Blog - People In Mind

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...

read more

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...

read more

Memory’s  Path

It may be the approach of winter but now, instead of looking up at a stone retaining walls beside the rutted track in Tuscany where I imagine I’m walking in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci, I’m looking down at what is underneath my shoes, travelling from ruts to...

read more

The Military Cross

He was well into middle age before my sister and I were born. We were told to keep away when he fell into an inexplicable rage for no reason we could understand. ‘It’s shell shock,’ we were eventually told, but were none the wiser. All he said was that he was wounded...

read more

Guido and the Charcoal burners

If you crossed the mountains to the east of the once malarial, now drained Tuscan valley of the Val di Chiana into the Tiber valley in search of the enigmatic painter Piero della Francesca, you used to pass woodland clearings with the huts of charcoal burners, their...

read more

Temptation and Passion

I first noticed flowers with a tight mass of red petals one June in the garden of the Medici villa at Castello, north of Florence. They were on a large bush or small tree with masses of shiny dark green leaves and looked like the flowers in a paradise garden on a...

read more

Olive Harvest

Olive picking has begun early this year in Tuscany. The grape harvest has only just finished on the lower slopes of our valley. Two generations ago vines trailed along the edges of the strips of fields on the terraces but they have since died, untended. They used to...

read more

Wild West Wind.

‘O wild west wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing’ Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red ...’ Last weekend I stood silently on the crest of a hill surveying the sun...

read more

What Colour is Peace?

In all the fevered debates shadowing the UK’s departure from the European Union one word is rarely mentioned – peace. The historian Winston Churchill behind the better-known politician passionately supported the formation of the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community....

read more

Woodlands

Not many years ago a young couple in our family received a present from Iran. It came in two special postal deliveries and created quite a stir in the small flat where they were living at the time. The wife is a British Iranian, so it was no surprise that her Iranian...

read more

Serendipity

Not long ago UK voters chose ‘serendipity’ to be their favourite word though it only entered the English language about 270 years ago. It was invented by Horace Walpole – son of the first British prime minister, Robert Walpole – in 1754 from the Persian story of The...

read more

The Lumber Room

One of the most powerful of many memorable sequences in the Visconti film of Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) is when the hero and heroine – Tancredi and Angelica (acted by Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale) – run, frolicking, through the attic rooms of an immense and...

read more

Leonardo da Vinci’s Valley

The Etruscans from 800 BC onwards drained and cultivated this fertile valley and held their Olympic games to the west of Cortona where the great burial tumuli still stand. The Romans took over the Etruscan canal network until it fell into disuse after the decline of...

read more

At the Flick of a Finger

When we first arrived in this Tuscan valley there were only a few electricity poles strung up from the main road below.  Our neighbour Renato, who had been born in the valley, was thrilled because he could have light ‘at the flick of a finger’. The current was so...

read more

Topsy Turvy

Some years ago young summer travellers to Scotland returned tanned on a late summer ferry from Dover to Calais. We were returning from a rainy Tuscan summer and looked at them enviously. One vivid memory was of a visit to Perugia. A host of umbrellas hurried along the...

read more

The Pattern of Centuries

A few years ago I went to the archives of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to find out when the Tuscan mountainsides were first terraced. I had already walked through every room in the famous picture collection, hoping to find landscape replacing the gold of heaven in...

read more

Castles A>D

The Lombards moved south from modern-day Hungary in the 7th century A.D. to set up their kingdoms of Benevento and Spoleto. They passed by the Etruscan and later Roman hilltop city of Cortona to rule from a network of castles. Suspicious of cities, they chose to...

read more

Topsy Turvy

Some years ago young summer travellers to Scotland returned tanned on a late summer ferry from Dover to Calais. We were returning from a rainy Tuscan summer and looked at them enviously. One vivid memory was of a visit to Perugia. A host of umbrellas hurried along the...

read more

Charred Earth

No rain for nearly six weeks. Occasionally clouds, but light and carefree. Or they pile up on the horizon like mountains shimmering behind a grey haze, and then disperse to leave the sun to reign by day and the moon by night. At dusk this Friday Britain will witness a...

read more

Ghosts

The very word – ghost – evokes fear and fascination. It conjures up, literally, a host of images from will o’ the wisps dancing in cemeteries to Anne Boleyn running along a corridor in Hampton Court clasping her head under her arm. A country...

read more