Notes on the Cotswold Way

      I just finished walking the Cotswold Way with a friend, Neil Goodban. We did it on a day-by-day basis over slightly more than a year except for the last two sections which we did in two consecutive days. We started in Chipping Camden and ended in Bath, though it is not just possible but […]

Poor Little Orphan Austria

       We were sitting in a common room in 1968 worrying and commiserating with a visiting Czech academic as it appeared increasingly likely that the Soviet Union would intervene to oust the liberalising government of Alexander Dubcek in Czechoslovakia. There were practical and urgent things to worry about, but the talk turned to the long […]

Thoughts in Flanders Fields

       The Flemish town of Ieper (Ypres in French and “Wipers” to a generation of anglophone troops) is finally doing very well out of the war. There is hardly a hotel bedroom or restaurant table to be had and the museum, “In Flanders Fields”, in the Cloth Hall is frequently congested. The forty five kilometer […]

The Sausage and I

       The Old Town in Bratislava could serve well as the set for one of those Eastern European towns in a Hammer film. Narrow streets nestle under the castle. In reality, they are full of tourists; in the films they tended to fill up with men with big moustaches and even bigger sticks and dogs […]

Jungle Thoughts

       The jungle is utterly convincing in its role as jungle: hot, damp, dense, sweaty. Monkeys gibber, something screeches, snakes slither. (The first two are definitely real, the third may be only in my imagination.) The jungle inspires an instinctive fear of the unknown, but it also has a literary reputation. In my youth I […]

So how did London become so good?

       In the five years I spent in Oxford in the 1960s I spent a good deal of time in London which was a 22 shilling return rail fare away. (The price must have varied, but that’s the one I remember.) This was supposed to be “swinging London” and there were some good moments: walking […]

The Irish Free Variable

       In 1967, having finished my final exams, I set off for an unashamed drinking expedition to Ireland with two friends in a VW Beetle. Reaching Dingle on the far side of the country and ordering a pint in my English accent I was informed by the man on the end of the bar that […]

Heaven and Hell in Campania

       Sitting at the back of the stand, watching the Coppa Davis, the view is roughly the same as that which can be seen on the paintings in all the restaurants of the city. Beyond the red “clay” and the main body of Italian fans is Vesuvius. To the right of the volcano are the […]

Castles in Spain

       As Gibbon might have said: I breakfasted in the Alhambra, among the ruins of Moorish palaces and reflected . . . . But whereas Gibbon, you will recall, reflected in similar circumstances upon the decline of the Roman Empire, I was reflecting, more selfishly and immediately, on the deal. The price of our room […]

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