Tom Hodgkinson

Tom Hodgkinson is a writer and the editor of The Idler.

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Tom Hodgkinson: 'Jeremy Clarkson howled with horror and crawled under the table to escape'

Competitions, awards ceremonies and contests of strength have been with us at least since the Ancient Greeks first invented poetry slams in the agora of Athens. We love battles, rituals and spectacles, and we love crowning victors with the laurel or bays. I’m glad that the progressive educationalists who reject competition in the classroom are retreating today. Imagine if they had got their hands on football. “We shouldn’t publish league tables. They damage the teams' self-esteem."

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Our target market - people who can't be bothered - doesn't tend to excite advertisers'

While everyone else has been out having fun, I have spent the past couple of weeks finishing off this year's edition of The Idler. It is our 20th anniversary, 20 years since Gavin Pretor-Pinney and I produced 1,000 copies of the first Idler, with the unlikely celebrity cover of Joshua Reynolds' portrait of Dr Johnson, and three headlines in small type.

Tom Hodgkinson: They were expecting a carefree soul; instead they found a man with a furrowed brow

To paraphrase Mick Jones, my indecision's bugging me. I am tormented by choice. Twelve years after my semi-retirement to a remote village on Exmoor, I find myself contemplating a move back to London. There are various practical benefits. Victoria and I could spend more time working on the Idler Academy, our shop and school. After all, its physical HQ is located in west London, and the 200-mile commute has presented certain challenges over the past three years. Our children could go to the exciting schools of Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith. We reckon that life would be made easier in some ways. We'd also be nearer our old friends and our parents. There would be less driving.

Tom Hodgkinson: The best thing to do after learning new information is to take a nap

Dr Johnson's favourite book was Robert Burton's bestselling 17th-century self-help guide The Anatomy of Melancholy. This exhaustive manual on madness and depression, first published in 1621, was so popular that, it was said, its publisher "got an estate by it". Johnson said it was the only book which would get him out of bed early.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Our steady supply of eggs means we always have some sort of food'

If all the smallholding activities we have attempted in Devon, keeping chickens comes out top for both pleasure and utility. Growing vegetables can be satisfying and is certainly therapeutic, but when you can buy a 10kg sack of potatoes for a fiver, the toil involved in producing your own seems hardly worth it. This year I have managed to sow some rocket and broad beans, and planted a few cabbages, but looked at strictly in terms of cost-saving, the gains are negligible.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Professional grammarians are desperate to be down with the kids'

Various blockheads have detected some sort of right-wing conspiracy behind the publication of Gwynne's Grammar, a short introduction to the art of good writing which I have helped to publish. In fact, my plan was to continue the radical tradition of William Cobbett and George Orwell. Both encouraged the British to study our own language in order to sharpen our minds and detect humbug. In his introduction to his own very funny guide to grammar, published in 1817, the fantastically bloody-minded radical Cobbett wrote that he wanted to "lay the solid foundation of literary knowledge amongst the labouring classes of the community; to give practical effect to the natural genius found in the soldier, the sailor, the apprentice and the ploughboy".

Tom Hodgkinson: 'The sensible option would be to operate from a warehouse in Swindon'

What is the future for bookshops? And indeed for books? This is a commonly asked question – and a particularly relevant one for me, since I own a bookshop and I write books. I ask it again this week because I have just read that Stephen King, an ebook pioneer 10 years ago, has released his new novel in physical format only, because he wants to get people back into bookstores rather than online.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'After two years of neglect, I've remembered how therapeutic gardening can be'

May is the most magical month. It certainly feels that way down here on the farm in Devon, the emergence of the sun being very welcome indeed. It has been a hard winter for smaller local farmers. One lost 80 sheep and lambs to the cold. Nothing grew. The fields went brown.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Every time we upload a thought or a photo, we give our creativity to the digital overlords'

Why are we so poor? My idea when I was young was that one day I'd turn into a member of the Idle Rich, or the Idle Comfortable at the very least. I would make a living from my own vita contemplativa. But this didn't happen. Instead, I find myself a member of a quite different class, the Busy Poor. I work my butt off writing, teaching, organising events.

Tom Hodgkinson: Can we wipe out the aberrant apostrophe?

Thank you to all of those who wrote in following my previous column on the teaching of grammar. Many of you agree that schools should instruct pupils in the proper use of English. And you have mentioned many bugbears. Perhaps I could list a few.

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