November 15, 2019
Bridget Riley at the Hayward Gallery

London’s Tate Modern is home to some gorgeous Bridget Riley canvases, huge rectangles of rhombic mosaics, in shifting colour that one can stand in front of and lose oneself in. A fifteen minute stroll west along the embankment, the Hayward Gallery seems to have all of them and then carpet...

November 9, 2019
Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln’s majestic cathedral dominates the surrounding plain from its spectacular perch atop Lincoln Cliff. Its bulk - already planted 50 metres above the surrounding plain - soars skywards a further 83 metres. Seen in almost any weather, the cathedral exerts an irresistible pull on one...

November 9, 2019
Hardwick Hall

Hardwick Hall exudes the ego of Bess of Hardwick - its builder - as much as it is today buffeted by the constant drone of traffic from the nearby M1 motorway, both equally transient and fleeting yet strangely permanent. You can block out the noise pollution that arises from below but the ego...

November 8, 2019
Stokesay Castle

Climb to the top of Stokesay Castle’s south tower and you are rewarded with a 360 degree prospect that could be one of the loveliest in all England, the gently rolling hills of Shropshire, Houseman’s “blue remembered hills” with his spires and farms. From atop that unassuming crow...

by Desmond Morris
November 8, 2019
The Lives of the Surrealists

Desmond Morris is better known for his book The Naked Ape, which he wrote in 1967 (and which ranks amongst the top 100 bestsellers of all time), than he is for his surrealist paintings. Both of these amply qualify him for writing about some of the major players in the Surrealist...

November 3, 2019

Sezincote near Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire, was an early 19th century attempt to replicate the architecture of the Mughal Emperor Akbar who ruled from 1556 to 1605 and was known for his conscious mingling of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles. His ancestors had conquered a...

by Samuel Beckett
November 1, 2019
Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett’s ‘Trilogy’ is preceded by its reputation for being bleak, difficult and perhaps nihilistic. My advice is to set that aside and, to use T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “suspend your disbelief”. The cover of Vivian Mercier’s Beckett / Beckett volume (OUP, 1977) is...

October 20, 2019
St Botolph's Church, Hardham

The white-washed St Botolph’s Church in Hardham, West Sussex, was almost certainly built before the Conquest. It is dedicated to a Saxon saint (the 7th century fenland St Botolph) and has a traditional square east end, rather than a more Romanesque rounded end that is more typical of...

October 10, 2019
Haddon Hall

When the rain of Derbyshire falls on the Peak District, the stones of Haddon Hall are scoured by it and progressively rounded. The castle’s ancient sluice-ways run silver alongside the timeless footsteps of its occupants. Though each weigh little by the minute, by the...

September 13, 2019
Farewell Drupal 8. Hello Backdrop CMS

I have written before of my love affair with Drupal 7 and, separately, of my anxiety about Drupal 8. Drupal 7’s abandon-ship, event-horizon end-of-life looms on November 2021 and, although this is long enough away to do something about for a single website, I decided earlier this year to crack...

September 8, 2019
St. Celynin‘s Church at Llangelynnin

Sloping down to the seashore and pointing towards distant Bardsey Island, which appears as a smudge of shadow shaped like a jockey’s cap on the far horizon, is the medieval St. Celynin’s Church at Llangelynnin, north of Towyn. The slope of the land shows sufficiently inside this...

by James Joyce
August 26, 2019
James Joyce, Ulysses

Everything and everyone is in Joyce’s Ulysses (even my very un-Irish surname, page 308), which is no suprise given that Joyce once confided that he had “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant”. I (certainly...

by Samuel Beckett
August 25, 2019
Samuel Beckett Watt

Having completed Joyce’s Ulysses last week, an experience that began with a lengthy uphill incline, I have followed on with a re-read of Samuel Beckett’s Watt which has been a gentle downhill glide of immense fun. Gratitude goes to my English tutor of many years...

May 24, 2019
Parham House

Some of this country’s finest houses are perched on a hilltop, others tucked away in woodland, some dominate a landscape with imposing intent, others block uninvited entry with obvious fortification. Aside from a stone ha-ha to keep out curious deer, Parham House has none of these, its...

by Isabella Tree
February 1, 2019
Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm

You might think that a book about a farm in West Sussex could not be capable of exploring ideas of truly global importance. Equally, you might think that a book that does advance such lofty ideas could not be sufficiently anchored in hard-won experience. On both counts, you’d be wrong....

by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking
January 27, 2019
LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media

“Once every village had an idiot. It took the internet to bring them all together”, are the memorable words of U.S. Army colonel turned historian Robert Bateman, quoted by the authors of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media to illustrate the unreality that typifies the times in...

by Maryanne Wolf
November 10, 2018
Reader, Come Home by Maryanne Wolf

Maryanne Wolf’s recently-published Reader, Come Home would have had less authority for me had I not read her Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain for she demonstrates in that a mastery of her field that lends gravitas to this new ...

by Maryanne Wolf
October 23, 2018
Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

It is over twenty-two years since I had the privilege of sitting amongst youngsters to help them combat their dyslexia and more than that since I have fully read a densely-referenced book on the subject, but I wanted to prepare for reading Maryanne Wolf’s recently-published Reader,...

by C.F. Tunnicliffe
October 3, 2018

Michael McCarthy in his Moth Snowstorm cited Charles Tunnicliffe as being, in his opinion, “the pre-eminent British bird artist of the mid-twentieth century” and his Shorelands Summer Diary as being “one of the loveliest books on the natural world ever produced”. High praise...

October 2, 2018
Uig Sands Chessmen, Isle of Lewis and the British Museum

The oldest rocks in Britain are found in the Outer Hebrides. These are twisted Lewisian gneisses which were formed up to 3,000 million years ago, two-thirds of the known age of our planet. Essentially, they are igneous rocks made from magma deep within the planet, then cooled, crushed,...

August 30, 2018
Field can contain HTML

For those for whom web standards matter, the devil is always in the detail. The content-management system Drupal throws this at us by the bucket load. No doubt other CMSs do the same. Fortunately, Drupal (both versions 7 and 8) comes up with its own solution to the problem.

A common...