Clarisse of Arabia – teaching the children (Helsinki, Finland)

January 19, 2014

Outside the station I squint in late summer sun, a grand entrance clad in grey Finnish granite and guarded by lamp-holding titans: stern-faced stone men far too serious to be the animated rap stars of railway advertising campaigns. At their feet, there’s a kid busker with peaked cap and grandmother’s clarinet. With a population of […]


Meeting Saint Louise – a Nordic sense of deja vu (Trondheim, Norway)

November 26, 2012

We’d passed by here before, tall and ornate, diamond timber-panelling on grand double gates, always shut; the name in sweeping letters across the arched pediment above. This time – en-route to Nidaros cathedral – I pay little attention, until my girlfriend stops. Today, it seems an inset central door is open. We brave the stream of […]

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Snow Monkeys – and absent friends (Yudanaka, Japan)

May 14, 2015

The Tokyo bar is a circle, Teppanyaki hotel chefs in tall hats and shirtsleeves in the centre; their shiny cleavers deftly dealing with slabs of beef, cabbage, prawns and abalone.The air smells of garlic and warm vegetable oil. I sip a Sapporo, the man across the way more intent on his mobile; beside him a […]


The Lion King – wandering ways (Skeleton Coast, Namibia)

March 23, 2014

There’s another white dual cab propped on the wrong side of the road. I wind down the passenger’s window to ask if all’s OK. A khaki-clad man pauses, narrow-eyed and hesitant way out here, water bottle pulled from an open, dust-laden tailgate. We’re in Namibia – previously German South-West Africa – the Namib Desert straddling […]


Rumours of Wrongdoing – finding Tennes Kaspara (Lofoten, Norway)

November 23, 2012

Cars and trucks wait in orderly lines, the Moskenes-Værøy ferry still one hour distant.  It’s the northern autumn and rain arrives as I leave my car. The church I pass is small, the wet bluestone black. Behind, a mound rising to leaden skies, its sides shrouded in bush and showers of rain. Not far now. […]

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After the Opera – the sad passing of Marzipan the cat (Melbourne, Australia)

March 26, 2013

Many in Melbourne this week are mourning the passing of Marzipan, the grand old tortoiseshell diva of the city’s theatre scene. The much-loved Astor cat died on Sunday 24th March 2013 Australian time after a lingering illness, at the ripe old age of 21 years. It was back in the early 90s when Marzipan made her […]


Calling on Kittelsen – demons, ghosts and ghouls (Norway)

February 16, 2014

4m waves batter our ferry on the fiercest piece of water in the world. We’re 100km west of the Norwegian mainland and this is the Maelstrom, first mentioned by the Greeks 3000 years ago and immortalized in the iconic writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne. But it’s the artist and poet Theodor Severin […]


The Real Wild West – inside the Arctic Circle (Vesterålen, Norway)

May 20, 2013

The narrow road is a roughed-out, potholed track gouged from ragged Norwegian mountains. Winding alongside a grey Arctic Ocean, it’s graced with the occasional passing bay and kept in place against northern tempests by discarded mountain boulders. Turning a last cliffside corner I stop the car and push open the door, buffeted by a wild […]