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There’s a silver birch at the bottom of our garden. We planted it 4 or 5 years ago, I think. Maybe it’s longer than that given how fast the years fly by. It’s like remembering the ages of friends’ grandchildren. Really? That old? Add a couple of years to the first number that comes into my head then I’d be nearer the mark. In any case, the birch is just a few years old. It fills a void left by the demise of an old laburnum in the garden that backs onto ours. The laburnum used to droop lazily in the...

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to Glasgow when it’s not been raining”, said my daughter on Sunday. She’s 32 and has visited the city many times since childhood. I’m sure she’s mistaken, has taken an average experience to be an absolute one, has learned the skill of hyperbole, or else been very, very unlucky. I had a sinking feeling that the many times I’d packed her off, a brave little unaccompanied minor on an early flight from London to spend half-term with my mother, were imprinted on her memory as miserable, wet episodes. “Dreich”, my mother would have said....

On a Virgin Pendolino heading north, sitting on the left looking west. It’s 4pm and we’ve finally left the canopy of Midland clouds behind.  Replaced them with a watercolour sky of deep grey, pale grey and rose. All smooth, like a wash of subtle shades rendered by an old master. Southern Scotland.  Rolling hills framed with low bare hedges that write a complicated script onto the horizon. Ancient illuminations. In the far distance, benign low cloud merges with dusk-drenched upland, their shades of subtle grey impossible to distinguish from one another. A dance of shadows. It seemed to take a long...

I’ve been to see this new play by Florian Zeller - twice. It moved me so much I’d even go again. I saw it in Richmond and then at Wyndham’s in town.  Same cast, same set, same sublime performances from Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce. They play a couple, Madeleine and Andre, who’ve been married for 50 years and have two 40-something daughters, both self-absorbed and often irritating, especially to their mother. The setting is the large kitchen of the couple’s home. Through an alcove at the back you can glimpse high walls lined with books; Andre is a celebrated writer. There’s...