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Navigating the Clive James Website Archive: Page Elements and Controls

by S J Birkill

This static image shows a typical Archive page, as rendered by the Chrome browser when set to a window width of 980 pixels. This is the absolute minimum browser width that will display all Archive features without distortion or clipping. If your display supports it, I recommend resizing your window to a width of between 1100 and 1500 pixels for best results: 1280 is a good compromise. To see how it looks on your device at present, click or tap HERE to load the live version of this sample page in a new browser tab. You can then test the controls on that page without losing this one.

The controls illustrated below are inactive; the ones in the page header function as normal. Let me give you a quick walk-through of the features:

Header Bars

This is the Prototype page URL, the unique public-facing (and Google-facing) address of each displayed page — the address you need to quote when directing someone to the page. It will also appear in your browser’s address bar. This line is present only when viewing the page in Fast-Track mode (about which more below); though apparently self-referential it is a live link: clicking on the address text will re-load the Prototype page.

Home button — takes you directly to the Archive’s introductory page.

Mission-context: Title style from the original, referencing a footnote which explains the Archive’s purpose.

Section-context: To leave you in no doubt which Section (subject area) of the site is currently active. Subject-matter may occasionally defy or deny categorisation by section title.

The Archive’s default type-face is Crimson, a free font of the Garamond family and close in style to Clive’s preferred Minion Pro. Some readers may prefer a font more easily readable on small screens, so I have provided the wide sans-serif font Verdana as an alternative. This button toggles the Archive text between the two. The user’s preference is remembered at browser level, without any use of cookies. If you’re using the popular Mozilla ‘Firefox’ browser you may find pages where the Screen Font text wraps or truncates, upsetting the page layout — this is due to Firefox’s non-standard rendering of font sizes — Chrome, Opera or (possibly) Safari are recommended to avoid such issues. And they don’t forget your tabs between sessions.

The Archive’s Default behaviour when following a link to an external (off-site) page is to utilise the currently-open browser tab for the destination page, hiding the source page and requiring use of the ‘back’ button to return. This button allows the user to set a preference for opening the remote page in a new tab. Again, no cookies are required. Most on-site (local) pages open in the current tab, but there are deliberate exceptions. Note that many of the Archive pages’ control buttons are responsive to the mouse pointer’s ‘hover’ state, with dynamic highlighting or ‘Tool-tip’-type prompts. These functions are necessarily absent when the page is viewed on touch-screen devices.

Clive’s writing fascinates in the most unlikely places. Let serendipity rule and view a random page from over 2100 in the archive. Excluded from the random selection are the narrative pages of the four novels, lest they give away the story, and the cantos of the Divine Comedy.

This page. Controls explained; Seldom Asked Questions answered.

I intend to include a full A–Z index of names, but it’s not ready yet.

Search the Archive.

Section selector. Each button selects the Archive section hosting its named category. The box outline highlights the current selection.

These buttons reflect Clive’s original concept for his Website. Section header prototype pages and all Home Section pages (including this Help page) are distinguished by taller, square buttons, and the topmost title/toolbar incorporates Clive’s image.

Clive’s essays and articles not collected into books at the time of compilation. Also Guest Writers, Lectures and Speeches, and links to Clive’s columns for the Observer, Guardian and Telegraph.

All of Clive’s poetry, including his various published collections plus his epic poems, song lyrics, various articles on poetry, and works by a selection of Guest Poets.

Clive’s books of prose: his Unreliable Memoirs, collections of essays, literary and cultural comment, poetry notes, collections of TV criticism from the Observer, and his novels.

Podcasts, radio broadcasts, interviews, tributes, prose and poetry recitals. [Pete Atkin’s recordings of Clive’s songs can be found in the Poetry section, under ‘Lyrics’.]

Some of Clive’s favourite contemporary exponents of the Fine Arts, with samples of their work.

All the video clips we can find: songs, TV shows, travel, conversation, recital; some of Clive’s favourite film and TV moments. Many of these may fall subject to YouTube removal for petty copyright claims — are a few bars of a song included in a TV show really going to damage an artist’s reputation or hurt a record company’s revenue?

Legacy section from the original There is no shop.

Section reserved for announcement of new publications or significant additions to the Archive.

About Clive James. Profiles, obituaries, tributes, reminiscences; Clive’s take on Life Stories.

Clive had immense enthusiasm for the World-Wide Web as a force for advancing culture in all its forms. He fully intended this section to be a catalogue of all that was life-enhancing on the Web. Alas, he ran out of time at the very point that Internet growth went stratospheric. Had he lived he might have added thousands of links to this section, but realistically he’d never have been able to do more than scratch the surface of what the Web offers us today.

The so-called ‘Breadcrumbs’ trail. Places the current page in context, and allows the user to go back up through the hierarchy as many levels as desired. Equivalent to the Menu Path; analogous but not identical to the File Path.

