Instagrammed: The Isle of Wight Festival

If there’s one thing Instagram feels as though it was designed for, it’s festivals. My somewhat cynical theory behind this is that festivals tend to be a pseudo-nostalgic experience for most people — especially the young. They’re a way of temporarily appropriating a hedonism that’s really the property of a different era and projecting it onto our lives. It means we can pretend to ourselves that if we’d been born earlier, we all totally would have been hippies, no question. This explains the flower garlands perching on every other teenage festivalgoer’s head. The morning before I went to the Isle…

View Post

Pigging out at the Pig in the Wall

I really do hate to squeal, but I just can’t keep a secret like this to myself. I went to the Isle of Wight Festival last weekend, and I did it the grown-up way (by ‘glamping’ — more to come on that soon). I was determined for the whole trip to be the relaxed break I really needed, and so before I took to the high seas, a civilised lunch was in order. I’m a northerner through and through, but Hampshire is by far my favourite southern county and I spent several happy summers in the New Forest when I…

View Post

Oxford: In search of my literary heroes

They say you should never meet your heroes… which is unlikely to happen if your heroes are mostly dead, as mine are. It hasn’t stopped me trying, though. By sheer coincidence, I pass each day on my way to work a run-down house adorned with a blue plaque signifying that Mary Wollstonecraft – probably the hero I admire most of all my dead heroes — once lived there. Obviously Southwark today is far different to Wollstonecraft’s Southwark, but it feels special to me that this woman’s history is entwined with my life, even if it’s in a small, insignificant kind…

View Post

Harry Potter and the muggles who wouldn’t grow up

“Harry wished he had eight more eyes… There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels’ eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills, and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon….“ I was nine years old when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. It had just been awarded the Smarties prize when, as a treat, my teacher began reading it aloud to us at the end of a long day. By the time my mum came to pick me…

View Post

A grand London day out

A few weeks ago on a Sunday evening I was feeling brave and in the mood to take a few risks, so I posted the following message on this page: “Londoners, I’m handing my day off over to you! In a bid to try and get to know the city’s nooks and crannies and places I might not otherwise have visited, I’m crowdsourcing an itinerary for the whole day. Send me to all your favourite places or any interesting spots you might know of. I’ll tweet as I go — probably looking for extra suggestions along the way — as…

View Post