The Cat Sat on the Map: Some reflections on post human cartography

The city of cats and the city of men exist one inside the other, but they are not the same city. Few cats recall the time when there was no distinction: the streets and squares of men were also streets and squares of cats, and the lawns, courtyard, balconies, and fountains; you lived in a broad and various space. But for several generations now domestic felines have been prisoners of an uninhabitable city; the streets are uninterruptedly overrun by the mortal traffic of cat-crushing automobiles; in every square foot of terrain where once a garden extended or a vacant lot or the ruins of an old demolition, now condominiums loom up, welfare housing, brand-new skyscrapers; every entrance is crammed with parked cars; the courtyards, one by one, have been roofed by reinforced concrete and transformed into garages and movie houses or storerooms or workshops…

Italo Calvino, The Garden of Stubborn Cats


Calvino’s famous short story was written in 1963 as the post war boom in city rebuilding was taking off in Italy; a version of architectural modernism was transforming many historic urban neighbourhoods into up or down market versions of Le Corbusier’s dream of the city as a ’machine-for-living’.… Read the rest

On losing the Royal touch

How do you map a monarchy? Depict the location of its palaces and other places of residence? Display the extent of its  material  wealth or  its  kinship connections ? Create a genealogical tree or a psycho-geography of members of the royal household? Or devise a cartogram showing  their  personal popularity or  lack of it with different groups of  ‘subjects’?

A wealth map  would be an obvious starting point, but understandably members of the  Royal Family are a bit touchy about the extent of their personal  and collective wealth .… Read the rest


Crossing the Pandemoticon

It began with a hand

clenched experimentally to ear

not so much a fist

as a makeshift mouthpiece

designed to broadcast  miracles

speaking in tongues:



nego,nego,unulti possum!

craaghi covid ipsit cunnilingo ?

es krampit   todo   kwa heri ‘


a polyglot  mother tongue

Nordic vowels, Slavic consonants

Swahili syntax, Latin verse

with just a touch of Lewis Carroll

to stitch into proper nonsense


all in the hope  some passers by

might stop and listen,

become alarmed,

and call a  passing drone

to guide  me to a  ’place of safety’

where the only voices heard

were broadcast   in my head.… Read the rest

A Long Life in the Making


Phil’s has created a Vimeo video of the book with selected readings.


This is an afterword to my father’s  memoir which I have just edited  for forthcoming publication by eyeglass books.

I thought that the reader might  be interested to know a bit more  about the biographical background to this memoir, what motivated and influenced my father to write it,  its relation to other books about life in the Gorbals, and finally what was at stake for me personally in editing  the text.… Read the rest


 What follows is from a forthcoming publication  with the above title by eyeglass books  which  contains extracts from my lockdown diary. 


Edwin and Morcar, the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, declared for him: and even Stigand, the patriotic archbishop of Canterbury, found it advisable–“‘`Found what?’ said the Duck.` Found it,’ the Mouse replied rather crossly: `of course you know what “it” means’` I know what “it” means well enough, when I find a thing,’ said the Duck: `it’s generally a frog or a worm.… Read the rest

Political Mindfulness and the Pandemic : an interview

In this interview  Phil Cohen discusses his latest project and two linked publications from the Left wing think tank Compass.

How did this project come about?

For me the starting point in this journey  goes back to the 1980’s , the Kinnock years, when having abolished the Young Socialists  because it was controlled by Trotskyists, they launched an initiative called Labour listens to Youth.… Read the rest

Political Mindfulness: Fresh Perspectives on Multiple Crises’

By Phil Cohen

The text assembled here represents a thoughtful attempt to begin to find a way out of the current impasse in which progressive politics finds itself.

The collection explores the connections between the personal and political dimensions of mindfulness and how this might help us build strategies capable of winning the battle for hearts and minds in a post Brexit, post pandemic Britain.

Read the rest

Compass Webinar – Living Maps – June 17th

A Compass Webinar, in association with Living Maps
Pausing for Thought: Mindful Perspectives
on a Multiple Crisis.

Wednesday, June 17th 18:30 – 20:00    
Sign Up Here!

First there was Brexit. Then the Labour Party goes down to a historic defeat with its most radical Social Democratic agenda since 1945. Then widespread floods across the country presage an environmental apocalypse to come unless climate change is properly addressed.

Read the rest

The Pandemonic Dialogues

1. We don’t want to be  heroes, even for one day

We are not heroes. We do not want to be fallen  martyrs. All this war imagery  makes us very uncomfortable. It distract people from the reality. We are ordinary people who have chosen to  become  health workers and carers. We are professionals and highly trained. All we want is to be given the tools we need to do our job properly, to look after people in a safe environments.… Read the rest

Mapping the Pandemic

There Must Be Some Way Out of Here



Published on line by Compass  Wednesday June 24 2020

This essay  looks at a  range of public, personal and governmental responses to the pandemic for what it tells us about the kind of society and culture we live in. Drawing on insights from anthropology and psychoanalysis a model of risk perception is outlined   and applied to understanding the forms of social solidarity which have been  invoked by the government’s confused and often contradictory  public health messaging.… Read the rest