Clocking off: a dip in Lake Geneva

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

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

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?

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

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

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 […]

Miner poets: striking a rhyming seam

Buried deep in this summer’s Latitude Festival line up was a curious outpost from a very different cultural moment.  The three-day event’s insufferable up-from-London-middle-classness is a well worn riff for compares.  But among the up-and-coming performance poets who provide the mainstay of the ‘poetry-tent’ program, was a celebration of verse […]

Hot wheels: public transport African style

The shock of navigating Mombasa’s roads, even in a giant Land Cruiser, was such that survival was my only concern for some time.  The surge of vehicles, each trying to gain advantage by any means, was in a different order of magnitude to traffic in any of the western metropolis that […]