Peter the Renovator

Three or four times each day I walk past the church of St Mary Magdalene in the centre of Richmond. The paths that run through its cemetery are part of my route to almost everywhere. In one form or another, a church has been there for nearly 800 years. However, despite my love of old…

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,…

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…

One Man and his Dog

  This story tells of an episode that occurred in a tiny village in Brittany. It is here, in Tréguennec, that we now spend much of the year and where we witnessed a series of events that brought feelings of pride and shame in equal measure. Although the episode is now over, thoughts about it…

Creditworthy

    I find walls endlessly fascinating and, knowing of my interest, my wife Rohan beckoned me over. She was standing on a tiny enclosed terrace and suggested I take a close look at one of its surrounding walls - there was something special that I should not miss. Staring at the massive, regular, cream-coloured…

When Time Stands Still

  Klim and I first met when we were eight years old. We lived in different parts of town, went to different schools and were in different gangs, but our lives were always criss-crossing. In our twenties we grew closer as first we shared ‘digs’ at university and then a flat in London. A lifetime’s…

Pillars of the Establishment

  As is often the case, a large part of our evening was taken up discussing health. Next day, no doubt prompted by knowing that I was once a doctor, Erica took me aside to ask my advice - she was very anxious. She told me about her symptoms and her treatment; I took her…