River, Neil and the Real Deal

Throughout the pandemic, Rohan and I have spent hours talking on screen with family and friends. Indeed, for us and many others, such conversations have become part of our everyday lives. However, while the ingenuity of the likes of Zoom, Skype and FaceTime is extraordinary, for Rohan and me it comes at a cost. In face-to-face conversations with those close, the ability to ‘read’ mood,…

Women’s Voices

Earlier this year, and I have forgotten why, it was suddenly important for me to know how to spell Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. In no time I found myself on Wikipedia scrolling down a list of ‘Significant Russian Composers’. As I descended from the ‘A’s, apart from the sheer numbers - there were well over four…

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…