Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas approaches

Is that the time? How many sleeps until Christmas?  Really?

Well, as promised to the recipients of my Christmas cards, here's an online miscellany of a few 'best bits' of 2010.

Wee project For reasons that remain unclear I decided to celebrate my sixtieth birthday by cycling solo from Land's End to John o'Groats (and then on to Kirkwall, Orkney) to raise funds for Falcon Camps, holidays for children and teenagers from tough backgrounds.

Should you feel so inclined, you can follow the course of my 'training' (pedalling around the cafes of Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Derbyshire) and the ride itself via the Summer Cycling Saga blog, which includes various breathless podcasts recorded more or less in the saddle.

Angus The ride was packed with rare and random moments, mostly involving me being helped, boosted and (occasionally) rescued by kind and generous people. Chief among these very good Samaritans was the admirable Angus, the Cromarty crab man.

Bard news Mr Gnome relished a brief moment of celebrity when he boosted the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's Transformation Project. And I found myself chatting on local radio about Gregory Miller, the inspiring teacher who turned me on to Shakespeare.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bard intent

Continuing his (frankly unmethodical) attempt to identify 'his' sponsored brick-in-the-wall of the renewed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Mr Gnome was more than a little thrilled to encounter Malika Booker, the RSC's poet in residence.

Billeted in the Victorian reading room adjacent to the Swan auditorium, Ms Booker invites visitors to recall vivid memories from their experiences of the Stratford theatres: sights, textures, scents, emotions, highs, lows, drama and tedium.

All of which will be grist to her poetic mill over the months ahead.

Of course, this was as Pavlovian Kennomeat to Mr G's human companion who lost no time in reliving his first RST show way back in August 1967: All's Well That Ends Well, with a cast that included the extremely young Helen Mirren.

Wise Ms Booker limited him to the space of a medium-sized PostIt.

Mr Gnome wishes Malika great success.

(Ms Booker was not expecting Mr G's appearance. Consequently he considers her perfect choice of hat colour as particularly auspicious.)

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Mr Gnome - to absolutely nobody's surprise - cheers lustily for the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which opened yesterday.

Wonderful as the public areas are, the success of the transformed set-up will depend upon the new auditorium.

It couldn't be more different from what was there before.

For me, the combination joins epic and intimate.

We'll know for sure when we see King Lear and those three difficult girls having a very bad time here in February.

The vibe is good.

Meanwhile, thanks to the entire Stratford team for their welcome yesterday. Special mention to Lucy, Fiona, the video crew - and to Michael Boyd and Gregory Doran who graciously allowed a punter to interrupt their dinner to give them the benefit of his (very positive) opinions.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Tip-top Rooftop

Brick-donor, Bard boy and all-round long-term RSC booster, Mr Gnome was unable to suppress a variety of emotions yesterday on entering the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre as its four-year closure-for-metamorphisis comes to an end.

Accompanied by two human acolytes, Mr G was privileged to enjoy a 'preview' evening at the spanking new Rooftop Restaurant, 'helping' staff to rehearse seating and service before the opening night and the arrival of the full-on pre-show dinner rush.

His verdict? Delicious food, friendly and efficient service - and surroundings with an appropriately theatrical mixture of modern glitz set against a background of distressed brickwork and cleverly recycled elements of the 'old' theatre. For example, many will instantly recognise the old auditorium's glorious art deco marquetry doors put to stylish use in the restaurant's bars.


No chance to snoop farther - the new auditorium remains out of bounds until the official opening later this month.

The vibe is good. Mr Gnome and his associates are a-tremble with anticipation of all that lies ahead. He predicts that the renewed theatre will prove to be the theatrical/architectural triumph of the year, possibly the decade.

Mr Gnome will return.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Gnome goal

A paragon of discretion, Mr Gnome keeps his football-related preferences under wraps - he hates to disappoint.

That said, he's delighted to boost local team Coventry City, despite the fact that sky blue isn't in his (highly restricted) colour palette of choice - he goes for earthy tones.

