"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
For more information about the books of Nicholas Murray
click HERE and access his website
Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Où sont les piscines d'antan?

Following the recent death of my mother I dug out an old photograph of my parents walking out to the no longer existing Sea Bathing Lake at Southport on the Lancashire coast.  As well as the photograph here is a passage from my book So Spirited a Town: Visions and Versions of Liverpool

Summer days at the Sea Bathing Lake were punctuated by family picnics around the pool, which consisted of tomato sandwiches, banana sandwiches and –  the mere thought of it – jam sandwiches.  Jam sarnies!  I can still hear the clatter of feet on the planks of the wooden bridges over the Marine Lake as we strode towards the pool.  There is a photograph in a family album which shows my parents, newly married, not long after the War, marching forward with their swimming costumes tightly rolled in a towel under the arm, something in their confident stride emblematic of the new world into which so many Britons were stepping in the late 1940s and 1950s, a world of semi-detached houses, washing machines, then fridges and cars, a land fit for consumers.

Brenda and Wilfred Murray 1940s

Monday, 5 September 2016

Robert Owen Plaque Unveiled in Bloomsbury

Camden’s Labour mayor disappears behind the red flag for Robert Owen
The latest blue plaque to be unveiled in Bloomsbury was revealed today at a ceremony outside 4 Burton Place where ‘the father of the Co-Operative movement’ Robert Owen lived from 1832-1840. There were guests present from Wales (Owen was born in Newtown, Powys which honours his memory in a museum) and New Lanark in Scotland where one of his experiments in co-operation was launched. It was good to see representatives national and local from the co-operative movement and to note that the covering of the plaque was of the right colour!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The French by The English

An amusing book (or at any rate a book that tries very hard to be amusing) arrives from its publisher: France: a nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown by Jonathan Miller. The premise of the book is that the French, unlike the English, are hypocritical, self-deluding etc etc. What a novel approach for a British journalist to adopt!

Estimates of the number of British people living in France seem to vary but half a million would probably be about right. Go into a British bookshop, however, looking for translated contemporary French fiction, switch on the TV expecting to see a contemporary French film or a documentary about life in France (preferably made by a French filmmaker) and you will find that the British, who claim to love France, have very little interest in it except as somewhere to acquire a holiday home and cheap booze.

Jonathan Miller is different. He has lived since 2000 in the Languedoc with his family (with a pied à terre in Westminster) and in 2014 he stood for election to his local council in the village of Caux “in order to introduce some Anglo-Saxon common sense” (presumably that’s the same commodity that Nigel Farage brings to the European scene) to the benighted peasants. This rather arrogant belief in his mission to bring enlightenment to the French sustains this book which is wonderfully free from any doubts about its own rightness on every topic.  In fairness it is not Peter Mayle.  Arranged as a sort of A to Z gazeteer of a whole range of topics it is well-informed (he has read all the stuff that expats don’t read including the late, acute, Tony Judt whose politics he can’t possibly share but whose critical historical perspective on 20th Century France he draws on and respects) and the definitions are punchy and often very funny (“Meet the real French, and laugh!” his blurb-writer nudges us rather desperately). Sometimes they fail to deliver like the Charlie Hebdo entry, subtitled “National Hypocrisy” where we don’t in the end get to hear about the hypocrisy, only the security failures which is another issue – but mostly they are snappy and diverting.

The author is a former Sunday Times journalist which means that the political analysis (free markets good, unions bad, welfare state, public subsidy bad etc etc) is the product of the usual off-the-peg British right wing journalistic mind-set so there are no surprises.

My real problem with this book is its confidence that “the French” can be identified as a single, undifferentiated concept like “the British” when as his own book reminds us there is much division, often on ethnic grounds, in France.

But I look forward to his next book about “the British” a nation every bit as self-deluding, hypocritical and contradictory as “the French”.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Border Now Crossed

Thanks to everyone who came to the launch of Crossings: a journey through borders my new book from Seren at the Art Workers' Guild in London last night.  We enjoyed ourselves so much we forgot to take a photograph so here's one of the cover.  The book can be ordered directly from Seren or from any bookseller.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Poetry of Brexit!

