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Nick Richardson

Nick Richardson, a former editor at the LRB, is now a software engineer.

The hero​ of The Man in the Moone, a novel written in the late 1620s by the Anglican bishop Francis Godwin, is carried to the moon in a sky chariot pulled by a flock of wild swans. He spends the next few months among the peaceful ‘Lunars’ and gains a measure of fluency in their language, which ‘consisteth not so much of words and letters’ as of melodies ‘that no...

Diary: Elves and Aliens

Nick Richardson, 2 August 2018

The US government have publicly admitted, in effect, that highly trained and experienced pilots have seen aircraft that they are unable to identify, doing things that they and their colleagues are unable to explain. ‘Unexplained’ doesn’t mean alien, as the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson emphasised on CNN after the footage was released: ‘Just because you don’t know what it is you’re looking at doesn’t mean it’s intelligent aliens visiting from another planet.’ Well, yes, but credible alternative explanations are lacking.

Chinese SF

Nick Richardson, 8 February 2018

Cixin Liu’s monumental Three-Body Trilogy – first published between 2006 and 2010, and recently translated into English by Ken Liu, a Chinese-American sci-fi writer – is Chinese science fiction’s best-known work. Barack Obama is a fan, and the forthcoming movie adaptations are already being described as ‘China’s Star Wars’. The story begins during the Cultural Revolution and ends 18,906,416 years into the future.

From a Distant Solar System

Nick Richardson, 14 December 2017

I pray​ every day that super-intelligent aliens will come to earth and save us from self-destruction, so when an 800-metre-long cigar-shaped object was found to have hurtled into our solar system I felt a stirring of hope. It was picked up on 19 October by the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) at the University of Hawaii’s Astronomical Institute....

At the British Museum: The Scythians

Nick Richardson, 18 October 2017

Herodotus​ tells us that when Darius’ Persian army invaded Scythia, in the late sixth century bce, the Scythians ran away. The Persians followed them over the steppeland north of the Black Sea until, tiring of the pursuit, Darius sent a messenger to the Scythian king to tell him to make a stand or bend the knee. The Scythian king, Idanthyrsus, informed the messenger that as they had...

Short Cuts: ‘The Bestseller Code’

Nick Richardson, 17 November 2016

In​ Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller the protagonist encounters two sisters who have different styles of reading. Ludmilla reads for pleasure, unencumbered by academic-literary-critical goggles, delighting in writers who write as ‘a pumpkin plant produces pumpkins’. Lotaria, on the other hand, is an academic who reads books ‘only to find in...

Paul Kingsnorth

Nick Richardson, 10 August 2016

In​ 2011 Paul Kingsnorth announced his withdrawal from the environmental movement after twenty years of activism. Environmentalists, he complained in a long article published in Orion magazine, had stopped caring about the environment: ‘We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability”’, which means ‘sustaining human...

Breaking In

Nick Richardson, 29 June 2016

The burglar​’s gaze turns exits into entrances, windows into doors, drainpipes into ladders. Burglars see the bits of buildings the architect attempts to conceal. Floors, walls and ceilings aren’t what they seem – the burglar knows there is space to hide in the cavities behind them. Clues to where the richest pickings are can be read off a building’s façade....

‘You’re an idiot.’ On its own that sentence is an insult, but add an emoji and it can seem self-deprecatory, even affectionate. Emoji – just in case you’ve been in space for the last few years – are little pictures that you can add to text messages or emails to inflect what’s being said in words. There are 845 installed on the latest iPhones. The set...

Jonathan Coe

Nick Richardson, 3 March 2016

On 18 July​ 2003, the body of the weapons inspector David Kelly was found in the woods on Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire, two months after he’d revealed that the Blair administration had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Rachel Wells, the central character in Number 11 and the narrator of the first of its five overlapping stories, was ten when Kelly’s body was...

Poaching

Nick Richardson, 17 December 2015

Poachers​ – the traditional sort – come near the top of the national hierarchy of thieves. They’re up there with Raffles and Robin Hood. People who don’t own large estates and pheasants tend to like poachers, because like Raffles they’re artisans – you can’t smash and grab a forest – and like Robin Hood they sock it to the system. ‘The...

