Monday, February 27, 2012


One of the highlights of my Roman holiday was a visit to the Galleria Borghese which, in spite of being plundered by Napoleon, still has a marvellous collection of ancient and less ancient sculptures. Bernini is one of its stars. At the age of 24 in 1622 he began to sculpt this life size representation of Apollo pursuing Daphne which took him three years to complete.
Apollo's love for the nymph Daphne was unrequited so he determined to take her by force. He chased after her but just as he was about to put his arms around her, Daphne called to her father, the river god Peneus, to save her. He did so by changing her into a laurel tree. In Bernini's statue you can see her fingers sprouting leaves, her toes roots and the bark of the tree enveloping her left leg. The statue is remarkable for its conveyance of motion with Daphne's hair flying up and Apollo's robe sailing behind and of course the beautiful symmetry of Apollo's right hand behind and Daphne's left hand up in the air in front. It is perfect and interesting from every angle and I am sorry that I'm only showing you one angle here. You'll have to go and see it, if you haven't already done so!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Back next Monday

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Letter of the day

Sir, I recently asked my late wife's credit card company to cancel her account. I was rather taken aback by the response of the Indian call centre employee, who asked me if I was the executioner.
I think he meant executor!
Dave Cole

Today's FT

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poem of the day

O my Love's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Love's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Love!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Love,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!

Robert Burns

Monday, February 13, 2012

Poem of the day

'Tis good—the looking back on Grief—
To re-endure a Day—
We thought the Mighty Funeral—
Of All Conceived Joy—

To recollect how Busy Grass
Did meddle—one by one—
Till all the Grief with Summer—waved
And none could see the stone.

And though the Woe you have Today
Be larger—As the Sea
Exceeds its Unremembered Drop—
They're Water—equally—

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Off piste

My dear friend K invited me to a weekend at a spa outside Bath, suggesting that it would be the perfect antidote to Christmas and New Year entertaining and January blues. In the relaxation room of the spa after our treatments on Saturday, we joked about how enticing the hot outdoor pool looked amidst the haze of snowflakes which had started to cascade from the sky. At around 4pm we drove into Bath for a stroll around the shops. We couldn't find much to excite us: a cashmere sale and an exotic oil and vinegar shop were the highlights of our spree. The snow was getting quite heavy and at 5.30pm we thought we'd go back to our hotel.
Well, it was a good idea. The problem was that the hotel was in a bowl, surrounded by hills and the snow was so treacherous that it was impossible to drive up any of lanes over the hills. Up a hill we drove until we could go no further. Down a hill we reversed, skidding along the ice. Three hills and two hours later we decided to abandon the car. A fellow strandee assured us that the hotel was just over the hill and around the corner. Off we marched into the blizzard.
A mile later, decidedly damp and with no sign of civilisation or hotel gates, our enthusiasm for the Great March was waning. We then stumbled across an army barracks. "Come on!" I urged K, "Let's shelter in the sentry hut and call the hotel to collect us." The soldiers, once they were assured that we were not some abominable snowman terrorist threat, were jolly company and we phoned the hotel. Our rescue car arrived within 10 minutes: the entrance to the hotel was literally around the corner!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sixty years

Many congratulations and best wishes to Her Majesty.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A stitch in time

My colleague's son is on his year abroad from SOAS, studying Mandarin at Beijing University. He's sharing a house with three other friends from England and enjoying all the night life that Beijing has to offer. They had exams just before Chinese New Year. Stumbling around in the house that morning, the boy trod on a wine glass and badly cut his foot. One of his house mates bandaged it for him and he went off to do the morning exam. At the end of the three hour paper, his foot did not feel well and he saw that his shoe was brimming with blood. He went to the hospital, was seen immediately, had it stitched up and was back in time for his 2pm exam. And he passed!