• Four Girls, Four Countries, Eight Days

    For us June 2022 had become the era of the postponed trip. There was the trip to Northumberland, postponed since before Covid and the trip to Madeira postponed since March when we actually had Covid. But most of all there was the road trip to Europe with the four granddaughters who live in the same […]
  • The Alternative Winter Holiday

    We gave up on M. Macron and his country about a week before they gave up on us. That is to say we abandoned our plans for a skiing trip in January because of all the tests and documentation required and the possibility that we wouldn’t be allowed into restaurants or cable cars and then […]
  • The Great Escape, October 2021

    Nineteen months, March 2020 to October 2021: the longest time in our adult lives we had stayed in our own country. It wasn’t a bad life because we walked, cycled, played tennis, spent lots of time with grandchildren, gardened and even traveled within England – Norfolk, Northumberland, Isle of Wight. My cooking improved, I played […]
  • Expat Storm

    It would be normal to think of the Scots as the second biggest nation in the British Isles with a population a little under five and a half million. But there is arguably a bigger tribe with a population over five and a half million, which is British expats. Expatriates are people with a country’s […]
  • The Golden Age of London, 1980-2020?

    It’s a commonplace observation, revealed in numerous interviews and heartfelt observations expressed online, that a pandemic takes away the benefits and increases the costs and dangers of living in a city. According to surveys conducted for the London Assembly Housing Committee in August 2020 14% of the population of London wants to move out and […]
  • So – should we go to Mauritius?

    . . . being the question one is most asked having been to Mauritius. It is usually the only question and is taken as pre-empting all others. We went to Mauritius for no reason. It wasn’t a lifetime ambition and it wasn’t on any kind of tick list for either of us. The question was […]
  • Raising Razed Cities

    In recent years we seem to have developed a semi-conscious affinity with cities razed by war. We have been in Hiroshima and Dresden. We based a war memorial tour in Ieper/Ypres, obliterated by three years of siege as a “salient” on the Western Front. We were also in Oradour-sur-Glane, the village wiped out by the […]
  • O Canada

    During September 2019 we were in many places and that included Jerusalem at the start of the month and Ottawa at the end. It would have been difficult to avoid the thought that these were opposite cities. From the Mount of Olives you can look down and across at Old Jerusalem, its walls and surroundings. […]
  • A Note on North American Beer

    Back in the day, which in this case means when we lived in America in the mid-seventies, beer in North America meant stuff like Budweiser and Coors or, north of the border, Labatt’s. It was refreshing enough, served cold when you were thirsty, but if you closed your eyes while drinking it was fairly difficult […]
  • Two and a Half Journeys: the A-team in 2019

    Apart from snapping the odd passing couple who want to be photographed together I haven’t taken photographs since 2004, but there are two much appreciated souvenir photos in my study. The one printed out shows the four Leamington granddaughters on the top of Pendle Hill. Sylvie, the youngest, is standing on the trig point, arms […]
  • Belonging

    “Ourness” Cultural sociologists devote considerable attention to “otherness” – the sense of being alien, different or excluded from the norm. “Country” and “countryside” both descend linguistically from the Latin equivalent of otherness. There is much less attention given to the sense of “ourness” which relates individuals to populations and places. What follows here are personal […]
  • Ten Thoughts on Tourism

    (This was written in 2005 after a post-retirement round-the-world tour. It was published on the Social Affairs Unit website and I am dragging it out of the archive a) because I still believe what it says and b) because it was the high end of the spectrum in terms of favourable comments.) I have just […]
  • Isola di Paradossi

    The highlight of a month’s wandering round Europe this autumn was hearing Leo Nucci sing Rigoletto in the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. The duet with Gilda was so good it stopped the show: shouts of “Bravo” and also of a lot of comments which I didn’t catch. The whole scene was played again. I thought […]
  • The A-team Go Over the Wall

    You do it once, you’ve done it once. You do it twice, you’ve got a tradition on your hands; things may be added to the tradition, but must not be subtracted. After last year’s excellent expedition to North West England with four granddaughters there had to be a sequel. And there was no doubt in […]
  • At Last the Rising Sun

    It took me to the age of seventy one to get to Japan. There had been projects and possibilities to go along the way, but all had fallen through and my major contacts with Japan had been translations of my work into Japanese and, much more interestingly, teaching dozens of Japanese students. So what was […]
  • The Grand Tour and the European Union

           We just did the Grand Tour. Again! All the way from Royal Leamington Spa to the Ionian Sea and back, a little under four thousand miles. Whereas our ancestors (well, probably not literally our ancestors) took three years over the job we did it in a little over three weeks. And whereas they did […]
  • Chalet Memories

     - the best thing about the chalet for me was as a 19-year old undergraduate (the first time) I met Old Members who were priests, barristers, civil servants, etc in very informal circumstances and learned a lot about the world that I wouldn’t otherwise have learned. I note that most of the photos you have […]
  • Going Soft on Communism in the Sun

            When a late change of destination had us heading for Cuba one of my daughters-in-law set up a spoof “Free Lincoln” campaign on social media in recognition of my robustly anti-Communist views. She needn’t have feared: Cuba seems entirely relaxed about the views of its tourists. It has to be since it needs […]
  • In Praise of the Homeland

           Two households: one moving home, the other fancying a couple of shows in London. Therefore we had four granddaughters in the house. Why not go away? – the car has seven seats, after all. So we set off for Garstang (where else?). But first we went to Blackpool. The tide was out, lashing against […]
  • In the Lost Land of Middlesex

    County of Middlesex: note that this essay does not concern itself with the county of that name in Connecticut, nor with those in Massachusetts, Virginia or Ontario. It is about Middlesex in England. Middlesex: “Land of the Middle Saxons”. Even at its largest extent, before 1888, Middlesex was the second smallest county in England. Only […]
  • 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 […]
  • French Cooking: Now in the Dustbin of History?

           Every year I drive several thousands of miles across France and recently we have been shocked to find ourselves occasionally in a town without a restaurant. I shouldn’t be shocked because I grew up in a town (Colne, Lancashire – population then around 20,000) which had no restaurant. On the other hand, I now […]
  • 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 […]