This is post 5 of 5 in the series “Churchill: Remember the man, not the myth” Alastair continues his look at the life of Winston Churchill, this week examining his reputation as a heavy drinker. Winston Churchill’s capacity for drink has been a subject of extreme conjecture and hyperbole. In many respects, it’s the key […]Read More Remember the man, not the myth – Debunking the boozer – Part 5
In 1947 Sir Winston Churchill penned the only non-sequitur in his dazzling writing career. In a short essay, Churchill imagines (or possibly recalls) a ghostly conversation with his father Lord Randolph Churchill who had died over 50 years earlier. The Dream’, – as it was later named by his family – was kept under lock […]Read More ‘The Dream’ reveals Churchill’s soul
‘The Doctor has spent over 800 years with his wife, River Song. The Time Lord is hiding a secret, a shameful act of selfishness that long ago plunged the Universe into a chaos that could see the return of an old enemy and a threat to all creation. Will he put himself first, or can he […]Read More Screenplay | Doctor Who – ‘The Dances of River Song’
This is post 4 of 5 in the series “Churchill: Remember the man, not the myth” Alastair continues his series examining the best accounts of Winston Churchill, calling for a more significant distinction between the real and apocryphal stories about Churchill. Will the real Winston please stand up? Finding the sources for many of the […]Read More Remember the man, not the myth: Why the real quotes are better than the memes – Part 4
Alastair continues his series examining the best accounts of Winston Churchill, calling for a more significant distinction between the real and apocryphal stories about Churchill.Read More Remember the man, not the myth: Churchill the actor- Part 3
“John McCain was an American political giant. He was internationally recognised. Launch yourself from that springboard and into your own research into his life and look beyond the headlines.”Read More Did you know John McCain?
It’s become too easy to call something ‘Orwellian’. We all know what it means. ‘Big Brother’, ‘Room 101’ and ‘doublespeak’ have all passed into the cultural and political lexicon. Constant observation, scrutiny and intrusion are the essences of the totalitarian system. While 1984 remains seminal, it lacks the technological imagination of other works in the […]Read More The genius and warning of Bradbury, Burgess and Huxley
If you regularly read my essays and articles, you’ll know I despise cliches. Nevertheless, after lamentably being turned down for a job in Scotland, I went on watch Rocky Balboa to cheer myself up. I’m no fan of boxing per se, but the Rocky series has a transcendental truth to it that reaches out to even […]Read More The enduring appeal of Rocky
When I started Darrow all those years ago it stemmed from a frustration: I wanted to talk about politics to prove, on a CV, that I had a right to work in politics. Having a degree in International Relations was like having just passed your driving licence and asking to drive a Formula 1 car with […]Read More In defence of the expert amateur
This isn’t a placement ad. I promise. No, I’ve just been musing on the genius of Amazon. It’s become the new hypocrisy to have a stab at the company for allegedly destroying local businesses while simultaneously relishing its next day delivery service and limitless merchandise. While I’ve never been unsympathetic to the decline of local […]Read More God bless Amazon…and comic books
“In complete honesty, I wouldn’t have taken the punt at all if I had to worry about visas and the right to work. I was 26, had never taught before, and it would have been too much of a risk and expense. If the job wanted me, terrific – if it didn’t, I’d go home. The lack of bureaucratic ‘fluff’ made the situation infinitely easier and the rewards all the more satisfying when the whole thing worked out.”Read More We expats are still under a cloud of uncertainty about our residency rights
“There is no easy answer. As soon as a news story breaks, a production company is placed in the impossible position of being seen to side with their star by not taking action or cutting their losses for the sake of their image. Netflix cut ties with Spacey as a result of the allegations, a decision that cost the streaming service about $39 million.”Read More Reflections on trial by media
As royal wedding fever takes over, writer Alastair Stewart asks whether the best thing to do would be to keep the constitutional monarchy but make it open to election rather than by bloodline – a very British fudge. I RECENTLY had a conversation with a friend about the Royal Family. Fatigued by the constant coverage of […]Read More A very British fudge – why democratising the monarchy may be the best compromise
Brexit makes me angry. It makes me very angry. This, as they say, might just be the proverbial understatement. There are no gritted teeth, just a visceral sense of powerlessness. I live and work in Spain and have done for the last four years. I spend three months every year in the UK and the […]Read More Brexit makes me angry, and you should be too
