Wayward: Just Another Life to Live by Vashti Bunyan

Pop music doesn’t go in much for redemption as a rule, but Bunyan’s life is – characteristically – resolutely atypical. She seems like Hermione, Leontes’ wife in The Winters’ Tale, turned to stone for twenty years and then returned, movingly, to life. If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re familiar with the outlines... Continue Reading →

The House of Dudley by Joanne Paul

As the nine-year-old Edward VI rode through London on the way to his coronation in Westminster Abbey in February 1547, he paused for a while to watch a man perform on a tightrope strung from the steeple of St Paul’s. He might have been advised to study the man who rode ahead of him too.... Continue Reading →

The discovery of Parkinson’s Disease

At 10am on 7 October 1794 a 39-year-old physician named James Parkinson presented himself in Whitehall for interrogation by William Pitt and the Privy Council. They were investigating what became known as the Popgun Plot, an alleged attempt to assassinate George III. Parkinson, a member of the radical London Corresponding Society, knew some of those... Continue Reading →

Dante’s exile from Florence

Late-medieval Florence was riven by factional disputes based on support for or opposition to papal power. Dante Alighieri, for a brief time one of the city’s six governing officials, was part of the latter party. But after Charles of Valois entered the city in November 1301, Dante’s allies were overthrown; and on 27 January 1301,... Continue Reading →

Evensong by Richard Morris

If you stand outside the former Augustinian priory of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London before evensong, twice a month, you can hear the sound of late medieval London. It is the only active church in the country to have a ring of five bells cast before the Reformation – in this... Continue Reading →

Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn

Cloud islands, they are called. The peaks of the Usumbara Mountains in Tanzania rise so high that fogs form on their slopes where the cool mountain air meets warmer currents rising off the sea. The climate has created a unique ecosystem, as real islands do, and much of the wildlife is unique to the area.... Continue Reading →

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

It is like a scene from a Hayao Miyazaki anime: a French WWI pilot, gliding down at twilight over enemy lines, finds himself surrounded by a flock of swifts seemingly motionless in the air. They are asleep on the wing, so close by he might reach out and touch them. The phenomenon was largely unknown... Continue Reading →

The History of Magic by Chris Gosden

"Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality," TS Eliot wrote in the Four Quartets, the fruit of his own long struggle with spiritual torment. Eliot ultimately found solace in the late-medieval Christian mysticism of Julian of Norwich, but his point still stands: what reality is and how we learn to bear it has been... Continue Reading →

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