This England

This little raft, this tub, this oil-drum-lashed
construction on the waves, this fragile thing
with sails constructed from a ragged tablecloth
so proudly independent as it bobs and slaps
against the heaving seas, survives with crew
hand-picked to stare the foreign rabble out.
This floating island, sufficient to itself,
this little England all alone like Crusoe
on his empty beach beneath the palms,
in contemplation of its lovely littleness
while seabirds scream and glide above
and all the ocean and the skies look on.
Nicholas Murray

Published on the website of New Boots & Pantisocracies

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Crossings: A Journey Through Borders

My latest book, published on 7 July, can now be ordered in advance from Seren Books.
From the blurbWhy do we erect borders? What are they for? Can we do without them? Why do they generate such passion? With a major global refugee crisis and a highly polarised debate in the UK about membership of the European Union, poet and biographer Nicholas Murray’s lively and original exploration of the idea of borders – literal and metaphorical – could not be more timely.  Drawing on personal experience, anecdote, literary and imaginative sources, he crosses and re-crosses our idea of the border, examining the dividing lines, margins, barriers, limits, thresholds, liminal spaces, exclusive categories that we erect between ourselves and others or even inside ourselves. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Migrant Ship

My new pamphlet collection of poems, The Migrant Ship (Melos) is now available from the publisher.  As well as the title poem it contains other poems on the theme of migration and loss and I hope it represents an attempt to engage poetically with one of the most important of current political issues. Poets sometimes hesitate about writing 'political poetry' for fear of appearing strident, or even banal. (We can all think of poems that fit into that category.) But the idea that poets shouldn't write about politics would have mystified Milton, Marvell, Shelley, Yeats, Auden (not to mention a range of international 20th Century poets from Ritsos to Neruda) even though it was Auden who famously wrote "poetry makes nothing happen". Maybe it doesn't, in the sense of provoking events or actions, but it is part of our awareness of the world around us. It expresses a range of imaginative approaches to reality, it can show empathy and understanding, and all the things that the nastier political manifestations of our time seek to eliminate. Poetry, in fact, can be about anything it likes.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Mightiness of Apple

GA week ago Apple released their latest operating system for iPad (and presumably iPhone but I don't have one of those). It immediately became clear that the browser wasn't working and that sites couldn't be opened.  Quite a serious flaw you might think but a week on there is no sign of any solution or "bug fix" being proposed and the iPad browser is unusable.  

If this were a railway company there would be a note on the website apologising for delays to trains caused by signal failures, derailed goods trains or whatever but in the world of Apple there are no apologies and no explanations.  Yesterday I popped in to the gleaming white cathedral that is the Apple Store in Covent Garden in London and mentioned the problem to what turned out to be a relatively senior manager.  He conceded uneasily that there was a problem but he talked about it as if it were someone else's issue not Apple's and when asked if there would be a bug fix it was all he could do to stifle a yawn. Subjects, I was made to feel, must not question the moods and habits of the Emperor.

Those of us who use Apple products – largely for aesthetic reasons I sometimes think – have become used over the years to the lofty mandarin style of Apple, the company's serene washing of its hands of problems like this. It is nothing new.

And I suppose, like everyone else in the Mac cult, I will simply bow my head and accept and light a taper in front of the iconic white apple.

Update on 2 April no sign of that update. Apple still floundering and searching impossible. Have a nice day.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A Winter Song

Mirie it is while sumer y-last
With fugheles son
Oc nu neheth windes blast
And weder strong.
Ei, ei! What this nicht is long
And ich with wel michel wrong
Soregh and murne and fast.

Mirie It Is

(13th century English)

How days of summer
filled with birdsong end
and all my pleasure’s cut
by winter’s heralds,
cold and wind.

And now the nights
are harsh and long;
my heart aches
from sorrow, grief,
and hunger’s pangs.