Blog - People In Mind

Palm Sunday

Rome. Clear skies with an occasional cheeky cloud puffing its way over us. A crowd milling in the park in front of a long low building of mostly young people who are about to carry the palm fronds which are heaped against the park wall. Children are darting in and...

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Fluidity

Like dogs snuffling for truffles, literary agents are trying to scent out the next craze in publishing – the quest for a new James Joyce, or a safer risk travelling back into the past – another Hilary Mantel. More likely another Hilary Mantel. A book with a strange...

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Incredulity

The British nation, once known for its common sense, has tumbled into a ditch of its own making while the rest of the world, particularly our neighbours across the English Channel, are incredulous. How could this historic bastion of strong, wise values, honed by...

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Unforgettable

It was a chilly five o’clock departure, well before dawn. Most of us had tried to buy tickets for London on the train leaving Hull at the same time, but none were available. Even the corridors were packed with passengers standing all the way to the capital. I handed...

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Guardians

What are the guardians of order thinking as they peruse the open spaces before them and the people gathering or passing by? There they are outside Buckingham Palace in their red jackets and bearskin headgear endlessly perused by the public day in, day out. I admire...

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Simplicity

People yearn for simplicity and clarity – it was ever thus. Now in the confusion surging round the whole question of Britain’s departure from the European trading group, many just want something clear-cut to happen and are fed up with what seem like unending quibbles...

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Aleppo

I did not want to paint this word-picture, but Aleppo has crept into the news again, pulling a shroud in its wake. My memories; its wake. A rugged fortress with crusader connections overlooked a vast labyrinth of streets that seemed to wriggle, half-underground, in...

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Happenstance

Most Sundays, weather permitting, I like to explore the countryside and small towns around me, my small patch on the earth’s surface. Sea-loving friends find it strange when I tell them I would never live close to the seashore though I live on an island. Having a boat...

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Conscience

‘Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all…’ Hamlet Is there a deep, unreconcilable fault line in British democracy that is snagging the conscience of many in the Westminster ‘mother of parliaments’? I did not often agree with Mrs Thatcher, but how wise she was to...

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Harbinger

Each year I see snowdrops not only as the harbinger of spring when the earth awakens from its winter sleep, but also of hope. The word ‘harbinger’ derives from ‘herberge’ or lodging, denoting protection, like the French inn, the ‘auberge’. The harbinger was someone...

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Incomers

I’m not often irritated by young children, but when my friend’s five-year-old kept on coming up close to look at my face and repeat ‘blood’, I thought he was just trying out a new word and brushed him off, a trifle impatiently. But though the tiny spot on my nose...

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Terezin

I have just spent an unsuccessful ten minutes searching for a page of the Sunday Observer that I cut out to keep. Strangely, it too was about loss – a long pink column to the right of the page, blank below the name of a female poet who was at Terezin. Some years ago...

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Maelstrom

Waterfalls unite beauty with a wondrous spectacle of sound and sight. Leaning perilously over a bridge or crag, such as the spectacular Iguaçu waterfall between Argentina and Brazil, the thrill of beauty laced with fear shivers through one - unforgettably. Below is...

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Shambles

This word is being used again and again for what is happening in the ‘mother of parliaments’, or, to give it another name, in the Palace of Westminster, London. ‘What a shambles!’ Indeed, but where does that expression come from? The most picturesque street in the...

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Fragments

These fragments I have stored against my ruins’ -  T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (near the end) Still clear in my memory is the sense of freedom I felt as an eight-year-old when, in a class spelling bee, I went to the top of the line for remembering ‘Mississippi’...

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Time for What?

Just as we were raising our glasses to usher 2019 in, with a quiver of apprehension, the illumination of the west front of the Minster outside faded into darkness. We were toasting darkness. Appropriately. Only half-admitted, the warm light of hope did not last into...

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Trees at Christmas

I thought a lot about seasons during a November visit to Ecuador ago during the spring bulb and rose season a few years ago. Close to the equator, the sun rises and sets at about six in the morning and evening all year round. While driving through a nondescript town...

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Seasons Greetings

Quite irrationally I am irritated by the use of ‘season’s greetings’ at Christmas. If you do not wish to mention Christmas, why not just send greetings for the New Year instead? There are four seasons in most parts of the world, and in one of them, summer or winter...

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A Stylish Style

Fingers poised, I am about to type out a lecture on the period of art styled Mannerism, but am uncertain where to start. Yes, Florence again, not in the workshops that forged the talent of young Michelangelo and Raphael in the late 1400s, but in the Florentine court...

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Passages

Ginnels or snickets as they are often called in Yorkshire, small alleys almost tucked out of sight. People emerge out of them unexpectedly, as if from nowhere. They lead to carpet warehouses, tiny trinket or joke shops that come and go, rarely there when one seeks...

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