Short Cuts: Lord High Spanker

Nick Richardson, 7 October 2015

I was​ the head of the Piers Gaveston Society, which is the society that David Cameron allegedly stuck his dick in a pig for. I never did that. According to Lord Ashcroft’s unofficial biography of the prime minister, Cameron did what he did as part of an initiation ritual, but the society in my day (late 2000s) didn’t have initiation rituals because it wasn’t a proper...

Erik Satie

Nick Richardson, 3 June 2015

One thing everyone knows about Erik Satie is that he was an eccentric. There are many kinds of eccentric and Satie was most of them. He presented himself as a nutty professor figure, not a composer but a ‘gymnopedist’ and ‘phonometrician’. He dined – or so he claimed in his autobiography – only on ‘food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals’. He walked around Paris in priestly robes, then swapped them for a wardrobe full of identical brown corduroy suits; his interests included rare sea creatures, forgotten local history and the occult.

At White Cube: Christian Marclay

Nick Richardson, 19 March 2015

Christian Marclay​’s new show (at White Cube Bermondsey until 12 April) is all about teaching you to hear with your eyes. Surround Sounds, its centrepiece, is a soundproofed room full of people watching sound in silence. The graphic sound effects from thousands of comic books have been cut out, animated and projected onto the walls. Blue rectangles with the word ‘tap’ on...

At the V&A 1: Disobedient Objects

Nick Richardson, 8 October 2014

To make​ a DIY tear-gas mask first cut the bottom off a large plastic bottle. Then turn it upside down and cut away a tall U-shaped area big enough to put your face into. Get a dust mask, soak it in vinegar and insert it into the bottle’s neck. Attach a couple of elastic bands to the edges and wear. These instructions, with accompanying diagrams, are printed on yellow paper and placed...

Ned Beauman

Nick Richardson, 16 July 2014

At what point​ does Ned Beauman’s Glow become fantastical? There’s a kid from South London called Raf who likes drugs and raving. From a girl he meets at a party, Cherish, he learns about Lacebark, an American mining company in Burma that mistreats its workers while its executives swagger ‘like conquerors through the town’. Through Cherish, whose mum was raped by one...

At the Science Museum: ‘Collider’

Nick Richardson, 6 March 2014

The Large Hadron Collider​ at Cern is an extreme machine. As you go round the Science Museum’s new exhibition, Collider (until 5 May), you’re constantly reminded that it’s one of the biggest, fastest, coldest, deepest, most cleverly engineered and most expensive things ever made. It consists of two parallel hoop-shaped pipes, 27km long – almost as long as the...

Amanda Knox

Nick Richardson, 23 October 2013

None of the stories we’ve been told about Meredith Kercher’s death really works. This becomes clear as soon as you start trawling the internet for details: every piece of evidence that came before the court in the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009, and in their successful appeal in 2011, has been scrutinised. Almost everything that has been written about the case has been disputed. It seems unlikely that Knox, a twenty-year-old American student at the University for Foreigners in Perugia at the time of the crime, would have killed her British flatmate and fellow student with the help of a boyfriend she’d known for just a week.

Mohsin Hamid

Nick Richardson, 20 June 2013

‘You watch your mother slice up a lengthy white radish and boil it over an open fire. The sun has banished the dew, and even unwell as you are, you no longer feel cold.’ The following day, despite your illness – you have hepatitis E; ‘its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral’ – your parents take you and your older brother and sister from your village...

Stalking James Lasdun

Nick Richardson, 25 April 2013

In September 2011, the LRB published a Diary by James Lasdun about learning to fire a gun. A few weeks later we received an email from his stalker. It read: ‘His writing is boring and doesn’t sell. Stop publishing that hairy-nosed Jewish wanna-be-Protestant bore of a boar . . . His girlfriends are the most hideous.’ It goes without saying that its author hates Lasdun. But it’s pretty clear that she’s in love with him too: the abuse she levels at him seems tame, even cheeky – ‘bore of a boar’ – next to the insults she reserves for his wife and ‘girlfriends’.

Jakob Wassermann

Nick Richardson, 7 March 2013

Jakob Wassermann, who published nearly a book a year for the last thirty years of his life but died broke and exhausted, soon to be forgotten, on 1 January 1934 at the age of sixty, was well acquainted with the dangers of literature. My First Wife, which first appeared a few months after his death, is a cautionary tale. Belloc might have called it ‘Ganna Mevis, who read too much and...

