The Politics of Marmalade

For lovers of oranges, the last few weeks have been a delight. Although oranges can be bought all year round, it is the fresh, Spanish oranges that arrive in our shops from mid-January to mid-February that are special. It is always a surprise that a winter fruit can look so inviting and provide such compelling…

A Small Matter of Detail

VJust up the path from our London home is a short, narrow, sleepy street with history. At one end is a fine, ten-house, Georgian terrace. At its centre are two houses dating from the late 1690s. At the other end there is less grandeur but nevertheless this has not stopped the street being listed as an area of special…

How Rosie Won Me Over

This story is about Rosie, who, for seven weeks, came to stay. Several months ago Ollie, our youngest son, decided he wanted a dog. Through emails and photos he was offered, and fell for, Rosie, a tiny Lurcher puppy, but there were conditions - he would have to collect her almost immediately. Here was a…

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…

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…

“It’s the Bottle”

Henri was standing at the side of the road hitching a lift. Like me, he was heading for the neighbouring town of Pont L’Abbé; in all, the drive would take about ten minutes. These days I rarely give lifts to strangers but the sky was leaden, the forecast was for rain and he was alone;…