Girl on the Tube

Having lived in Wirral and Oxford until I was 22, I'd but rarely travelled on the Tube until I started working in Upminster. Even then, I travelled mostly by bus or I walked. It took me a while to work out where the lines were connected, how to avoid the interchanges with the longest walks,…

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…

The Old Elm Tree

Antonio Machado (1875-1939) is one of Spain’s greatest poets. Not as famous 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, etc.…

The Good Old Days

I was 19 in 1974. The year began inauspiciously with the Three Day Week, power cuts, a miners’ strike and a General Election. It was a matter of debate whether Ted Heath’s government was really in power or just pretending. I can’t say it bothered me much, apart from when the pubs were shut. The…

Why I love Greece

My first visit to Greece was in April 1971. I was 16¼. Although I’d just dropped Greek for Spanish at A Level (and never regretted it), I was still studying Latin and Ancient History and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of spending three weeks in Greece if I could help it. My former…

Arriving in León

Spain in 1975 was very different from England, and quite different from what it has become today. I felt it, as much as saw it, as soon as I got off the plane. Of course it was hot and dusty. Policemen carried machine-guns, and there seemed to be a lot of them about. There were…

Portuguese wrestling

I was all ready to start at Queen's College to read Modern Languages. The only problem was, I wasn't. I was to be billeted in the famous Florey Building Wasn't at all ready, that is. I'd done Spanish at A Level, but I needed a second tongue to go with it. I could not bear…

What’s for tea?

We sat at long tables, arranged by house. The housemaster sat at the head of the table, with the senior boys around him. They dished out bangers, mash and beans, or connective-tissue stew with colourless cabbage and crumbly over-boiled spuds. Or mince, or generic white fish in white gunge with tasteless white mash and cabbage…

Association with football

Grampa Hugh Wight was always smiling. I have a photo of him as a goalkeeper with his local amateur team, in the ubiquitous jersey and cap. My grandparents lived in King’s Park, Glasgow, less than a mile from Hampden Park, where cup finals and international fixtures were held. At one time it was the biggest…