An arcadian scene on a summer's evening - but taken from a busy London road no more than four miles from Charing Cross. Can you name the church whose spire is shown?
Warren Street, that is. At the far northern end, the more lived-in end, of London's still-wonderful-to-explore Fitzrovia. The street dates back to the 1790s, and it's been knocked about a bit. But there's enough here to prompt me, just about every single morning, to get off the Northern Line a stop earlier than common sense suggests, just to have the pleasure of walking to work along Warren Street.
And having a morning cappuccino at this small, friendly corner cafe in what was once, as you can see, a Welsh dairy. It is, happily, a listed building - from the 1790s, and the shopfront is of First World War vintage.
There are any numbers of small cafes and restaurants, including 'Honey', another homely place, which does Middle Eastern food from breakfast time on, and serves up a formidable honey and coconut cake.
The street also boasts a theatre bookshop, an Indian languages bookshop, a flute centre, and a nice pub (below) which used to be called the Marquis of Cornwallis.
My route also takes me past a former pub, now an office furniture store - the model for Patrick Hamilton's rather forlorn pub novel, The Midnight Bell, which also features a down-at-heel brothel not far away on Bolsover Street.
Leading off Warren Street, or close at hand, are a number of mews streets, the always interesting Cleveland Street, and the most wonderful of London squares, Fitzroy Square - with all its Bloomsbury Group connections, a handful of smaller embassies (Croatia, Mozambique) and the still active Indian YMCA.
Who could want more!
A fascinating book in so many ways - which I was lucky to find, though at quite a price, in a London bookshop.
It's a graphic first-hand account of the devastating Bengal Famine of 1943, written by the remarkable Freda Bedi, with unsettling photographs and an arresting dust jacket designed by Sobha Singh.
Freda Bedi was an English woman (she was born Freda Houlston) who at Oxford met and married a Punjabi Sikh, B.P.L. 'Baba' Bedi. She moved with him to Lahore, became an active Indian nationalist and was, like her husband, a communist. I've written about Freda Bedi before, and there are photographs of her elsewhere on this site.
Both Baba and Freda Bedi were keenly involved in Kashmiri politics in the 1940s, supporters of Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference - indeed Baba Bedi is said to have drafted the party's distinctly radical 'New Kashmir' manifesto. Later Freda Bedi embraced Tibetan Buddhism and became a renowned woman religious.
In the first half of the 1940s, Freda Bedi wrote for 'The Tribune' and other titles , and two books of her journalism were published, both now very hard to find - the first was Behind the Mud Walls, followed in 1944 by Bengal Lamenting.
The wartime famine in Bengal was one of the great calamities of modern India. Millions died. 'This small book', Freda Bedi wrote in the foreword to Bengal Lamenting, 'is the record of the month of January, 1944, which I spent touring the most afflicted districts of famine-stricken Bengal.' By then the famine had brought in its wake epidemic and disease, and Freda Bedi drew a sharp political lesson from the agony and wretchedness she encountered:
The book is more than a cry of pain, a call to pity, a picture of another tidal wave of tears that has wrenched itself up from the ocean of human misery. It is a demand for reconsideration on a national scale of a problem that cannot be localised, a plea for unity in the face of chaos, one more thrust of the pen for the right of every Bengali and every Indian to see his destiny guided by patriots in a National Government of the People.
The cover is a powerful work by Sobha Singh, then active in the progressive artists' movement and later well known for his paintings of the Sikh gurus.
Five mounted photographs are pinned into the book - harrowing scenes of the suffering caused by famine.
Quite the most macabre and shocking is the image on the right, which I have deliberately kept small so that it doesn't upset casual browsers.
The caption reads: 'Memento Mori - death benefits the starving dog'.
What's the collective noun for radio presenters? OK, let's not go there.
This photo was taken a short while ago - in the closing minutes of the last ever edition of the World Today on the BBC World Service. In the studio, a galaxy of presenting talent: left-to-right, Max Pearson, Julian Keane, Linda Duffin, Fergus Nicoll, Lawrence Pollard and Tim Jenkins.
On Monday, a new programme - Newsday (featuring Messrs Pollard and Keane and others) - is born.
A lot's been happening at the World Service - above all the move from Bush House. There's another big moment in the coming week: the last broadcasts of the World Today. On July 23rd, it's replaced by a new programme, Newsday.
When the World Today went 'global' in January 1999, I was one of the presenters of the South Asia strand. This publicity photo dates from that time - my colleagues are (l to r) Lyse Doucet (now of Newshour and World News), George Arney and Ritula Shah (now the World Tonight, Radio 4).
I spent three years presenting the World Today, and then had a spell as its editor. A good programme!
So, how did I spend my Saturday night?
Well, for my son's 14th birthday I took him on a surprise treat - to an upstairs-at-the-pub Comedy Club. Five acts - most filthy - what could go wrong!
The guy with the black-and-white pork pie hat on the door was also the MC, and the bloke that I'd e-mailed to make sure they would let my son in. Is it his birthday, he asked? Yes, I said (OK - not clever) - but don't mention it, he'd be mortified.
So, how does the evening start? 'So folks, we've got a comedy virgin here tonight. It's his 14th birthday. Well son, we're going to assist your sexual development here this evening'. And then proceeds to tell a story/joke/horrible warning about how he as a 14 year old always dreamed of being touched up on the tube, but when it happens it's not the beautiful blonde of his imagination but a dirty old man. OK, thanks.
Then the group turns up to the 'reserved' table next to us - seventeen guys on a stag night. Son had said he could cope with anything, except perhaps nudity - my assurance that there'd be no stripping now feels to have been rash.
In front of us, and the only line of defence in the way of the stage, is Benjamin - by his own description, bald, fat and middle aged (and pissed, and with a girlfriend who is, as the guys with the mike comment repeatedly, 'above his category'). He is the immediate target of every stand-up, and gives as good as he gets.
Beam me up, someone!
Somehow we're still there for the final act - a woman with guitar asking everyone to sing along with the title of her song, 'It's Vagina' - and who throws in a few of John Terry's favourite words as well.
My son says on the way to the tube that he'd be up for coming again.
Another fruit of my visit on Friday to Oxfam on Marylebone High Street. A classic of mental health self-help, June Bingham's wonderfully titled pamphet was published in the US in about 1950.
This edition was put out in the UK by the National Association for Mental Health (that is, Mind) in the mid-1950s.
It's not the sort of old pamphlet I normally go for - but it is both interesting and important. And it cost me a mere £2.
'This pamphlet (says the foreword) helps to explain the way in which reasonably normal people feel and behave compared with the way in which people feel and behave if they are suffering from an abnormal disturbance of their emotions or if they are mentally ill.'
The illustrations are simple, yet persuasive. I suspect that modern mental health advocates might blanch a little at the tone - but it must have been when first published a hugely innovative approach to understanding mental health.
Sometimes I buy books just for the dust jacket. This was from Oxfam, so it didn't cost me much. A wonderful design for the first edition of Rumer Godden's slightly sinister 1953 novel of living in Kashmir. This harks back to her experience of living for three years, after the break-up of her marriage in the early 1940s, in an isolated Kashmiri village with her children - and surviving what was an apparent attempt to poison her. Frustratingly, there is nothing to indicate who designed the dust jacket.
This was the scene in the old World Service Newsroom at Bush House today an hour after the last bulletin had been broadcast.
A room that I have never seen empty before was just that. Sad, of course. But it was a great final bulletin - and a fitting send off.
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