Wheeling the oils

Here's a middle-class, 21st-century question. Where do you get your olive oil from? I am more than old enough to remember when the answer was almost invariably, "Boot's". Olive oil in tiny Crosse & Blackwell bottles were sold in pharmacies for unblocking your ears. That was the only place I saw olive oil until I…

Chucking away books

It's really not something I like to do. Everything I've ever been or done revolts against the idea. It is like throwing away food: it's just plain wrong (and another thing I almost never do). But we have far too many, and at 65 I have come to recognise that most will never be read…

The Little Escape

We finally made our way out of London on Bank Holiday Monday (how can you tell during a lockdown?) and drove south for an hour or so into Kent past Churchill's house, Chartwell. It was the first time either of us had ventured more than four miles from home for 10 weeks. It felt odd to be driving…

Doing it yourself

Since I last posted I’ve been busy. Not full on busy... but then it’s hard to know what others are doing - aside from The Wife, who’s been beavering away, non-stop. Meeting after online meeting, all day long. Then she gets up early the next day to get some actual work done. So I ought…

VE Day *seventy years on…

This account of VE Day in Durham (*written in 2015) comes from my father-in-law, David Young. I knew as 1945 dawned that the end of the Second World War in Europe was nigh - so near, yet at times, so frustratingly far away. I knew because I was a nine-year-old boy and at that time…

The internet and me

"Where would we be without the web?" says everyone I talk to. Mind you, nearly every conversation I have is on the internet these days, so they would say that, wouldn't they? Shares in the company that owns the Zoom platform have, appropriately, rocketed. It’s not only Zoom, one of many technologies that allow meetings…

All over the place

How are you coping? If you feel you are coping, that is? As I noted to a friend, I veer between manic activity and shameful indolence on a daily basis.  At first, upon seeing my wife spend all day seated at the dining room table in one videoconference after another, I experienced a bout of…

The Old Elm Tree

Antonio Machado (1875-1939) is one of Spain’s greatest poets. Not as famous internationally as his younger and more flamboyant contemporary Federico García Lorca, his (later) work owes little to the startling, often violent imagery we associate with Lorca and more to a calm contemplation of nature that goes back, via Wordsworth, to Virgil, Theocritus. Etc,…

Keeping your pecker up

It’s a fortnight since I wrote my last blog on - you guessed it - Coronavirus, which certain persons close to home suggested was alarmist, depressing, over-reactive etc. But it wasn’t hard to guess that where Italy led we would follow - even if we are a few paces behind. If I sound like a…

Avoid it like the plague

Last week I visited Arrowe Park Hospital (A.K.A. Coronavirus Central) with my father, who'd been sent for an X-ray. Our visit was enlivened by the sighting of a rat making its way swiftly and confidently along the corridor. Eventually the poor wee thing was cornered and forced to surrender to overwhelming force, i.e. a woman…