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...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...