‘Building Stories’

Nick Richardson, 6 December 2012

Chris Ware’s new book, Building Stories, isn’t a book at all. It’s a cardboard box, about the size of a board game, covered in bright, blocky illustrations and stuffed with comics. A couple of these are hardbound: one in plain charcoal grey; one with a picture of a girl on the cover, drawing. The rest are paper: some the size of the Beano, some as big as old broadsheets...

Crossrail

Nick Richardson, 11 October 2012

It took sixty years for the supporters of Crossrail, the new railway being built under London, to convince Parliament it was worth the investment. Recession scuppered the project twice, in the 1970s and 1990s, and slowed it down again in 2009: it was supposed to be finished in time for the Olympics, then budget cuts forced the completion date forward to 2018. Now, at least, construction is...

Schoenberg

Nick Richardson, 20 October 2011

‘The second half of this century will spoil by overestimation all the good of me that the first half, by underestimation, has left intact,’ Arnold Schoenberg prophesied in 1949, 16 years after his move to America. He was a man, he felt, whose time had never quite arrived. Before the First World War he had struggled for recognition; afterwards, in the age of Brecht and Weill, he...

Houdini

Nick Richardson, 14 April 2011

Ehrich Weiss was ten when he popped his first pair of handcuffs. He was working as a locksmith’s assistant in Appleton, Wisconsin. One lunchtime the local sheriff came into the shop chained to a bearded hoodlum: the magistrate had decided the man should go free, but when the sheriff tried to unlock the handcuffs his key snapped. Could Ehrich saw through the lock? Ehrich broke two...

John Cage

Nick Richardson, 19 August 2010

On the evening of 29 August 1952 a crowd of avant-garde aficionados and local music enthusiasts filed into the Maverick Concert Hall near Woodstock to hear a piano recital by the young virtuoso David Tudor. That they should be here, tucked away in the Catskills, was already extraordinary. The Maverick is more hermitage than concert hall: a wooden, barn-like structure, set – in 1952 at...

From The Blog
16 March 2015

Dead bodies are being evicted from East London to make way for the new Crossrail station at Liverpool Street. Crossrail is gentrifying the soil. Last week archaeologists began digging up skeletons from what used to be the Bedlam, or Bethlehem, burial ground. The cemetery took its name from the lunatic asylum, which was close by, and some of the people buried there were former inmates. But it was mostly used, between 1569 and 1738, by East London parishes as an overflow cemetery for ill-favoured corpses, an underground slum for the dead.

From The Blog
6 October 2014

Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin, the UK’s (arguably, but not that arguably) most innovative electronic music producer ever, has said he was suprised his record label Warp wanted to release a new album by him – the first Aphex Twin album in 13 years. I don’t know how he can have got that impression. Warp was so enthusiastic that it floated a green blimp over London with the Aphex Twin logo on it. I was so enthusiastic about it that I bought the album from an actual shop the day it came out; almost everyone I know has heard it; last week it was the eighth best-selling album in the country, which is unusual for a piece of avant-garde electronica.

From The Blog
28 July 2014

There are two types of fear, the fear that bites and the fear that creeps. Nathan Bland, the teenage protagonist of the horror story that David Mitchell recently published on Twitter, has had a strong dose of the first. He’s been mauled by a bull mastiff, which ‘pulled skin off my cheek like skin off roast chicken' and 'shook me like a doll, my own blood blinding me'. The dog still stalks his dreams. When Nathan and his mother arrive at the house of Lady Briggs, an aristo his mother is keen to impress, a dog barks and he feels a pang of terror - ‘my lungs fill with dark’ – before he realises that it’s ‘only a little yappy thing’. Later, Nathan plays a game of ‘Fox and Hounds’ with Lady Briggs’s creepy son Jonah. He’s running, trying to catch Jonah up, when he hears the mastiff behind him. Suddenly it appears with Jonah’s bloody head dangling from its jaws. Nathan runs into Lady Briggs’s house, slams the door and blames the apparition on the Valium he took earlier.

