Friday, March 30, 2018


Outside the door of my local supermarket there's often a homeless man or woman squatting on the pavement. They've changed over the years - the beggar is more likely to be a refugee nowadays - but this specific location seems to be known to the disenfranchised as a kindly one. I am certainly not the only person who has stopped and talked for a while, given money and/or a coffee and sandwich to one or more of these citizens of nowhere.

A few years ago I had several conversations with one of them, a grizzled fellow of indeterminate age, always accompanied by a large brown dog lying quietly under a blanket beside him. I learned that the man had a leg injury, was on a list to be moved into a council flat in a few months but the list was long and he was sleeping rough while waiting. Some time passed and then he was gone from that spot by the supermarket door. 

Yesterday he was there again, same grizzled face, same brown dog, same blanket. Now here's the thing:

I didn't stop to speak to him or give him money or a sandwich. I was annoyed, suspicious. How come he's back again, I thought, it's been years! He was probably lying about the council flat or else they threw him out for drunkenness or something. My benevolent concern for an unfortunate stranger evaporated in an instant. Why? Because his reality seemed to mock me. Disapproval of the man's flaws, whatever they might be, cancelled out the genuine compassion I had felt initially. So it turns out to be all about me, not him at all.

This is my lesson to myself for Easter and Passover and Spring. Kindness, compassion, generosity, concern, are riches we possess and can give away freely, abundantly, spontaneously, without motive, without afterthought, without judgment, without expecting anything in return. Simply given away to float freely in the air, like apple blossoms floating to the ground.

The photo below is not of the man outside my local supermarket but it's not unlike him. It's one I took several years ago of a beggar in Paris.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Did you know that peeling an onion cures a heavy cold? Neither did I. But I peeled an onion and cried as usual and then my heavy cold (are there any light ones?) was cured. Today I am nearly cold-free and I could say it's because the onion cured me but it might also be because the cold was getting better anyway.

All you have to do is assert something in an assertive way:

Photo of cold-puffy celebrity peeling onion.
Bright-eyed celebrity interviewed moments after miraculous onion-cure.
Millions of tweeters tweet that they've always known it, grandma used to rub their chests with a raw onion.
Other tweeters tweet that it's all cobblers.
But by then onions have sold out in all the shops.

My cold really is better though. And the onion I peeled went in the chicken soup.

Monday, March 12, 2018


Sitting in the National Portrait Gallery cafe on 2nd October 2007 I noticed Ken Dodd having tea at another table. Having just seen the portrait of him by David Cobley I decided to go over and ask Ken what he thought of it. He was with his partner Ann Jones. Both were very friendly and we had a conversation as if we were old acquaintances.

Apart from occasional flights of brilliant and surreal invention, his brand of comedy was never really my thing. But I will always remember open, unpretentious and gracious Ken Dodd with affection from that serendipitous meeting and the autograph he gave me has been pinned above my desk ever since.

Monday, March 05, 2018


Teeth. Do you want to talk about teeth? I'll go ahead anyway. A bit of torture at the dentist this morning motivates me.

I was born with wonky teeth. They showed up when baby teeth usually show up. Why didn't my parents notice? Why didn't they take me to an orthodontist immediately? Because it was Paris and they were busy having a good time, I suppose but I could be wrong. Anyway I grew up with wonky teeth, too crowded, whatever. Later in America I was the odd one out in school because all the kids were giants with perfect teeth. 99% of Americans have perfect teeth, it must be all that milk. I was (am) short, hated milk, had buck teeth and spoke with a French accent. As time went by I adapted and my smile was good enough, sexy enough to get by in this tooth-eat-tooth world. 

However, there's always a big however if you're born with wonkies, and as much more time went by the wonkiness played up. I'll skip the details but below is a page from my book Augustine's True Confession (1979) just to illustrate this post. If you want to read the book (it's good and not about teeth) I'll send you a copy, signed, for £10 plus postage. Yes that was a commercial break, an honest one.

As I was saying, lots of time went by and now it's today and I've just been tortured at the dentist because another loose tooth had to go. So today I have only 12 teeth of my own, 4 at the top and 8 at the bottom. Yesterday I had 13.

I know I shouldn't be talking about this because it's a secret. We who are afflicted D starts with dent.....Got it? We who have those fakes have to pretend they're real. But they ain't, right? Fake news ain't real news and never shall be. That's all for today.

Please note well: the page below (from the book) was written in 1979. I do not have pain in my mouth today. The injection before today's extraction was painful but it's gone now and I'm fine.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Snow is definitely photogenic. Here's my contribution to the snowstorm of snow pics. No snowflakes were harmed in the process. I was snugly hidden at home behind a window.