Remember Baghdad

I haven’t been to the Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford for years, not since it was called the Penultimate Picture Palace. Its re-naming conjures up a shuffling line of picture palaces, like heirs to the throne, which all shimmy up a place in the queue when one ahead of them closes. I wonder if there’s … More Remember Baghdad

‘Buy a couple of pistols – one for Egypt and one for Britain – and shoot myself through each ear in the Bull Ring?’

“Where are you from?” “Jamaica … My father is Egyptian.” “And what nationality does that make you?” “Parasitologist.” “I say chaps! This man says his nationality is parasitologist!” If you’re born with three mother-countries, as Yasseen was, you look for the Highest Common Factor that unites them, and since both his parents were doctors – … More ‘Buy a couple of pistols – one for Egypt and one for Britain – and shoot myself through each ear in the Bull Ring?’

Noireddin, the Bent Copper and Partial Redemption

One day in early 1977 I went to the cinema in Cairo, to see the one and only screening of Costas Gavras’s magnificent film, “Z”. It had been summarily banned by the President, Anwar Sadat, who must have seen uncomfortable parallels between the story of a Greek politician set up and murdered by hired thugs, … More Noireddin, the Bent Copper and Partial Redemption

‘A fading time’ – Iraq in black-and-white

In The Aspern Papers, Henry James wrote rather gloomily “When Americans went abroad in 1820, there was something romantic, almost heroic, in it, as compared with the perpetual ferryings of the present hour when photography and other conveniences have annihilated surprise,” and this is far, far truer today with the universal availability of countless indifferent … More ‘A fading time’ – Iraq in black-and-white

The Five Martyrs of Morocco and the bloody Miramamolin

Last weekend I was in Oporto, where I visited the quite extraordinarily opulent church of St Francis. It is a rococo creation of such self-indulgent extravagance – 500 kilograms of gold are said to have been used in the gilding, and the whole interior is a vast, wriggling omelette of gold leaf – that on … More The Five Martyrs of Morocco and the bloody Miramamolin