The debate over Brexit isn’t about Brexit anymore. It’s about democratic accountability and the limits of referenda in modern politics. They are, bluntly, a fad. There is no stipulation or law that mandates their results be taken as gospel nor a limit as to how many ones you can have. According to the House of […]Read More It’s time to call Theresa May undemocratic
When proposing better voting rights for expats abroad one of the most common questions is ‘why?’ The argument follows that if someone has left the UK, there’s absolutely nothing the British government could do to affect them. From the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1985 to the Brexit vote in 2016, this argument held […]Read More Votes for Life must only be the beginning
Brits overseas are a curious bunch. For the folks back home it looks as if we’ve sailed away for sun, fortune and a better life. But that’s the cliche and prevailing stereotype of the ‘expat’. British citizens abroad are, well, just that. It’s impossible to categorise their motivation for leaving home, and it’s arrogant presumption […]Read More Why it’s time for overseas MPs
ALASTAIR STEWART, a freelance writer and teacher based between Edinburgh and Almeria, has launched a petition to introduce Members of Parliament for British citizens living abroad. The petition to ‘Introduce MPs to represent the interests of British citizens living abroad’ is calling on the UK Government to acknowledge the unique concerns of British citizens across the […]Read More Petition launched for expat MPs
“With little surprise, it turns out the ‘new’ blue British passports are now to be made by a Franco-Dutch company. The irony can’t hit hard enough. Lord Palmerston once spoke of Britain’s splendid isolation from Europe. In the 21st century, nothing could be further from the truth, no matter how much Brexiteers try to pretend otherwise.”Read More Passports are a hint of things to come
The Justice League is out, and the verdict isn’t great. Who cares, you might ask, it’s only a film. Well, for one Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are the mythological titans of our time. They’re not just icons; they’re embedded symbols with more meaning to people than the traditional stories about Hercules, Perseus or the […]Read More Is Batfleck the hero for the Trump generation?
“Seldom is any real attention given to the outright reform of gun ownership. Onlookers can expect messages of ‘thoughts and prayers’ from presidents, congressmen and senators and even the public after all too familiar of mass slaughter. There can be no other word than ‘system’ for the complicit and non-reactionary way in which governments, commentators and citizens battle it out over rights versus freedoms in the aftermath of shootings. If you want to restrict guns, you’re treading on the Constitution. If you don’t, you’re perpetuating a system of mass murder.”Read More Guns will stop the U.S government? Give me a break
“Consider for a moment if the creators, writers and actors had conspired together to do the unthinkable. Audiences want sex and violence at a time when streaming services ensure they’re saturated for choice in that department. Instead, what could they have done? Given an idealised version of the future where an intrepid band of humans and aliens show us that a better tomorrow can be made.”Read More Review | Star Trek: Discovery
“If Nigel Farage admits the issue should be put to bed, it’s important to understand why that is. A democratic mandate must be granted to the pledges of a government so it can act. This can only be done at the final stage of negotiations when a clear package of proposals can be approved or disapproved. A referendum is only half the battle, and if May’s government is to act with purpose and conviction it should call another general election when the final settlement is clear and on the table.”Read More If Nigel Farage is calling for a second referendum, it’s time for a rethink
Social media’s a bit of a bombsite. If your accounts resemble mine, they’re a patchwork of random likes and superfluous information that’s grown and grown to indecipherable levels. Academics and social media users alike seem to agree that social media has an addictive quality that erodes people’s quality of life. Paul Levy, a researcher at […]Read More Decluttering social media
…and hogwash of the highest order. If I had a penny for every time the indulgently aggrandising ‘new year, new you’ phrase was plastered online, and I’d be a millionaire. Not only is it a meaningless cliche, but it’s also an appalling set up for a spectacular fall. Midnight chimes and the losers are […]Read More New Year’s resolutions are hogwash
Alastair continues his examination of the best sources to understand Churchill the man over Churchill the public myth. He continues this week looking at Churchill’s reputation as a boorish war leader with a penchant for expeditions over expediency. Is it justified?Read More Remember the man, not the myth: Churchill as a military leader – Part 2
“Well, yes and no. In the gloriously apt and heartbreakingly missed ‘The Thick of It’, Malcolm Tucker spits that “People don’t like their politicians to be comfortable. They don’t like you having expenses; they don’t like you being paid, they’d rather you lived in a fucking cave.”Read More Has Kezia Dugdale done anything wrong?
