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Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

older | 1 | .... | 82 | 83 | (Page 84) | 85 | 86 | .... | 148 | newer

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    He may have been a brilliant novelist and essayist, but the writer’s newly published poetry collection is, to put it politely, ‘not terribly good’

    Name: George Orwell.

    Age: Born 1903; died 1950; image stuck in about 1984.

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    In the 1920s, Mexico City’s roof spaces, or azoteas, becamea laboratory for modernist creativity, offering a space where artists and thinkers could push the boundaries of culture and bridge the gaps in society, writes Valeria Luiselli

    Mexico City rooftops – azoteas– are usually flat. A parapet wall encloses the roof area, creating a kind of open-air patio, less visible to neighbours than the common interior patios of colonial and neocolonial buildings, and not easily accessed by visitors.

    The rapidly expanding city of the 1920s housed its working classes either in these small rooftop rooms (cuartos de azotea), or in the more well-known vecindades, Mexico’s version of tenement buildings. Brought to Mexico during the conquest in the 16th century, but transformed into the sort of living quarters we know today during the mid-19th century, the vecindades were the typical dwelling space for working-class families, and in them the urban lumpen were crammed into small rooms that surrounded a common patio. While these were occupied by members of the working classes whose jobs did not provide room and board, such as factory workers, builders, or street-vendors, the cuartos de azotea were occupied by maids and servants, usually migrants from the provinces, who worked for the family that lived downstairs.

    Come Sundays, and the high windows, what with the red light that they reflect, look like entrances to burning furnaces; just when the sun becomes more endurable and drags its horizontal rays across the city, the people of Mexico appear on the rooftops and give themselves to contemplating the streets, to looking up at the sky, to spying on the neighbouring houses, to not doing anything (…)

    It is then when the bored emerge to the rooftops, men who spend long hours reclined on parapets, looking at a tiny figure that moves around in another rooftop, on the horizon, as far as sight can carry. Other times it is groups of young men who improvise platforms upon the irregular surfaces of the rooftop and talk and laugh with sonorous cries, feeling perhaps, at this height, somewhat liberated from the burdensome human environment, and whose demeanour is tinged with familiarity by their moving around in shirtsleeves – as on a rooftop no one is ashamed of exhibiting themselves dressed like this.”

    Isn’t there a place to have a bath here?”

    Sir, there’s nothing here but the big water depository, which is over there, on the edge of the rooftop …”

    La Perlotti, let us call her thus, practiced the profession of vampire, but without commercialism à la Hollywood and [instead] by a temperament insatiable and untroubled. She was seeking, perhaps, notoriety, but not money. Out of pride, perhaps, she had not been able to derive economic advantages from her figure, almost perfectly and eminently sensual. We all know her body because she served as an unpaid model for the photographer, and her bewitching nudes were fought over.” (trans. Patricia Albers)

    They came in airplanes, the great blond thinkers.

    Comfort, said one of them,

    Related: The Guardian in Mexico City: how to follow our stories and get involved

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    Poetry’s delicate dance between the said and the unsaid opens up new ways of thinking across disciplinary boundaries, says Ruth Padel

    Poetry connects. Wherever I’ve worked, I’ve seen poems making bonds between people and disciplines. At a conference between the Poetry Society and English Place-Name Society, everyone got on like a house on fire, discovering their shared faith in the importance of syllables. Lovers, too, get together over poems, for Orpheus draws everyone towards him and brings his audience together. Whenever the same poem matters to two people, it generates a bond between unspoken affinities, for an effective poem doesn’t put all its wares in the window. It is a delicate calibration of heard and unheard, sound and thought, combining the clarities of day with its mysteries of night which depend on internal and associative connections. On first reading you may only sense these, like catching the glint of lacquerware in candlelight, responding to something you can’t understand unless you’re in shadow.

