Saturday, 23 June 2018

Whose Garden is This?

Buttercups, ferns, an aged barrel ... an upturned flower pot - evoking The Secret Garden, Peter Rabbit, and Tom's Midnight Garden. Perhaps.
This is a tucked-away corner of a cottage garden in Dorset. A famous author lived here. He had wide connections in the West Country and his novels reflect the people who lived there in the nineteenth century. 
The settings of his novels are rural market towns, heathland, drove roads, country churches, seaside towns, courthouses, and, notably, Stonehenge. His characters are country folk bent to the land, urbane gentlemen from the upper classes, the military and dispossessed. 
He gave us tragi-comedies, relationships, social histories, and studies in rural life. Rich, intense, humorous, desolate - a master story-teller and observer of the human condition. He should lie in total in Westminster Abbey - but he didn't have the heart for it.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018




By Alicia Stone

A review by Jeffrey Ross

5 Stars

This is a world-class piece of literature—a finely crafted book that combines several genres successfully. On one level, June functions as an academic or campus novel—much of the text revolves around the detailed, complicated, scholarly world of Professor Perry’s anthropological research and love affair machinations. It also has robust elements of a detective story when super-sleuth David outs a cheating husband. But June most significantly and boldly illuminates a woman’s “sensual” coming of age (somewhat like Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening) as heroine Cassie begins to unshackle herself from a life of emotional servitude and learns to love again. As a writer, I was humbled by the workmanship and power of this novel. Read June—you will never forget the story.

Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband. She sets in motion a tragic chain of events that leads her across Europe from the medieval city of Tallinn to the showboating glamour of Nice. Cast aside and the victim of cruel revenge, Cassandra fights for her future and discovers she is not alone. Her new-found strength is tested to its limits, for where love is concerned there is often a reckoning. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

What's in a Book?

"'Electrifying.' One of the most profoundly important bestsellers of our time."

And so I found it. Published in 1974, this philosophical tale of a father and son who take a painful but enlightening motorcycle journey is a right-of-passage exploration of relationships and the restoration of mental health. 

The provenance of this copy is of equal importance, as the book, too, has had many journeys. Held together by a rubber band, both front and back covers have come loose. The spine is broken, and the pages are worn. 

Between the pages I found contact details of someone on the back of a sound system sticker from Canada; a ticket for the Galleria Nazionale d'Art Moderna (mine, forgotten, holding the page), for an exhibition entitled 'Time is Out of Joint', and a selection of some Western record releases carefully cut out of a magazine. Did whoever cut them out ever listen to the music? Ideas mapped onto ideas. Journeys part of journeys. There's so much more to a book than its cover. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Stars Aligning Over Venice 

Mathematicians shrug off coincidence as mere probability. I prefer the more romantic or fanciful interpretation of statistics. Where would stories be without coincidence?  Alignment is another way of viewing serendipity or chance. Perhaps it is a reflection on the human desire to 'only connect'. 

Am enjoying The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins in a vintage classic edition - all very dark, ghostly and damp. The Wings of the Dove - Henry James is presently serialised on BBC Radio 4. I've caught atmospheric snatches of it over the last week - a tale of thwarted love and money ... and, I did the laundry today. As did this Venetian collecting the dirty washing from a hotel when I was staying in the city during March. 

Pushing the connection a little? Perhaps.

Sunday, 15 April 2018


I found this gentleman knight in Florence. Lifelike, he could be sleeping rough with his helmet for a pillow. We know he's not. 

Young, full lips, his arm casually curved around the armour that protects his head - this is a tender monument. In contrast, British knights in effigy lie stiff and stately, in full armour or frocked and ruffled, poker straight. 

Perhaps if a Roman god commanded, he might wake. The stone warm and soften to flesh, the chest rise and fall, or breath cause a nostril to flare. He might twitch as consciousness returns, rouse, and open his eyes. Sitting up, he'll wince at the pins and needles in his arm and deadened hand. He'll look about for comrades, the physician, his mother, or his horse and marvel at the silence and exhibits. He'll totter and try to stand. 

I'll put out an arm to help, but I don't speak Italian or Latin. 

Monday, 9 April 2018


The Florentine equivalent of net curtains. Beautiful soft-colours full of irregularities. Probably effective against the harsh sun in summertime. Stylish, almost contemporary, I was as taken as much with the glass as the view through the window. What do these windows add to the building? Light is diffused, the glass affords a degree of privacy, and adds a decorative statement to a building.

I recently learned of an artist who has an eye disease and cannot perceive perspective in the usual way. The result is a highly individual and arresting style of painting. 

When I peered through the glass the Italian roof tiles were less red, the cat less distinct - more impressionistic, and the reality of what was going on outside less clear. I was required to apply more effort to interpret what I saw.    

Monday, 19 March 2018

Thoughtful and Determined

Found a new artist to admire on recent travels in Italy - Vittorio Corcos. I stood for ages gazing at this young woman who in turn regarded the painter, those passing through the gallery, and me.

The green ribbon of her hatband and pastel pink blossoms at her feet give the painting its dreamy mood - here is a woman caught in a moment of thought. Utterly feminine, yet the yellow of the books and sky blue scarf pull the observer up short. This is a woman who does not care if she is noticed. Her posture is defiant and calculated. The arm across the bench is not so relaxed. She could rise easily and lightly and argue her corner. 

Reminiscent of the poet 'Thinker' created by Auguste Rodin in the previous decade in neighbouring France, I feel that this study offers a challenge. Beauty and Reason vie for attention. Delightful and gorgeous in her reverie, the subject possesses great energy and determination.