“It’s long overdue for a return to the heady days of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Everyone who hears John Williams’ orchestral march feels ecstatic because Reeves’ portrayal is so rich in simple decency. The pants and red-caped moralism fell into cliche long ago because the world felt these creations weren’t equipped to deal with modernity. Perhaps it’s the other way around?”Read More It’s not superhero fatigue, it’s misery fatigue
One of the funny quirks about Scotland is that everyone can name a Scots actor, but very few can name famous Scottish TV shows. Beyond the standard native fare of cop shows and comedies, Scotland’s televisual output is well below its literary or film standing. Of course, there’s Take the High Road (And if you […]Read More Revisiting ‘The Omega Factor’
“The figures themselves are deeply troubling. In 2016, the suicide rate for males was more than two and a half times that for females. In 1981, 63 percent of UK suicides were male, but in 2013 the figure was 78 percent. The proportion of male to female deaths by suicide has increased steadily since the early 1980s. The NHS estimates that around 9% of men in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence against 3% of UK women. Testicular cancer incidences have increased by 28 percent since the early 1990s. The list continues.”Read More Shouldn’t International Men’s Day be as important as International Women’s Day?
“For Machiavelli, the people are the moral universalism at the heart of The Prince. Across 26 chapters, he directs princes to pay their attention to the limits and tolerances of the populace. Whether in hereditary, mixed, ecclesiastical or new principalities, Machiavelli attempts to achieve a delicate balance of protecting the people, protecting the prince and protecting them both from the other.”Read More Machiavelli was a striking moralist
Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Edinburgh. There’s something about the city that just radiates nostalgic indulgence. The pub that had just the right music. The view that was hit by just the right light. The kebab that hit just the right spot. You know the story. But even for a city as old as Edinburgh, the streets are […]Read More Edinburgh’s best bookshops
For “whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” said Prometheus, as he learned of Alex Salmond’s new RT-backed television show. After more than twenty years Salmond’s thespian need for attention and the drive for Scottish independence have finally now become an inseparable pursuit in his head. And what better evidence? RT, formerly called Russia Today, […]Read More Lights, Camera, Salmond!
