Don’t use lemon shampoo. The smell makes you want to taste it, and when you do it tastes like shampoo.


I knew Trump’s performance in Russia this week reminded me something: it’s the denouement of Iolanthe:

Fairy Queen: You have all incurred death; but I can’t slaughter the whole company! And yet the law is clear – every fairy must die who marries a mortal!

Lord Chancellor: Allow me, as an old Equity draftsman, to make a suggestion. The subtleties of the legal mind are equal to the emergency. The thing is really quite simple – the insertion of a single word will do it. Let it stand that every fairy shall die who doesn’t marry a mortal, and there you are, out of your difficulty at once!

Fairy Queen: We like your humour.

Just got back from a three-week tour that took me to Brest, Lyon, Besançon and Paris. As ever, I was on the receiving end of wonderfully generous French hospitality in every location. In Brest, I was speaking at the Grafematik conference. My presentation is the third one on this playlist:

On my way home to Cornwall from High Wycombe last week, out of curiosity I dropped in at Horsleys Green. The entire Wycliffe Centre, including the new dining room, has been razed to the ground. My old office was literally a pile of matchwood. It was spooky, and made me reflect on the transience of all things.

Sheku’s playing at the royal wedding on Saturday was extraordinary. When the du Prés say “He’s the first cellist since Jackie who has that natural and vibrant abandonment when playing”, you know it’s time to sit up and listen.

And being out of the country for so long, I’ve only just caught up with the fact that there are seven Kanneh-Mason children, all musicians.


… a single day of sunshine gets a slot on the national evening news.

…the kitchen cupboards are full of powdered this and powdered that:

  • Coffee powder
  • Gravy powder
  • Curry powder
  • Mashed potato powder
  • Soup powder
  • Egg powder
  • Mustard powder
  • Custard powder
I wasn’t aware of this national obsession until I lived elsewhere. The only one we have in Togo is milk powder.


Three years ago, according to the UN, Togo was the least happy place in the world. But it is the biggest improver in the 2018 World Happiness rankings report, rising 18 places.

Yet here on the ground, people are not noticeably happier or unhappier, and my neighbours and friends spend a lot of their time laughing their heads of.

Black-Crowned-Crane-flying-700x3501.jpgJust arrived home after a three day safari at the Pendjari game park in the north of Benin. Lions, elephants, hippos, crocs yes, but the highlight for me was seeing a flock of 97 black crowned cranes – a threatened species – soaring overhead.