Author Archives: Hugh Barnes


On this day, exactly 200 years ago, William Wordsworth, who was a proto-Extinction Rebel, according to his descendant Kitty in the June issue of Tatler – it came out yesterday, i.e. in April – set off on a Continental tour with his wife Mary and this battered old suitcase. His sister Dorothy was already in London getting her teeth fixed for the trip. Of course the suitcase wasn’t battered in those days – it was brand new – and the poet was obviously proud of it because he wrote his name and the date inside the lid – or at least he attempted to … what he actually wrote before he ran out of space was ‘W. Wordswort 1820’, before adding the ‘’H’ above as an afterthought straddling the ‘O’ and the ‘R’. Many claims have been staked for Wordsworth, especially in this month of his 250th birthday, to be regarded as England’s greatest poet after Shakespeare, but is it not slightly odd that he couldn’t actually spell his own name?

Post-punk to post-stroke

In Those Days I Could Still Eat Lobster: Life, before a stroke and after by John Wrathall, Kindle, 175 pp, £5

This is a heartbreaking and uplifting book about John Wrathall’s double life, the one that ended, in July 2013, when he suffered a left-brain stroke and the one he lives now with great courage and humour in its aftermath. Some things crossed over from one to the other – his fierce intelligence and wit, his love of film and of his three young sons, also the characteristic elegance of his writing. But other parts of the former life were irretrievably lost, a successful career as a screenwriter (GoodThe Liability), for instance. In Lobster, he writes about the sense of loss with poignancy and optimism, saying he can barely remember “what [life] was like before the stroke. So this is the new normal. The strange thing is that I’m happier now than I was pre-stroke. Why that is, I don’t really know. But I think it’s to do with living each day just for the day.” In fact, Wrathall is a genius at remembering and early sections of this book capture his almost Wordsworthian joy (and Joy Division) at being young in the dawn of the 1980s. From post-punk to post-stroke, In Those Days I Could Still Eat Lobster is a wonderful book that is almost Zen-like in its self-acceptance.