Assuming anyone can be bothered to make the trip, I think I’d like my ashes scattered at the Secret Cat Place on Torcello. Though alas, even Torcello is going a bit downhill, since today, for the first time ever, there was another couple at the Secret Cat Place when we arrived, sitting down as though they owned it, which – though possible – is unlikely as they were speaking Spanish. Continue reading

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Robert Harrild and Sons

Just as everything is connected to everything else, so one thing leads to another. I was leafing through an ancient copy of Country Life in the doctor’s waiting room the other day, and was electrified to see a photograph of half an Albion press which clearly had the words on it ‘Harrild and Sons’. Having (to my shame) come across the name of Robert Harrild only a week before, I wisely concluded that Fate was nudging me to have a further look at him … Continue reading

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St Antholin’s

4 September 1666 is generally reckoned to have been the most destructive day of the Great Fire of London, during which large amounts of the city on the north bank of the Thames were razed to the ground. The lost buildings included many churches, and it was the determination to replace many of these on their original sites which – as well as insoluble wranglings about land ownership and rights of way – caused the reconstruction of the area to end up being dov’ era, if not quite com’ era. Continue reading

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Father of the More Famous

I’m currently reading a book about Sir Joseph Banks as an Enlightenment figure (yes, I probably should get out more), and was struck by this quotation: ‘Mann [the Abbé Mann (1735–1809), a Yorkshire Catholic convert and savant who became a soldier, then a monk, then a secular scientist] closed his letter by congratulating Banks on “the inestimable blessing of being in a free country”.’ Continue reading

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The Unusual Grand Tour of Sir J.E. Smith

Although, in my previous existence, I had been involved in reissuing the hagiographic two-volume ‘life and letters’ of Sir J.E. Smith (1759–1828), founding president of the Linnean Society, written by his delightfully named widow, Pleasance, I did not actually read it until quite recently. The work was published in 1832, by the firm of Longman at its most expansively partner-ridden: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: August 2017

Quasi-familial motives led the Hedgehog ménage to Thessaloniki recently, and a jolly time was had by all, in spite of 40 degrees C, 98% humidity, and the overwhelming nature of Greek hospitality. We had time for a little light sightseeing; and on all our travels to and from the leafy and lofty suburb where we were staying, as well as driving from the airport and back again, I noticed one particular plant which was surviving and thriving on roadsides and waste land in the extremely parched landscape. Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: July 2017

Regrets, I’ve had a few … but none so profound as for the fatal day on which I gratefully accepted a kind neighbour’s gift of a single plant of Meconopsis cambrica. Up to my oxters (whatever they are) in the stuff today, I marvelled at the foolishness of my distant youth, when – even more ignorant about horticulture than I am today – all I wanted was plants to fill my newly acquired garden, most of which had previously existed as paving and a jerry-built shed, the electric lighting to which was achieved by a cable loosely draped across the said paving, itself so badly laid that the cable mostly sat in pools of water. Continue reading

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