Why Estonian?

When I say I’m learning Estonian, people (even Estonians) often ask why. I have a number of answers at the ready, depending on who’s asking and whether I think they really want to know. My shortest response is: why not? If they are looking at me as though I’m mad, I might add that I’ve … More Why Estonian?

Where the rooves have eyes: 2 days in Sibiu

6 years ago, in October 2011, Ellie Knott took me to Transylvania. We had been travelling to Europe together for years: from Disneyland Paris, through the red-light districts of Lyons, Cologne and Berlin (“mother, don’t stand on the street corner”), to cocktail bars in Madrid, Krakow and Aix (where “Madame et Mademoiselle” became “Mesdames” around … More Where the rooves have eyes: 2 days in Sibiu

Raisins or cherries, the message remains the same

Angela Merkel warned last week against British cherry–picking on Brexit. Or rather, she warned against “Rosinenpickerei”, which literally means raisin-picking. But this is hardly news. On 28 June, 5 days after the referendum, Merkel first included such a warning in a speech to the Bundestag, immediately before the European Council meeting and the first informal … More Raisins or cherries, the message remains the same

Solidarność! Why I went to Harlow on 3 September 2016.

My first encounter with the Polish community was around the age of 8 or 9, when I shared my primary-school desk (one of those old-fashioned affairs, big enough for two and with holes for ink-pots) with a Polish boy called Jon Mikes. Contact with people from central or eastern Europe was unusual then – the … More Solidarność! Why I went to Harlow on 3 September 2016.

Referendum Eve

This is the second vote on Britain’s membership of Europe in my lifetime (and yes I know the Leave brigade will quibble that this isn’t about “Europe” the continent but the EEC/EU but the tenor of the debate shows it’s about something much deeper than that). I can’t pretend to recall the eve of the … More Referendum Eve