Tom Hodgkinson - The Independent

Tom Hodgkinson

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

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Tom Hodgkinson: Why modern travel fills me with horror

Travelling fills me with dread. When a trip is looming – and loom they do these days, because I'm often invited to speak on the benefits of doing nothing at festivals and conferences abroad – I fret. I even panic, sometimes for days before the journey. I stomp around the house grumpily. I worry about clothing. Why did I say yes? Why can't I just stay at home? Where's my passport?

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Do women consider the ukulele sexy?'

Twitter is a terrible distraction for writers and journalists. The deadline is hanging over you and all you can do is waste time scrolling through hundreds of unsatisfying attempts at aphoristic wit.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'A good bonfire still brings us together'

Everyone loves a bonfire and now is the time to build one. In olde England, midsummer fires were traditionally held on the eve of the Feast of St John the Baptist on 24 June. These were occasions for music and dancing. One Elizabethan ballad testifies: "When midsomer comes, with bavens and bromes, they do bonfires make /And swiftly then, the nimble young men runne leapinge over the same / The women and maydens together do couple their handes / With bagpipes sounde, they daunce a rounde; no malice among them standes."

Tom Hodgkinson: My own little mutiny on the bunting

Unlike in 1977, when the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" reached number two in the charts, there seem to be few republican voices prepared to stand out today. And however much you might like to resist it, everyone has gone crazy for bunting. It's everywhere (not least on the pages of the magazine you're holding in your hands).

The A303: Highway to the Sun, By Tom Fort

It's thejourney that matters

Tom Hodgkinson: Why Shakespeare's pain is pure poetry

Do we need poetry? Last week, appearing on a Radio 4 programme, I praised the poets for making our lives bearable with their words, for adding meaning to our world. Another of the guests, a hard-working businessman wearing a gold watch, attacked me for promoting poetry, and therefore idleness: "People need food!" he raved. "You can't eat poetry!"

Tom Hodgkinson: 'Pop music must be live if it is not to die'

When it comes to pop, my tastes are simple. I like The Beatles. The Beatles to me are like the Socrates or the Shakespeare of pop music. All subsequent groups have been more or less attempts to recreate or recapture what the Beatles did, in terms of excitement, freedom and money-making, but most have captured only one small fraction of their energy and creative range. Some have done bits very well, but none has ever done the whole thing. The Beatles were the beginning and the end of pop music.

Tom Hodgkinson: The bohemian spirit is alive and well

While our image of Notting Hill today may be of a wealthy person's retreat, the area had a more bohemian and radical reputation when I was growing up. A combination of West Indian culture and a punky vibe made it irresistibly glamorous and edgy to me and my friends. It was the land of sound systems, skateboarders, the Clash, the Westway, the Mutoid Waste Company, the carnival and head shops on Portobello Road. It was home to Rough Trade (where I worked for a year when I was 21), Whole Earth foods, second-hand clothes shops and stalls on Portobello Green run by artists. It was the Notting Hill of Jimi Hendrix and of John Michell, the celebrated late cosmologist and author. I suppose it represented creative freedom.

Tom Hodgkinson: Gardening beats Valium every time

Last week I found myself at a literary festival in Cologne, talking about gardening to 250 Germans. Sharing the stage with me was a writer called Jakob Augstein. He has created a garden which is also a political statement against utilitarianism. You'll be familiar with that dry, arid philosophy, promoted by Jeremy Bentham and enthusiastically taken up this century by Labour politicians. It says that human action must be judged by how useful it is. It's an approach to things that seems to make some sense at first. Build roads, not churches! But human life is more complicated than that. We need beauty, meaning, joy and pain as well as mere efficiency.

Tom Hodgkinson: Bring back the spirit of the troubadours!

Until two years ago I served on the committee of our local free pop festival in north Devon. Each year we would invite a bunch of bands down and throw a really fantastic party on the seafront in Lynmouth, Exmoor. This is a lovely setting for bands, with the cliffs on one side and the sea on the other. In the evening, the festival would move to the various pubs in the area and merry-making would ensue.

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