Category: Travel & Arts

Best gig of the year, and it was only February!

I’m often asked when to open a bottle of wine that’s been gathering dust in somebody’s rack – “will it still be any good?” My advice?   “Open it without expectations, and hope to be pleasantly surprised”. Sometimes I take a similar approach when the programme from Ronnie Scott’s appears in my inbox. Pick a […]

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Sargent in Stockholm

I’ve always enjoyed grand portraits by the great artists: Van Dyck, Velazquez, Gainsborough, you know the list. I came late to John Singer Sargent. I first encountered his work at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2015. Two years later I was enchanted by the intimacy of his watercolours at the Dulwich Picture […]

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Swedish Food, Part Two: my quest for a meatball

First, a waterborne Smörgåsbord on the Steamship Stockholm. Invited to the city of Stockholm for a birthday celebration, we were instructed by our generous hosts to be ready to board ship at 11.30 on Sunday for a prompt departure at midday. The captain, they told us, would not wait for latecomers.       The […]

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Swedish food, Part One: “what have the Swedes ever done for us?”

In her Reith Lecture in 2018, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan said this about the Swedish people:   “Think of the Swedes” “I mean we think of the Swedes now today as making expeditions to Ikea, assembling furniture quietly, not getting cross at it. We think of them going to the woods and picking berries. I mean […]

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A taste for Nordic Noir in Stockholm

I’ve read the novels of Henning Mankell; on TV I’ve seen both the Swedish version, and Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of the world-weary detective Kurt Wallander. (Perhaps he was just weary of the insistent ringtone on his mobile that goes off at the most inopportune moments).       I was an avid follower of ‘Arne […]

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“You either see it or you don’t”. The Dennis Severs House

Where do you go as a treat for a nephew whose 11th birthday is a week before Christmas? We took him to the 18th century.   On Sunday 23rd December we travelled by London Overground to Shoreditch High Street. As we walked towards our destination, we passed the strangely rather wonderful shop window of Gardner’s, […]

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My round-up of 2018

2018 has been a year that required urgent distractions from the shambles that passed for political debate in Westminster. Fortunately it’s been a good year for adventures: exhibitions, travel, theatre, food & drink. Here are just a few of my personal highlights:   Theatre – behind the scenes at The Bridge In February I wrote […]

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Tintoretto’s 500th anniversary, and Venice today

Feasting on Tintoretto Venice is currently celebrating the 500th anniversary of the painter’s birth, in 1518 or 1519. Almost all his major works remain in his home city, spread among 29 locations. I imagined that the exhibition The Young Tintoretto at the Accademia was going to be a rerun of the one at the Musée du […]

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“Every time someone does this, a Venetian dies”

  On the evening of our arrival in Venice in late November, we were asked for directions three times by other visitors. After all this time, we must be beginning to blend in. From the Vaporetto No 1, I was struck by the swathes of residential properties in darkness on the Grand Canal, apparently unoccupied. […]

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A long walk from Agincourt to Richmond

“And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here ….”   On a sunny Sunday in August 2014 I walked round the perimeter of the battlefield of Agincourt. It is now farmland, ploughed earth and pasture. And trees. Even allowing for the intervening 599 years, it was easy to imagine […]

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