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Friends in high places

David Lang first heard about the Himalayas when he was a little boy. As his father read aloud from the works of the great botanical explorers — Reginald Farrer, Frank Kingdon-Ward, and ‘Chinese’ Wilson — he imagined the high mountains and the flower-filled valleys. Above all, he longed to see the yaks: ‘there was something

A man who asked the right questions

David Sylvester’s first ambition was to be a professional cricketer, and he possessed to the end that almost miraculous masculine capacity for total recall of notable prep-school innings ball by ball. Later he tried to be a painter, and then a jazz saxophonist. Later still, the cinema being another of his great passions, he worked

Old-style Irish enterprise

Irishness is perceptible almost everywhere, if you look with eyes half closed, especially in China, Israel and the Latin Countries of the Mediterranean. Irishness traditionally means, above all, a strong sense of family and its web of interconnections, to furthest cousinhood and tribalism. However, there is not much Irishness in northern Europe, except for the

Two very different islands

Reviewing this novel in 1946, when it was first published, Rosamond Lehmann described it as ‘a work of great originality … a blend of fantasy, satire and romantic comedy’. Persephone Books — an imprint dedicated to reprinting forgotten classics by 20th- century women writers — have re-issued it in their now characteristic and classy plain

The gentle art of murder

It often seems that more rubbish is written about the cinema than about almost any other art form. Since too many films are of questionable quality it is hardly surprising that much of what is printed about them is too. Good films, though, often fall victim to pretentious criticism by poseurs, and the greater a

Rivals at the court of King Adolf

One of the Great War’s consequences may have been the dethronement of the Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns but — as a new generation of scholars are attempting to show — court politics proved far more enduring. Although the costumes may have been cut from coarser cloth and the manners far cruder, the centres of power

The best band in the land

Being of the same age and provenance as Richard Morrison, I was intrigued to note that he honours the London Symphony Orchestra of the late 1960s as the band that turned him on to classical music — it even made it seem ‘a bit groovy’, he remarks wryly. My own memory is different. Aged 14,