A Tall Order

When older people get into a packed London bus or train, as likely as not someone will soon offer them their seat. Both my wife, Rohan, and I are in our seventies and have the tell-tale grey hair, but when that offer comes our responses are very different. While Rohan acknowledges the kindness and accepts…

Becoming Fluent in French

Over the summer in France, Bernard and I had lunch together each week to catch up on the news. We spoke in French and while I understood him easily, when it was my turn to speak, I was hesitant and my sentences were dotted with errors. Then, one day something changed - for the first…

Gadgets, Toys and a Case of Metal Fatigue

Gadgets fascinate me; the simpler, the more ingenious, the more useful, the better. There is something about a pencil sharpener, a spirit level or even the humble paper clip that I find absorbing but others rarely share my interest. Were I to start explaining to my wife, Rohan, the details of the Post-it’s endless re-stickiness,…

At Your Service

It was a mixed fortnight with pleading and pride playing critical parts. Twice we needed major household repairs and twice we relied on favoured status for the work to be done with minimal delay. For installing a new gas boiler, it was my presumed frailty that added urgency; for replacing the leaking water main, the key…

It was a Good Year for Uncle Joe

Stalin was not a popular man. Indeed, according to the display in Russia’s State Museum of Political History in St Petersburg, Stalin’s regime was an abomination. Through films, posters, contemporary documents and a life-size mock-up of a family’s squalid living quarters, visitors are left in no doubt - from the perspective of the museum’s curators,…

All’s Well that Ends Well (2)

For my wife, Rohan and I, Scotland is very special. It is where Rohan’s father was born, where for years we spent family holidays and where, as a couple, we would hill-walk. It is also where we went for celebrations, which is why we were there last week. The plan was to spend a few…

In Brittany Skies

I am pleased to announce that I have made another change. This time it concerns how I view the sky - I now love it. Here, I refer only to daytime skies when all is visible and little is left to guesswork. At night, much goes unseen and what is visible is often mysterious, sometimes…

The Bus Shelter Mystery Resolved

For months I missed the unmissable. Hanging above the doorway of the bus shelter opposite our Tréguennec home is a most striking mask which, for almost a year, went unnoticed - it is the one on the left in the illustration. With its bottle tops for eyes and an upside-down hook for its nose and…

Reconnecting Down Under

The Australian artist John Peter Russell is one of my heroes. In 1884, at the age of 26, he went to France where he stayed for forty years. There, he was befriended by Rodin, Van Gogh and Monet, was one of Matisse’s key teachers, became a highly respected ‘French’ impressionist, and was then wiped out…