-doubt rather than self-confidence, have served me well. I think of these characteristics—undoubtedly with an obnoxious measure of self-regard—as the foundation for learning, thinking, self-reinvention, and […]
In the crumbling church there’s a bone of a saint the Romans boiled in olive oil. A coat hanger is a deformed cross that has outlived the golden vestments of the priests. In her office on the hill the virgin’s ears intact in fake fur. She’ll stare forever at the very same stars that wheel above the world of the true night. A forgotten swamp’s refilled to the level of the recalled banks and the swifts return each dusk to the paper map spread out candlelit, and illumined as their valley. Adam Aitken’s memoir One Hundred […]