Still Life

My nights with the eagle owls

Provence Summer has arrived. The evenings are warm enough to sit out on the balcony terrace and watch the lights come on in the village below. Each night at ten, the great limestone cliff, into which my little house was built, is floodlit for a couple of hours. On cue two huge baby eagle owls

Real life

We’re serviceless, stateless – and still off grid

You need a personal public service number to get married in Ireland, but in order to get one, you need to be married. It’s one of the most intractable double binds on offer here and it’s very frustrating when you’re trying to beat the Grim Reaper by getting hitched. I got a PPS number when

Wild life

No sacred cows

The funny side of being cancelled

Douglas Is Cancelled, the new drama series on ITV, should come with a trigger warning – for me, anyway. Watching it brought back memories of my own cancellation six years ago, which I found so traumatic that I lost half a stone. Admittedly, the middle-aged white man at the centre of this drama (Hugh Bonneville)

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: can you leave a party without saying goodbye?

Q. Often at parties strangers bear down on me looking excited and are then offended when I don’t recognise them. This is because I have never actually met them – they have just seen me on television and made the mistake of thinking we know each other. To say ‘I think you’re confused because you’ve


The key to dealing with this election? Wine

An old friend phoned. Normally cheerful, he was fed up. One of his business partners was being more than usually incompetent. ‘I told him that I’d describe him as a halfwit, if I could find the half.’ We went on to discuss another couple of friends, both good men and true, who seem doomed to

Mind your language

Can a home really be forever?

Graham Norton’s latest novel ‘blends dark humour and emotional weight with ease’, says the Radio Times. That may well be, but it was the title that struck me: Forever Home. It seems to me a childish phrase, heard in the imagination in a high-pitched American accent, as perhaps in Boys Town (1938), which was Ronnie


Doing Things

What I don’t like about being alive is that you have to keep doing things, when really I’d prefer to do nothing. But you have to do this and that every day – endless little tasks and chores repeated again and again just because you’re alive. What should I do now – clean the toilet?

A Moment in Mariupol

from 20 Days in Mariupol, directed by Mstyslav Chernov After the bomb burst the hospital, her wounds were incompatible with life, the life she should have had to include dancing and, when this is history, if not a piece of theatre, chasing her laughing toddler along the beach. Yet she had life to give. They

The Wiki Man

How Elon Musk could solve the housing crisis

People sometimes ask me why I don’t go into politics. Why on earth would I do that? No, if you want to exercise power and imagination, the only remaining role which appeals is to be some kind of Bond villain. To anyone familiar with modern bureaucracy, there’s something hugely attractive about an organisation where the