The good, the bad, and Barcelona – Gaudi on Sunday (Catalonia, Spain)

June 15, 2015

In the crowded hotel lobby, my daypack zipper sounds conspicuously loud. I poke a hand inside: a woollen vest, an apple and a light rain jacket – nothing more. I rummage about. Still nothing. Everyone looks when I tip the contents out. A euro coin rolls across the tiled floor, hits the dark timber architrave […]

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 Flower Girl and The Lizard King – Père Lachaise (Paris, France)

February 8, 2015

There’s a raspy laugh, parted purple lips, a toothy gap and shining silver orb perched on a pierced tongue. “French? Me?” Mascared eyes shine from an impossibly pallid face. “Like…God no.” There’s a slight lisp, the word ‘God’ stretched for effect, the intonation classic Celtic.  Layla is barely 120cm tall in patent platform boots shining […]

Almost Lesotho – seeking Shangri-La (Drakensberg, South Africa)

May 30, 2014

‘……….didn’t you ever want to know what was on the other side of the mountain?’                – James Hilton, Lost Horizon. Funny to find an Antipodean neighbour way out here: a beanie-clad, mumbling, red-head New Zealander in the middle of Africa; him having asked about places I’ve been, then admonishing himself […]

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 […]

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 […]

Postcard from Lagos – a white Christmas in black Africa (Nigeria)

December 25, 2013

I’ve been stuck in Johannesburg traffic for an hour now; finally pulling off the treadmill of Rivonia Rd, and into the Nigerian Consulate compound – open Tuesday and Thursday mornings only – to be greeted by a mountain of a security man casually swinging a semi-automatic and demanding I stop. “You cannot be bringing your […]

Lost Pearls and Pomegranates – from red towers to whitewash (Andalusia, Spain)

December 8, 2013

The phone rings late afternoon: my girlfriend having just arrived. We meet and trudge uphill from Granada station, through the 15th century Gate of Pomegranates to this Alhambra citadel – ruddy stone towers, roses, oranges and myrtles – a garden-fortress built to house a Moorish army of 40,000. Boabdil was born here, imprisoned in the […]