Blog - People In Mind

A Petto Nudo

Political commentators inform us that Donald Trump and Boris Johnson both enjoy a faithful horde of unqualified supporters to vote them back to power. The US system has the slightly reassuring limit of the maximum of two terms for their president. That can, however,...

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Loft

The loft – a child’s paradise. The place where parents put whatever they did not quite know what to do with but feared to throw away. Occasionally there is a sad moment when you silently watch bulging bin liners bumped down the stairs to a temporary store at the back...

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Ignorance

The sun filters through golden leaves in the early afternoon. The grass in front lawns and the meadows further out in the countryside is bright green. No frosts to freeze it brown – yet. The leaves make a pleasing pattern on a green background. Dogs are out in even...

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Scorn

Inner thoughts reveal a disturbing landscape when inadvertently released into public view. So it was with that crack in Jacob Rees Mogg’s impeccable public image of a man like a walking poker with a matching face. Would he have followed his own advice if trapped in...

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On the Right Side

  “Of course, you folks drive on the wrong side of the road!” This comment from a mature member of the group of Americans I was taking on a tour of Tuscany came to mind when reading of the tragic death of a teenager hit by a car with an American woman at the wheel,...

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Germanicus

In 1963, just outside the main entrance to the Italian city of Ameria, work had started on creating an open space for the hilltop town to have a level area for a civic park and space for crowds to enjoy outdoor activities. Work started. Earth was turned and, to the...

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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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