No surprise, therefore, that he's more than chuffed to toot his metaphorical trumpet in favour of Coventry City's splendid garden gnomes, available in both home (above) and away kits.

And, should anyone be remotely interested, Mr Gnome may be about to participate in a football-gnome related discussion on his favourite radio station BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. (Saturday 27 November - shortly after 9.00am)

One feels the news room is anticipating a 'slow' day...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Homecoming? Gnomecoming..

After three-and-a-half years of intense labour, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's transformation project is almost complete.

The hoardings that have surrounded the site are gone, enabling Mr G to pose shamelessly against a background of shimmering glass and many new bricks, one of which he is proud to have sponsored.

Later this week he's privileged to have been invited to 'test' (with others) the new Rooftop Restaurant, as staff check that systems are in order before the official opening later this month.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Ian McMillan on Desert Island Discs

Robust cheers for the wise, witty and wonderful bard of Barnsley, Ian McMillan, subject of today's BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

McMillan is, in my opinion, the real deal. A fine writer of prose and poetry, who cheerfully debunks rarefied notions of the literary arts being the province of the fortunate few. And he manages to be effortlessly funny along the way.

Ian's final disc was John Cage's '4 minutes 33 seconds' - the celebrated silent 'composition'. Which, naturally, I'd always dismissed as the pinnacle of pretentiousness. Ian has persuaded me otherwise. Helped by the sound of his stomach gently rumbling during the short extract...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

It gets better

Blessed with a robust constitution and enough genial optimism to make Pollyanna seem the grouchiest of cynics, Mr Gnome nevertheless knows a thing or two about dealing with the personal consequences of being just that little bit different from the majority.

For some it's about the beard. Others, unaccountably, feel threatened by the hat: so red, so pointy, so there. And for a tiny, but vocal, minority it's simply that he's 'not one of us'.

And though you'd hardly credit it from his jaunty demeanour, he's no stranger to the cold drench of name-calling and the harsh slap of rejection. Not nice.

Of course Mr G is also extremely (don't even think of mentioning numbers) well struck in years, and such foolishness is as water off a duck's dorsals. He shrugs and moves on, his self-esteem intact.

But he's keenly aware that things can be very different for a young gnome, taking his first faltering steps in a world so overpoweringly dominated by Human Beings.

Consequently, he's endlessly sympathetic to younger members of his 'community', who view him (to his modest abashment) as something of a role model.

No surprise then, that Mr Gnome is dismayed by all forms of taunting, bullying and persecution - whether subtly disguised, or shamelessly overt. Not fair, Not good. Not acceptable.

With all of this in mind, he is heartened by President Barack Obama's outspoken support for the 'It Gets Better' project, a response to the recent series of suicides of young people bullied and taunted by their peers for a perceived 'difference'.

The President may be having his difficulties, but when it comes to plain-speaking, heartfelt eloquence, he has (in my view) few equals.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Basket case

For some years one has been a two-bike family, with two intimate rider/machine relationships  co-existing happily.

My doughty 23-year-old Dawes Galaxy had a fair amount of exposure throughout this year's Summer Cycling Saga.

Time, I guess, for a nod towards my fab stay-at-home steed: a stalwart Pashley, British to its core, on which I ride to work, potter around town, run errands, and never, ever break sweat.

The sensible chain guard ensures office clothes remain grime-free - and the sit-up-and-beg riding position provides excellent vision and visibility.

Gears? Sturmey Archer three-speed. What else?

The capacious basket (supplemented by trap-grip rear bracket) provides ample stowage for the post-shopping journey home.

And while on the subject of the basket...

In town with the Pash some years ago, I ran in to an acquaintance. As our brief conversation ended she commented on the bike - with gratifying admiration. And then she moved on to, er,  admiring me.

'You must be very confident in your masculinity - riding a bicycle with that big basket on the front.'

I was at a loss for an appropriate response - until about twenty minutes later, by which time I was at home, when I remembered the name under which said baskets are marketed. The moniker harks back to the days when our towns where a-whizz with cycling delivery boys. 

So my reply should have been: 'Oh really? Well, that must be why it's called a butcher basket...'

