Harbinger

Each year I see snowdrops not only as the harbinger of spring when the earth awakens from its winter sleep, but also of hope. The word ‘harbinger’ derives from ‘herberge’ or lodging, denoting protection, like the French inn, the ‘auberge’. The harbinger was someone...

Incomers

I’m not often irritated by young children, but when my friend’s five-year-old kept on coming up close to look at my face and repeat ‘blood’, I thought he was just trying out a new word and brushed him off, a trifle impatiently. But though the tiny spot on my nose...

Terezin

I have just spent an unsuccessful ten minutes searching for a page of the Sunday Observer that I cut out to keep. Strangely, it too was about loss – a long pink column to the right of the page, blank below the name of a female poet who was at Terezin. Some years ago...

Maelstrom

Waterfalls unite beauty with a wondrous spectacle of sound and sight. Leaning perilously over a bridge or crag, such as the spectacular Iguaçu waterfall between Argentina and Brazil, the thrill of beauty laced with fear shivers through one – unforgettably. Below...

Shambles

This word is being used again and again for what is happening in the ‘mother of parliaments’, or, to give it another name, in the Palace of Westminster, London. ‘What a shambles!’ Indeed, but where does that expression come from? The most picturesque street in the...

Fragments

These fragments I have stored against my ruins’ –  T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (near the end) Still clear in my memory is the sense of freedom I felt as an eight-year-old when, in a class spelling bee, I went to the top of the line for remembering ‘Mississippi’...