From The Blog
24 July 2014

Liberty Island is a website for conservative ‘literature’ set up by Adam Bellow, son of Saul. A disproportionate number of the stories on the site’s front page are classified as ‘dystopia’ or ‘horror’, which suggests that the Islanders may be just the teensiest bit paranoid. Conservative values triumph, by turns, over a pandemic, an invasive social service sector, a genetic disorder that turns babies gay – beneath that one someone’s commented ‘a real thinker’ – full employment, and a Lovecraftian tentacular monster. There are no romance stories or nature writing because they are for the weak; ‘military’ stories have their own replete section. One writer, Lari Vine, contributes a weekly send-up of Hillary Clinton’s campaign diary to the ‘humor’ section, in which she cracks jokes such as 'It's my day to babysit a recovering Chris Matthews. The other day he got his nose too far up Obama’s ass and he strained something.’ Guffaw.

From The Blog
11 April 2014

On April Fools' Day, the Wire magazine put out an announcement for an avant-garde music festival in Poland. I was completely taken in; but then, none of the performances mentioned sounded unrealistic. So James Ferraro had written an operatic tribute to the Nokia 3310 that was to be ‘simulcast online using Netscape Navigator’? Sounds like a natural move after his elevator music installation last month at MoMA and his Heathrow Airport-themed concept EP.

From The Blog
14 March 2014

Sometimes, when we’re putting together an issue of the LRB, we use Lorem Ipsum, a chunk of phoney Latin dummy text that’s been used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century. We paste it into a layout so we can tell what a page will look like before the copy's ready. The practice is known as ‘greeking’ because the Latin’s so mixed up it’s all Greek. Only it isn't. The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was.

From The Blog
21 February 2014

People get uber-tombs when we don’t want to forget them, or when whoever’s in power wants us not to forget them. They’re a way of making sure that the dead don’t fully die, architectural avatars of the values that belonged to the person pickled, withered or wrapped inside. Lenin’s tomb in Moscow, as Gwendolyn Leick points out in Tombs of the Great Leaders: A Contemporary Guide, is a prime example, though its look – squat, windowless, Lego-like – had more to do with Stalin’s take on Lenin’s values than Lenin’s. When Lenin died in 1924 his widow wrote to his successor:

From The Blog
17 January 2014

Every morning the postman delivers a sack of new books to the LRB office. The bulk of them turn out to be either books about religion or self-help books, which may say something about the apocalyptic mood of the publishing industry. The categories often overlap, as in The Truth Within by Gavin Flood, ‘a history of inwardness in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism’: religion can put you in touch with ‘a deeper, more fundamental, more authentic self’. The rest of this week's religious haul includes the Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies and a collection of essays on Habermas and religion. There’s less variation in the self-help books, as the genre creeps forwards fad by fad. Pace Flood, the new hot topic is outwardness: help yourself by understanding others.

From The Blog
27 November 2013

On my way to band practice last night, I came out of Camden Town tube station to find a group of men and women dancing about, singing songs and tooting on kazoos. They were, they told the assembled crowd, the Citizens’ Kazoo Orchestra, and they were there to protest against Camden Council’s decision to ban unlicensed busking in the borough.

From The Blog
25 October 2013

Writing drunk rarely works. Writing hungover, on the other hand, can be surprisingly effective. A bastard behind the eyes can still the frivolous part of the brain – the part that wanders off and watches cats on YouTube, or scrolls through Vice’s Dos and Don’ts – and allow the serious part to take control. Daily Rituals, Mason Currey’s compendium of working methods of the ‘great minds’, is full of writers who spent their nighttimes getting wasted, then got up and almost immediately started producing.

From The Blog
9 August 2013

How we look, and transform how we look, has been Ellen Gallagher’s preoccupation for the last twenty years. Throughout AxME, Tate Modern’s stunning retrospective, images of our mutable features – lips and eyes especially – recur with a frequency that suggests fevered obsession. A large, early painting, Oh! Susanna (1993), looks from a distance like an Agnes Martin abstract weave of dots and lines on a smudgy orange background, but is actually composed of tiny lips and eyeballs and the odd, disembodied Barbie’s head.

