Real life

More from life

How not to talk to builders

It’s week eight of the installation of a cheap Ikea kitchen in my flat, and an Albanian builder is slumped in an armchair in my sitting room. He’s shielding his face with his hand, Princess Diana-style, to hide the fact that he’s weeping. My kitchen sink drama began when I rang a firm of local

Wine Club

No sacred cows

The conversion therapy bill is a thoroughly bad idea

I was disappointed to learn that Rishi Sunak has reconsidered his opposition to a bill banning conversion therapy. Not because I’m in favour of it, obviously. The baffling thing about Sunak’s change of heart is that conversion therapy, as commonly understood, has been banned in this country for years. As the government’s own briefing on

Dear Mary


The world is a mess. Why not find escapism through wine? 

In most children’s stories, the good characters live happily ever after. Works suitable for older readers tend to greater realism. Even ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’, that most joyous of drinking songs, presses the case for carpe diem. ‘Get stuck in to your pleasures laddie,’ it seems to be saying, ‘before it is too late.’ With the world

Mind your language

Is loitering really so bad? 

E. Cobham Brewer seems, from his most famous work, the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published 1870, an agreeable old cove. But a biographical sketch by his grandson in the centenary edition praised his fearlessness in taking a stick to a ‘rough-looking man asleep in the stable’. He belaboured ‘the trespasser… exclaiming “Be off, you


Selfie with Blue-Ringed Octopus

Bad dreams ignoredlit raindrops on windows of the midnight busthen a footstep behind you like the girl on a Sydney beachwho picked up a tiny blue-ringed octopusmost dangerous creature in the seafor a selfie. It rested in the cup of her hand one small jelly spidertwo legs folded underas if it were on its knees

Ode to My Heart Valve

Busy little hammer on your block of wood,dark wine setting the house on fire,how diligently you work, how tirelessly, what scant attention I have given youtill now, unveiled – ba-boom –inside your tiny shed on a screen before surgery that will slow you almost to standstill.In an antenatal room, twice,I saw my daughters’ hearts tucked

Some Endings

Some endings have such richness in their flow,the night taking its temper from the day.You sport a smile when love gets up to go. Mirrors of time hold all you need to know,haloes of stars sustaining casual clay.Some endings have such richness in their flow. Far-off appointments, comet-like, will growinto your week-to-view, pointing your way.You

The Wiki Man

The beauty of mid-range products

Once or twice, when on a crowded overnight flight, I have taken a sneaky stroll through the different cabins for the purpose of comparison. My reaction on first peering into each cabin goes like this. First class: ‘Gosh, this is fabulous. It’s like a restaurant in the air.’ Business class: ‘Ooh, this is nice; they

The turf

The joy of jump-racing

When famous folk die you sometimes fish for memories of any encounter you may have had with them. The memorial service for Nigel Lawson spurred no memory-searching for me. I will never forget meeting him at around 4 a.m. on the pavement outside The Grand in Brighton on 12 October 1984, surrounded by blue police