Brian – Ill, Resolute and Unbowed

Brian and I have lunch together each week when we can. We first met during French classes around ten years ago; he was my teacher. Our meals started soon after. Brian was sixty five, I was two years older and we clicked. Initially, conversation was limited - while his French was fluent, mine was still…

Alice’s Story

As soon as we had installed ourselves in Brittany for our spring stay, it was time to catch up with friends. After five months away there was plenty to talk about. We shared news about families, jobs and health, we learned the local gossip, and, inevitably we swapped views and insights about Brexit, the Gilets…

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…

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

Just 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,…