The Stepney Meeting

A stone’s throw away from the back of Stepney’s enormous churchyard, where the parakeets and pigeons own the sky, and even closer to Lady Mico’s almshouses, is a much smaller cemetery, its gravestones broken, eroded or obscured by the black, sooty pollution of old London. This is the burial ground of the Stepney Meeting, on a small corner plot which once housed almshouses and a school as well.

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Plant of the Month: June 2019

This seems to be an amazing spring/summer for roses – even mine are looking good (or were until it just started raining), and they are by no means my most successful plants. And it’s not just locally, either. We’ve just been to Amsterdam and Leiden for a few days, in beautiful weather, and roses are burgeoning everywhere from the botanic gardens to the pavements in fronts of the houses. Continue reading

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The Blackbird

Has there ever been a spring/summer like this for blackbird song? (Except, obviously, the year in which, in late June, Edward Thomas’s train stopped unexpectedly at Adlestrop?) I’m especially fortunate in that I have two competing to outdo each other in the back garden, one often perched on our television aerial (what a quaint old device, I hear you cry) and the other in the trees nearby. Continue reading

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In Deepest Limehouse

I imagine that ‘Play it again, Sam’ is the most famous line from a film which was not actually spoken in the film, but ‘We don’t like strangers in these parts, Mr ‘Olmes’ may run it close among aficionados of the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes films: nobody in ‘the dark and sinister alleys of Limehouse’ actually says that. The words of the dark and sinister stranger, in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, are actually: ‘I wouldn’t come down here if I was you. This is Limehouse, and we don’t fancy your sort of bloke in these parts.’ To which Holmes stoutly replies: ‘This is still a free country. A man may walk where he pleases.’ Continue reading

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The Loss of the ‘Royal George’

Was Proust the first or merely the best to describe the extraordinary moment when a completely forgotten incident in your life rises fully formed in your memory? In my most recent incident, it was a phone call at work about a piece of Victorian furniture what did it. The chair, it was claimed, had been made from timbers from the Royal George – and I was transported back to my primary school, close to the walls of Portsmouth dockyard. Continue reading

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Allegorical Tombs

… are apparently a Thing, and one which I have come across twice in as many days in Venice, though they seem to owe their origin to one Owen Swiny (MacSwiny, McSweeny, MacSwiney, McSwiny, and other variants), of Enniscorthy in Ireland. The spelling of Swiny’s name (I am going with the version used by the ODNB) is but one of the confusing elements in this story … Continue reading

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Sant’ Eufemia Revealed!

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about the church of Santa Eufemia on Giudecca, noting my frustration that it never seemed to be open. But yesterday, strolling down the fondamenta after lunch for a quick look, we were riveted to see that the small door under the portico was open – and not only that, but another small door on the far wall was also open, and apparently led to a small garden. We couldn’t used this canal-facing door for access, however, as it was blocked not only by an anti-acqua-alta board but also a range of rails on the inside. So it was with some excitement that we rounded the corner to find that the main west door was open too … Continue reading

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