Monday 30 June 2014

Leatherbound Hidebound Competition

The Elements of EloquenceJust  a link today to this article what I wroted in the Independent on Sunday, summarising my views on bookshops.

Also and moreover, there is a competition on to win a leatherbound copy of The Elements of Eloquence. There are only twelve of these in the world, and I have two of them. If that weren't enough you also get £20 of book tokens. All you have to do is to tweet a photograph of The Unknown Unknown in front of an independent bookshop and add the hashtag #IBW2014. You may do this any time until the end of August.

By the way, the origin of the word hidebound is that if cattle (or humans) are underfed, their flesh becomes very tight on them, so tight that they have difficulty moving. Thus a cramped and unmoving mind has hidebound attitudes.

Saturday 28 June 2014

The Unknown Unknown

The Unknown Unknown is out today. So scamper down to your nearest independent bookshop and buy a copy. It's only £1.99.

For myself, I'm off to give a talk in Wisley in Surrey at 3pm.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

On Tour with George Villiers Duke of Buckingham

To business. The Unknown Unknown comes out in independent bookshops at the end of next week, enticingly priced at £1.99. I think it comes out in other bookshops and things in September. To celebrate I shall be doing a little tour. The dates are as follows:

Saturday 28th June - RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey
Tuesday 1st July - JaffĂ© & Neale, Chipping Norton
Wednesday 2nd - Foyles Charing Cross Road for the Great Bookshop Debate
Thursday 3rd - Mostly Books, Abingdon
Friday 4th - Red Lion Books, Colchester
Saturday 5th - David's Bookshop, Letchworth

Do come along and say hello.

Last week I did a small, private tour of my own commemorating my favourite London street namer: George Villiers Duke of Buckingham.

George Villiers Duke of Buckingham owned a very valuable bit of land just off the strand next to Charing Cross. In 1672 he sold it to developers, but he made a condition of the sale that his name be commemorated for ever in the streets.

So there was George Street. The name has since been treacherously changed to York Buildings, but George Court remains. Here's proof.

But that wasn't enough for George Villiers Duke of Buckingham. He wanted his surname out there too. And so, running from Charing Cross to Embankment:

Which all Londoners know to be the home of Gordon's wine bar. But that wasn't enough for him, he wanted the Duke bit out there too. So the made Duke Street. Unfortunately this is now called York Buildings, but it was there once. And then he wanted Buckingham Street, and he got it.

But none of this is what makes me love the chap. So far, it's just been a little bit egotistical. That's all. Nothing really fun. George Street, Villiers Street, Duke Street, Buckingham Street. I can almost see him pointing out to the urban planners that his name was not, absolutely not, George Villiers Duke Buckingham.

Oh no.

His name, and the world had better remember this, was George Villiers Duke OF Buckingham, goddammit. Never forget the Of. And hence the best street name in London. A name so good, that even though the philistines at Westminster Council have changed it, they still have to keep the original mentioned on the sign.

Here is a photo of me at the end of my pilgrimage, my tribute to a man who cared enough to preserve his own prepositions. Here is me in Of Alley.

Those tour dates again:

Tuesday 10 June 2014


Intergalactic hollandaise
Just one of those very simple ones I'd never noticed: saucers were originally meant to contain sauce. It's so obvious once you see it, but I had never seen it before.

They've been used to support cups only since the early eighteenth century.

This also means that flying saucers are for huge, alien foodstuffs to be dipped into.