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The paper cutters of Mathura

    You could snip through an artery in a trice if you owned a priceless pair of scissors like the ones in the picture belonging to Ram Soni, eldest of four paper cutting artists. “The blacksmith makes ten and only two will be fit for purpose. They must have the right balance and grip, […] Read More

High Altitudes in Mehr Chand Market

Before I touch base in C block Defence Colony, the home of my brother and sister-in-law, I direct the taxi which has fetched me from the airport to Altitude Stores in Mehr Chand Market. I think the market is named for Mehr Chand Mahajan, the third  Chief Justice of independent India and the first, albeit […] Read More

Nepali Christmas in Delhi

  Christmas Day in Defence Colony dawned with much more than the usual mist and smog. It was suddenly colder and there was no sighting of  sun behind the dull sky. I missed the 8 o’clock Hindi service and then the 9 o’clock English service at St Luke’s, so I went instead to a wonderful […] Read More

This Is Just To Say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox   And which you were probably saving for breakfast   Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold “What’s that poem by William Carlos Williams? The one I love?” And Laura, the delightfully whimsical wife who loves nothing […] Read More

Basket Case

  The OED’s earliest citation for the use of the phrase “basket case” dates from January 1919, two months after the war ended. It’s from Oak Leaves, a local newspaper in Oak Park, Ill.: “There were seven ‘basket cases,’ men without arms or legs.” And their mobility was their invalid basket, or early wheelchair. The […] Read More

Hospitality (4) Quinta da Concecaio, Setubal

An owl lived in the dark green cork woods and I was lulled  to  sleep  by gentle hooting.  A harvest moon silvered a swimming pool flanked by classical pillars and a Moorish aqueduct, crickets stridulated during the slow languid afternoon and a rumbustious cock crowed somewhere in the distance. These were exceptions to the silence […] Read More

Berlin Uber Cool

Berlin There is a whole way of living that has been carrying on outside my observational watchtower, because it is mainly the playground of the young  (under forties) although persons vulgarly called aging hipsters are allowed a grudging look-in. However, this exception to the rule admits only the very wealthy, very mad or geniuses (self […] Read More

Ignore the untidy jackets on the back of the chair and my bike seen through the window, leaning against the Oxford University Admissions Office but admire this composition of a copper coffee jug – covered to conserve the heat- the delicate barely sweet sesame biscuit, two flowered cups, a copper coloured spoon and a frosted […] Read More

Fave caffs (12): Boswells Tea Rooms

Is Boswells the only relic of the family department store this side of the Chilterns? Full of objets d’art, toiletries, handbags, luggage, “gift” china, obscure cookery and household items, linen and toys this shop is a treasured landmark. Owned by the Pearson family since 1890 we cherish this notable oddity for its variety of mothballs […] Read More

Unfave caffs: Dosa Park, Frideswide Square

What is the point of a  multi-million pound building declaiming the virtues of Mammon and Capital (and flaunting its diligent little aspirants behind plate glass in full view of passersby and skateboarders) when right opposite its sleek facade is a run-down Edwardian arcade of  shops and eateries that spell sleaze? Most outstandingly depressing among these […] Read More