High life

Low life

The bump in the night that changed my mind about pygmies

Music of the Forest on Radio 4 last week was a profile of the anthropologist Colin Turnbull, 1924–1994, who achieved celebrity with his book The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo (1961), which presented such an inspiring vision of a prelapsarian, non-violent, egalitarian society that it became a cult classic of

Real life

Maybe I should become a Slovakian health tourist

‘Let me get this straight,’ I said, looking my Slovakian friend in the eye. ‘You are going to go back to your own country because the healthcare here is no good?’ ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Is no good. Is terrible. I leave job and go home and sign on. I get treatment in Slovakia.’ I shook

More from life

What my chickens need is a dog

Of the nine chickens I used to keep here in Northamptonshire only one survived the summer, and it was the least appealing of them — broody, squawky, aggressive, and a bad layer. The others were all taken, one by one, by foxes. Unfond though I am of the only survivor, a black Sussex hen, she

When the Welsh go it alone, blame me

Oh dear. I think I may have inadvertently contributed to the dissolution of Great Britain. I’m not claiming sole responsibility. In due course, when the blame game begins, I’ll play second fiddle to the party leaders, Gordon Brown, Eddie Izzard and successive generations of carpet-bagging aristocrats. Nevertheless, when the rise and fall of the British

Dear Mary


Mind your language

Knee-jerkers vs knee-tremblers

A little joke by Paddy, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, turned upon something to be shunned. Conservative ministers, he said, had ‘indulged in a spasm of knee-jerking which would have made even St Vitus feel concerned’. He has, I think, got his spasms in a twist. Apart from saying ‘Aaah’, the cartoon task for a patient


Sometimes it’s Better to Give than to Receive

I can see your teeth clench with rage at the gift I have pressed on you, which manoeuvres you into the role of grateful recipient of my unctuously offered, expensively wrapped and poisonously unwelcome offering. It’s hard to say if you are smiling or snarling as you turn to extol the wrapping paper.

A Theatre Supper

I don’t know why it’s become important to me: the idea of a theatre supper at home? Maybe it’s a methodology for life that after decades of practice we can make it what we wish it to be: modest yet appetising, practical yet with an element of excitement pending? After so many supermarket visits made

The Wiki Man