Poles apart: a war-torn-childhood classic resonates yet

Few childhood books made such a lasting impression on me as Ian Serraillier’s Silver Sword.  Nevertheless, until my daughter reminded me of the work, I would have struggled to identify the source of the themes that so impressed me. The story, aimed at readers from ten to their mid-teens, was […]

Happy unions: Corbyn delights labour’s leaders

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Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader the day before Trades Union Congress gathered in Brighton electrified the annual gathering of shop stewards and general secretaries.  Speeches on the most prosaic subjects were greeted with thunderous applause if they included a hat tip to the MP for Islington North.  One militant […]

Message in a bottle: the struggle to recognise what matters most

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There are two empty jeroboams in my friend Neil’s wine cellar the labels of both of which are covered in signatures and bon mots from the diners who enjoyed their contents. My name is on both. We drank the wine on nights when Neil was in his pomp – hosting […]

Clocking off: a dip in Lake Geneva

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Few are the major cities that afford outdoor swimming at their very centre.  Geneva, by virtue of its site at the head of one of Western Europe’s largest lakes, has always been an exception.  There are several points at which the water is accessible to bathers in the city centre.  […]

Swim city: cooling my heels at Kings Cross

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Bathing on a building site is an improbable antidote to June in the city.  Nonetheless, the Kings Cross Pond Club provides an enchanting, if unusual, oasis as the mercury rises. This temporary installation in the midst of the vast goods-yard redevelopment to the north of the rail terminus is little more […]

Professional foul: there is more to life than mammon

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TES column 6 February 2015 ‘Professional’, used as a descriptive term, has undergone a transformation.  Today it means ‘unequivocally good’. Governors are expected to work ‘professionally’ to encourage school improvement.  Top-of-the-range tools and products are ‘professional quality’ and we aspire to undertaking tasks ‘like a pro’. How different to the […]

Over exposure: are new laws needed to protect celebrities’ children?

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Originally published by The Guardian 9 January 2015 Hannah Weller’s campaign to “prevent the media from publishing photographs of children without their parents’ consent” makes a seductive pitch. She and her musician husband Paul were photographed with their young children, without their consent, shopping in Los Angeles. The pictures were published by […]

Christmas in Mombasa

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The first obvious signs that Christmas Day had arrived in Makumba, on the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya, came when the children put up the decorations.  Identical to those in a million British homes, the shiny plastic banners enjoin readers to have a ‘Merry Christmas’.  The glittering hangings were purchased from […]

Tracks of my tears: an internal jukebox selection

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1. I grew up in a home where the King was revered. In the ’70s I couldn’t get excited about big ballads, curious concept albums and woeful film scores. The Sun recordings, however, had a raw, personal, intensity to which I responded immediately. Before I was a teen, I had […]