Since I'm unemployed and a layabout, I've been reading, watching, listening a lot more. It's not really of a piece with anything else I've used this letter for, but I never made any promises, so here's some half-baked reviewing which maybe I will repeat. (Although I am starting a job in eight days!)

I read Incendiary, by Chris Cleave, a not-very-long book that it's hard to say anything about without spoiling. It's fantastically compelling in an oddly uncomplicated way: seventy pages of gripping set piece, and after that no artifice, just the momentum of the opening and a steady unfolding of what it promises.

Very different to Lisa Ko's The Leavers, which knows exactly what it's about but takes its time. I've been thinking a lotabout culture and nationality, recently, so I was never going to feel anything but love for this, a story about Polly, an illegal immigrant from China in New York, and her son, trying to be American or Chinese or anything in…

Is this the worst thing ever written about brunch?

It's a tough field, but maybe.

As anyone who's been unlucky enough to talk to me about the topic will know - particularly if it was in one of my intense, just-landed, let-me-tell-you-about-Australia phases - I have very strong opinions about brunch. The one opinion that rules them all is that people in the UK do not actually know what brunch is, and nothing I see makes me think otherwise.

Actually you kind of have to feel sorry for this Buzzfeed writer, whose take - "brunch is bad and it's about time we admit it" - is terrible in more or less exactly the ways that the brunch on offer in London is terrible. It's not that she's wrong about it being bad to queue 40 minutes for a lazy conjunction of breakfast and lunch menus plus a mimosa. It's that brunch... is so much more than that.

There's a good chance this blog section will just become a litany of brunch-based complaints, so it's probably best not to go on, but here is a short list either of…


This bit of the site was originally for photos with stories. Now I have photos on my Instagram, and stories on my TinyLetter, and this section has been fading gracefully. But since I am opposed to grace, I'm bringing it back for whatever doesn't belong anywhere else: maybe a set of photos here, a review there, a quiet cry for help. Who knows!


I made myself late to dinner to take these photos, since this time it wasn't hailing.

Sunset, St Kilda

Hail, and windsurfers.

I'm not really updating this blog any more: you can find the stories half in my Tinyletter, and lots of my photos on Instagram.

The there everywhere

"There's no there there" has become a popular phrase in the media just as a kind of offbeat way of saying 'nothing to see here'. The original meaning is honestly kind of unclear, but one suggestion is that it's saying a place has no sense of place - no identity, nothing distinct about it.

There are no places like that.

Here's Hamad International Airport, in Doha.

Airports really can feel the same: that orangey shade of yellow on all the signs, the giant Toblerones, the rows of uncomfortable seats. They are, of all places, the places most designed not to have any identity. And yet here is a giant bear, or mouse, or something, under a lamp. Is this very Qatari? Not in any obvious sense. (If you Google 'Qatari bear', you will find this beast, but nothing else.) But nobody anywhere else thought to invite an artist to put a giant soft toy in the middle of the terminal to remind people of their childhood.

Pavilion Mall, Kuala Lumpur:

You have to look pr…