    That’s why King’s College London is hosting a series of events called Poetry and … . Taking place in the extraordinary fusion of byzantine and gothic in Gilbert Scott’s chapel, we have two speakers, usually a poet and someone from another field aware of poetry’s relevance to their work. Each talks from their own perspective, reads poems which bear on the territory, and the ideas fertilise in the middle. Last summer it was Poetry and Climate Change, Poetry and Science, Poetry and Origins. Now it’s Poetry and History with Roy Foster, Poetry and Mapping with Jerry Brotton and poet Kei Miller, author of The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, and finally Poetry and Connection with psychiatrist Sushrut Jadhav, who works with marginalised communities – the homeless in London, Dalits in India.

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    A transcendental collection creates a lived-in world that is both celebrated and lamented

    Serious consideration of the gifts reserved for age is likely to be sobering. Les Murray does not deny it. Waiting for the Past takes in vertigo, sudden falls, diabetes, frequent night visits to the lavatory while “trying not to dot the floor // with little advance pees”. He writes of cancer as it was suffered in the days when it could scarcely be named, along with the question of care for the elderly – among whom he now numbers himself:

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    In 1915, pocket broadsheets of inspiring literature chosen by leading figures of the day were distributed to the troops. One hundred years on we asked writers and poets to select the pieces they would send today

    from Herzog by Saul Bellow (1964)

    ‘It’s mending worse,’ he said,
    Turning west his head,
    Strands of anxiety ravelled like old rope,
    Skitter of rain on the scorer’s shed
    His only hope.

    Seven down for forty-five,
    Catches like stings from a hive,
    And every man on the boundary appealing –
    An evening when it’s bad to be alive,
    And the swifts squealing.

    Yet without boo or curse
    He waits leg-break or hearse,
    Obedient in each to lease and letter –
    Life and the weather mending worse,
    Or worsening better.

    somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
    any experience,your eyes have their silence:
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near
    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose
    or if your wish be to close me,i and
    my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
    as when the heart of this flower imagines
    the snow carefully everywhere descending;
    nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
    the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
    compels me with the colour of its countries,
    rendering death and forever with each breathing
    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens;only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
    nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

    Time and its ally, Dark Disarmament,
    Have compassed me about,
    Have massed their armies, and on battle bent
    My forces put to rout;
    But though I fight alone, and fall, and die,
    Talk terms of Peace? Not I.
    They war upon my fortress, and their guns
    Are shattering its walls;
    My army plays the cowards’ part, and runs,
    Pierced by a thousand balls;
    They call for my surrender. I reply,
    “Give quarter now? Not I.”
    They’ve shot my flag to ribbons, but in rents
    It floats above the height;
    Their ensign shall not crown my battlements
    While I can stand and fight.
    I fling defiance at them as I cry,
    “Capitulate? Not I.”

    ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.
    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”
    He took his vorpal sword in hand;
    Long time the manxome foe he sought –
    So rested he by the Tumtum tree
    And stood awhile in thought.
    And, as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!
    One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.
    “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
    He chortled in his joy.
    ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
    utters itself. So, a woman will lift
    her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
    at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
    Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
    enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
    then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
    in the distant Latin chanting of a train.
    Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
    console the lodger looking out across
    a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
    a child’s name as though they named their loss.
    Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer -
    Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

    DIORES son of Amarinceus
    Struck by a flying flint
    Died in a puddle of his own guts
    Slammed down into mud he lies
    With his arms stretched out to his friends
    And PIROUS the Thracian
    You can tell him by his knotted hair
    Lies alongside him
    He killed him and was killed
    There seem to be black flints
    Everywhere a man steps
    Like through the jointed grass
    The long-stemmed deer
    Almost vanishes
    But a hound has already found her flattened tracks
    And he’s running through the fields towards her
    Like through the jointed grass
    The long-stemmed deer
    Almost vanishes
    But a hound has already found her flattened tracks
    And he’s running through the fields towards her
    The priest of Hephaestus
    Hot-faced from staring at flames
    Prayed every morning the same prayer
    Please god respect my status
    Protect my sons PHEGEUS and IDAEUS
    Calm down their horses lift them
    Out of the fight as light as ash
    Hephaestus heard him but he couldn’t
    Hold those bold boys back
    Riding over the battlefield too fast
    They met a flying spear
    And like a lift door closing
    Inexplicable Hephaestus
    Whisked one of them away
    And the other died

    The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;
    The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
    The bones of death, the cov’ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry’d.
    Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!
    Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst;
    Let the slave grinding at the mill, run out into the field:
    Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air;
    Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,
    Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years;
    Rise and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open.
    And let his wife and children return from the oppressor’s scourge;
    They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream.
    Singing, “The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning
    And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night;
    For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease.

    Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
    Nor the furious winter’s rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
    Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
    Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
    Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
    Care no more to clothe and eat;
    To thee the reed is as the oak:
    The scepter, learning, physic, must
    All follow this, and come to dust.
    Fear no more the lightning flash,
    Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
    Fear not slander, censure rash;
    Thou hast finished joy and moan:
    All lovers young, all lovers must
    Consign to thee, and come to dust.
    No exorciser harm thee!
    Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
    Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
    Nothing ill come near thee!
    Quiet consummation have;
    And renownèd be thy grave!

    Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
    God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
    The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
    The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
    Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
    Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
    The six-days world transposing in an hour,
    A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
    Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
    Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
    Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
    The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
    Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
    The land of spices; something understood.

    Out on the lawn I lie in bed,
    Vega conspicuous overhead
    In the windless nights of June,
    As congregated leaves complete
    Their day’s activity; my feet
    Point to the rising moon.
    Lucky, this point in time and space
    Is chosen as my working-place,
    Where the sexy airs of summer,
    The bathing hours and the bare arms,
    The leisured drives through a land of farms
    Are good to a newcomer.
    Equal with colleagues in a ring
    I sit on each calm evening
    Enchanted as the flowers
    The opening light draws out of hiding
    With all its gradual dove-like pleading,
    Its logic and its powers:
    That later we, though parted then,
    May still recall these evenings when
    Fear gave his watch no look;
    The lion griefs loped from the shade
    And on our knees their muzzles laid,
    And Death put down his book.

    O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
    Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
    Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
    Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
    Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
    Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
    The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
    Each like a corpse within its grave, until
    Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
    Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
    (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
    With living hues and odours plain and hill:
    Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
    Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

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    He was the happiest, most awake middle-aged man I’ve ever met

    In 1977, I saw Allen Ginsberg read poetry for the first time in New York City. I was 18 and already familiar with poems such as “A Supermarket in California”, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer human power of his presence and delivery. Allen’s voice had an expressive range and gravity that attested to his belief that “the only poetic tradition is the voice out of the burning bush”. Allen seemed like the happiest, most awake middle-aged man I had ever seen. I immediately made an internal vow to be wherever he would be the following summer, helping him however I could, and I made good on that vow, becoming his apprentice at Naropa Institute in Colorado while taking classes with other Beat heroes of mine such as William Burroughs and Gregory Corso.

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  • 11/06/15--04:11: Poster poems: canals
  • Scenes of forgotten industry, secret urban networks or picturesque leisure resorts, these quiet waterways suit verse. Get on board with yours

    Coming, as I do, from a long line of people who worked on and around canals, inland waterways have always held a fascination for me. My interest has been refreshed by reading The Narrow Boat, LTC Rolt’s classic tale of wandering the canals of England in the months before the second world war. The book did more than anything to save those very canals and popularise leisure boating on them.

    Rolt’s book was an attempt to capture the dying world of the working canal boats and, by extension, an entire rural way of life that was passing away, buried under ever growing urban sprawl. He celebrated the pubs, villages and people found along the towpath, hidden corners of a gentler world. It’s a vision that finds an echo in Ian McMillan’s Canal Life, where the longboat crews “tied up in the places the map never showed us”.

