Category Archives: Journalism

H.M.

economist-logoEACH time Suzanne Corkin met H.M. during one of his visits to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she would ask him if they had met before. He would smile and say yes, and when she asked him where he would reply, “In high school.” They did not actually meet until he was in his late 30s, but they worked together for nearly five decades, and the last time they met he still failed to recognise her. The most she ever elicited in him was a sense of familiarity…

This article first appeared in the Economist on 18 December 2008. To continue reading click here

Wanda

titlepieceI met Wanda (pronounced Vanda) in late 2003, a year before she became my mother-in-law. She was nearly 80 and her mind was as sharp as a scalpel. Behind her glasses, her pale-blue eyes sparkled with intelligence. She disliked sentimentality but was a sucker for beauty, and would gaze in rapture at the ice-dancing on television. She was happy when surrounded by family, but she had a more private pleasure too: losing herself in the city. She would wander aimlessly through the streets of London and, though short-sighted, would leave her glasses behind when she went…

This article first appeared in the Guardian on 9 June 2007. To continue reading click here.

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How time flies

titlepieceTHE old man shields his eyes against the fierce light of the Altiplano and considers the question. When he talks about his ancestors, does he mean the Incas? No, he replies in a sort of Spanish creole, he means his great-great-grandfather. And with his right hand he makes a rotating gesture up and forwards from his body. The Incas, he adds, came way earlier. And with the same hand he sweeps even further forward, towards the mountains on the horizon…

This article first appeared in the Guardian on 24 February 2005. To continue reading click here.

Furry logic

titlepieceIT was an ordinary day at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC. Five orang utans were milling about the yard of the exhibit called the think tank, playing intermittently with a barrel that a keeper had rolled out for them. By the time staff had realised that the power to the electric fence on top of the wall had failed, orang utan Bonnie had up-ended the barrel, scaled it and escaped. Mingling with the zoo’s visitors, her baby son Kiko clinging to her body, she headed for lunch…

This article first appeared in the Guardian on 19 June 2003. To continue reading click here.