This Land is Her Land

Dina could not be more of a Londoner. She was born and educated in the capital and now, as a thirty-two year old, it is where she lives and works. Added to this, most of her close family - mother, sisters, aunts and uncle - live only a short bus-ride away. Despite all this, she feels like a stranger.…

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…

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,…

All’s Well that Ends Well (2)

For my wife, Rohan and I, Scotland is very special. It is where Rohan’s father was born, where for years we spent family holidays and where, as a couple, we would hill-walk. It is also where we went for celebrations, which is why we were there last week. The plan was to spend a few…

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…

The Curious Contents of the Garden Shed

We spent the last two nights of our holiday on a Brittany island in a ‘converted farmhouse’ with its ‘landscaped garden’.  We arrived at the Bed and Brefast to find the front drive freshly raked, the beds on either side weed-free, and the plants within perfectly aligned. Janine welcomed us; she was relaxed, tanned, slim and smartly dressed. In…

Family Ties

My wife, Rohan, has been dreaming of visiting Saint Petersburg since her teens. She has a warmth for Russia, for Russian literature and for the Russian language and, fittingly, she studied Russian at school and took it up again after retirement. For years, Rohan has cherished a photograph of her grandmother, Annie Forsyth, taken in…

A Misunderstanding

There can be little more irresistible than the sight of a baby staring into ones eyes and smiling. At around three months most will look at people’s faces and it is clearly a view they find captivatung. Those early stares are not exclusively directed at their parents. Over the past few weeks I have been stared…

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…

Ghost train

I am not a man who is easily frightened. To be more precise, I have never been someone who suffers from classical phobias so have no concerns about being in open or closed spaces, nor am I made anxious by being in the company of spiders or mice. I don't get worried by dreamed-up fears,…