The Menu

With over 2000 pages on offer, the menu system is crucial to the Archive’s usability. My aim here was to retain the basic ‘look and feel’ of Clive’s original menu, but provide more control over and better feedback of just what the menu was offering. At the same time it was important not to bloat the page code with gimmicks that didn’t really improve the user experience. A further but related priority was to improve page access time. The old site loaded the entire menu whenever a new page was called, at quite a performance penalty. To avoid this, I divided the menu into eleven independent parts, one for each of the site’s ‘Sections’ (Essays, Poetry, Books etc.), and implemented what I’m calling ‘Fast Track’ to avoid reloading the menu for new page loads within a Section.

Fast Track

The method I chose was to build each page of the site in ‘Prototype’ form, including its own Section menu but with few other enhancements. This prototype is the page indexed by Web search engines such as Google, and is what the visitor sees on following an inbound link. If the visitor then decides to explore other pages in the same section by clicking a menu selection, he or she is diverted to Fast Track. Each new page is served within the same framework of menu, headers, scrollers, footers and buttons, so only the new page’s text and images need to be downloaded. At a casual glance the dynamically-loaded (‘ajax’) page is indistinguishable from its prototype. The result is almost instant switching to any page within the Section. To further exploit this, Fast Track provides ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ buttons in the page footer, which flip the view seamlessly to the adjacent pages. On changing Sections, the user is temporarily diverted out of Fast Track to allow the new section menu to load, and then Fast Track resumes seamlessly as soon as a new menu item is selected.

Menu Controls

The bulleting system is conventional: A circular bullet () indicates a single file: click on the filename to view the page; a triangle indicates an expandable directory. When forming a ‘right’ arrow () it indicates there is hidden content which can be revealed by clicking the arrow or by selecting the filename alongside it. The bullet then switches to a ‘down’ arrow (), and the contained file list appears, indented, below it. Clicking the bullet again collapses the sub-menu. Sub-menus may contain both single files (circular bullet) or further expandable directories (triangle); or a combination of both.

Overriding these controls are the three buttons at the head of the menu:

Expand Menu’ expands vertically the entire Section menu: every file or link is displayed. The menu may be scrolled up or down to explore its full height. This view is useful when using your browser’s ‘Find in Page’ ( <ctrl> F ) function, when matches to page titles in the menu will also be returned.

Collapse Menu’ does the opposite: all expanded entries are collapsed, so only the top level selections may be seen. Click any of these to expand it.

Focus Menu’ expands only that part of the Section menu relevant to the page currently displayed, and collapses the rest. The menu is scrolled to place the active entry close to the top of the column where possible, and it is highlighted in red. This button’s action is subtly different on prototype pages.

Menu scroll button cluster. Easy menu navigation is fundamental to the use of the Archive. The scroll button cluster provides dedicated scroll functions for the menu area. These are designed to aid scrolling capability, particularly when the menu is expanded. The up- and down-arrow buttons scroll the menu at an increasing speed for as long as they are held — a tap will shift the menu just a few lines at a time. The centre ‘scroll’ button scrolls the menu as required to bring the selected entry (referencing the active page) into view. Normal scrolling functions are also supported via the mouse scroll wheel and by a conventional scroll bar to the right of this button cluster.

Menu Hide/Show tab. This appears at the left-hand edge of the main content area on each page, and allows the menu column to be hidden when necessary. A minority of pages may contain block text or images which exceed the width of the main content pane in your browser and cannot be wrapped. Equally you may wish to allow the content pane to fill the screen width on a mobile device. In these cases, click or tap this tab, or swipe it left, to hide the menu column. Click again or swipe right to restore the normal layout.

In the Video Section, the menu column is automatically suppressed on selecting a video file for viewing, allowing the image to occupy the full width of the browser. This control lets you reveal the menu without stopping play. In Audio, pages displaying multiple audio players also carry a ‘full-screen’ icon at top right, permitting three-column display of up to six players and thirty-six audio tracks.

Key to external file availability icons. Many of the links on the original pointed to external (off-site) material. Since Clive first added these links, much material has been moved, deleted or renamed, most of the early Web enthusiasts’ cherished ‘vanity’ pages have faded away (though some have reappeared as ‘blogs’) and whole Websites and hosting services have vanished. I have spent many hours locating the displaced source material from these links, but inevitably (and regrettably) some of this stuff is no longer to be found. Additionally, many media sites have recently implemented a ‘paywall’ policy, allowing only a tantalising glimpse of archived material previously freely available, before demanding payment. For continuity and to support Clive’s legacy, I have retained, in deactivated form, many of his links which now go nowhere. I have also labelled paywalled material as such. Each such link’s status is indicated by one or more of these superscript symbols in the text:

O — off-site resource openly and freely available. Link was active and operational the last time I checked.
$ — paywall in operation. Without a subscription to the remote site you may be blocked from accessing it.
P — link points to a PDF (Adobe Acrobat) file — may open in your browser or may require downloading.
X — content or host has disappeared and I have been unable to locate a copy. Broken link is deactivated.