“What is beyond doubt is Churchill’s chief commitment to the preservation of human life. It is easy to get bogged down in what he did or did not think about institutions such as the Council of Europe or the creation of the European Economic Community. These are fads, topical because they are today’s challenges. What is neglected, criminally so, is the motivation of a man remembered for war but who lived for peace.”Read More Churchill was a peacemaker, not just a warrior
“With Frank Underwood’s asides, the audience is invited into his thinking and to share in his schemes. Like all good Machiavellian characters, viewers indulge a faux Stockholm syndrome for scurrilous bastards because they love to be in the know. It’s a macabre indulgence, but that’s the game – audiences love feeling intelligent, and they’re never more in tune with that feeling than when the character speaks to them.”Read More Kevin Spacey has betrayed his fans and they’re hurting too
Alastair begins a new series examining ‘the real’ sources of information about Churchill, distilling what’s real from anecdote and discussing the best sources for you to appreciate the military, political and human man behind the legend.Read More Remember Churchill the man, not the myth: Debunking the cult of Churchill – Part 1
Splutter your coffee all ye may, ol’ Dave is coming back to play. Such is the nursery rhyme that will bewilder future generations if there is any truth to it. Shock at the prospect should not discount the very real consideration that David Cameron, the not so recently departed Prime Minister, should rejoin Theresa […]Read More Theresa May should bring back David Cameron
Was the Catalan vote for independence illegal? Yes. It’s that simple. The 1978 Spanish Constitution, agreed across the country in the years following General Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, makes two explicit provisions regarding Spain’s unity. The first is that “the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation”. Secondly, “political […]Read More Why history matters to Catalonia
“And they likely would. A crowning is more than the literal crown on the head; it’s a commitment before God as much as a wedding is more than a piece of paper. Doesn’t it deserve some respect, then?”Read More The rise of the social media wedding
SCOTS are famous for many things, but trying to kill Franco isn’t typically one of them. Nevertheless, on 11 August 1964, an 18-year-old anarchist by the name of Stuart Christie was arrested in Madrid attempting to do just that. To make matters worse, not only was he carrying a kilo of explosives, but they were […]Read More The Scot who nearly killed Franco
IRREDENTISM is any political or popular movement intended to reclaim and reoccupy an area that the movement’s members consider “lost” or “unredeemed”. Most people know the concept, but not the word. It matters because it explains most, if not all, of the current Brexit debate. The Balkans is the textbook example of the topic. Ideas […]Read More Why irredentism explains Brexit
On a recent trip to Greece, I was struck by the number of stray cats and dogs. After some research, I discovered I was not alone. One woman went so far as to say that she’d found the perfect resort for her wedding, but cancelled the booking after seeing how many strays were in the […]Read More Brits abroad must support cats and dogs abroad
WAS the Catalan vote for independence illegal? Yes. It’s that simple. The 1978 Spanish Constitution, agreed across the country in the years after Franco’s death in 1975, makes two explicit provisions regarding the now real possibility of Spain’s disintegration. The first is that the “the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish […]Read More Catalonia was a gross injustice, plain and simple
The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, has called an independence referendum for October 2017, in defiance of the Spanish Government. The announcement follows Catalonia holding a non-binding vote in 2014, called a ‘consultation’, on independence in which 80 percent of ballots cast supported a breakaway, but with only a 35 percent voter turnout. […]Read More Can you compare Scotland and Catalonia?
The Spanish Civil War is widely considered a prelude to the Second World War. All the central powers were peripherally involved, and Spain owed a debt of $212 million for supplies given by Nazi Germany to General Francisco Franco’s Nationalists. As such, there was a fear that Spain might come out on the side of […]Read More When Churchill bribed Franco
HIROSHIMA and Nagasaki: the only two occasions in history when nuclear weapons were used in combat. But who remembers the time America accidentally bombed Spain? The 1966 Palomares B-52 crash occurred on 17 January when an American bomber collided with a refuelling tanker over the Mediterranean Sea, killing seven of the 11 crew members. The aircraft carried four […]Read More A street called 17 January 1966
BOND. Ja- well, you know the rest. Handsome spy saving civilisation from dastardly men (and a few women) who all have something common. No, not the cat. Or the volcano hideaway. Or the penchant for talking about the plan so much that Bond has a chance to escape. 17 out of the 24 official films […]Read More Have you noticed something about Bond villains?
“Empire 2.0” is the Brexit plan now being touted by the UK Government. The term was coined by sceptical officials, worried about the importance given by ministers to creating an African free trade area ahead of Brexit negotiations with Europe. Some are holding the comment up as everything right about the promise of Brexit. Yet […]Read More Did the sun really set on the British Empire?
‘Moggmentum’ is sweeping the UK and it’s gotten a little out of hand. The online campaign to elect Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative leader is rooted in a pseudo-ironic play on the ‘Momentum’ movement that launched Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership. The problem is people presume contemptuous political positions must be held by reasonable people if […]Read More Moggmentum is the last straw of sanity