Russell Chamberlin

Special relationship | 24 May 2006

In 1990 I published a lengthy article on Sicily — and was astonished by the response from English readers who had connections with the island, in some cases going back 200 years and more. All, with one exception, were nostalgic. The exception was an evidently elderly Englishman who was born in Sicily, but never returned

Saving the spike

It seemed a curious place for one of the grimmest of Victorian institutions, tucked under manicured downs, surrounded by handsome villas with flowering gardens and cosy cottages. But when the Guildford Union Workhouse was built in 1905, it was positioned on the edge of the town in order not to offend the susceptibilities of the

Norman wisdom

As a child I would stand looking in fascinated horror at the enormous polar bear pinning down an unfortunate seal. Then on to the equally immense tiger ‘shot by King George V’, roaring and prowling in its glass case. Followed by the mummy, donated in 1827 by ‘J. Morrison, London’. Who was J. Morrison of

Splendid isolation

It was a story straight out of the Arabian Nights. Two immense temples are lifted high into the air, and transported to a remote desert site. At the same time an entire hill is created in order to replicate the original setting. Such, essentially, is the story of Abu Simbel. The twin temples of Abu

Welsh legacy

Conwy in north Wales is among the most enchanting of our small towns. It’s like a toy fort, its encircling walls surviving intact until Thomas Telford had to breach them for his bridge. He did it elegantly, even delicately, creating a suspension bridge that actually enhanced the little town. It was for our brutal, automanic

A kind tyrant

Apart from its size, perhaps, there’s nothing much about the house to distinguish it from its neighbours — one of the countless, vaguely Gothic, Victorian seaside villas that fringe the coast of the Isle of Wight. Even its name, Dimbola Lodge, seems like that of a respectable boarding house, which, indeed, was what it became

Moor pride

The province of Extremadura is as different from the brochure-bright picture of tourist Spain as it is possible to be. Stretched along the Portuguese frontier, it has a sombre, restrained dignity, with mile upon mile of grassland like vast lawns studded with evergreen holm oak and cork trees, each handsome, solemn, monochrome in its private