From The Blog
15 July 2013

Earlier this year Jesse Norman claimed that so many Etonians end up in government not because they’re born into money and power, but because ‘other schools don’t have the same commitment to public service’. Boys at Eton are encouraged to run parts of the school, so ‘don’t defer’; they also study rhetoric, poetry and public speaking, which are ‘incredibly important to young people succeeding in life’. Norman failed, however, to mention the kind of all-important physical training that Edmund Marlowe puts at the centre of his new novel of Eton life, Alexander’s Choice.

From The Blog
2 July 2013

Has Jesus got what it takes to join the X-Men? He has no shortage of superpowers, though a lot of them are one-offs: walking on water, turning water into wine, turning a few fish into a lot of fish. Probably the closest he has to a signature gift is healing the sick; but Wolverine can do that too, and Wolverine has adamantium claws.

From The Blog
2 January 2013

When I was a kid the Beano and the Dandy were like cats and dogs: you liked one or the other and your preference reflected your personality. I was a Beano fan. The difference between Dandy and Beano fans, I imagined, was the same as the difference between the comics’ two lead characters, Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace. The Beano’s Menace was a mischievous – in retrospect, borderline psychotic – schoolboy with knobbly knees, a soot-coloured mongrel called Gnasher and a catapult, which he’d use against his wispy arch-enemy, Walter the Softie. He was cunning, cool and funny. Dan was an oaf: a portly cowboy with a square jaw and an indefatigable appetite for ‘cow pie’ – whole cows, baked in pies, with the tails dangling over the edge of the crust. He didn’t want to menace, he wanted to help, but kept causing disaster by misjudging his strength. Here’s a typical Dan storyline: a group of boys are trying to sail model boats on a lake, but there’s not enough wind. Dan comes along and blows into the sails, but blows too hard and wrecks the boats. By way of apology, he turns his body into a boat by wrenching the paddle wheel off a steamer, tearing up a streetlamp to use as a mast, and attaching them to his corpulent figure.

From The Blog
15 October 2012

Before the Second World War, American composers went to Europe. That was the way of the ‘boulangerie’, the group including Aaron Copland who studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. After the war, though, they began to take seriously Charles Ives’s declaration that ‘we have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe.’ They started taking liberties. In Music 109, his winsome new book on the postwar American avant-garde, Alvin Lucier writes of his first encounter with the music of John Cage in Venice in 1960. David Tudor played the underside of a piano while Cage, Merce Cunningham and Carolyn Brown danced round the theatre reading instructions for actions out loud from cue cards. Cage tuned a radio to a broadcast of the pope pleading for world peace. At the end of the concert a courtly-looking gent strode angrily down the aisle, hit the piano with his cane and proclaimed: ‘Now I am a composer!’

From The Blog
24 August 2012

Mittwoch aus Licht is the only opera I know of that calls for a Bactrian camel trainer. It’s also the only opera to feature both a helicopter-borne string quartet and instrumental soloists on trapezes. Stockhausen seems to have believed that the quality of a work of art is closely related to the effort expended in making it, and that goes for all involved: composer, musicians, audience. Tim Souster told a story in the LRB twenty years ago about Stockhausen overseeing the installation of Christmas tree lights at his estate in Kürten: he instructed his hapless assistants to arrange them according to the Fibonacci sequence in the middle of a screaming gale.

From The Blog
8 May 2012

Two canary yellow stratocasters, mounted on stands to face each other and wired into squat black amps, buzz with a tentative open string drone. Next to the guitars hangs the shell of a radiation-proof suit. The stage is set for a band that never arrives: Fuyuki Yamakawa’s Atomic Guitars – recently on display at the Tokyo Art Fair – are played by decaying atoms.

From The Blog
1 March 2012

Whitstable might not seem an obvious location for a summit on the musical avant-garde, but then, before 1946, neither did Darmstadt. This February and last, the Wire magazine and promoters Sound and Music have put on a weekend series of testing lectures – on electronic, improvised and marginalised music – at the Whitstable Playhouse.

From The Blog
15 September 2011

I recently got back from la Creuse in central France, where the annual local treasure hunt has been glossed by an insanely elaborate, cross-disciplinary polytext. The instructions for ‘Sherlock Holmes enquête à Boussac’ come on a double-sided sheet of A3 done up to look like an old newspaper, l’Eclaireur. About 15 square inches of it are taken up by the rules; the rest – six fat columns of newsprint (c.3300 words) – is devoted to explaining the game’s back story. Holmes and Watson have been summoned to the small Creusois town of Boussac by a painter friend, who has been tipped off by one of his more famous painter friends (Gauguin) that there’s buried treasure in the region.