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


An autumnal sadness envelopes Mr Gnome (and me) as Radio 4's A History of the World in 100 Objects comes to an end.

I love the slightly wonky optimism of the project: to tell the story-so-far of humanity through a selection of 100 items in the collection of the British Museum. Each object to be the focus of its own programme. A radio programme.

What next? Mime hour on Radio 3?

As it turns out the series of 15-minute programmes has been revelatory, intriguing, entertaining, often deeply moving - and totally addictive.

My impression is that the series is very much the brain-child of its presenter and script-writer: Neil MacGregor, the Director of the BM.

Wisely, I think, there was no advance list of the objects chosen: just the basic fact that they were to be presented in roughly chronological order from flint cutting implement (2) to solar-powered battery (100).

And unfolding all the way was the intriguing paradox of our relationship with the things we create: mastery and dependence.

Egyptian mummy case, Roman silver cup, fabric fragment from ancient Peru, defaced penny, jade bead: each item was fascinating in itself.

But the revelatory aspect (and for me the series' triumph) was MacGregor's gradual, step-by-step, drawing out of the interconnections between the objects: through trade, through conquest, through the impulse to worship - and the simple wish to make life better.

All of which makes one powerfully aware of how much human beings have in common with one another: across the gulfs of time, and the divisions of culture, ideology and belief systems. And for anyone contemplating the 'image of God' aspect of humanity - well, in terms of food for thought, MacGrgeor serves up a feast.

Any university could do worse than require all students to listen to the series before beginning formal studies.

And, as with all good radio, I've felt that the programmes were planned with me in mind - and that each evening I've had the opportunity to drop in at the BM for fifteen minutes with a brainy, funny, unpatronising friend.

The whole series is available for download in podcast format. If you've not tried it, why not give it a go?

Saturday, 23 October 2010


With its parks, monuments and gloriously sinuous river, London is a city of sensational views and vistas.

Incomparable among them (in my opinion) is the vast southern panorama to be seen from Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath.

I've been going here for years, but the sudden opening out of the landscape, from this not exactly vertiginous hilltop, never fails to surprise and delight. Take an overseas visitor with you, and I guarantee that they will subsequently refer to the experience as one of the highlights of their time in the capital.

This picture (snapped today) shows the latest addition to the skyline - directly to the right of the central figure.

It's The Shard, a skyscraper under construction near London Bridge. When completed in 2012 it will be the tallest building in the European Union.

Not surprisingly Parliament Hill has featured in innumerable movies.

If you've seen Notes on a Scandal, the seat to the right of the picture may prompt an involuntary frisson.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Falling upwards

It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that the city of Birmingham's network of canals is larger than that of Venice.


What is beyond dispute is the spell cast over this no-nonsense city by today's crystalline autumnal sunshine.

I've been a regular city stroller (Brummagem boulevardier?) since my move to the Midlands some two decades ago - and have witnessed its central area moving through change after change, all of them, from my point of view, for the better.


Friday, 15 October 2010

For the L of it

Succumbing to a frenzy of self-reference, Mr Gnome celebrated a friend's fiftieth birthday with a selection from his ludicrously varied back catalogue.

Double click on the image to enlarge - should you wish to, of course.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Write turn

Down to literary Bloomsbury for a day learning about writing at The School of Life, London's quirky 'social enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living'.

Tutors Rob and Molly cajoled, guided and inspired us through a long, active day of buffing up our everyday writing - hence the title 'Words for Life'.

So forget the novel, the slim volume of poems and the angst-driven autobiography.

Instead we learned how to zhoosh up such ordinary-but-often-essential writing tasks as the CV self-description, the holiday postcard, the letter of sympathy, the dating profile, the Ebay advertisement...

With lightning speed, Rob and Molly got us scribbling, reading our efforts aloud - and marvelling at the variety of our responses to the challenges set.

For example: write a 'welcome to your new home' in the style of a fairy tale', 'write a holiday postcard in the form of a list', 'sum up you experience of the day as if writing a recipe'...

Again and again, the tack was: approach the familiar from an unfamiliar angle. It worked - as, among the twenty participants, confidence grew and creativity crackled.