Scroll reminder. This tab appears at the bottom (with a down arrow) or at the top (up arrow) of the main content pane when page height exceeds window height. Occasionally, a paragraph break could have misled a reader into thinking he or she had read the entire page; this tab serves as a reminder that more content exists further down and scrolling is available. While the scroll wheel or bar will normally be employed for scrolling the page, this tab also acts as a button permitting fast scroll. When at the bottom of the screen, prompting the reader to scroll downwards (shifting the displayed text up the screen), clicking and holding the button initiates an accelerating scroll which continues as long as the button is held. When the bottom of the page is reached the button reappears at the top as a reminder to scroll back up, if desired. Clicking or tapping it in this position forces a rapid scroll to the head of the page.

Page Footer

Main feature here is the pair of Previous/Next buttons. These appear when riding the menu in Fast Track mode, and will take you page by page through any part of the current Section with minimum delay. At narrower browser widths the arrows lose their tails and labels, but functionality remains. Try to use a window width sufficient for the full arrows to show.

Seldom Asked Questions

— asked and answered by Archive curator and editor Stephen J Birkill

Q:   Is this ‘Archive’ related to the official archive of Clive James’ papers at Sydney University?

A:   No, a different kind of archive altogether — there is no connection. I’ve merely reconstructed Clive’s original Website and brought it up to date according to his wishes.

Q:   What about the current Website at Where does this Archive fit in?

A:   The original site (begun in 2004), along with any backups, was lost in 2018 when its hosting service collapsed. A new official site with highlights of Clive’s work was built during 2018–19 by Dawn Mancer at the same address. That smaller but perfectly formed site is now maintained by Clive’s daughter Claerwen and operates without my involvement.

I began building this Archive in August 2019 to reproduce and preserve what I could of Clive’s original site in all its richness of content. I met with Clive and Claerwen in October 2019, just weeks before Clive’s death, and they asked if I would continue and expand the archive I’d created as a permanent repository of Clive’s work, in accordance with his original vision for I was indecisive at first, recognising the magnitude of the task, but through the following months I completed what I called ‘Phase 1’: the restoration of the original site’s content to the status as of early 2018 before it disappeared. Since then my ‘Phase 2’ has involved adding all the material Clive had intended to include since 2010, but had been prevented by his illness. What the new accessions inevitably lack is Clive’s voice to introduce and illuminate each topic. I’ve avoided any temptation to add new guest material: I can’t pretend to guess what Clive might have included had he been here. I completed Phase 2 in August 2021, just two years on from starting the project. You can read my progress notes on the ‘About’ page.

Q:   Is the Archive co-hosted with

A:   No. The Archive occupies a subdomain of, but doesn’t use their hosting service. Rather, it is hosted on the same server as my own, physically located in California, USA. I don’t use content delivery networks or Cloud-based services for local material — everything is served from there.

Q:   Shouldn’t the address start with “www.”?

A:   No — it’s a subdomain and the correct url is

Q:   Isn’t the Archive at risk of meeting the same fate as the original site?

A:   Nothing is permanent, but we will take care to protect its future to the best of our ability. Multiple backups exist, on DVD and HDD, and copies are held in the UK and in Canada, as well as on the US servers. Remote video files are hosted on YouTube, over whose removal policy we have no control, though we keep local backups where possible. Both Claerwen and I have taken steps to ensure Clive’s legacy is preserved in the event that she and/or I are unable to continue.

Q:   How big is the Archive?

A:   At latest count, local material occupies about 3.5 Gigabytes. There are some 2,300 prototype Web pages in local files, encompassing about 9,600 book pages, plus another 430 or so remote Web pages directly linked from the Archive. Image files number about 3000, audio files 432 including 178 remote, video files 235, all remote.

Q:   What site-building software do you use?

A:   None — it’s all done by hand in a text editor. I had to teach myself HTML, CSS and Javascript to get the effects I needed. Some of the pages contain legacy code from the original site, so may look a little ungainly when analysed. That’s my story anyway!

Q:   Where can I find Somewhere Becoming Rain and The Fire Of Joy?

A:   In your favourite bookshop or on-line store. I interpreted Clive’s intention (to place his entire back catalogue on the Website) as stopping short of newly-released publications. Rest assured I will add these items when Claerwen advises me that the time is right.

Q:   Some pages mention various ‘lost’ items you’d like to include. I have a recording/copy of (such and such) — what should I do with it?

A:   Please message me via the ‘Contact’ link in the page footer, and we can discuss what action to take.

Q:   Are there no more questions?

A:   Welcome, but not yet asked. Use the ‘Contact’ link (below) to propose a question.