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Cycling in the Country

Horse drawn vs horsepower- the off-grid life… The most irritating thing about living in the Oxfordshire countryside, or “the Cotswolds” as image conscious persons like to refer to the area, is the number of cars that race through it. Not just ordinary cars but huge articulated lorries seeking short-cuts; thundering through narrow hedged roads they are a terrifying sight. Then we have builders’ vans, gi-normous tractors large as houses with trailers and, worst of all enormous, pretentious SUVs like Jeeps, Rangerovers and other cheaper versions of the same. I simply loathe these monsters and cannot understand the need for a sports utility vehicle, but every third car seems to belong to that category.

A Spanish Tale

Gerald Brenan and Dora Carrington For Marcel Proust it was enough to remember a childhood cake dunked into a cup of tea to light the fire that would become ‘In search of lost time’. For Gerald Brenan, that cake was “several large pieces” of turrón from Jijona. He tried it when he was ten, when […] Read more

How to be an Aeropress Barista

The Aeropress lesson I have after many years of trying to make a good cup of coffee finally learned to make one under the tutelage of Radu, the maestro of roasters and baristas in Nerja and possibly the whole of Southern Spain. His standards are high. Miniature hand grinder at the ready, miniature scales at […] Read more

Ordering Chaos

I have been to a few literary festivals- Jaipur, Hay, Oxford- which give off a kind of frenzied energy which reminds one of the commercial drive behind the high-minded facade. I suppose because I had free entry to events, was being treated like a privileged visitor and in a state of near ecstasy over my environment, I thought Mantua had a definite edge over the others.

lollipop pink helmets

l The tombs of the Lodi kings in Delhi Outrageous even for Delhi- a child riding a Vespa! Down the neem avenue next to dusty Afghan tombs flanked by Royal palms (commanded by Lady Willingdon) A smaller child pillion riding, perky with new-oiled hair squashed like mash potato between paratha of driver and a cushiony […] Read more

The English countryside, and especially the area known as the Cotswolds, has become a commodified concept to be bought and sold, gambled with, invested in and corrupted. I am sorry to have to concede that I have arrived in quasi joke-land where all the cliches about wealthy farmers driving Lamborghini tractors, speeding country boys and […] Read more

Country Tales

Some people decided that the countryside was a kinder place when they moved out of cities in a kind of panic, when normal life seemed to have gone forever and green spaces beyond the suburbs offered an alternative habitat. I believe for many it was a desperate move, allowing access to clean air but also, […] Read more

Family holiday in Andalusia

It’s like watching a movie on the terrace of Lisboa Slow Food and though the photo shows a dull cloudy sort of day its actually sunny, but the wind is up. Most days the terrace is full of coffee drinkers and breakfast eaters because it gets the full sun, stretching its long rays across the […] Read more

Post-Lockdown, a bit dated perhaps but not much

Do we mourn the demise of engines of commercial engagement, their cogs and wheels grinding via esoteric systems that busily serviced what passed for the city’s culture? Oxford’s three or four theatres, the beloved Phoenix Picture Palace, Holywell Music Room, Sheldonian and St John the Evangelist musical venues plus the familiar shops and eating houses- […] Read more

On Being an Ersatz Oligarch

A snap of the fingers and a tom yang soup appears…