Wednesday, 8 September 2021

The Alternatives Show . First stop - the art of trees.

7th September 2021, first show where I choose my own music.  And talk alternative travel, lifestyle, health, and ideas.   I will be putting the links onto social media and this blog for further information about all themes mentioned.  Its called The Alternatives Show but I want to call it The Full Catastrophe for some reason.   Got a ring to it..

In the first show, I talked about the Hampshire Arts Studio and painting and drawing trees with acclaimed artist Fiona McIntrye.   The full catastrophe of my experience is on

but here is a snippet 

McIntyre makes the two days fast and fun.  She’s engaging and accessible, showing more than telling, giving us all courage to ‘explore the trees’ – not just paint what we see, but paint what we feel.  The first morning is spent taking part in a sort of art version of speed dating. Ten of us on the course, circling the area like flower fairies, went outside with easels and graphite and were told we could spend sixty seconds drawing the trees – but could not look at our paper. Fiona had a stop watch, and on ‘go’, we all went for it. I looked at my first version. It looked like the sort of thing a psychologist would have a field day analysing.

I moved to the next easel as someone moved to mine, and had another go, managing not to peek at the paper (others cheated, ahem) and, this time, it looked more like three people at a party slightly swaying to ‘80s music the worse for wear. My leaves looked like smudged birds ready to fly off the page at any moment. Then the time was reduced to thirty seconds, then fifteen. Everyone agreed their fifteen second version was much more proficient than their sixty second version, as they went with the flow and had gained more courage. They key was not to take the graphite off the page and to scrawl quickly.

Music is good. Joe Satriani, Blue Dream; cover version of Maybe I'm Amazed, Norah Jones and Dave Grohl, Randy Scouse Git, the Monkeys; Mirror in the Bathroom, The Beat; Sunflowers, Wynton Marsalis; Extreme, More than Words.  

Next week, talking Canada and yoga, and all things Canadian (Rush, Joni, Crash Test Dummies). Mmmm

Monday, 1 March 2021

New Podcast for new term, thinking out of the book.

 Thinking Out of the Book podcasts from 20th March at Cambridge University Changemakers.   Five questions for those who like to think laterally. 

There are no boundaries to classrooms...

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Saturday, 7 November 2020


 My head is about to explode. I've managed to study at Cambridge University and although its not a normal year I am told, I am eating up every moment of it.   Richmond is wonderful and beautiful in many ways, but so much like ice cream.  Sweet but too much of it, it makes you sick, and gives you brain freeze. And I have never enjoyed living in stasis which is how many or perhaps most like to live. With a happy ever after and a The End.   Life is not like that.  Any Buddhist will tell you that. And so I found myself this week reading about poetry. I do not read about poetry. I write poetry, occasionally read poetry but do not read about poetry. Its a bit like reading recipe books.  You are not making the food or eating the food, just reading about making the food and potentially eating the food.   

And I've had to re read childrens books.  And identify the first book that wowed me.   None really did.  I read a lot. Loads and loads of stuff I wasn't meant to read like interviews in Sunday magazines - like the Observer and Sunday Times, when celebrities were even more dishonest about themselves than they are  now.

Any way.  poetry and children's books.  I identified the book that I read a lot as a child, and then re read it.  And bang.  Did it hit home.  I wrote two poems.   Here they are.  

The Alice Dance 

Opening the first page 
Like dipping the toe
Like jacques Cousteau 
I remember she fell 
Into a puddle of her own making
That was deep 
But she was never still 
She talked to animals 
Like people
And realised people behaved like animals
But the animals had a dignity the people did not
She would not play the game
Or agree with anyone she met
Knowing caterpillars think they are wise 
And life deals you cards
And the garden is never what it seems 
And never follow a cat
Especially one that smiles
Or take tea where nothing 
Fills you up 
Not even impolite conversation
Moving on to the next empty seat 
To take another’s place
But never yours 
To find your head
When those around you are
Losing theirs 
Oh I joined the dance as I re read the journey
The original travel journalist
And yogi
Who told of her weird 
And wonder land adventures through rabbit holes
And tiny doors
And grew too large and small
Until she realised she is
How much like me this
Alice is 
mirrored as I read again 
Much older now 
About myself 
She said one day she would write a book about herself
And I did.  

