Robin Ashenden

Robin Ashenden is founder and ex-editor of the Central and Eastern European London Review. He is currently writing a novel about Solzhenitsyn, Khrushchev’s Thaw and the Hungarian Uprising.

I miss the food of Eastern Europe

When you live abroad for long periods of time, you get accustomed to certain foods which, returning home, you can’t find anywhere, and the sense of a habit unwillingly broken is acute. If the foreign country is Thailand or Italy, you stand a good chance of finding dishes approximate to those you’ve left behind in

I’m an unhappy shopaholic

When I was a child I had a dream, as most kids do, of entering a toyshop and being told I could carry away with me as much as would fit in a large shopping trolley. In would go every kind of Action Man, every game of Buckaroo or Operation, and enough Star Wars figurines

The Tories have much to learn from their 1997 wipeout

If polls are anything to go by, Labour’s historic 1997 election win – 418 seats to the Tories’ 165 – is about to be dwarfed by this week’s vote. An exclusive survey for the Daily Telegraph recently predicted Labour would win 516 seats to the Tories’ 53. A political wipeout, in other words, seems to

The case for not voting at this election

Anyone over the age of 40 can scarcely help comparing this election, or the state of our two main parties, with those of the past. Though in 2024 it seems a choice between dumb and dumber (or grey and greyer), this wasn’t always the case.  The government of Blair, Brown, Prescott and Cook seem like

Get the government out of my bathroom

Two days before leaving this country for Italy – where, defeated by southern British house prices, I planned to fight for a long-term visa and buy a home – I finally found the exact flat I’d been dreaming of, here in the UK. True, it wasn’t in East Anglia, where I grew up and most

I’ve finally succumbed to a canal boat holiday

All my life I’ve wanted to take a narrow boat holiday down one of Britain’s canals but have never got round to it. There’s always been something easier and more pressing, perhaps even a touch more glamorous than a week spent floating around Britain – a trip to Andalusia, a city break, a train-ride round

The hell of interior design

I spent seven hours yesterday cutting up cardboard boxes into little square pieces with a Stanley knife and stuffing them into rubbish sacks. I’ve just moved house and my home is piled high with bulging black bags and looks like Leicester Square during the Winter of Discontent. Given that I don’t currently have the necessary

Georgia’s ‘foreign agent’ law protestors won’t go down quietly

Following the introduction this Tuesday of Georgia’s notorious ‘foreign agent’ law by the ruling party Georgian Dream, there has been widespread popular protest in the capital Tbilisi. The law, proposed last year but postponed in the face of public resistance, demands that any non-governmental organisation receiving more than 20 per cent of its funding from

My battle with a Puglian pugilist

To nearly any English tourist, the small southern Italian town I’m currently living in, half an hour from my daughter’s school, would seem idyllic. It has an old castle, a monastery and olive groves in all directions, but in Puglian guidebooks it barely rates a mention. It’s the scruffy, down-to-earth cousin of richer or bigger

A bloke’s guide to aftershave

In 2020, the year of coronavirus, I came to a fork in the road. I’d just turned 50, a moment of looking back over your life, realising what you’ve failed to achieve, and accepting there’s only a finite number of years left to you. It was clearly a time for making a change of some

The monstrous experience of boarding school

Charles, Earl Spencer published a blistering denunciation of his prep school days – complete with constant corporal punishment and child abuse – in A Very Private School last month. Since then, many of us who attended such places have been recalling our own time there too, nodding in recognition or giving thanks that our experience was better.

A love letter to the Fiat 500

On visits to the continent as a child, what struck me was the strangeness of other European countries. Going to France or Italy, pre-internet, you cut off your connections to the outside world, and even got the British news a day or two late. People ate horse meat, tortellini in brodo or croque monsieurs, and

How was ITV’s trans drama Butterfly ever made?

In the wake of the Cass Report’s damning verdict on the reckless ‘social transitioning’ of children and the prescribing of puberty blockers to minors, it’s perhaps an apt time to recall a mini-series that appeared on ITV a few years ago cheerleading for both. Butterfly was broadcast in October 2018 just as Theresa May’s national consultation

The sacking of Frank Skinner is a loss to British comedy

The recent news that comedian Frank Skinner had been sacked from his job at Absolute Radio after fifteen years as presenter feels like a misstep to say the least. It has not been without a whiff of scandal, coming amidst accusations of ‘ageism’. The man himself lamented: ‘I’m not going to pretend I took it

My loveless nights in post-Soviet hostels

I suppose there are people who stay in four or five-star hotels all their lives and become a kind of expert in them, turning their noses up at rooms I would regard as the acme of comfort, but since my parents stopped paying, I never have. In adulthood my standards have plummeted and, as a

Where have the West’s liberal values gone?

Russia is ramping up preparations for a ‘large-scale’ war with Nato. That’s the verdict of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, which reports several indications that Moscow is preparing for war with Nato ‘not imminently but likely on a shorter timeline’ than many Western analysts believed. Is the West ready for war? Its

Watches satisfy a strange masculine urge

A year or two ago I got my first expensive watch, a Longines Conquest Heritage. It wasn’t quite my dream timepiece – that was a 1960s Omega Seamaster automatic (think Bond films at the Sean Connery stage) but these are priced off the scale and need plenty of specialist upkeep. The Longines Conquest, very much

What my strange old friends taught me

As a young man I sought out the company of much older people in the arts, feeling they had some secret to life, often the same one in different guises, which I wanted, needed to discover. In the let-it-all-hang-out youth culture of the 1990s I felt awash, and the elderly (which to a 20-year-old meant