Fabulosa! The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language by Paul Baker is a compelling history of the linguistic lengths to which gay people had to go to hide in plain sight within an aggressively homophobic culture.
The bearded figure clad in white robes and wandering barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem is not, in fact, the messiah. But neither is he a very naughty boy. Rather, he is a middle-aged man from Texas in need of a shower…
Because my father was a diplomat, my childhood was spent travelling from place to place. The bedrooms in which I slept, the words spoken outside, the landscapes around me constantly changed. Only my library remained the same.
Statues of great white Englishmen are not very popular these days. Since 2016, campaigners have been trying to “decolonise” Britain’s history by removing memorials to imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes and the slave-trader Edward Colston.
It’s been a while since I was startled by contemporary sculpture, enough to make me wonder “How on earth did someone even think to do this, never mind do it?” That was my reaction to Phenomenal Nature: Mrinalini Mukherjee.
The author of Why Birds Sing (2005) takes a personal journey through music and birdsong, loosely circling the celebrated nightingales of central Berlin as he pursues the notion of the “perfect sound”.
Class used to predict how people would vote in Britain. In 1974 if you were working class you were three times more likely to vote Labour than Conservative. Now the distribution of votes by class is almost even.
Mescaline is the drug that launched the modern fascination with hallucinogens. It is also the hallucinogen for which there is the earliest evidence of human use. At Chavin de Huantar, a temple complex in the Peruvian Andes…
Slang, throughout its history, has given a voice to the margins of language and of society. But it has its own margins too. Beyond the founding vocabulary of criminality, or the vast playground focused on our giblets and their interactions…
One does not expect national treasures to go tearing about the country on two wheels, not least when they turn 84 this summer. But, then, Sir Roy Strong is no common-or-garden national treasure.