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    by TS Eliot

    Let these memorials built of stone – music’s
    enduring instrument, of many centuries of
    patient cultivation of the earth, of English
    verse

    be joined with the memory of this defence of
    the islands

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    Allen Prowle’s translations of Dutch poet Rutger Kopland’s ‘Johnson Brothers Ltd’ was chosen from 299 entries spanning 46 languages to win this year’s Open category

    Translation is an act of close reading. More than that, it is an art of listening, and in the execution it can also involve luck, like producing an inspired passage of brushwork. After a summer immersed in the music and meaning of the translations entered for this year’s Stephen Spender prize, my fellow judges and I chose winners from Dutch, Greek, Italian, German, Swedish, ancient Greek, Bulgarian and French. Despite 299 translations from 46 languages to choose between, consensus was quickly reached in this year’s Open (adult) category. The judges – Josephine Balmer, Katie Gramich, WN Herbert and myself – shortlisted all five of Allen Prowle’s superb translations of Dutch poet Rutger Kopland, and eventually chose as the winner the elegiac “Johnson Brothers Ltd”, a moving memory of the poet’s father. Second was Francisca Gale’s “Long-Distance Conversation” by Anéstis Evangélou, which delicately conveyed the poignancy of the original Greek and the rueful surprise at the end. Martin Bennett’s fine version of Guido Gozzano’s entomological “Acherontia Atropos” came third.

    In the 18-and-under category, Anna Leader’s sensuous translation of contemporary German poet Jan Wagner’s ode to weeds that “sneak back like old guilt” took joint first place with Beatrix Crinnion’s version of Tomas Tranströmer’s “Allegro”, a praise poem to Haydn, whose melody “says that freedom exists” and shall never “render unto Caesar”. Maud Mullan’s elegant “A Lament at the Door” by the Ancient Greek poet Callimachus was awarded third prize.

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    Hidden anagram points to the poet himself as the bank clerk hailed in a London crowd, claims amateur fan

    In a letter to his brother in 1922, TS Eliot once enigmatically wrote that he hoped to solve his “problem of living a double or triple life”. Now, 50 years after his death, an amateur British scholar is creating waves in the growing academic world of Eliot studies because he believes he has unravelled a long-running literary riddle that shows what Eliot meant: the poet was playing a drawn-out game with names that split his identity in three.

    The poet’s fondness for crosswords, for Scrabble and for the puns he used in letters to his friend Groucho Marx offered the first clue. An ardent Eliot fan from Glasgow, David Liston, 59, began to look for wordplay and now thinks the answer has been there for all to see in the poem The Waste Land, perhaps the greatest English-language work of the 20th century. Eliot experts have long wondered about the name of one of the poem’s many fleeting characters. At one point an English bank clerk called Stetson appears, and his ostensibly American name has often leaped out at readers:

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    The actor on a lost classic by novelist Elizabeth Harrower, Todd Haynes’s Carol, the punk spirit of artist Maria Lassnig and the dirty, energising energy of Captain Beefheart’s Clear Spot

    Ben Whishaw was raised in Clifton, Bedfordshire, and graduated from Rada in 2003. After playing Hamlet in Trevor Nunn’s 2004 Old Vic production, he starred in a number of TV, film and stage roles, including Nathan Barley, Bright Star and Paddington. This year, he has co-starred in new the Bond movie Spectre, Suffragette, romantic science-fiction thriller The Lobster and portrayed Dionysos in Bakkhai at the Almeida theatre. Next, Whishaw stars in London Spy, a five-part BBC2 series that starts on Monday 9 November at 9pm, in which he plays a young, down-at-heel Londoner who forms a relationship with a mysterious investment banker.

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    ‘The Waste Land could be a forerunner to the works of Pam Ayres. Note the driving urgency of its commas’

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo (2)
    I have measured out my life with coffee (3) spoons.

