Memory is a funny thing. There have been specific moments in my life when I thought, “I’ll never forget this” — and yet, I forgot. But it is all coming back to me now, in a blurred motion. The chronology cannot be right; I am sure some things happened before some others, but in the biographic records we keep of our journey through life, the pieces are sometimes rearranged to build a more coherent story. Continue reading
Jon has had to put up with many oddities from my part along the years (I won’t eat the tip of gherkins, I carry a screwdriver everywhere I go, I am adamant that Paul Newman and Robert Redford make it out alive at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, etc.), so when I insisted that we should visit a sea shell grotto, he looked upon it as yet another expression of my eccentricity, got into the car, and drove to Margate. Continue reading
I may have lied. Well, it was not really a lie — call it an omission. But I didn’t do it deliberately, so it must not be a big sin. Nonetheless, now that I have realised I had forgotten something as dramatically important as this, I need to come clean. Continue reading
I used to teach at university until fairly recently. Part of my role consisted of teaching first-year ESL students how to read fiction and non-fiction. Before diving into the heart of the matter, I would invariably ask them the same question: why do we read? And I would invariably get the same answers. Most students would come up with individual observations, all along the lines of entertainment and edification, which is interesting on two counts. First, their answers showed that they had personal reasons to read (which always reassured me) and second, that they were missing the bigger picture. Continue reading
Silence has fallen on Saint-Symphorien’s military cemetery as the sun goes down in the West. The grey Commonwealth-issued tombstones cast long shadows over the manicured lawns, and the roses have started shedding their petals one by one. I cannot help but wonder whether they are military-issued too. Previous visitors have left a handful of stones on a Jewish soldier’s grave. I do the same and walk on between the narrow alleys. The cemetery is not the largest in the region; only 513 of the 3,700 British and German soldiers who died in Mons in late August 1914 are buried here. In the aftermath of the slaughter, many of them were hurriedly inhumed in local cemeteries, or their bodies were simply accounted as missing. Continue reading
I had no thought then of husband or lover,
I was a traveller, the guest of a week;
Yet when they pointed ‘the white cliffs of Dover’,
Startled I found there were tears on my cheek.
“The White Cliffs” by Alice Duer Miller (1940)
Cardiff will always hold a special place in my heart. As I was telling you in a previous post, I fell in love with it as soon as I got off the London train on a cold and dark December. In my mind, the name will always conjure up a memory of frozen nose and red cheeks on evenings at the Bay. I was so cold that I could no longer feel my fingers and Mermaid Quay sparkled with fairy lights. We stopped at the (now defunct) Café Rouge. I remember the warmth of the onion soup bowl around which I wrapped my hands and afterwards, the icy wind as we walked back to our hotel. I loved that winter, as I have loved every winter there ever since (though it is of course very nice in the summer too).