Rob and Milly emphasised that there were no 'wrong answers' - and their only rule was a gently enforced 'apology embargo': we were forbidden the luxury of making excuses for any of our efforts before reading them aloud. Inner critics were banished, as Molly counselled: 'Don't get it right, get it written.'

In between sessions, we were fed and watered in style, with the tip-top lunch proving an opportunity for some impromptu, unpretentious menu writing.

(And, so useful, I learned a new salad item: 'quinoa', pronounced 'keen-wah', a tip speedily taken after bumpkin moi uttered 'kwin-o-ah'.)

I particularly appreciated the tranquil pause when Molly read aloud Michael Rosen's mini-masterpiece Sad Book.

The hours whizzed by and I left dizzy, exhausted and, not a word I use every day, empowered.


Want to know what Rob and Milly do Monday to Friday? Check their business We All Need Words.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Ring a ding ding

What was he thinking? Welsh opera superstar Bryn Terfel looks loopily divine in his gloriously OTT get-up as king of the gods Wotan in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's Das Rheingold.

And that, Mr Gnome and I confess, is precisely what we love about opera: its unique ability to create a co-existence of the insane and the inspirational, the nutty and the numinous, barking madness and heart-piercing magnificence.

I guess I caught the opera thing at a very early age - and from a bizarre source: a childhood viewing of the Marx Brothers' classic A Night at the Opera, though it was to be years before I felt the visceral impact of a live performance.

Stage 2 infection (the Wagner thing) came in my mid-thirties. Welsh National Opera was performing its Ring Cycle in Bristol. I coughed up for all four shows, and turned up with minimal expectations.

What happened over the course of one short and three very long evenings?

Very, very hard to explain.

Something to do with the coming together of a powerful storyline (earthily human and wildly archetypal) with the music...

The music. Wagner's music. Describing the 'Wagner difference' would take a cleverer pen than mine: soaring, surging, most of the time far quieter than many imagine, earthy, airy, fiery - an irresistible river of sound.

Let's just say that it gets into the bloodstream. And you're never quite the same again.

Like a vampire? Er, I hope not.  Hyper-irritating Tristan and Islode, for example, and dreary old Parsifal leave me cold.

It's a Ring thing. Tragic, strange, funny, complicated, intensely human...

I'll be at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, this weekend, to start the journey all over again. Hello Wotan, hello gods, dwarfs, dragons and wild, whooping valkyries....

(All via the magic of HD digital broadcast to UK cinema screens.)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Coming home...

Mr Gnome shamelessly flaunts his invitation to one of many top-notch events celebrating the opening of the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Closed for over three years, the riverside complex has been massively re-shaped and upgraded. Sources suggest that the gigantic project is coming in on time and on budget. No mean feat.

Better still, the buzz hints that the new spaces (public and performance) will outstrip all expectations.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


I missed the otter frolicking beside the ferry, but the rainbow proved to be slightly more obliging.

The Craignure-Oban ferry ride offers an extraordinary amount of breathtaking moments in its 45-minute timespan.

Duart Castle, the Lismore Light and the distant views over to Islay and Jura (I think): always varying in their aspect according to the ever-changing light and weather conditions.

On Friday's return journey a perfect rainbow added a hint of both elegy and promise...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Iona again

Trains, ferries and the trans-Mull bus have brought me once again to remote Iona, on the western edge of the Hebrides.

A week's residence with the community remains a splendid taster of a gentle, simple way of living in this traditionally 'thin place' where earth and heaven seem not-too-far apart.

Actually 'thin' doesn't apply to the gloriously substantial amounts of food served up three time a day, with intermittent servings of scones and oatcakes.

This year's group is slightly less international than in previous years, but eclectic all the same. I've met some remarkable people.

There's been a speaker - the American Franciscan Richard Rohr.

But, for me, the memorable moments come in unplanned encounters over food, or while stomping through wind and rain on the round-the-island 'pilgrimage' - this year enlivened by a close encounter with the Iona bull. A very big boy.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Small change

How exciting to glance at one's loose change today and discover that this long-ago coin had found its way to my pocket - more than fifty years after it ceased to be legal tender.

