Berlin in June

Such beautiful blue skies! Parks, pleasure boats on the Spree and across the imperial parade ground a soft breeze from the east cools the walls of the restored Reichstag, and stands up the tricolour of black and red and gold. Through the warm afternoon, electric scooters bearing citizens glide to and fro. These mellow scenes […]

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Antrim after rain

We kill one hundred head of cattle each week explained the old man sitting back in his chair, a Presbyterian from the south with an ecumenical constitution and a paper napkin tucked over his tie so that crumbs from his cream bun scatter onto the boardroom table. And pigs to china: tonnes of pork meat […]

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Raising boys

Against the mountain weather Jake is wearing a balaclava. Braced, completely concentrated, he is inching down the piste, Jake is eight and his thighs are wobbling with the effort, so that sweat licks down his red hair and his little skis rasp on the ice. Keep going Snake! I shout. You’re a beauty. Waiting for […]

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The deepwater port at Piraeus

At Piraeus’s deepwater port ends Europe where Themistocles built his navy sheds and high walls against the Persians, walls to protect the precious Athenian way of life. Now Europe ends in concrete and quayside cranes made elsewhere, raised over the sea to process containers sat waiting in the sunshine. An international ship approaches slows and […]

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Swimming for England (complete)

“And time passes, it is only life itself that never changes – when we are all gone the clouds, the gone the clouds, the stars, the cities will still bustle and hum with no thoughts at all for who lived for a bit and then disappeared.” John Hickman, 1960 Chapters The Bosphorus Page 3 Alcatraz […]

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February morning / the 7.18 to London

A press of metal on metal, the simplest trick and yet the most important, so soft and true we might be starting on runners in the snow, leaning something heavy against a tree. Any man’s walk, his run, now a dash by a free horse, steady, incrementing around a bend and we are travelling. A […]

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Swimming for England (extract)

One week before they flew to Turkey he met Eric for a final training swim. It was dusk and warm. As he waded into the cool water he was overwhelmed with despair. When he put his head down into the dark water and began a slow crawl towards the centre of the lake voices of […]

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