In the Beginning – a slow boat to Africa

  Grandma was a short, stooped lady fond of telling stories in her Scottish brogue. In that blue, white and green MacDonald tartan pinny over a floral dress, she cooked up batches of potato scones, fried fruitcake and black pudding. No one in her family had seen a...

Of Phantoms and Fog – looking for John Ruskin (Venetian Lagoon, Italy)

  Broken walls topple, the last defenders with them. Canal bridges, city gates and the cathedral burn. Steel clashes with steel, horses' hoofs pound stone roads and women drag screaming children, the old and infirm towards the hills and mountains. Columns groan and...

Welcome to The Badlands – a latenight lullaby

Bodies of children, guns more sacred Lay in heaps on crimson pavement The future dead, the ghosts of hope A shattered nation with prayers will cope . Pagoda beauty, suddenly soured Hateful icons, a new leader's power Crowded camps, no fault their own Despair and...

Lost Time and Loose Ends – unfinished business (Honfleur, France)

"I have less and less time and more and more to say"    - Pablo Picasso We sit on the edge of the wharf, the paving stones cold, the coffee shops closed. I gaze behind us at rows of seaside apartments, the drab dollhouse facade a collage of browns and greys. The aroma...

Ding, Dong, the Blog is Dead – pondering progress

Blogging these days is not like it once was... a fickle, little-read beast at best. And it's hard to believe that just five years back I chose to take a dip in the blogosphere, a late starter, a wandering writer through the once-was maze of Wordpress and Blogger, of...

The Good, the Bad, and Barcelona – Gaudi on sunday (Catalonia, Spain)

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 single euro coin rolls across...

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

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...

Jigsaw Days – secret pieces (Picardy, France)

From Berlin I've flown to Paris late winter, driving north for two hours and overnighting in the hamlet of Behen, a classic French Chateau with stately entry paved for WW2 German tanks, towers and walls from 15th and 18th centuries, the stables once bombed by American...

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

Four metre 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 immortalised in the iconic writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Jules...

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

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...

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