Oliver Francis

Thoughts from the spaces in between


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Little grey cells

Last week I saw inside my brain.

I’d signed up for a research study on aging which involves various questionnaires, tests and scans. My replies, actions, charts and images become anonymised data; points for the researchers to plot and analyse so that what they see might perhaps become a tiny percentage of the beginning of an idea about how the brain ages and changes.

My data will become anonymous, but with this MRI scan you can still tell that this is me, even to the stubble of my beard and the shadows under my eyes. Great, even on an MRI l look tired. And I appear to be suppressing a smile – in fact just a squeeze of my cheeks caused by the plastic frame I wore to keep my head still. And then that strange wood-effect on my skin, as if by slicing me in half like that you could count the rings to tell my age. Continue reading


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The cars of Cuba

Cuba, especially Havana, wouldn’t be the same without its old American cars. When I visited in June this year I had expected just a few of these Yank Tanks to be knocking about, but in fact they’re everywhere. By my very crude reckoning, as many as one in four of Cuban cars on the road could date from before the revolution.

I’m not normally someone to get excited about a metal box on wheels, but there is something beguiling about these old beasts. Of all the ages of motoring to be frozen in time by geopolitics, this is surely the one you would pick, with its aggressive grilles, fat wheel arches and sleek tailfins. Continue reading