Charmed life

I’ve finally solved the mystery of the Mayerling Affair

It was the mother of royal scandalabras, as Walt Winchell might have said, and remains one of the greatest historical conundrums of all time. I refer to what became known as the Mayerling Affair: the sensational apparent murder-suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, son and heir of Emperor Franz Josef and the tragic Empress

Real life

The wonder of an Irish blacksmith

‘What’s wrong with your lot?’ asked the blacksmith as he was shoeing our horses. And we had to admit that we really didn’t know.  Don’t be telling an Irish blacksmith that he might not be good enough for you and your rescue nags We came to Ireland to get away from liberal lunacy but the

No sacred cows

Acton is now posher than Chiswick

In 2017, David Lloyd Clubs took out a long lease on the privately owned sports facility at the end of my road. It used to be called the Park Club, but the new leaseholders, having spent £9 million tarting it up, proposed to call it ‘David Lloyd Chiswick Park’. As a proud resident of Acton,

Dear Mary


I’m a rosé convert

Paris is more than a city. It is a state of mind, an aspiration. Though it glorifies the military, it remains feminine and beguiling. Its heroes moved effortlessly from triumphs on the battlefield to triumphs in the boudoir. The very stones of Paris seem redolent of the dreams and ecstasies of past lovers, and of

Mind your language

Are cosmonauts really Russian?

Oleg Kononenko has been in space since 15 September last year and has just broken the cumulative record for time in orbit of 879 days. Being Russian he is referred to as a cosmonaut. Americans are astronauts. It seems odd that Russians can decide what English-speakers call their spacemen. It seemed odder to me that,


Escape to the Country

On 10 August 2003 the temperature in London exceeded a hundred degrees for the first time That apocalyptic summer, buildings going up, trees coming down. Day after day, nowhere to hide. A police helicopter banks and circles, lower and lower every sleepless night.  The heat is on until November and doesn’t end with a firework

There is Room for Poetry

in the gaps between the goo  you scoop up out of the pan and whilst the suds in the sink circle once… twice…   (those soapy suds nothing can rush them) and even yes even in that split   second when you leap up/swear/ knock over your chair/exhale  all at once because the battery in

A stone’s throw

A stone thrown, from this distance, might dispersecrows flocked around the shadow of a manwho waves his arms, appearing to rehearsehis plea beneath the apse’s vanished span;or hit the glassless chancel where sun shonelike holy water poured from its cleft rockas once, perhaps, on Tyre and Babylon,the sand of Thebes, the dust of Antioch:but here

The Wiki Man

A miracle has happened in Britain’s pharmacies

A small miracle happened in politics recently. Someone had a good idea, and then enacted it really quickly. I popped into my local chemist’s last week and the nice chap behind the counter recommended a few treatments, adding that if I still felt rough in a few days, he could give me some antibiotics. Eh?

The turf

Who’s afraid of Willie Mullins

Who’s afraid of Willie Mullins? Pretty well every other trainer and certainly the bookies who made his French import Ocastle Des Mottes a 7-2 hot favourite for the Betfair Hurdle – which is the richest event of its kind run in Britain – at Newbury on Saturday. You can see why. The ever-courteous Mullins holds