Observatory

A Man About A Blog

So far self-isolation has proven, for us and our neighbours at least, a chance to pause and reassess where we stand. In all the time I’ve been writing the blog I’ve hardly ever looked back at it. Now I see there have been twelve years of almost daily articles that I’ve never reassessed. The images […]

Not Stir Crazy Yet

It’s been a weird week for me, because far from seeing nobody I’ve seen more people than ever thanks to doctors, tests and hospital visits in the middle of a national shutdown. Suffice it to say, bad timing of the very worst order, but I shall deal with it. We shall speak of this no […]

It’s Not Self-Isolating, It’s Reading

How many times in your life have you been called anti-social for reading quietly in a room? Or being told you’ll hurt your eyes, you need to go for a walk, get some fresh air, stop stuffing your head with ideas? Well, nobody’s saying it now – it’s the most enjoyable part of the new […]

Working From Home During A Cataclysm

You sit alone all day with imaginary people. If your company decides you’d be better off working from home, there are a few things you need to know. As a veteran homeworker, I’m in a position to help you adjust. First of all, remember that working at home means never being far from the fridge. Do […]

I’m Not There, I’m Here

It’s been a long winter so far; a combination of workload, never-ending flu and not enough down time left me feeling wiped out, so I’ve gone away for one week. I’m in Hispaniola for a few days of whale-watching, rum drinking and tropical doodadery, back Saturday, unforch. As someone who saw Barbados transform itself from […]

Cheers! No. 1: Secret Drinking

This occasional series about fine places of refreshment starts off with a nod to secret drinking. London is particularly fond of hiding its more interesting establishments away from casual eyes, with cocktail bars protected by passcodes and hidden messages and odd names for speakeasys like The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town. Even a few pubs […]

The Last Brexit Post (Thank God)

‘Brexit Uncertainty’ is the buzz-phrase of the new decade There’ll be no Brexit posts on the site after today because it’s too divisive a subject and it’s not my job to judge how people choose to protest. Yesterday the knock-on effect of the UK’s decision to dump its largest trading partner showed itself when I […]

The Way We Speak

Today’s oddity thrown up by my current research involves the native tongue. English speakers rarely notice the rules hidden inside their speech. For example, when we describe something to others, we use a pre-ordained system known as the Royal Order of adjectives. This dictates that certain words must precede others. They usually fit in the […]

Creating The Right Atmosphere

In the writing of any story, atmosphere plays a far larger part than most readers realise. It’s something you have to consciously select when setting out a scene. I often set London in the rain because it is emphatically not a sunny city. The ‘invisible rain’ which cannot be seen falling but makes the streets […]

British Eccentrics: A Postscript To Eggs Like Fanny’s

Following on from yesterday’s comments, I took another look at Fanny. At the heart of her cookery were Escoffier’s rules, so this morning I followed her technique for plain simple scrambled eggs and suddenly realised the difference, and why she became an influence on chefs. To a postwar rationed bankrupt nation her food was aspirational. […]