Blog - People In Mind

Threads

Think of something that mesmerises you. It might be a moment visualised vertically instead of part of a horizontal continuum, one that probes and reveals. Time passing might be visualised like a weft of horizontal threads weaving through the taut, upright threads of...

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Lies

Words can lead one along fascinating paths. Scarborough lies on the cliffs not far from where I live. It is an intriguing coastline that has inspired great writers. Ann Bronte, the lesser-known Bronte sister, died in Scarborough where she had gone to be cured of...

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Ruins

You glimpse them as you drive along the coastal road from Swanage perched on the middle peak of three hills. Isolated but commanding the land around it, this once impregnable stronghold was begun soon after 1066 when William the Conqueror invaded England and added to...

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Window dressing

Evenings are now invading afternoon as the northern hemisphere tips into the darkest days of the year – a time of melancholy. I was born in the depths of winter and suffer from the loss of daylight. Christmas is three months away, but already I yearn for the bright...

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A Country Feast

We were told that the mill where we have taken our olive harvest for years was hosting a supper in aid of the restoration of the local church. ‘Why don’t you come?’ I was asked to pay at the local bar, but they only wanted my name and how many in our group. We were to...

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Ferrara II

Isabella d’Este learnt the prestige value of artistic patronage, and she indulged it when she became the Marchioness of Mantua. Before her, the Gonzaga family were noteworthy patrons. Their court artist, Andrea Mangegna, created some of the most striking series of...

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Ferrara

Slanting across northern Italy between the Alps and the Apennines is the Val Padana is the plaIn where the river Po flows through probably the most extensive cultivation of rice in Europe. After the disintegration of the Roman Empire from the fourth century A.D....

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Bruno

Bruno accosted me in the rough and ready outhouse where local smallholders and farmers sell their produce directly to the public. The potatoes and root vegetables still have earth clinging to them to prove authenticity. No 'washed and ready to eat' claim. Irregular,...

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Harvest

This is the time for merrymaking. The harvest is gathered in and storms are already massing on the horizon. Not long ago early morning voices would be calling across the valley to find out who would be helping with the bundling, stacking and, if time and weather...

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Mulberry 

Once there were many mulberry trees in the Tuscan valley where I am writing this. Now I can only find the one in the photo. I can remember when it was covered in berries, sticky and sweet. But the leaves are more important. Seventy years ago there must have been many...

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Sharecropping

I first went to Italy when sharecropping had been only abolished a few years earlier and contracts still had to run their legal course. It was a way of cultivating the countryside, I was told, that had lasted unbroken since Roman times, so for nearly twenty-one...

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Hibiscus

Behind the ruin, which is now the house where I am writing this, were the usual weeds and a few bushes. It was a hot August day, and most were wilting, but on one side I noticed a light purple flower with yellow stamens. Ah, I thought, this is an attractive weed, and...

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Leonardo and the Queen

  As I write, history is palpably being made, so I take refuge in the past. I have been asked how over 600 drawings and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci came into the possession of the Queen of the British Isles. No pictures survive from Antiquity, so no depictions...

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Wattle and Daub

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the indefatigable German immigrant in the 1930s who was passionate about English vernacular architecture, founded the indispensable Penguin guides to the buildings of England’s towns and villages. It may be legend or fantasy that he wished to...

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Fame

Giorgio Vasari has a lot to answer for, like many people with a mission. An artist himself, he covered the ceiling of the huge council chamber in the Palazzo della Signoria in the centre of Florence with earnest historical paintings of battles and heroes, there to...

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Landscape

As a child, the Nottinghamshire novelist D.H. Lawrence used to watch his father walking slowly back home up the dew-strewn pastures between his mining village and the pits after a night shift and later wrote, ‘that is the landscape of my heart’. Those words came to...

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John and Boris

A few days over 200 years ago in May 2019, a young, impecunious and terminally ill poet sat writing poetry in Hampstead on the north road out of London. The rented house where he lived still preserves the sensitive stillness that pervades his poetry. The stillness of...

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Midsummer

Most days I allow myself a few minutes of fantasy exploring a zone chosen at random on the large globe on one side of my desk. I pause to wonder at the amount of land in the northern hemisphere and the wide expanse of sea in the southern one – a seemingly chance...

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The Tennis Court

Soon tennis will start at Wimbledon, rain permitting! The world-famous championships are about to begin in the prosperous, leafy suburb of London. It’s the season of long, languid summer evenings around the midsummer day on the 21 June, the longest day in the northern...

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Humpty, Trumpty…

  This is the start of a poem by my grandson which he waved in the air outside Buckingham Palace when Trump arrived there last Monday. Ten next month, he has started his political as well as poetical journey early! I was three times his age when I marched along...

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