In Celebration of Rubbish

Household rubbish and I go back a long way. As a child, probably from the age of seven, one of my jobs was to empty the wastepaper baskets and, with them, the ashtrays.After seventy years, not much has changed. Although thanks to a shift in social customs, ashtrays no longer need attention, I still do…

The Heart has its Reasons

As a scientist, I feel that I have just let myself down. Throughout my adult life I have given the highest priority to the reasoned argument, but having spent the summer in France, I do not know exactly what persuaded me to return to London. My decision-making has, in fact, echoed perfectly Blaise Pascal’s dictum…

A Gym of My Own

One of the unexpected pleasures of living in Brittany is that every morning - well almost - I can go to my private gym. I walk down the garden and in seconds I am sitting in front of my first piece of exercise equipment and ready to start. This is the story of that gym,…

This is the House that We Built

For years now birds visiting our courtyard in Richmond have taken advantage of feeders, baths and, if the need demands, nesting boxes. Elsewhere, gardeners with more space have built insect hotels, left trees rotting where they fell and piled up logs for needy amphibians.Of the various schemes, one of the most intriguing is the use…

A Brush with History

My visit to the shops that morning was always going to be difficult. The problem - whenever I try to buy replacement blades for my electric shaver, the shop assistants are at a loss. Their position is straightforward; they can only sell new blades if they can match them to the shaver’s model number. On…

A Student, a Fool and a Kitten Called Zoro

As many will already know, I love my summers in Tréguennec. The more obvious pleasures come from the garden, the weather, the culture, the friendships and, of course, the fresh produce - the fish and meat couldn’t be bettered. But there is more; being here gives learning French added poignancy, offers a vantage point from…

Freedom and a Kitten Called Minou

The Coronavirus pandemic has wrought havoc everywhere. Like everyone else, I faced the challenges in my own particular way and being locked up in London for months changed how I saw both myself and others. Here is a very personal account.  Although I shared confinement with my wife, Rohan, I still felt vulnerable. Whatever I…

Cows With Influence

As the River Thames leaves London it passes near our house and, with a magnificent sweep, it then heads west for Oxford and and its source beyond. The bend is best seen from the top of Richmond Hill, a vista that has beguiled locals for hundreds of years and when, at the turn of the…

Bodies in Question

On one of our early morning ‘lock-down’ walks, Rohan and I met a neighbour walking his dog. After the usual greetings and the now standard enquiries about health, Andy asked if I could clarify a medical issue for him. He, as a worried husband, was keen to understand how blood tests are used to detect…