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  • naivasha roses

    The terrible price of Kenyan flowers

    Not so long ago, roses were expensive. Now you can get six blooms for £4 at my local Tescos. The real cost of cheap flowers was revealed to me in all its horror in March 2010when we visited Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, a large freshwater lake in the Rift Valley, formerly home to a thriving eco-system, teeming with fish and birds,

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  • Guitarist jeff beck

    Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton: Together and Apart

    Last night Moth, Rupert and I trekked down to east London to the O2 arena (the former milliennium dome) to see Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton on stage ‘Together and Apart’. Despite defying the rules of both alphabetical order and talent, Clapton was top of the bill on the hoardings and on the souvenir T shirts. It was clear even

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  • Vincent’s DNA exposed in a letter – the artist was prolific letter writer

    Note: The F and JH numbers in this blog are standard references used by van Gogh scholars to refer to specific works, rather like scientists use Latin names to refer to species. The Real Van Gogh: the Artist and his Letters Today, 29 January 2010, I went to see The Real Van Gogh: the Artist and his Letters exhibition at

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  • Van Gogh’s Letters: the books

    After 15 years of work, the Van Gogh Museum has published an astonishing six volume set of the complete letters of Vincent van Gogh.  Building on the groundbreaking work done by the late Jan Hulsker, the authors have set a standard in art publishing that it’s hard to see will be bettered. A more thorough piece of work is hard

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  • With Gauguin in Brittany

    This year has been a bit of a Paul Gauguin year for me really. Here he is. ...

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  • Making a drypoint

    Making a drypoint: Still life in Eynsham

    I’ve just finished making a picture, called Still life in Eynsham, a portrait of the village where I live. I’m calling it Still life in Eynsham because that’s what it is: a series of elements fitted together to produce a pleasing arrangement in exactly the same way you would a still life of fruit, flowers or similar. I like the

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  • Lynyrd Skynyrd

    God bless Lynyrd Skynyrd

    On Thursday night we went to see Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd perform at Birmingham’s NIA.  Their heyday was the mid 1970s, during which they produced two of their best-loved songs, Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. I confess I find all that long, flowing hair, cowboy boots and twangy, jangly insistent and riffy guitar absolutely irresistible. If you’re thinking “hang

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  • Paul Gauguin’s grave

    On the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa artist Paul Gauguin is buried. I’ve had a strange relationship with Gauguin over the years; I’ve admired his single-minded vision, his bold compositions loaded with meaning and his dazzling use of colour. But I’ve always been uncomfortable with his abandoning his family and taking teenage Tahitian brides, and blamed him for the sharp

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  • Jacques Brel’s grave

    Jacques who? I knew nothing of Jacques Brel until I kept bumping into him during my research into the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa. In the French-speaking world singer-songwriter Brel is as famous, as legendary and revered as perhaps Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen is in the anglophone world. Such is his popularity he has sold 12 million albums in

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  • Tikis at the edge of the world

    The French Polynesian islands of the Marquesas, make up the archipelago farthest from any continent in the world, lying more than 3000 miles from Mexico. Being so remote and isolated for so long, the islands are home to rare flora and fauna. The archipelago was first colonised by people in about 100 AD, probably by Samoans. The people remained neolithic

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  • Quagga – a great striped hope

    One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, on 12 August 1883, the last quagga died in Amsterdam zoo. ...

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  • Carlos Santana

    Carlos Santana, right in front of our eyes

    Last night at the NEC arena in Birmingham, Moth and I had the good fortune to be right at the front at a Santana gig. And I mean right at the front, pressed against the crash barrier there he was, ...

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  • The hills are alive with the sound of birdsong

    We got back from Sardinia at the end of last week after nine fascinating days. From my point of view there's plenty to see and do. We did a good deal of stone-hugging; ancient monuments litter the mountainous landscape. Here's me at Li Lolghi tomba ...

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  • Neil Young at Hammersmith Apollo

    The day finally arrived when we would see legendary Canadian musician ...

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  • David Attenborough

    A moment with David Attenborough

    Last night I dreamt me and Moth arrived in New Zealand and met David Attenborough, who was expecting us and greeted us like old friends. He took us to see an elephant seal colony… Fantasy perhaps, but today part of that dream came true… I met my hero, David Attenborough, at a book signing at Borders in Oxford. When last

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  • Vincent's harvest landscape

    Vincent’s harvest landscape

    I’ve been working on this painting Vincent’s harvest landscape since October and I’ve finally completed it: It’s based on Vincent’s own painting Harvest landscape which he painted in July 1888. His painting is such a joyous celebration of the landscape to the east of Arles and I find it deeply moving. I could dissect it for you and tell you

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