Notebook

City-states are back

With globalism disrupted by Covid, cities offer a tried and tested way of binding people together.

Missing the theatre of everyday life

While celebrity has ruined many a talent, the rest of us miss those small public performances in the pub or theatre, which make life that little bit more exciting.

Singing Byrd in a cage

Tudor composer William Byrd concealed his true faith in music – and his yearning for a return to better times resonates with us today in the chimes of the chapel choir.

Rediscovering Germany

The pandemic coincided with the 30th anniversary of the reunification of Germany – the crisis is a chance to find that sense of optimism again.

Blinded by the light

Blindness offers a metaphor for the perils of worldly delusion. And the physically blind can sometimes discover new ways of seeing.

Maggi Hambling and the trouble with statues

Statues have become the object of frenzied debate in recent months. They must persist, at least, as a memorial to themselves – to stand above fleeting passions in reach of the eternal.

Thank goodness for gardens

Throughout history communal spaces have provided refuge and reconnection. We need them more than ever.

Neverending story

Sometimes when a tale concludes we want to know what happens next to fascinating characters. Even Shakespeare leaves his readers wondering.

When artists retrain

The fine hand of the artist and the musician has gone a long way for some of history’s great and terrible figures.

The medieval mobile home

‘Home is homely, though it be poore in sight,’ wrote J.Heywood in 1546. Heywood is an obscure author but many people today will agree with him, having

Alexander Mosaic (detail), House of the Faun, Pompeii

Like so many Alexanders

Few historical figures have left such a lasting impression on such a variety of cultures as Alexander the Great.

Good poetry in a crisis

Seamus Heaney’s poems are a valuable, moving register of individual intimacy and national pain.

On the art of metallurgy

Georgius Agricola’s De Re Metallica gives us a fascinating insight into the late medieval view of metal and its uses.

The enduring spirit of cricket

Cricket was one of the few sports that was played near-normally this summer – its modern form is a welcome emblem of global connection.

The demon of the house

The pandemic has forced us all to live more wholesome lives, but some danger still exists between the pages of the novel.

Waugh’s war

Evelyn Waugh’s humour is sparkling and amusing, but with its anti-authority jibes and social commentary it is more than just a light laugh.

Essaying a genre

The classical essay – with all its ease, polished prose, and trivial subjects – is a medium we would do well to re-capture.

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