On the breadline

Autumn came a little early this year and one morning, well before sunrise, I was the solitary figure freezing outside our local bakery. I had been queuing for hours - well, more precisely 35 minutes - but had I arrived any later my mission could have been jeopardised. The story began some months beforehand when…

The power of observation

Before setting off for our 'holiday-of-a-lifetime' I had my forebodings. However wonderful it might be, the prospect of spending a week on a small boat in the Pacific Ocean, out of touch and miles from medical care, seemed risky, even ill-advised. Accordingly, for an oldie such as myself, looking forward unreservedly to spending time in…

No sex please, we’re gerbils

After a poor night's sleep in an hotel in St Malo it was time to catch the ferry home. I had just settled the bill when the young man behind the counter stood up, pointed to a wine glass full of straws and suggested that I serve myself one. I asked him to repeat this remark, which to…

Mrs Mole, mother of invention

There is something strangely appealing about the common mole. Indeed, she (and in France moles are generally thought of as female) has enough appeal to make her a fairy-tale favourite amongst children. Apart from her beautiful black pelt she is actually rather ugly with her protuberant fleshy nose, over-large pink front feet and silly short tail. When…

Friends reunited

It is a simple truth that relationships change with age. For my part, over the years I have become closer both to other human beings and to some of my possessions. In this particular story, the possession was a bone china mug. It all started when I went downstairs to make an early-morning cup of…

Spread a little happiness

Maybe it’s a generation thing but I am not, nor never have been, a natty dresser. Quality yes, fashion no. Indeed, for many years I aspired to the anonymous dress style of a deputy bank manager. Nowadays, if I do wear something fashionable, it is almost certainly a gift from someone in touch - usually my…

The uncommon reader

We, that is people in general, seem to have a compelling desire to label. I am talking specifically about the way we give nicknames to things, nicknames that are adopted by the people, rather than created by some official. I am sure the British are in no way unique, but here naming relates to anything from a building - in…

From each according to his means…

Our house guest Dave was probably not expecting to have to make his own bed, quite literally by helping to assemble it himself, but the process and the end result was a fine example of collectivism and the division of labour to the benefit of all.  A friend to whom I told the story, preferred…

Signs of humour

Like most people, I love a good laugh. Indeed, when it comes to escaping the humdrum and lifting the spirits, laughter is probably as good a remedy as any. The butt of jokes is often  a  politician or a political event, or perhaps a social injustice. Whatever the target, for most of today's laughs we…

Secret newsagent

The man who owns the open-all-hours newsagent just round the corner is, as tradition would have it, in the centre of the community. He knows and treats his customers very well. Indeed, he makes a point of greeting us all individually either by first name, by title (Doctor, Professor), or by nickname (in my case Mr. le…