My five year old sits at the table, pencil in hand, forming letters on the page. Most are clear enough, although his s’s, p’s and d’s are often reversed. He’s trying to remember to use full stops.

I’m constantly amazed that he is learning to read and write. I probably shouldn’t be. Continue reading

Why do politicians sell their plans to grow the economy as if that is the solution to all our problems?

Yes, rich countries are generally happier than poor ones, and rich people are generally happier than poor people. But money only buys happiness up to a point. Continue reading

After retiring from a career on the fringes of 1930s British academia, Lewis Fry Richardson was ready to indulge his passion for the mathematics of war. He wanted to test a theory that the incidence of conflict between countries is systematically related to the length of their common borders. Continue reading

How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?

– E. M. Forster

In his 16th century essay on books, the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne set down his opinions on various writers, philosophers and poets, and was surprisingly candid about not ‘getting’ some works regarded as great by the experts.

I had everything a man could want…. I was a millionaire. I had beautiful women in my life. I had cars, a house, an incredible solid gold career and a future. And yet on a daily basis I wanted to commit suicide. Eric Clapton was one of the most successful rock stars on the planet. […]

It could be the result of keeping an unreasonably tidy house while it was on the market, or moving into a terrace with no wardrobe; or it could be the mountains of things that attach themselves to my children. Whatever the cause, lately I have been in the grip of a decluttering frenzy. Continue reading