Keats and Constable in Hampstead

Keats and Constable in Hampstead In the summer of 1819 a moderately successful landscape painter and his ailing wife took a small cottage in Hampstead, then a village to the north of London. The couple were looking for more amenable summer surroundings than their house in Charlotte Street, central London offered, hoping this would contribute Read More →

Elements of Genius

ELEMENTS OF GENIUS Primo Levi published The Periodic Table (Il Sistema Periodico) in 1975 in Italian, and in English in 1985. This being some years after he had published If This is a Man and its sequel The Truce, his accounts of his incarceration in Auschwitz. The Periodic Table is a masterpiece. It is a Read More →

The Protestant Cemetery

  John Keats is buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome. I knew that. One way and another, Keats has been with me since I first became interested in poetry. A few months after visiting the Keats House in Hampstead, I was in Rome, making plans to visit the house by the Spanish Steps where he Read More →

This Meandering Chronicle

Come, Tell Me How You Live: an archaeological memoir, Agatha Christie In 1930, Agatha Christie was visiting archaeologist friends Leonard and Katharine Woolley who were to excavate a site at Ur, Iraq. It was her second visit and on their arrival at Ur the Woolleys detailed their young assistant archaeologist to be her guide. His Read More →

Kathmandu: July 1992

In memoriam Kathmandu In April 2015 an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 devastated Nepal and its historic capital, Kathmandu, killing close to 9000 people. A series of aftershocks caused further destruction to a nation poorly equipped to deal with a disaster of this order. Kathmandu has changed forever. The following is a largely unedited account from Read More →


I (Woodpecker) Winter sun lay warm on our backs. The grass greened by the rainstorm still wet as a tear From a leafless copse came a rapid knock unechoed across the softening air And then the quiet But a shy rebuke a distant tap, faint compromised the calm.


Loss He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes The epistemology of loss, how to stand up Knowing what every man must one day know And most know many days, how to stand up.                                           Read More →

The storm

The slow build up to the storm deceived me. The still air lay heavy on the roof. The roof supported it. I was unmoved. Though apart we were each enclosed. Then the other air came. It moved off the ocean; soft breath gathered up into a roar. Not a hat wind, a chair or a Read More →

The Tricycle

It was blue, a sort of mid-blue. The chrome was a bit pitted, flaked, with rust spots showing through. But it was my first trike. This was early in 1948. It just appeared one day, presented to me by my father in an apologetic way. He told me it wasn’t new and that trikes are Read More →

A Reading Trail

A READING TRAIL One of the great joys that reading brings to me—and I suspect to many others—is that of finding oneself at the start of a literary trail. I’m in the middle of one at the moment. And it all started with Slightly Foxed. My sister-in-law gave me a subscription for my birthday a Read More →