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Latest blogposts


“The Stripping of the Altars” by Eamon Duffy

First he rebuilds for us the way the English Medieval churches worked, packed tight with altars, figures of saints, rich reliquaries (caskets) for alleged saints’ bones and teeth, elaborate roodscreens to hide the high altar, paintings and jewelled and embroidered banners. Churches must have looked like the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts! Each of the astonishing number of sacred things had its use and meaning, its symbolism and its story, now mostly forgotten. Many of them were “apotropaic” – a word I had to look up which means “supposedly having the power to avert evil influences or bad luck.” [Oxford…

‘The Year of Less’ by Caitlin Flanders

Here’s another of my reviews of books I’ve been reading. Charming and unfailingly honest, Caitlin Flanders’ book about her year of no shopping is a real pleasure. Like most people she had a huge backlog of things she had bought just in case, making her feel overwhelmed. And so she set out to live on less: obviously she bought groceries and toiletries – but no shampoo since, like most of us, she had way too many bottles bought because it was on special offer. She also bought no clothes, no books, no things and nothing on impulse. As if that…

Middle Earth and form-filling – David Graeber on bureaucracy

This is the first in an occasional series of reviews of books I’ve been reading. David Graeber – The Utopia of Rules A wonderful  book! Graeber manages to write in a relaxed comprehensible – even witty – style about a subject that normally kills anything like that stonedead: bureaucracy. He asks pointed and excellent questions: why has bureaucracy in fact increased exponentially, especially in the USA, UK and Europe, while every right wing commentator is noisily insisting it’s going to be reduced? Why has it extended its tentacles from the military and government and corporations to education and the rest…


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