Filed under English literature

Ghosts of Wigan Pier

Ghosts of Wigan Pier

This is from the i paper by Dean Kirby. I was surprised to see the image of Orwell’s son. The 1930s seem so much further away than living history. Orwell is also important today with the rise in alternative readings of Britain’s colonial past.  When George Orwell was writing The Road to Wigan Pier – … Continue reading

Norfolk Witches

Norfolk Witches

This is from The Norfolk Broads published 1903  by William Dutt, as described by the rector of Rockland: He assured me that even now there were men and women in Rockland and its neighbourhood who sought the aid of “wise women” and “cunning men” when a child was lost; who would not allow their relatives … Continue reading

On Translation 

When the news broke on Wednesday & twitter fell silent I turned to John Berger’s ‘Confabulations ‘ on translating into other languages: “We read and reread the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them, to reach, to touch the vision or experience which prompted them. We then gather up what we … Continue reading

Writing Non Fiction

Writing Non Fiction

Writing fiction or non fiction requires the ability to get inside a story, and inside the heads of characters. But non fiction has to go further – it has to be checkable, you need to protect yourself from challenges. But the process of research and writing can change you for the better. I am a … Continue reading

Art and History Uniting Communities

Art and History Uniting Communities

In the midst of despair at the divisiveness and hostility between many Britons, I offer some thoughts from our Georgian past. This is one of my favourite quotes, so apologies to anyone who has read it before. It comes from Highways & Byways in Somerset by Edward Hutton, on the importance of the city of … Continue reading

Executions on Newcastle Moor

Newcastle had a temporary gallows built on the Town Moor, near the barracks of This is a list of the people who were despatched there. It is a varied and pretty comprehensive list of the types of crime that were designated capital offences at the time. It is also interesting how few there were for … Continue reading

Messing with Hogarth

The Royal Society for Public Health has commissioned an update of Hogarth’s famous cartoon ‘Gin Lane’ to publicise the problems of public health. This is from the I paper: Hogarth’s satirical cartoon, published in 1751, blamed excessive consumption of gin for child neglect, disease, prostitution and debauchery. Thomas Moore’s Gin Lane 2016, commissioned by the … Continue reading

How Old and Ugly Were Witches?

I have always worried at the bad images we have of witches, especially those who were punished for their ‘crimes’. The image of an ugly, isolated old woman just doesn’t seem to fit many of the cases, in particular the famous Pendle witches. The old hags seem more cartoon characters. Many pamphlets and ballads were … Continue reading

A Witch Discovered

This was told by an old Berkshire woman at the start of the 20th century. This has many of the elements of a classic witch tale, the wise local overcoming the witch who was hurting his friend, but leaves us wondering what happened next. This is from Tales of Old Berkshire by Cecilia Millson: Two … Continue reading