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Twenty Years Back… This has been one of those mythical summers, when bees get drunk on obscenely gorgeous roses and honeysuckle, when Panama hats and straw boaters are essential wardrobe items, when proper thirst assumes reality, when grass shrivels and sun burns blisters on the skin. In June Wimbledon recorded 112F (surely not- must be […] Read More

Oxford’s Scintillating Night-life

I have become like Miss Betsy Trotwood. “Let me see you ride a donkey over my green again, and I’ll knock your bonnet off. And tread upon it!” A short time ago- at 12.30 am to be precise- I heard suspicious sounds on the street as I sat at my desk. I raised the sash […] Read More

Port Meadow is where I used to pick bushelfuls of mushrooms for breakfast in the Autumn- you just have to get there at 5 am before the other foragers. Horses in the milky mist, round white buttons under cowpats,  a heron sillhouetted against a thumbprint of moon, the ghost of the airman skirting the ancient […] Read More

Evening Breezes, Abendbilder

Evening Breezes, softly sighing Bid the sun farewell. Time is flying day is dying Rings the vesper bell. Peace and calm with night descending Stilling every sound, Shadows with the darkness blending Wrap the world around, wrap the world around. (Franz Schubert, after Silbert)               […] Read More

Mr North, Chimney Sweep

He came in an immaculate van, opening up the back with a flourish and revealing the elaborate array of brushes, rods and cleaning materials, all laid out in symmetrical order. Even though his name was not Mr Soot (of Happy Families) it was fitting enough.   He wore blue plastic overshoes, laid a black cloth […] Read More

fave caffs (6): Bill’s Oxford

The blurry person hurrying to pay for his chocolate and raspberry jam is Siddo, who sometimes accompanies me on these food critiques. We shared an agreeable afternoon at Bill’s, part of a rather large chain  and the latest eaterie to open in Oxford in Northgate Hall.   Opposite it is the Oxford Union and next […] Read More

A drowned allotment

A big mistake, among many others, was to walk away from my allotment when I went to France. But as soon as I knew I’d be coming back I applied for another plot. It took the best part of 18 months to find one and now it’s drowning in flood water. My first allotment was […] Read More


    Perhaps the single most off-putting “like”, in the lists provided by Men Seeking Women in Guardian Soulmates is “NT”, or National Trust, seconded only by “log fires” and “country walks”. Can you imagine a more boring past time than  trundling around historic houses looking at topiary and tapestries, leaving the Rangerover to babysit […] Read More

A little break in Devon

This hip yogi was collecting daan (charity, baksheesh, funds) for his “beloved Guruji, Swami X” and had taken £256.13 in cash to build a temple in the Himalayas. He wasn’t particularly out of place as Totnes gathers many such characters to its cosy bosom, where they become part of the variously costumed population, such as […] Read More

Brouhaha in Upper Fisher Row

  The cries of a girl in distress made me leap up  from my desk  overlooking our cul-de-sac,  the river flowing sweetly alongside, and run down to investigate the commotion (I work at two desks,  one of which  is useless for work that needs serious concentration, while the other is conducive to deep thought). A […] Read More