Observatory

Holidays From Hell

‘Where was the busload of nuns you ran off the road in a past life that caused you to get this shit?’ asked my friend Roger. He was referring to my holiday text. After receiving the devastating news that my life was not being renewed for another season, I had taken off for the coast […]

Why I Published This Piece

I was very touched to see the comments to this column. I’m lucky to have some of the very kindest readers. I had written the piece out of necessity. When I sat down to look at the jumble of short stories, articles and novels I’d left on my laptop I had an epiphany;  Ie. ‘This […]

The Night Of Fire

We have reached Peak Sap. The longest day. The shortest night. The summer solstice. The highest point of fertility, after which the sun’s energy begins to wane and must be given a helping hand by the people of Catalunia, who celebrate this date each year with the night of fire in honour of St Joan, […]

Today’s Conversation Pieces

Morocco Is Timeless Yet Fast Evolving Travel has become more complicated since Brexit. Now that the UK is designated as a ‘third country’ we have different entry requirements and are checked separately. For many travel is no longer the get-up-and-go experience of the past but an elaborate and expensive maze of paperwork. Officials in other […]

Morocco Bound

‘Fez is for culture, Casablanca is for trade, Marrakech is for tourism,’ said the driver. Marrakech is a city of two halves; the post-colonial remnants of its former French incarnation and a far older Berber Medina of clay walls, narrow souks, feral cats, bread-carts, overladen motorbikes and those old men who sit in hatches surrounded […]

Call Me Scheherazade

Good morning. There’s an old Stanley Holloway music hall song called ‘My word, you do look ill’, in which Holloway is stopped by various acquaintances who tell him he looks terrible, until one says he never looked better in his life. It’s amazing how easily we can be affected by outside news and the opinions […]

A Marvellous Cure For Stress

Seeing others having a worse time than yourself is strangely calming. Sometimes the public is right. In Alwyn Turner’s ‘All In It Together’, his study of England in the 21st century, a pattern becomes discernible. Turner has been obsessively chronicling decades of political and social rule and misrule for years, and has now reached events […]

What I’ve Been Doing

Iceberg Ahead A couple of weeks back I slipped over to Barcelona to pay bills, do repairs and clear up our flat after the upstairs neighbours had 1. flooded it for the third time and 2. projectile-vomited from their balcony onto ours, which really takes some doing. And this is in a good part of […]

A Very Little Christmas

My family was never big on occasions. My parents forgot my 21st birthday (back when it was the ‘key of the door’, the key of the door now being 14), we all regularly forgot or failed to mark each other’s big birthdays. My brother always actively avoided his and my mother decided that it was […]

Good Morning From Madrid

  I love mornings in Madrid – there’s no-one about until relatively late, then the city slowly comes to life; the owners of market stalls, cafés, fruit and vegetable stores commence the ritual washing of pavements, and awnings are put up against the sun. The fierce invading light washes over everything, but can’t reach far […]