Being in Touch

 To celebrate our wedding anniversary this summer we spent a few days in a tiny pocket of Southern France. Now back home, it is memories of three experiences that linger uppermost and all three have one thing in common; each was emotional. None of these feelings related to friends or personal issues, but, to the…

Lessons from a Wizened Potato

At the start of our summer in France I was rightly taken to task. Jeni, our house guest, chided me for failing to take care of a wrinkled potato. Against all odds, the potato, which was no bigger than a walnut, had survived the winter in a cupboard and later, in a search for daylight, had produced a spindly…

Dressed to Kill?

Words can jolt and, for me, an armed policeman’s reply did just that. This story, which is about his riposte, has three key strands; my conversation with the officer as he patrolled London’s City Airport; my dress sense, or lack of it; my habit of exchanging pleasantries with those in authority. When walking in busy…

When River came to Stay

Something very special happened in August. Our grandson, River stayed with us in our cottage in France and after being together day-in, day-out for a week, for the first time I felt I really knew him. We understood each other and shared jokes and when there was a hint of a smile or a cry,…

Unseasonal Blackberries Save the Day

On a long walk miles from our home in Brittany, my wife Rohan saw some ripe blackberries. It was in the last week of July so they had no right to have ripened, indeed the berries around our house were still as they should be - small and green with their drupelets (their surface ‘bobbles’) tightly packed. But of…

A Baker and a Magician

 There is something magical about bakers and bread-making. How is it possible that a bland mixture of flour and water can be turned overnight into the delicious, still-warm loaf I get each day? After years of dreaming, I finally asked our own baker if I could watch him as he worked in the early hours.…

What’s in a Word?

Within no time I had accepted Armelle’s invitation. There are few sports I don’t enjoy watching and the chance to be a spectator at a tournament of sarbacane - in English ‘blowpiping’ - was irresistible; it was, for me, a first.  The tournament, which would last most of the day was the third part of a three-round…

Through the Brain Barrier

            During a week in June, my approach to birds changed radically. For years my interest in birdlife had been limited to garden visitors such as robins, wrens, chaffinches and blue tits. Rarely had I bothered about those further afield. Indeed, during walks in the countryside it is ‘disinterest’ that…

This Land is Her Land

Dina could not be more of a Londoner. She was born and educated in the capital and now, as a thirty-two year old, it is where she lives and works. Added to this, most of her close family - mother, sisters, aunts and uncle - live only a short bus-ride away. Despite all this, she feels like a stranger.…