Alec Marsh

Alec Marsh’s latest Drabble & Harris book is Ghosts of the West, published by Headline Accent.

The forgotten genius of Alfred Munnings

At first glance, the substantial yellow house on the turn of the country road could be a Trollopean rectory, one long sold off to a lawyer or boardroom executive. This is Castle House in north Essex – set in the flat, luscious landscape made famous by John Constable – which was for 40 years the

Is it time for the £100 note?

Thanks to the recent spike in inflation, never have indisputable luxuries such as Sharwood’s mango chutney or Anchor butter quite so tested the domestic purse strings. The sad truth is, however, that it’s much worse than you think. Because unlike the watched kettle, the frog of devaluation hasn’t just arrived at a nice simmer, it’s

It’s time to ban young children from restaurants

When you have small children just getting them out of the door can be traumatic. Finding and applying each shoe can be enough to provoke a tantrum – and not just in the parent. And no, they can’t bring their Power Rangers swords, because we are going out to lunch and everyone knows that plastic

Why speeding is good for us

What’s your go-to speed on the motorway? Do you snuffle along at 70, slowing down the lorries in your Rover 75? More likely you cruise the middle lane on the cusp of 80 – just on the wrong side of the law, plus 10 per cent and then some. That’s what I like to do,

Gentlemen’s clubs for all!

Is it a stage of life thing? Recently I’ve got a hankering to join a gentlemen’s club. It might be the creeping realisation that having put it off for so long – drifting in and out of London’s clubs over the years as a guest thinking ‘This is rather nice…’ – as I near 50,

The purgatory of soft play

Are you familiar with the child-focused phenomenon generally known as soft play? Often located in the windowless recesses of garden centres with an innocent-sounding name like ‘Snakes and Ladders’, these are compounds dedicated to the frenetic, ergonomic joy of children – assault courses for mites, with slides, chutes, ball baths and various dangling hazards all

Stop demonising cyclists

If you were to ask me how many bicycles I’ve had in my life, my response would be about as precise as Boris Johnson’s to the question of how many children he’s fathered. In my case, so many bikes have been stolen over the years – including one attached to a signpost (which vanished along with

Why do we expect to buy tomatoes and cucumbers all year round?

When did it become an inalienable human right for 65 million Britons to have a cucumber in March? When did we suddenly regard the possession, weekly, of a half kilo or so of vine-ripened tomatoes as fundamental to our very being, when our corner of the northern hemisphere is still essentially frozen and has been

Why Greggs is the modern-day Lyons Corner House

My family has a dirty secret. I’m ashamed of admitting it in writing because I feel I may be permanently marking my card in life. And not just my card. There will now be an upper ceiling against which the heads of my children will bump. The secret is this: we go to Greggs. I

Bring back the railway restaurant car

It’s six o’clock and you’ve fought your way on to a train at a major London terminus. The carriage is rammed – heavily pregnant women, the stricken and the young stand in the corridors like it’s A&E – and everywhere people are diving into takeaways. The pungent egg and cress sandwich from Pret is bursting

The remaking of Gainsborough’s House

From the road Gainsborough’s House looks like it could be a thoroughly plausible restaurant in a town like Godalming or Chertsey, the sort of place where a prawn cocktail costs £15 and comes with most of a lemon in a white gauze satchel on a separate plate. The stout two-storey structure is Georgian, red brick

The art of shooting (and cooking) game

I love game, me. Not the great game, of course, which is football. But game, real game, the sort that was running about in hedgerows and copses, and in fields of spent brassicas and wintry stubbles, until you shot it. At this time of year there’s nothing better, to my mind, than a day out

Why it’s time to go back to church

Somewhere in the midst of the hurly-burly antics and preoccupations of life, I think maybe, I’m probably a Christian. Not the type who sings in church with his eyes shut, but an extremely moderate, unthinking Anglican for whom the prospect of the existence of nothing is too painful for words. That makes me the sort

Why a nightcap is a dream Christmas present

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I ask because there is a must-have item for 2022 that may have so far escaped your attention. And that’s a small irony because at some point in the weeks ahead it will almost certainly be staring you in the face. Whether you’re reading A Christmas Carol and

A daily shower is money down the drain

When did it become an inalienable human right to have a shower every day? I ask the question because pretty clearly it wasn’t always so. Yes, the Romans had showers – of course they did (they probably had the internet, too, but archaeologists can’t see it). A potter about online will tell you that we got the

The lost art of the bow tie

Whatever you think about Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab – whether you think he’s bully or a tomato-thrower, and whether you couldn’t care less if he is or isn’t – there is something you ought to know about him. Apparently, he can’t do up a bow tie. That’s according to the Financial Times journalist Sebastian

The power of the dog

We live in a dog-crazy land. You know it’s true. There are 12.5 million pet dogs in Britain, and no fewer than one in three households have one. Which is, by any measure, a lot of dogs, especially when we’re confronting a cost-of-living crisis. Most people, of course, will already know why we have quite

In defence of booze

Once upon a time, well within living memory, a free-born Britisher could drink as much as he or she liked and smoke with a carefree abandon – all within working hours, and even without leaving their desk. You may remember elevenses – immortalised in those moments when M briefs Bond in the 007 films and

The hateful sterility of new-build houses

Where do you stand on new houses? You know, the little red boxes you see massed along the sides of motorways or clustered on what used to be flood plains? They’re hateful, aren’t they? Now, I know many people (my mother included) who own perfectly lovely new houses – and these houses are indeed all

Why Charles is the King of Savile Row

No one who has watched the events of the past ten days could doubt the King’s commitment to his late mother – or to his people. But I think another of Charles III’s commitments is also becoming apparent: one to British tailoring. From his black-braided morning suit when he addressed the Houses of Parliament at