High life

In praise of Patmos

Patmos I’m in Patmos with four grandchildren, two children, and a wife. I know, I know, it sounds very lower–middle-class and only Bournemouth and some sunbeds are missing, but who cares. Children have friends, and grandchildren even younger friends, so it’s not all gloom and doom. The princely Schwarzenbergs are here — the mother is

Low life

A very annoying guide to the Somme battlefields

We arranged to meet the second, more expensive, guide of our Somme battlefield visit at the Thiepval Memorial visitor centre car park. He arrived punctually. The foreign correspondent climbed in the back of his car and I got in the front. As he drove us past Lutyens’ masterpiece, instead of genuflecting towards it, the guide

Real life

I enjoy making a nuisance of myself for a good cause

The scaffolding pole across the public footpath led to a farcical conversation with the local council. I had been walking the dogs down this well-used path close to where we keep the horses when I discovered that the pole, which is attached to a post on either side of the path and which has been

Wine Club

No sacred cows

In defence of footballers taking the knee

Before the television presenter Guto Harri took the knee live on air — which cost him his job at GB News last week — he explained that his understanding of the gesture had changed. Having initially thought of it as political with a capital ‘p’, he now realised that in the eyes of most people,

Spectator Sport

Can the Lions prise open the strong Boks?

You would need a digger to explore the levels of irony in a Springbok chief slagging off an opponent’s dirty play. But that’s what Rassie Erasmus, the South Africa director of rugby, was up to when he used Twitter to question Owen Farrell’s choices of tackle technique. Fine and dandy and all part of the

Dear Mary


A Damascene moment in London: Imad’s Syrian Kitchen reviewed

Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is an eyrie off Carnaby Street, a once-famous road which seems to exist nowadays to sell trainers to tourists who have fallen, as if by wormhole, out of the Liberty homeware department with its pathological dependence on florals. No matter. Nearby, in Kingly Court, which is like Covent Garden before it fell

Mind your language

The poetry behind ‘leather and prunella’

‘Oh, yes,’ said my husband, enthusiastically, ‘a loathsome disease. The tongue goes black and dry.’ He was referring to an historical grouping of symptoms given the name prunella. If you are thinking it is therefore an unkind name to give a girl, that is because the name also applies to a pretty wild flower related


The saddest thing I ever saw

was a down-and-out in awe of a pencil salesmanin a café, midtown Manhattan.Handsome like a movie star, the salesman turns on his sales patter,speaking loudly peachy keens and aw shucks and I am fine here Sandra in The Big Apple, but honeycould you look in my…and the street guy’s envylike a furnace, his eyeslike beads


In the end there is nobody out there. The female blackbird bounces on the lawn in the late afternoon, tossing up worms, harvesting the edge of the flower bed in two-legged hops, and off between the trees. A black address book by the phone gives nothing: Hello. A chat. Goodbye. It isn’t that. A son,

The turf

Jockeys suffer online abuse just like footballers

At least England’s defeat in the European Cup final has spared us the sight of Boris Johnson, who can scent a photo opportunity at 4,000 yards over the horizon, indulging in any more embarrassing antics in a No. 10 football shirt. Not that he is the only prime minister to have sought to ingratiate himself