news for September

September 12th talking about John Soane and St Pancras at St Pancras Old Church.


September 23rd talking, with others, about Ian Nairn at the Barbican

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Vesuvius at Lowdham

Lowdham Book Festival Scroll to page 12 to find the details of my Vesuvius talk early on the final day of the Festival, Saturday June 29th.
It’s a great little celebration of books (and more) in an intriguing part of England, close to Southwell and Newark and not so far from Nottingham. Lowdham even has its own railway station (photo courtesy of – so no excuses.

...with thanks to

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10 days in the USA

Ten days in the USA filled my head with impressions. First visits to Charleston and Savannah revealed towns that are immeasurably different, even if both are in the southern states, both antebellum. Live oaks are veiled in Spanish moss, a reminder of the humid, extreme, climate.

In atmosphere I found Charleston gentler. The view of water lapping away at the far end of King Street was magic (on a fine spring morning, at least) but I overdosed on gigantic handsome houses on which prodigious sums of money had been spent and where, I gather, their wealthy owners rarely come.

The more modest areas with their ‘single’ house, one room, gable end onto the street, spilling onto ‘piazzas’ (the tiered balconies,with doors alongside) demonstrate more surprises and signs of life.

Savannah spoke volumes to this Bloomsbury dweller. The humane plan, based on a linked sequence of public green spaces (eighteen, I think) 1820’s to 1860’s in character, was really appealing. The waterfront is quite a separate deal, tougher but complementary. To my considerable surprise I discovered John Soane’s influence in Savannah through the work of architect William Jay, who arrived there from London in 1817, steeped in what he learned from his Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy.

Currently the entire city of Savannah is benefiting from education. Over fifty buildings (mostly historic structures, many brought back from disuse) scattered across the town, are part of the ambitious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) expansion plan.

From there to New York City. Teeming with new open spaces, ranging from the High Line (I prefer the Parisian version) to Brooklyn Bridge Park, a work in progress along the shoreline of the old port area and now framing the new buildings as they rise on Ground Zero across the water.

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Life and death Pompeii and Herculaneum


A nice sight for an author! a lovely great heap of their books handily positioned to catch exhibition goers leaving the fantastic, poignant show Life and Death Pompeii and Herculaneum  at the British Museum until 29 September 2013.

Thursday 2 May I’ll be talking about how one volcano caught the imagination of the world, from classical times until now.
A joint enterprise between Ealing Libraries and Waterstones.
Venue The Green Room, Ealing Central Library, Broadway Centre, W5 5JY.
Free but they recommend advance booking. Look forward to meeting you there.
Enquiries: 020 8825 9278

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London in flux


Looking out from the Rubicon. Shard far left, London Eye towards the right. Kings Cross sheds in their glory. Soon ten storey bocks will obstruct the view, leaving just two chinks.



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Where in the world?


Walking at weekend struck by this landscape, universal in its look.

Essex…and to catch more glimpses of this maligned county

see Jonathan Meades excellent programme for BBC 4


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Cambridge Botanic Garden

botanics        Cambridge Botanic Garden, the winter garden – exuberant branchscape.

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newcastle-v1February 2013 Nice rhythmic view of Newcastle-Gateshead seen from a wintry Castle roof. We’re filming here for the forthcoming BBC4 feature on Ian Nairn.


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