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  • Following the diagram in Lisbon

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    In Lisbon I much enjoyed the metro system, which is full of art and something of which the city is clearly proud. Its diagram uses Metrolis, a custom font from The Foundry. The lines are called seagull, sunflower, caravelle and orient: they have over-fussy graphics that don't quite fit the clean diagram. On the trains themselves the maps can get interesting too. I'm not colour blind but couldn't quite work out why the linear maps seem to turn in on themselves so much. Metrobits.org has a page which lists the fonts used in some 17 metro systems and (if you're listening Santa) I now have to add Metro Maps of the World (new edition, Mark Ovenden) to my Christmas list.
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  • On the up: a vertical pier for Brighton

    The designers of the London Eye, architects Marks & Barfield, are confident that their upwardly mobile replacement for the wrecked West Pier will be open by 2011. Work has already begun on the i360 project which has already been dubbed an 'iSore' by its critics. It will consist of a 100-person fibreglass pod which will gently rise up a 144 yard tall steel cylinder, giving unmatched views of the city, sea and downs.

    Marks & Barfield place their design in the tradition of other south coast examples of pioneering architecture (presumably such as the modernist De La Warr Pavilion). The seaside attraction will be topped by wind turbines which will provide some of the power needed to operate it. The West Pier Trust still hopes it will eventually rebuild the elegant pier which was the star of Ken Russell's 'Oh what a lovely war!' as well as featuring in several of the 'Carry On' films.


  • Spiced celeriac soup with orange

    Celeriac is a daunting vegetable: a great big knobbly thing that looks like it will be difficult to tackle. But it is worth the (small) effort and makes a wonderful, rich soup when combined with other seasonal vegetables.


    • Half a large celeriac, peeled and cubed
    • One and a half large potatoes, cubed
    • Two large carrots, cubed
    • One large leek, sliced
    • Glass of orange juice
    • Tin of large white chick peas
    • 3 pints approximately of vegetable stock
    • Ras-el-hanout Moroccan spice mix*


    Lightly sauté the leek in oil and leave to sweat down by covering the saucepan.

    Add all the other ingredients with the exception of the chick peas. Add the vegetable stock (I use Marigold stock powder, but don't make this too strong). Cook for around 20 minutes.

    Once the vegetables are soft use a hand-blender to reduce to a rich, creamy consistency. Add and warm through the chick peas and season with salt and pepper as required.

    *Ras-el-hanout is a subtle blend of spices which includes cloves, cardamon and ginger. It is an excellent compliment to the earthy celery flavour of celeriac.

  • Mutatis mutandis

    The anniversary of the death of my father reminds me of another sad loss this year. Germain Guillemin was a man of gentle patience, a skilled marine engineer and later a hard-working local councillor. When I was just 17, he and his wife gave me a perfect introduction to French life. Each day he came home for a glorious three-course lunch. Afterwards he and Nicole sat close and drank coffee together, in easy companionship. It was bliss and it seems like another age.

  • Barbara


    An old friend died today. She was at home in bed and there was a horrible fire. Her partner had left for work, she called for help from the window but it was no good - nobody got to her. She was still in her forties. Not even the dog and cat she loved so much were saved.

    Life had been really difficult for her lately. Her mother dead, the family home sold. Depression. But she had this easy laugh that bubbled up from somewhere deep inside her and her smart questions always left me struggling for an answer.

    When we were young anything seemed possible, but things don't always work out. I'm thinking of her now, looking hard at me, tossing her head, and laughing.