Foster Powell, the great pedestrian

June 26, 2020 0 Comments
Foster Powell, the great pedestrian

When he was 21 years old Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to Wales for a walking tour with his Cambridge friend Joseph Hucks.  In a letter written in Denbigh in July 1794 to Robert Southey he summarises the trip so far, and writes, From Bala we travelled onward to Llangollen, a most beautiful village in a […]

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Chaos describ’d

June 19, 2020 0 Comments
Chaos describ’d

These days chaos as a concept has been captured by mathematics and physics. (Sometimes it gets re-exported to the popular imagination through tropes like the butterfly effect.)  But before that it was available to anyone.  It was especially attractive to philosophers, theologians and mystics, and to creative people like writers and artists. Chaos has always […]

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Cymru a W.G. Sebald

June 12, 2020 0 Comments
Cymru a W.G. Sebald

Cyhoeddodd W.G. Sebald Austerlitz, ei nofel olaf (os mai nofel yw hi) yn Almaeneg yn 2001.  Pan ddaeth y fersiwn Saesneg allan yn 2002, roedd yn syndod i ddarllenwyr yma i ddarganfod mai Cymru yw un o’i phrif leoliadau, mewn llyfr sy’n crwydro dros rannau helaeth o gyfandir Ewrop.  Hanes dyn o’r enw Jacques Austerlitz […]

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Time and Johannes Vermeer

June 6, 2020 4 Comments
Time and Johannes Vermeer

Today’s the last day of my imaginary return visit to the city of Delft.  As always, it’s been a time of rest and contemplation among the canals and step-gabled houses facing them.  And as usual I’ve been thinking about Delft’s most famous citizen, Johannes Vermeer, and his paintings – this time, the early works that […]

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Dido Harding: a failed state in microcosm

May 30, 2020 55 Comments
Dido Harding: a failed state in microcosm

I thought I recognised the name Dido Harding, when her name popped up on the news recently.  After all, Dido isn’t the commonest of names.  There’s Dido, the excellent singer, and Dido Twite, the heroine of Black hearts in Battersea and other stories by Joan Aiken.  And, of course, the original, wonderful and tragic Dido, […]

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The assassin waits

May 29, 2020 0 Comments
The assassin waits

In my lockdown tour of Europe I’m still enjoying my virtual stay in the city of Delft.  I’ve walked a little way from the Nieuwe Kerk to the Prinsenhof in Sint Agathaplein.  Today the Prinsenhof is a museum, and a very good one, but in the late sixteenth century it was the government headquarters of […]

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Carel Fabritius’s ‘A view of Delft’

May 22, 2020 0 Comments
Carel Fabritius’s ‘A view of Delft’

You can take a train to Delft – or you could, in pre-Virus times – walk to the corner of Oude Langendijk and the Oosteinde in the city centre, look to the north-west, and see what the painter Carel Fabritius saw there on a bright summer’s day in 1652.  A few things have changed, it’s […]

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On sparrows

May 15, 2020 0 Comments
On sparrows

Obituaries lift the heart.  They’re the part of any newspaper or magazine to turn to first if you want to cheer yourself up by reading about the positive side of human nature.  At the moment, when the news pages resemble an unending nightmare by Hieronymus Bosch, that’s especially true.  Last week I read on Twitter […]

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Covid-19: pam mae Prydain mor drychinebus?

May 8, 2020 0 Comments
Covid-19: pam mae Prydain mor drychinebus?

Erbyn hyn mae’n amlwg fod Prydain yn dioddef o’r pla yn waeth nag unrhyw wlad yn Ewrop.  Amlwg hefyd mai esgeulustod llywodraeth y DU yw un o’r prif resymau.  Ei methiant i ymateb i’r firws yn brydlon.  Ei methiant i ddarparu offer ar gyfer unedau triniaeth ddwys, a dillad i warchod pawb oedd mewn cyswllt […]

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Durer’s ‘A heavenly body’: painting apocalypse

May 4, 2020 0 Comments
Durer’s ‘A heavenly body’: painting apocalypse

Albrecht Durer surely had the sharpest eye of any painter.  Think of his watercolour A big piece of turf, made in 1503, half a millennium before the hyperrealist painters of our own time.  Or the astonishing sketch of his own head and hand on the reverse of the painting in Paris known as Portrait of […]

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