Lessons from a Wizened Potato

At the start of our summer in France I was rightly taken to task. Jeni, our house guest, chided me for failing to take care of a wrinkled potato. Against all odds, the potato, which was no bigger than a walnut, had survived the winter in a cupboard and later, in a search for daylight, had produced a spindly…

What’s in a Word?

Within no time I had accepted Armelle’s invitation. There are few sports I don’t enjoy watching and the chance to be a spectator at a tournament of sarbacane - in English ‘blowpiping’ - was irresistible; it was, for me, a first.  The tournament, which would last most of the day was the third part of a three-round…

Through the Brain Barrier

            During a week in June, my approach to birds changed radically. For years my interest in birdlife had been limited to garden visitors such as robins, wrens, chaffinches and blue tits. Rarely had I bothered about those further afield. Indeed, during walks in the countryside it is ‘disinterest’ that…

An Experiment with Music and Cheese

                  This story started with a note in which John invited me to hum to his cheeses. The invitation, which was delivered as a commentary to a recent blog - “London’s Singing Lift” (28 April 2019) - read: “An experiment has recently taken place in Switzerland where certain types of music played to cheeses…

My Father’s Image Reviewed and Revised

Changing ones mind can be difficult. In this instance it took more than thirty years to even review my position. A change quickly followed and the relief was immense. Over a few weeks I overturned an opinion that I had held about the qualities of my father as a parent which I had been propagating for years and which was both inaccurate…

London’s Singing Lift

There is an unwritten code of conduct for those riding in a lift. First: say nothing, and if you have to speak, keep your voice hushed. Second: avoid eye contact with fellow travellers; stare ahead or look down at the floor. With such solemnity, being in a lift is a dour affair. Well, usually! There is…

It’s For You, Professor Collier

Two memories of our visit to Nepal fifteen years ago stand out, one magical, the other unsettling. My wife, Rohan, and I were staying in the Himalayan foothills at a hotel just outside Nagarkot. I was there at a conference. The magic occurred on a clear day when, after an hour’s stroll, the view we sought suddenly appeared. Far…

Cutting Edge, Cutting Cost

For several days in mid-February I was obsessed with a particular aspect of geometry - thickness. First it was the thickness of a slice of bread, then that of an envelope. On both occasions the critical measure was five millimetres which, in imperial units is equivalent to just under two tenths of an inch. On the…

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,…

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…