AT FIRST, I can’t see what Andrew is pointing at. He is clearly excited, but all I can see is a huge, domed bramble bush … and then, among the wiry branches, I begin to make out the shape of antlers. They are brilliantly disguised, and the stag beneath them is standing perfectly still, as if caught in a game of hide and seek.
I WAS GIVEN another three notebooks for Christmas: a classic fiery orange Moleskine with elasticated binder and internal pocket; a beautiful little hand-designed and branded black notebook from a friend who runs a graphic design company in Berlin; and - from my daughter, Lucy - an American Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, originally designed for woodsmen in Tacoma, WA, and perfect for damp birding trips in the UK. That one is the colour of beech leaves in mid-summer.
WHEN I WAS just 17, Simon & Garfunkel released the album Bookends, which included the plaintive song of ageing Old Friends.
The first verse sets the scene. ‘Old friends sat on a park bench like bookends. A newspaper blown through the grass falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends.’
OKAY, IN that spirit of honesty and openness now so casually disregarded by politicians worldwide, let me declare an interest: Galvin at Windows on the 28th floor of the London Park Lane Hilton is not only one of my long-term favourite restaurants, it is run by people I've known for more than a decade and who I would like to think of as friends (if they'll have me).
BACK STORIES are a rich source of information and entertainment, but we have evolved not to think about them because absolutely everything has its own history - and dwelling on the history of everything can lead to cognitive overload. It’s a shame, though, because we miss so much - we look without seeing. And so I’m going to offer you a practical exercise in curiosity.
WE STOPPED FOR lunch in Peyriac-de-mer, a tiny village not far from Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast. It was warm enough to sit outside in the village square, and we ordered the menu du jour: a creditable tapenade with local ham followed by grilled lamb chops, artichokes and sautéed potatoes. It was a wonderful, simple and homely meal, which made me think of the gastro pubs in the English county of Kent, where we live and how most of them had begun to over-reach themselves, influenced (like their customers) by TV shows including The Great British Menu, which celebrate complexity.