Brian’s ‘Memos’

In the late 1990s and early 2000s Brian wrote a collection of mini-essays, which he called his Commonplace Book. He covered a wide range of subjects, personal, political, historical, and whimsical, and we have published some of these writings here. In more than one of these pieces he refers to his thoughts as a ‘Memo’ and we decided to use ‘Memos’ as a collective title.

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A Sketch of My Brother

A Sketch of My Brother It deserves to be recorded, for the abilities and attitudes of his age group had an effect which reached far indeed. At the outbreak of war in 1939 he was seventeen and beginning to be eligible for war service. He had no hesitation in volunteering for the RAF. The family… Continue reading A Sketch of My Brother

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Bétou – an Epitaph

Bétou – an Epitaph When we arrived there nearly thirty* years ago Bétou was – apart from one house still lived in by an elderly Polish couple – the semi-ruined remnants of an ancient hamlet. It was in a remote, rural district of south-western France. Almost the whole of it, including its eighteen or so… Continue reading Bétou – an Epitaph

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Stools

Stools Doctors have always known how important these are. Those of monarchs were studied with great care. Although they hadn’t yet learned to call his disease Porphyria instead of madness, the doctors attending George III took careful note of his purple stools. It’s a pretty good bet that the physicians of ancient Greece, and before… Continue reading Stools

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Thinking

Thinking I do wonder what the process of thinking (as distinct from the mysterious thing called consciousness) actually is. The following are not conclusions but questions as to whether others have the same sort of doubt. Genuine thinkers such as Aquinas or Descartes or Kant or Russell, so I’ve always understood, take a problem to… Continue reading Thinking

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Town and Country

Town and Country November and back from an icy rural France to central London and to read the Times Obit. of Ernst Gombrich. And with it to be reminded of a problem which even his splendid Art And Illusion never quite solved for me. One of my indelible inter-war memories is set in the back of the… Continue reading Town and Country

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Understanding

Understanding What a slippery, chameleon-like word this is, taking its colour from where it finds itself or sometimes dissolving into what can be felt but not translated. Examples? Many years ago people warned me that the late Beethoven quartets were ‘difficult to understand’. What did that mean? Notes are surely nothing but non-linguistic noise? What… Continue reading Understanding

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Wine

A well-known London wine-merchant sends me throughout the year a series of glossy and bulky documents urging me to snap up Bourgeois Growths, Bin-Ends, Special Offers, Fine Wines and ‘En Primeur’ before it’s too late. When I last asked to be deleted from their list – not wanting to be a part of yet another… Continue reading Wine

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Winter in London

Winter in London In climate we southern Brits have a winner. It very rarely gets too hot or cold, too wet or dry. We immediately complain if we have more than a day or two of the gales and ice which the Hebrides take for granted, or the droughts of south western France. We need… Continue reading Winter in London

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