    1. Believed to be an allusion to the difficulty John Crace had in keeping his eyes open.

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    A sequence of sharply visual impressions animates a wild animal’s darting mind as it comes upon a hunter – and meets its fate

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    Bowls of milk in the rain. A rabbit’s wet head.
    Here’s someone walking through meadows with rolled-up
    trousers. Owl pellets. Banks of fog. Hillsides.
    Cranes in flattened grass. Dripping cloths.
    A look. Here’s my mouth in the reeds. And there.
    My breath on the lake. One breaking wave and I’m
    no longer I. The place. The roof-tiles. The day,
    forgotten. There at the edge. Where the darkness
    lives. There in the valley. The gate at the end.
    Wooden boots, a mirror of water between lips. Silent.
    Come the flood, the stones sink. A handful of forest.
    And a blow. The impact of a word. White bird,
    white feather. You. Quivering fish. Scurrying fox.

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    Do we read poetry for a quick therapeutic fix or seek in its complexities something as overworked, stressed and broken as we are? Both, of course – so here are five Australian poetry collections to add to your reading list

    As sure as you are reading this article, language is all around us. If every word spoken, read, texted, heard or written on a single day in Australia were a drop of water we would find ourselves in a pool deeper than the Mariana Trench. How are we to swim? How should we make our way in this vast body of language?

    Related: Waiting for the Past by Les Murray review – matter-of-fact extravagance

    Related: An anthology of poetry on climate change

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    The previous and current young poet laureate for London offer their tips for a career in poetry, from online networks to how to combat a blank page

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    Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, a ferocious attack on war and oppression, becomes Bodleian Library’s 12 millionth book

    An incendiary lost poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, in which the young poet attacks the “cold advisers of yet colder kings” who “coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang … regardless of the poor man’s pang”, was made public for the first time in more than 200 years on Tuesday.

    Shelley was just 18 and in his first year at Oxford University when he wrote his Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things. The 172-line poem, accompanied by an essay and Shelley’s notes, was written in support of the Irish journalist Peter Finnerty, who had been jailed for libelling the Anglo-Irish politician Viscount Castlereagh.

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    For Coldplay’s Chris Martin, ancient Sufi poetry and a spot of Victor Frankl are the bookish balms of choice. What are yours?

    “Your missus has left you and you don’t know where to turn, do you go down the pub with your mates or do you read 13th-century Persian poetry?” was the Mirror’s unexpectedly literary rhetorical question this week.

    Why, Persian poetry of course, if you’re Chris Martin. Newly separated from Gwyneth Paltrow, as the paper reported, he cited Rumi’s poem The Guesthouse as the antidote to being “down and confused”.

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    Only the second time poetry has reached the shortlist, Andrew McMillan’s Physical lines up with novels, short stories and Russia reportage for 2015 prize

    The heady scent of sensuality surrounds the 2015 Guardian first book award, as a series of “hymns to the male body” becomes only the second collection of poetry to be shortlisted for the prize.

    Andrew McMillan’s exploration of modern masculinity, Physical, is one of six debuts in contention for the £10,000 award. This examination of what it means to be a man in the 21st century interrogates contemporary gay life to reflect on connections between bodies and souls.

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    Reading through the enormous variety of debuts – from biography to memoir to poetry and fiction and beyond – has been a tough but exciting challenge

    There is something wonderfully expectant about a prize for a first book, particularly one that welcomes first-time writers regardless of genre, category, form or language.

    The varied rollcall of past recipients (Yiyun Li, Jonathan Safran Foer, Petina Gappah, Zadie Smith, Dinaw Mengestu among them), and the Guardian first book award’s international status, makes the reading journey more of a quest than – as some book awards seem to be – a standard nod to likely candidates.

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    In the districts dubbed SoTo and NoTo punters are queuing up to re-sell flats that don’t exist. Isn’t this how the crash occurred?

    For anyone without substantial investments, reading about the property market in the capital has become a kind of torture porn, in which every new detail horrifies more than the last. At the top of the market there are record-breaking deals such as the £140m closing price for an apartment overlooking Hyde Park; and then there are record-breaking deals such as the tiny studio, albeit in Mayfair, that was let out within 40 minutes of being advertised. These things never fail to depress, and yet one can’t quite drag one’s eyes away.

    Related: £140m for a flat? Perhaps the buyer would like to see my Kilburn des res | David Mitchell

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