I can remember the farthing clearly from my childhood, mainly for its small size and the charming image of the wren, Britain's second-smallest native bird (I believe).

Not for its purchasing power. By 1956, there wasn't much you could buy for a farthing. But save up 960 of them and you would have £1.00, with which you could buy plenty.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Glad tidings in an appropriately minimal format from Saturday's Daily Telegraph.

The dark and, let's face it, rather triste forces of gnomophobia appear to be in retreat.

Joy unconfined.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Browns study

Ever eager to toot his metaphorical trumpet for all that's small-scale, excellent and unpretentious, Mr Gnome has recently revisited top-notch Coventry eatery Brown's Cafe Bar.

Not to be confused with the excellent chain of Browns restaurants, this down-town venue is a one-off, housed in a curvaceous Sixties architectural gem, with a gently bo-ho, arty ambience to match.

The evening menu is based around plated meals priced at between £6 and £8. Massive choice of vegetables and potatoes. Portion control? Forget it. The hungry are fed.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

On a dolphin's back

To London for a day out including a small Bard-related treat.

I've been reading A Midsummer Night's Dream and wallowing quietly in its sumptuous, seductive, shimmering dream world - simultaneously earthy and sublime.

In a vain attempt to keep the brain cells alert, I'm committing a few of the purpler passages to memory.

As the train chugged down to Marylebone, I was bashing one of of Oberon's Act 1 speeches into my head:
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb'rest 
Since once I sat upon a promontory, 
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music.
Scrumptious or what?

Anyway, I reach Town. Tube to Charing Cross and up the stairs to the exit in Trafalgar Square, still mumbling my lines. And what meets my gaze as I emerge into the sunshine?

A mermaid on a dolphin's back.


Ish. Do admit.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Mad for it

Hurrah for modern technology enabling one to enjoy television programmes when (and where) one chooses.

Current addiction is the remarkable US series Mad Men, a saga of satisfyingly Dickensian scope and complexity set in the high-energy world of a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the early 1960s.

It's one of those shows that would remain compulsively viewable if the sound failed, so sumptuous is the conjuring up of the styles of the day: the hair, suits, furniture, specs, hats and, wafting through every scene, the billowing clouds of cigarette smoke.

These are the styles and 'looks' that I pored over as a child in back numbers of Readers' Digest and National Geographic, featuring in mouth-watering colour the station wagons, refrigerators and washing machines that symbolised the prosperity of Eisenhower's America. Everything bigger, bolder and more exciting than the pint-sized versions available to cash-strapped British consumers.

At the centre of the story is alpha-male ad executive Don Draper, all slicked-back hair, chiselled features and sharp, cynical intelligence. Perfect job, beautiful blonde wife, two children, gleaming home in the suburbs - oh yes, and a mistress plus (early in series 1) a mistress-in-waiting.

No wonder he sometimes skips the early-morning push-up routine.

Don, finger magically on the pulse of the times, is selling dreams of prosperity and well-being, motivated by some as yet only hinted-at compulsion to escape his past. And yet despite his trophy wife, home and possessions, he's restless and insecure. Hence the Dickens reference.

Mad Men is funny, sharp, perceptive and absorbing. It's going to keep me intrigued all winter....

And rather uncomfortable as well.

I think I'll fix myself an old-fashioned and light up a Lucky.

Friday, 30 July 2010


Last night to the Birthplace Trust in S-u-A to hear RSC director Gregory Doran interviewed on the topic of (surprise!) 'Shakespeare and I'.

Both thumbs up for this warm, unpretentious man's engaging account of how he became a self-confessed 'Shakespeare nut'.

Ably prompted by interviewer Paul Edmondson, Greg (well, one feels one got to know the guy) spoke of the influence of an inspirational teacher at his Catholic secondary school. One identified.

I also checked the 'idntify box' regarding a childhood passion for putting on puppet shows.

