Free Coordinates…

For good communication…

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  • Published: Oct 7th, 2018
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And on the moon…


Situated all too briefly in Trafalgar Square, Es Devlin’s brilliant Please Feed the Lions generated a crowd-sourced collective poem which now lives online here, care of Google Arts & Culture. It’s a rich source of lovable language that cries out to be explored, relished and indeed remixed. I encourage everyone to dive in and craft their own combinations. Here’s one I made earlier:

And on the moon

The sun and sun and night with bright array

Breathe the infinite worlds away

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  • Published: Jul 18th, 2018
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Emotional ways…


“Once you have a language, it’s about using it and applying it in emotional ways. That’s what makes the difference.”

Wise words from brilliant musician Jacob Collier during the course of explaining the concept of harmony in five levels of increasing complexity.

Whether words on a page or melodies in the ear, lovable language is emotional language.

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  • Published: Apr 18th, 2018
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He’s no tiger…

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On a recent trip to LA I was struck by the sheer brilliance not only of the sunshine but also of much of the communication. Our American friends seem to revel in clear lively English. Whether that’s shedding light on age-old tar pits…
















or discouraging cars from driving down dusty ol’ cowboy towns…









It’s a confidence and playfulness in words we can all enjoy and draw inspiration from.

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  • Published: Oct 2nd, 2017
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Eat sunshine…

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Eat Sunshine… read… have a point of view… fail at aioli… cook for days… eat for weeks… make something that can last…

Eat sunshine








A great opener in Dinner At The Long Table, a brilliant cookbook by Brooklyn restauranteurs and all-round food lovers Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn.

Sets the tone. Whets the appetite. Five stars.


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  • Published: Sep 7th, 2017
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Wild of tongue…

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In New York, an exhibition of work by one of my favourite illustrators, Maira Kalman. It includes the originals of the pictures she put to the words of one of my favourite books on writing, William Strunk Jr and EB White’s The Elements of Style.

After picking up a copy of the book in a yard sale, Maira was inspired to create a set of paintings illustrating various Strunk & White words of wisdom. Words such as “Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand!”

Wild of tongue and wild of eye.

the best dancer










For me, it’s a match made in heaven.

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  • Published: Jul 16th, 2017
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Between an electron and a star…


I recently rediscovered one of the books that captivated me most as a youngster:

How big is big?










How big is big? combines simple words and images to take children on a journey from the very big to the very small. Along the way it gives them a clear and encouraging sense of where they fit in the world, at a time, as the first page puts it, when “everybody is always telling you how big you are”:

between and electron and a star








Midway between an electron and a star – a mighty fine place to be, for young and old alike.

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  • Published: May 19th, 2017
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Love the words…


Following gently on the heel’s of last Sunday’s International Dylan Thomas Day, a doff of my cap to the Love the Words competition.

Held each year on 14th May, the anniversary of the date when Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Center, New York in 1953, Dylan Day is the mighty fine idea of the great poet’s grand-daughter Hannah Ellis. On that day back in 1953, Dylan urged the readers to “Love the words, love the words…” and this, in turn, inspired Hannah Ellis to create a competition for 7-25 year olds to create their own poems by cutting up the opening words of Under Milk Wood.

Here’s my favourite, by Gianina Dwek (20):

Love the Words












Brilliant, Gianina. My cap doffeth over.


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  • Published: Apr 29th, 2017
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The donkeys gallop…

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Just in time for the long weekend, a treasure trove of words and images in the form of postcards from the past. Tom Jackson’s Twitter account and soon-to-be-published book, lets us glimpse myriad holiday stories of yesteryear. Stories such as these:

The donkeys gallop








The donkeys gallop and once I nearly fell off. I bet you wish you were here with me, don’t you?’

I suppose you heard









‘I suppose you heard about our plane catching fire?’

Filtered through the come-what-may sunny outlook of people on their hols, like all great stories they catch your attention. But it’s a bitter sweet experience – the stories are inevitably unfinished, leaving you hungry to find out more. Why didn’t you fall off the donkey? How fast do they gallop? How did the plane catch fire? Are you OK? Questions, questions. More postcards, please.

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  • Published: Mar 10th, 2017
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Graphical excellence…

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I’ve been a big fan of Edward Tufte, the doyen of information design and data visualisation, for many years. From Beautiful Evidence to Visual Explanations, his books embody his thinking, summed up for me in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information: “Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.” In this sense, it’s akin to the best poetry: brilliant distillations that strike home and stick with you.

It’s not simply about bare bones communication. The kind lauded by Lucy Kellaway, citing meat magnate Wan Long’s “What I do is kill pigs and sell meat.” It involves something more than mere plain speaking, or plain designing – refreshing though that might be in a sea of guff and nonsense. Edward Tufte’s sadly recently departed kindred spirit, data visualiser Hans Rosling puts it well: “having the data is not enough – I need to show it in ways people both enjoy and understand.”

So yes, excellence is effective. But it is also, and above all, enjoyable.

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  • Published: Jan 4th, 2017
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Write little…

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Write little, but say a lot.

A New Year’s resolution courtesy of Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, who weaves his own vivid sense of my home city in The London Jungle Book.

When asked by his co-authors, Sirish Rao and Gita Wolf, what kind of feeling he would like the reader of the book to go away with, he said: “I want them to have the essence of what I felt. There is no need to show everything. I would like you to write little, but say a lot.”

A lot, like this:


When Two Times Meet

I have combined the rooster, which is the symbol of time in Gond art, and Big Ben, which is the symbol of time for London. I have turned the dial of Big Ben into the eye of the rooster, because it seemed to me that Big Ben is like a big eye, forever watching over London, reminding people of the time. Symbols are the most important thing in Gond art, and every symbol is a story, standing in for something else. So this painting was the easiest for me to do, because it had two perfect symbols coming together.


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