• From Financial Times Weekend December 2008 [column width="47%" padding="6%"] In the search for enlightenment, a pilgrimage is the opposite of a retreat. The pilgrim keeps moving, usually on foot, the better to learn from people and places along the way. Hiking has a similar appeal, and most walking enthusiasts would subscribe to St Augustine’s simple faith in the trek - ambulando solvitur – ‘As you walk, all is resolved’. Except, possibly, in the Holy Land itself. St George’s College, Jerusalem, is piloting a new one-week course called Hike the Holy Land, which aims to give visitors short on time a taste of pilgrimage. Eight of us have signed up, in an age range from 34 to 73, a cheerful group

    Dec 23,
  • Bigging up the Short Story November 2008 www.theshortstory.org [column width="47%" padding="6%"] Talking up the short story is an admirable enterprise, especially in Britain. The short story has been having a hard time, with outlets for publication shrinking and collections barely able to reach an agent’s desk. The idea of short stories making money has become as quaint a notion as travelling by commercial balloon. It is therefore quite right, and compatible with the national instinct, to support the underdog. We take the side of the short story and try to big it up. One way of doing this, which short story enthusiasts will recognise, is to suggest that a story is as challenging to write as a novel. Each line

    Nov 23,
  • Visitors to this year’s Rugby World Cup will notice, at least during daylight hours, that the natives are speaking a foreign language. This is the first tournament hosted by a non-English-speaking nation, and in its rugby vocabulary France insists that the game is more than muscles and bish-bosh, even at scrum-time. Le scrum is not a word that rugbymen across the Channel decided to adopt. They could have done so, alongside le drop, but for the heart of the battle they revived instead la mêlée, a word last used in a competitive context in the 11th century. In the medieval period la mêlée was used to describe collisions of courtly knights in mock battles. Plus ça change. In rugby, too,

    Sep 11,
  • I’ve been trying to remember what happened on the school’s first overseas rugby tour, to France in 1984. And despite serious effort and middle-aged habit, I can’t honestly claim that things were better in the old days. Spending a week in a disused police barracks outside Toulouse was not many people’s idea of fun, even then. Nor do I imagine, back in the twentieth century just as now, that many nutritionists or tourist board officials would have approved our welcoming dinner of boiled horse. There was also the challenge of braving deepest French rugby country with masters-in-charge who were experts in English and Chemistry. Perhaps it was linguistic confusion, then, which had us playing local youth teams for whom everyone

    Jun 26,
  • Choke Chain In the absence of James Campbell’s formidable memory, a view of College sport over the last sixty years becomes dependent on the club pages of the Pembroke Gazette. Fortunately, at least in its sports section, the little blue book can be made to yield to statistical analysis. Since 1945 in all sports except rowing, as recorded in the Gazette, Pembroke has managed outright Championship or Cuppers wins on thirty occasions. I include the unbeaten cricket season of 1947, even though that year’s cricket team professed themselves ‘free from the anxieties of competitions.’ Nevertheless. Over a sixty year period the maths couldn’t be easier: we have a habit of being the best in at least one University sport about

    Jun 26,