In Mykolaiv

James Meek

On my way to the Black Sea I spent the afternoon in Kyiv. After downloading the national air-raid warning app I sat in a café. My phone went off at full volume a few seconds before the actual sirens did. I took my cue from the locals: rather than running for shelter, I turned the sound down, embarrassed. Kyivans continued to whizz past on electric scooters. At the far end of the café terrace, a photographer and a model carried on their fashion shoot. Kyiv hadn’t been attacked for weeks, but a fortnight later, it was. My train from Poland to Kyiv had passed through an Arcadian landscape of downs, meadows, ponds and spinneys. We stopped at Vinnytsia. Twenty minutes later, I was in the buffet when somebody looked up wide-eyed from their phone. Just after the train left Vinnytsia, Russia had dropped three missiles on the city, killing 25 people, including three children, and injuring more than two hundred.


Sickert Grows Up

Tom Crewe

Was​ the course of 20th-century British painting set when Walter Sickert decided he didn’t like standing out in the cold? His first biographer (and former student), Robert Emmons, insisted that ‘SICKERT IS ONE OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS’ on the grounds that, though not an original member, he was ‘so closely allied to them both in method and sentiment, as to take his place,...


The Case for Degrowth

Geoff Mann

It is hard to know​ how to talk about modern economies without talking about growth: productivity, entrepreneurial ‘risk-taking’ and the profit-driven cycle of expansion and accumulation. Economic growth is understood to be a natural or automatic process, its absence taken as evidence that we must somehow have got in its way. The purpose of economic policymaking is, accordingly,...


AA-Rated Memories

Jonathan Coe

What was it​ about those two letters that used to intrigue me so much? I was about ten years old when I began to notice (and indeed obsess over) such things, so I suppose the year must have been 1971. At the time I was composing a long, complicated spy story called Manhunt, and to make the title look more official on the front of the exercise book in which I was writing it, I added the two...


The Macartney Embassy

Pamela Crossley

In​ 1793 George Macartney, the former governor of Madras, arrived in Beijing as the envoy of George III. Nobody in Beijing knew why he was there. He assumed that his commission from William Pitt made him an ambassador, and that his mission was to negotiate new trade relations between Britain and the Qing empire. Like many in Britain he believed that the ‘Canton System’ was...

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At the National Gallery

Two Portraits

Julian Barnes

‘Where​ do the noses go?’ Ingrid Bergman asks in For Whom the Bell Tolls, voicing apprehension over how to kiss. ‘Always I wonder where the noses will go.’ For an artist the equivalent might be ‘Where do the thumbs go?’ Hands are notoriously difficult to draw: all those fingers so close together, limblets so expressive when we use them in life, yet often...


Barthelme’s High Jinks

Kasia Boddy

Donald Barthelme’s​ relationship with the New Yorker began in March 1963 and hasn’t ended yet, more than thirty years after his death. Every so often one of his stories pops up on the magazine’s monthly Fiction Podcast, in which writers are asked to choose a favourite piece from the archive to read and discuss. Many admit that they began their careers trying to emulate...


Stay alive! Stay alive!

Kathleen Jamie

Iclimbed​ a low cliff and stationed myself on a bench that overlooked the Firth of Forth. From Kinghorn, the Fife coast and the coast of East Lothian appear to peel away from each other; on the horizon lies the North Sea. There are several islands out in the firth and, as usual, a number of ships were riding at anchor. The ships were connected to the oil industry: the Grangemouth refinery is...

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