In my school there was, sadly, no tradition of performing the plays. Greg, on the other hand, overcame bitter disappointment (Mr Monahan failed to cast him as Ophelia) to triumph as a schoolboy Richard II and Lady Macbeth (presumably pre-beard).

But it wasn't the am-dram fripperies of lights, makeup and costume that got him hooked.

It was the words, the 'jewels in the mouth' feeling of speaking Shakespeare's language, borne along by the music, not always understanding the full sense of a speech. Intoxicating, liberating, empowering, bafflingly complex, totally straightforward...

As a friend of mine might say: 'I so got that.'

And, for me, it's that love of the text that helps explain the success of Greg Doran's productions. Concepts, ideas, design - all are secondary to the words. As he remarked, Shakespeare's original audience went to hear a play, rather than to see it...

And among the pieces that he read was Cavafy's glorious poem Ithaca.

Could go on...

Oh,by the way, GD was wearing the shirt pictured above.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Bricked up

Back in 2009 Mr Gnome did his small-scale bit for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's hugely exciting Transformation Project. He sponsored a brick.

A year on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire sent ace reporter Nicki Murphy to probe the motivation behind the brick.

Along the way, we revealed our 40+ years of Bard behaviour at Stratford, celebrated an inspiring teacher  and came close to revealing the age of the peerless Dame Helen Mirren.

And Mr Bowie made a supporting appearance...
This material is © BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire and is an excerpt from a programme to be aired shortly.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Hot potato

The aforementioned menu item - irresistible to humans and gnomes.

Radio daze...

Mr Gnome breezed through today's RSC-related media opportunity with BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, capriciously (and predictably) leaving all the talking to his human associate.

Alerted by the Royal Shakespeare Company's press office, reporter Nicki Murphy probed the motivation behind Mr Gnome's status as (probably) the smallest and least human dedicatee of a sponsored brick, a popular element of the massive Transformation Project that is, er, transforming the Company's Stratford home to a renewed theatre space that will cause an international sensation when it opens in 2011.

Or so Mr Gnome predicts.

Broadcast goes out next week.

Nice of them to ask us. Perhaps Sir Ian and Dame Judi were busy?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Good times, Bard times...

Absent from the blogosphere for far too long, Mr Gnome returns to boost up his 'home team' - the splendidly tip-top Royal Shakespeare Company.

Pens mightier than Mr G's have reviewed the current crop of productions. Once again, the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer displays an almost spooky ability to channel Mr Gnome's reactions to each new offering on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre. With exceptions.

So with the stage taken care of, Mr Gnome turns his attention to that essential adjunct to any theatre - the cafe.

The Courtyard Theatre cafe, housed in the barn-like structure to the left of the main foyer, gains several robust hurrahs on Mr Gnome's scale of customer satisfaction.

This efficiently run eatery would deserve to be a top-notch Stratford attraction - even if it was not grafted on to an internationally celebrated theatre company.

Friendly, unpretentious and offering great value for money, the Courtyard cafe's relaxed ambience (free newspapers) is enhanced by the cheerful, attentive and thoughtful staff.

Mr Gnome owns up to having a bit of  a 'thing' for the coronation chicken baked potato with salad.

Not really a 'celeb spotter' himself, Mr Gnome readily acknowledges that this is a top venue for a bit of classical star gazing. Varied luminaries have wafted into his field of vision in recent months: Frances Barber, Bette Bourne and Sir Donald Sinden (puffing on cig at an outside table).

Added value?

For a resume of RSC-related blog posts, please click here.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Micro-brew. Micro-fan

Mr Gnome could not be more excited to be the recipient of this splendid gift - which here engulfs his hat in an amber nimbus.

Emanating from the Tunnel Brewey, Warwickshire's newest micro-brewery, Sanctuary celebrates the 800th anniversary of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, which is hosting a year-long programme of special events.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


With a pedestrian commute and no pressing reason to use the car, I've relished the current spell of ice and a snow - a proper winter at last.

Late afternoon, for me, is the best part of these jewel-bright days.

Colour drains away, the western sky fades from blue to ochre - and the walkers in the park transform to figures in a Breughel picture.