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Northumberland, the last outpost

On a peerless day in November we walked coatless alongside the River Till, near the estates of Ford and Etal and close by  Flodden where James IV’s Scottish army was defeated in a decisive battle. The sun was warm, almost hot, and we watched the play of light on the water and through the gold […] Read More

British Values (4): Watching the English

Summer to Autumn, Autumn to Winter the period before things stabilize into predictable patterns, or what they are going to be like for a while- at least until the next seasonal change starts to shake the air- people like me become restless and questioning. Who am I, where do I fit in, where do I […] Read More

I needn’t have bothered with all those extra layers- beret, thick scarf, windcheater- because it was pretty warm under the dragon whoosh of the periodic tongues of gaseous flame, even at the occasional  3,000 feet above the A38. Fifteen persons climbed into the basket, captained by Mark Shemilt, a very experienced airline pilot with 40,000 […] Read More

The Rickety Press has many attributes that add to its charm: a bower of green leaves mellowing the exterior and softening the view from the windowside banquettes, a breezily chummy staff (Carole remarked on how the lattes had shrunk in size and was assured, “you want more coffee? Just say- I’ve got loads of coffee!”); […] Read More

Fave caffs (9): Oli’s Thai

In spite of their laid-back charm Rufus and Ladd are the sharpest knives in the block, having made a huge success of their compact  Thai family bistro in Oxford’s once arid culinary landscape. Oli’s Thai has become so popular that you can’t just walk in. Regulars plan weeks in advance,  with military precision, cunningly block […] Read More

  Will Pouget, who owns and runs the Vaults, is a unique character: fast thinking, fast moving like quicksilver, his long hair pushed off his face with shades. He is representative of the younger generation of entrepreneurs who have injected enthusiasm and clubbability into eateries and managed to create a devoted client base. A few […] Read More

The Booze Boat

  A handwritten sign  and some bottles, professionally labelled, are the only publicity that Andy and Diane want. At first he said he didn’t like the idea of being written about, but after a little persuasion they both agreed to talk to me. I asked for a tasting and recommendations. “Try the dandelion wine. It’s […] Read More

British Values: And a Blackbird Sang

            Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas   Yes. I remember Adlestrop— The name, because one afternoon Of heat the express-train drew up there Unwontedly. It was late June.   The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. No one left and no one came On the bare platform. What I saw Was […] Read More

                      That an Englishman’s home is his castle is an argument often summoned  to explain or justify the right to do as one likes within  domestic boundaries- and if need be to defend these with all possible means at one’s disposal. The boundaries also include […] Read More

British values, Brown Sahibs, Erehwon

He never said it  but I can imagine  Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman  curling his lip  at the very thought of the current throwaway tag, “British Values”. “British Values” he would have sneered,  instantly curdling the milk in your tea, “what on earth do you mean by that? It’s rubbish isn’t it?” The Times columnist Jenni Russell: […] Read More