Exotic

Some time ago I travelled through Asia on a British Council lecture tour. It started in Jakarta where I stayed with friends. I was overwhelmed by the exotic colours, vivacity, chatter and humdrum chaos, but fascinated too. Banana bushes – or trees? – seemed to grow...

Mayflowers

Here in Yorkshire white-flecked hedges mark out meadows, pastures and wheat fields. There are even mayflower woods clinging to hillsides. Where the hawthorn hasn’t been trimmed beside the roads, it grows into low trees waving bouquets of tiny-petalled flowers. When...

Sound and Fury

  ‘In a full-hearted evensong Of joy unlimited…’  Yesterday evening a thrush serenaded us as we sat under a serene blue evening sky. He started in the chestnut tree outside my window, perched behind one of its many candle-like flowers, then flew to perch on the...

Authentic or Not?

I was asked to look at a painting and pronounce whether it is an authentic work by Zoffany, an 18th-century portrait painter.  Is it really his autograph work? As I write his name, my memory conjures up visions of gentlemen and women, in formal or informal poses, in...

Intimacy to Insult

When did ‘thou’, ‘thee, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’ die an unnatural death? They lingered on in regional dialects into the last century, but I suspect they dropped out of common usage well over a century ago in the more formal Victorian era. Intimate insult was used during the...