From The Blog
31 December 2010

Resistance was futile. The X Factor winner Matt Cardle’s sickly debut single, ‘When We Collide’, made Christmas No. 1. The two favourite outside chances – Billy Bragg et al’s version of John Cage’s 4’33”, and Captain SKA’s ‘Liar Liar’ – didn’t even make the Top 40. If it seems obvious now that the nation would choose the most popular participant in the nation’s most popular game show over four and a half minutes of near-silence, or a slice of ebullient agit-pop, it didn’t seem that way a few weeks ago. Both tracks had well-run campaigns behind them, Facebook groups with masses of members, whips on Twitter; ‘Liar Liar’ disgusted George Osborne on Newsnight while the Guardian thought 4’33” likely to be the ‘most serious competition the forthcoming X Factor winner will have to face’. Sadly it wasn’t.

From The Blog
14 December 2010

One of the most striking exhibits at the Wellcome Collection’s High Society exhibition is a set of images of webs spun by spiders on drugs – the results of an investigation commissioned by Nasa into the effects of narcotics on behaviour. Strangely, the most psychedelic web is the one spun on caffeine – an asymmetric tessellation of wonky polygons – while the one spun stoned on marijuana looks sloppy and unfinished. Drugs are habit-breaking, as well as habit-forming: the spiders had spun webs the same way for years, but were suddenly prompted to experiment. Bored of hexagons, why not try trapezoids?

From The Blog
25 August 2010

In 1960 John Cage performed his piece Water Walk live on the game show I’ve Got a Secret (thanks to Jenny Diski for pointing it out). Back then it must have seemed like an elaborate joke at Cage’s expense. The presenter who introduces him is fatuous and sceptical, rolling his eyes when Cage tells him he is going to knock radios onto the floor (a union dispute over who should plug them in meant he couldn’t switch them on – a chance intervention he was no doubt delighted with). ‘I’m with you boy,’ the presenter says patronisingly.

From The Blog
30 April 2010

The most popular game on miniclip.com at the moment is Volcanic Airways. ‘The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland has erupted, you must escape the volcanic ash and get to safety! Loops get you more points!’ For all those urgent exclamation marks, Volcanic Airways is the slowest game ever – your chubby Boeing drags its bulk through the air at such a leisurely crawl that when the ash cloud finally catches up you can’t help but feel you deserve to be engulfed. The work of the programmers behind the game, though, has been undeniably swift. The internet gaming industry has never been slow to respond to the news. As the presidential campaigns for the 2008 US election ground on, a game called Presidential Paintball appeared:

From The Blog
7 January 2010

As an undergraduate at Oxford I came across a gang of mischief-makers who liked nothing better than to climb in and out of places they weren’t welcome. A dangerous activity and not my thing at all. But once, once, they got me drunk enough to join them. Wearing black tie, high on egg-nog and P.G. Wodehouse, we gatecrashed the Corpus Christi College ball by climbing in over a wall that backs onto Christ Church Meadow. I can’t remember quite how we managed it. There was a straining of a groin, a tearing of a tuxedo, a collapsing in a dishevelled heap on the ground. We then spent a paranoid couple of hours running away from bouncers – a terrible evening, all things considered. But for those goatier of foot, and hardier of soul, Oxford is a playground of drainpipes and dormers, chimneys and stanchions. Cambridge too – more famously so,

From The Blog
2 October 2009

I’m going to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of the month to report on the music scene there. Getting the necessary papers turned out to be miles more complicated than I’d imagined. The DRC embassy in London has been handing out fake visas: embassy employees, genuine ones, with the uniforms and everything, have been selling the real visas on the black market (to whom, I dread to think) and palming off photocopied forgeries on innocent people like me trying to get to DRC via the proper channels. Dozens of travellers from the UK to DRC have been turned back from Kinshasa airport for having fake papers. The problem hasn’t been reported in the mainstream press – this is the scoop right here. Anyone planning an autumn break in Kinshasa beware.

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