Space Odyssey

    Near us in Richmond is a gatehouse built by Henry VII in around 1500. It is one of the few remaining parts of his palace. Each time I walk through its archway I become aware that I am occupying the same space through which once passed the likes of Henry VII, Henry VIII,…

Sartre had an Answer

There can be few treats greater than watching shooting stars streak across the sky. But craning one's neck in the small hours while waiting for a momentary glimpse of a meteor has its down side. Forget the cold, the neck ache next day and the fact that this August we saw none, the search brought…

Art Provocateur

  There was a time when works of art that others might see as sad or frightening simply left me cold. Well, that all changed a few weeks ago when we visited a Scottish sculpture park. There, two of the installations did what art is supposed to do - they provoked emotions - and the…

The Top Drawer

  Through the wonders of the friend's grapevine we contacted Emile and Denise. We had decided to buy a house by the sea in southern Brittany and sent them, as we did many others, our wish-list, just in case they knew of anything suitable. As if by return, Denise sent us the details of a…

Magic Spells Safety

Within minutes of leaving home I realised that something was very wrong. I was on my way to the baker's and while my early-morning brain had ensured I put on my cycling gloves and my cleated shoes, it had made a muddle over my crash helmet. The absence of a chin strap and the feeling…

Mother Nature’s Unfinished Business

  In the five years before she died, my elder sister Susan was plagued by shortness of breath. For Ann, the dominant last symptom was pain. For Mike, whose recent operation has made all the difference, it was ankle swelling. Odd as it may sound, all suffered unnecessarily because their bodies responded inappropriately to their…

An Orchid with Coquettish Tendencies

Bee orchids have small flowers, short stems and, in meadowland, are easily missed. They are also rare, protected and are seen as one of nature's great mimics with flowers that have an uncanny likeness their insect namesake. If put together as a rectangle, our garden in France, with its orchard, spinney, fruit and vegetable patches,…

Roll over Beethoven

We are inseparable. For years my iPad and I have been constant companions. But despite the magical ways in which it gives me access to friends, stores my data, informs me about almost anything, and supports me when I write and publish, there are times when it also drives me mad. I have not yet…