Mistletoe is special. Every culture that comes across the plant mythologizes it and no wonder. To see mistletoe in England at this time of year, a ball of perfect green life suspended in barren branches, it seems a mysterious, even an other-worldly presence: healthy in the teeth of winter, seemingly without roots or any contact […]
I’ve recently noticed a trend for recipes to insist that I absolutely must use unsalted butter. Now I love the creamy taste of locally produced organic butter as much as the next person, it tastes much nicer with honey on bread than the salted sort. Nevertheless I just don’t get why, when I’ve melted my unsalted […]
On holiday driving through the city at three in the morning you realize what life could be like. Gliding across junctions that are normally clogged up and impassable; rolling along sections of road in two minutes that would keep you half an hour in the morning rush hour; crossing the river you’ve scarcely noticed for […]
Travelling around Britain, as I’ve been doing this week, I have been struck, as anyone would be, by the profusion of national flags. Not only are they to be found draped on cars and pinned in bedroom windows this year, the British flag is also being displayed on civic flagpoles, high-street lamp-posts, and pub-signs, and […]
There used to be nothing erotic about grey. Until E. L. James it was, for me, the colour of John Major’s underpants because that’s how Steve Bell always drew them in his cartoons for the British newspaper The Guardian. Grey is the colour of brains (grey matter) but I don’t think that’s the point of […]
Last week I drove north from Oxford for two whole days and arrived at the beautiful south. This is not because I’d done a Francis Drake but because one of the very most northerly parts of the island where I live is called ‘south land’ or ‘Sutherland’. I’d have called it something less confusing but […]
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Word of the Day: flânerie - aimless idle behaviour... oxford.ly/PccljP
In case you missed it: Word of the Day: laconic - using very few words oxford.ly/P7Pq9g
Interactive timeline of loanwords in English: trace how the language has developed over time oxford.ly/1kSNCuM
Esprit de l'escalier: when a witty remark comes to mind after the opportunity to make it has passed. oxford.ly/1kAo2xE