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                                  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 […] 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

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