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...

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...

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...

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 house near us boasts of a...

Chance

Some years ago I was having dinner in a handsome brick townhouse built in the early 1700s when a small soft piece of leather with a ribbon in a bow was passed around – a tiny child’s shoe. It had just been found under centuries-old plaster, recently removed to...