Professional foul: there is more to life than mammon

TES column 6 February 2015 ‘Professional’, used as a descriptive term, has undergone a transformation.  Today it means ‘unequivocally good’. Governors are expected to work ‘professionally’ to encourage school improvement.  Top-of-the-range tools and products are ‘professional quality’ and we aspire to undertaking tasks ‘like a pro’. How different to the […]

Over exposure: are new laws needed to protect celebrities’ children?

Originally published by The Guardian 9 January 2015 Hannah Weller’s campaign to “prevent the media from publishing photographs of children without their parents’ consent” makes a seductive pitch. She and her musician husband Paul were photographed with their young children, without their consent, shopping in Los Angeles. The pictures were published by […]

Christmas in Mombasa

The first obvious signs that Christmas Day had arrived in Makumba, on the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya, came when the children put up the decorations.  Identical to those in a million British homes, the shiny plastic banners enjoin readers to have a ‘Merry Christmas’.  The glittering hangings were purchased from […]

Tracks of my tears: an internal jukebox selection

1. I grew up in a home where the King was revered. In the ’70s I couldn’t get excited about big ballads, curious concept albums and woeful film scores. The Sun recordings, however, had a raw, personal, intensity to which I responded immediately. Before I was a teen, I had […]

Miner poets: striking a rhyming seam

Buried deep in this summer’s Latitude Festival line up was a curious outpost from a very different cultural moment.  The three-day event’s insufferable up-from-London-middle-classness is a well worn riff for compares.  But among the up-and-coming performance poets who provide the mainstay of the ‘poetry-tent’ program, was a celebration of verse […]

Hot wheels: public transport African style

The shock of navigating Mombasa’s roads, even in a giant Land Cruiser, was such that survival was my only concern for some time.  The surge of vehicles, each trying to gain advantage by any means, was in a different order of magnitude to traffic in any of the western metropolis that […]

Source marked: how journalists’ smartphones blow contacts’ cover

IFJ/NUJ/Guardian conference – Journalism In An Age Of Mass Surveillance The Guardian, London 16 October 2014  Above: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger Cocktail shakers are newly popular among Guardian journalists, and manual typewriters are making a comeback.  Both result from rising fears about the state’s ability to gather ‘metadata’ from reporter’s […]

The living dead: my faith was renewed at a socialist pioneer’s graveside

Hollywood and horror writers have seen to it that graveyards evoke feelings of dread, fear and apprehension.  At best they are where the grieving outpour their despair; at worst they are the scene of spines chilled, foul deeds and the rising dead. Wandering around the monumental Victorian remembrances in Dundee’s […]