Chekhov: death and dying

There are quite a number of Chekhov’s short stories that deal in the business of dying and death:‘ The Bishop’, ‘Typhus’, and ‘A Tragic Actor’ are examples. However, my favourite is ‘A Dreary Story From the Notebook of an Old Man’. I suppose I am drawn to the story because our protagonist is an aging…

What are so many straight trees to me?

Frieda Weekley met DH Lawrence in March 1912. She later eloped with him, leaving her husband Ernest Weekley and her three children. After obtaining her divorce, they were married in July 1914. This blog is about the complex ramifications of a woman leaving her children and her husband for her lover.   I have known…

Aromatics of Desire

Pheromones are the lineal ancestors of hormones as EO Wilson says. These chemical signals have several outstanding advantages. Small amounts can produce a signal that lasts for hours. They are energetically cheap to manufacture and can be broadcast quite readily. At one extreme they can cover barely a few millimetres. At the other extreme they…

Icelandic Sagas- ways of living and dying

I don’t know whether you know about Nkisi nkodi. It is a Kongo nailed figure, a container or statue of forces directed at an end. It is one of the most potent figures of African art. The nails are hammered into the wood whilst ritual curses are spoken. Each object may have dozens of these…

Wub, swibble & pizzled- neologisms and meaning

  I've cycled to Quarteira from Vilamoura, distance of just under 5 miles. It's a very warm morning. The sun is a strong even searing midday brightness glistening and bouncing off the sea. Even I with my dark eyes, have to squint. This is November but it could easily be midsummer.   The restaurants are…

Variegation, difference and other matters

It is now decidedly Autumn. The leaves are about all turned or already fallen off their branches. The pavements have that irritating layer of sodden, rotting leaves. Our back garden has the wonderful show of brown and reddish yellow, of mustard and red pepper, of berries and the yet to be plucked speckled apples. It…

Winter Blues: I begin to discern the profile of my death

  Oliver Sacks has just revealed that he has terminal cancer. This sad news from the voice of humane medicine put me in mind of Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian, an account of the last days of a great man, looking back and forwards, in a letter to Marcus Aurelius.     The letter opens…