Thrill of The Chase

The BBC reminds us that the UK's first lockdown began a year ago today. At that point 364 people had died; now the total has reached 126,172. Over half the adult population has been vaccinated: an incredible achievement, many times better than what any other European country has achieved, and yet life has not returned…

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…

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…

Inside Story

Memories of 1980s Oxford, for the second time this month. In the same week in which I received an invitation to the Osma Centenary Symposium, Andrew informed me that he'd turned up a cassette tape from 1982 while looking (inevitably) for something else. He digitised it and emailed the result to Bernard and me. The…

Second chance

How often do you fail at something important, and get a second chance? As previously recounted in Useless Information, when I was a postgrad at Queen’s, back in 1983, I was picked for the University Challenge team. I've always been a fan of the show and I was fortunate to (still) be at college when…

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…

Useless information

When I was 10, my father's cousin (more like an uncle to me, as they'd both been brought up by my grandmother in Glasgow) became engaged to an English girl, a bold deed previously unheard of within our family. The wedding was to take place in Hemel Hempstead on 31 July 1965. As it was…

Don Javier Marías Franco

In 1979, at the start of my second post-graduate year in Oxford, I was awarded the prestigious and lucrative Osma Studentship. I was required to spend at least six weeks in Madrid. Not that I was complaining. I immediately spent a good chunk of it on a Shergold double-neck guitar (as anyone would), leaving more…