Tom Hodgkinson

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

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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.

Tom Hodgkinson: Bookishness can save the criminally minded

It was a good funeral," said the punk poet John Cooper Clarke to my wife Victoria and me as we walked away from St Bartholomew church in the City of London. We had joined 300 mourners to commemorate the life of Bruce Reynolds, best known as the unofficial leader of the gang who carried out the Great Train Robbery in 1963. Clarke had read a poem.

Tom Hodgkinson: In the face of no-phone situation my rage turned into a Buddhist detachment

hen our phone went down in early February, we emailed our provider, the Phone Co-op, to ask them to fix it pronto. We live in a remote corner of Exmoor with no mobile reception, work from home and use the phone quite a lot. Now, the Phone Co-op is a lovely, friendly, ethical family company. There is some sort of co-operative element to it which I don't fully understand but which gives it an aura of non-exploitation. And you can communicate with them directly. Which is all great. But of course they don't fix the phones. That is down to another company: BT Openreach.

Tom Hodgkinson: Education needn't be so geared to jobs

Education as it is organised today is a system for fitting children out to be servile adults. They are trained to serve, either in the corporation or the bureaucracy. This is called a utilitarian education, and its end purpose is a "good job". A lucky few slip through the net and, against the odds, create a somewhat more romantic arrangement for themselves: they are the self-employed – the artists, the entrepreneurs, the wanderers. But most are condemned to a life of more or less well-paid servility: at the last count, there were 25.3 million people in the UK with jobs. Sadly, this figure is on the rise.

Tom Hodgkinson: Beautiful writing feeds the soul

When I was at university in the late 1980s, I had an American housemate, Chris. He was outstandingly bright. He was here on a year abroad as part of his degree, studying physics at Yale. But he had the worst handwriting I had ever seen. It was a horrible, ugly scrawl. Admittedly mine was not exactly on the Eric Gill level, but at least it was joined up and legible. Chris did all his work on a word processor, a novelty to us backward Europeans back then, who still wrote our essays on lined paper with a fountain pen. I felt sorry for Chris, though, because his childish writing made him look stupid.

Tom Hodgkinson: What sort of swine would steal my food?

How long will this extreme weather last? It's becoming exhausting. Snow is followed by rain, then wind. Travel is dangerous. Cars are stranded.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'My inner bourgeois soul has re-emerged'

Are we in fuel poverty?" Victoria asked me the other day. I decided to add up our annual fuel costs to find a definite answer. It seems that we spend £2,100 a year on heating oil for our Rayburn stove. We spend £1,600 on electricity. And there is about £400 on logs, and £120 on gas bottles. That makes an annual spend of £4,220. Our annual income before tax is somewhere in the region of £40,000 to £45,000. Therefore, if you accept the definition of fuel poverty as a situation where a household spends 10 per cent or more of its income on keeping warm, it seems we are indeed fuel-poor.

Tom Hodgkinson: The boys seem happiest surrounded by screens

What's wrong with children? However much you attempt to instill an anti-consumerist philosophy into them, they still hurl themselves unthinkingly at the latest fads, costing you an arm and a leg in the process.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Throw away that guilt-inducing clock'

The 18th century is generally seen as as a hard-working epoch, particularly the latter part of it, when the Industrial Revolution was born. This was the time when Victorian prosperity was forged in the smithy of the new work ethic. It was a time when the Protestant attitude finally triumphed over Popery and we were encouraged to abandon the contemplative life in favour of sweat, toil, consumption and social advancement. This was progress. You might say it was a triumph of Whiggery.

Tom Hodgkinson: We need to take education slowly

There is a very excellent housemaster at Eton College called Mike Grenier, who has invited me to give talks on the benefits of idleness to the boys there on three occasions. I've always enjoyed these evenings, but confess to finding the boys there "slightly sinister", in the words of Aldous Huxley, who was both a pupil and a teacher at the school. They all seemed to be unfeasibly tall, with unfeasibly big hair, and while charming, gazed benignly on me as I might gaze benignly on a street urchin in São Paolo – to be pitied, but beyond saving. What I mean to say is, they ooze self-assurance.

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