Former Moscow correspondent for The Times, co-founder of the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (2004) that was active until 2012 during which time I co-compiled and co-edited four books about threatened architectural heritage in Moscow, St Petersburg and Samara. From 2012 to 2016 I was Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage and SAVE Europe’s Heritage, when I led campaigns to save Smithfield Market in London, the Welsh Streets in Liverpool and four buildings on the Strand in London, among others. Since 2016 I've been Director of Pushkin House in London. I continue to write some journalism and am a Trustee of SAVE Europe's Heritage presently working on a report about Tbilisi’s beautiful threatened buildings.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?: Having a whole day to write in my attic in my house in North Norfolk.
Which living person do you most admire?: It changes all the time, but at the moment I am reading the glorious Pema Chodron. I admire Elizabeth Gilbert whose book Big Magic I love. And writers who are breaking the mould like Deborah Levy. And people who decide to do things and do them.
What is your greatest extravagance?: Green tea and expensive chocolate.
What is your current state of mind?: Free floating.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?: Punctuality.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?: 'Well done!'. It may come across as patronising sometimes, but I can't stop saying it.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?: To worry less.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?: Helping save Smithfield Market from demolition in 2014.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?: A cat or a bowl of porridge full of cream and honey.
Where would you most like to live?: North Norfolk, where I have a house.
What is your most treasured possession?: My cat, but I believe she possesses me.
What is your favorite occupation?: Drinking tea and chatting heart to heart.
What is your most marked characteristic?: Being busy.
Who are your favorite writers?: To name but a few: Mikhail Bulgakov, Teffi, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, Marina Tsvetaeva, Deborah Levy, Maggie Nelson, Dervla Murphy, Rumi, Elizabeth Gilbert, Dorothy L Sayers, Barbara Comyns, Mary Oliver, Jane Austen, Vasily Grossman.
Who is your hero of fiction?: Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova - heroines of their own fiction. And I like spending time with Lord Peter Wimsey.
What is it that you most dislike?: Dishonesty.
What is your greatest regret?: I'm not very good at finishing things.
What is your motto?: Keep it in the day.