Thai life

The handmade suit I’ll never wear

Someone somewhere must surely have calculated that Bangkok has more doctors and tailors per capita than anywhere on Earth. These two industries, healthcare and clothing, must account for a prodigious share of tourist revenues, and they both operate on similar principles: make the customer feel pleasant even as the results disappoint. It’s a formidable business

Real life

When did the world become so overwhelming? 

When the clouds come down and the mountains disappear I feel myself disappearing too. As long as I can see the beautiful scenery I never regret coming here, but on days when a white-out envelops us it’s no consolation that the horizon is still out there somewhere. I feel trapped and lonely and lost and

No sacred cows

I nearly died on my gap year

By the time you read this, my son Ludo will be in South America, where he’s gone for what remains of his gap year. He deferred his university place and has been working in a pub since he left school, trying to earn enough money to go travelling. I made the mistake of telling him

Dear Mary


The miracle of limoncello

Consider the paradox of lemons. In Italy, one associates them with scented groves. A few years ago, Helena Attlee wrote the book The Land Where Lemons Grow, in which citrus fruits become a golden thread running through the history of Italian agriculture. Yet though the lemon is arguably the most beautiful of fruits, its tart

Mind your language

Is retro-fitting really ‘retro? 

I read in the New Yorker about people who make sound effects ‘in a large, retrofitted barn, painted baby blue’. It made me wonder again how people imagine retrofitting works. It seems to be the work of time-travellers. Do they think that refitting a barn now implies that a photo taken of it 50 years


The Pool

The chief leaf man rises early. A breeze in the banyan tree. The water laps. Skink lizard on the prowl. Perfection. Blue. Perfection. No leaves on the water. Miles Davis –his ghost – becoming the banyan tree. Chief leaf man sees a leaf in the corner of the pool and shouts in Vietnamese. Leaf man

The Wiki Man

Why are bosses so suspicious of remote working? 

The swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 medals, 23 of them gold. He is a former world record holder in the 200m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley, and 400m individual medley. But let’s just analyse his world-record time for the 200m freestyle – an amazing

The turf

How to become a successful racehorse trainer

Cheltenham’s end of January meeting is supposed to be an amuse-gueule to give us a few form lines for the four-day Festival in March. Instead, this one gave us everything including emotional victories for an 18-year-old jockey and a 92-year-old owner, a demonstration round by a new female hurdling superstar and defeat by inches for