And turtles who mock and cry 
So many tears
To drown the mice in your life 
And babies to pigs 
And pepppppper anger
Who said cooking makes you happy?
And the drag faced Duchess and the Queen wanting to be treated like royalty secretly terribly disappointed with her passive king doing absolutely nothing until judgement day comes and everyone must stand to account even if you live in a tea pot. Oh how she wanted a prince and to move on like Alice did. 
The writer wrote for himself
As they always do especially  when writing to their child like self when they can be more honest
And barriers are meant to be broken and
Plots are meant to have holes in them. 
Carroll was an adult who wanted to be a child and have an adventure and descend down that rabbit hole. 
I ventured down 
Oh yes I did 
And moved on past the 
Empty dinner parties of impolite conversation 
Of non sense and
Kitchens full of resentment
And mothers who 
Are born to have pets not 
And wise old men who sat on ivory mushrooms
Of sprouted  platitudes hoping they would one day turn into something that flew and had colour
But he never did. 
Did he 
not on this page
Not like the griffin who
Arose and led you to another tale and tail
Of a dance

How much like me
With her curious nature
And love of words
And thirst to play with life
And adventure
And realising everyone 
Is painting their white roses
And red roses white
Because some malcontent
Says so 
Just smell the roses will you 

How I woke up that day when 
I turned that first page
And dipped in my toe
Like Cousteau 

And on poetry. 


Photograph to painting
The language of children
Turns what you see into 
what you feel into 
why you hear into 
how you touch into 
putting words together that have 
never met before like 
rushing blue and 
hiccup pink 
to make it 
like paint colours for the wall 
to add poetry to your home.  

Monday, 2 November 2020


 Traditionally the beginning of November is the time of World Travel Market which greets in tens of thousands in the tourism industry and media meeting their like at the cavenous echoing space that is Excel.   I would always lose my voice by the end of the week, having shouted my way through interviews outside stands which always banged on with musical or cookery events next door.  Losing voice not good for a radio journalist, sounding like across between Minnie Mouse and Eva Gabor, with brief interludes of silence.   

    It is here I would discover the travel trends as researched by various companies who have an interest in travel - promoting, navigating and researching it - so I was always left with a little scepticism as to the veracity of the guesstimations, some of which ranged from the bizarre - the 'kidnap' experience in 2008 - tourists wanting to be kidnapped by terrorists to the obvious - overseas travel in 2004 (yes really - although perhaps the latter will become a trend again in the next ten years or so).  

Its the invention of new words I always await with abated anticipation. And this year is no different.   Celestial escapes are not a one way trip to heaven, or trips in the exclusive company of Brad Pitt/Scarlett Johansen or space, but wilderness tourism, although the world has lost a third of its wilderness in the past thirty years according to Saint David Attenborough - so sort of get it while you can.  The issue is, we destroy what we 'discover' - travel journalists being the weapon of mass destruction.  So my view is to leave wilderness alone - and that includes the cultures which slice it up for paddy fields (Madagascar et al), and farm land and property development (Brazil et al).  Also tourist understanding of what constitutes 'wilderness' is usually a goldfish bowl of a safe perspective where the nasty huge spiders, snakes, or anything that challenges your place in the human food chain, doesn't enter the equation.   
    The same goes for the next anticipated 'growing trend' which is nomadic tourism - or glampervan journeys.   Hmm.   Campervan holiday is like buying a property in the countryside, which a lot of my friends or acquaintances have been doing over the past few years. Although their perception of what constitutes countryside varies from deep rural in France, to village five miles out of major city of architectural importance. Even more so now everyone who lives in the City is like an incubus of plague, and they are all heading to the potting shed of England that is Bath and the environs.  They have bought into the press release of life is better/cleaner/more authentic in the countryside, because John Craven every Sunday afternoon says so, when the reality is more Withnail & I than Babington House parties.  
    For a start with a camper van, there is the cost of buying one or hiring one, and then the diesel and petrol (if you are driving everywhere, not eco friendly) unless you have an electric one (which for different reasons is also not eco friendly). Then there is the navigation of these tank like creations and vying for road space with four wheel drives which actually for once do have a right to be there (they don't in Richmond Upon Thames where I live).  And then there's the living in the space of a one bedroom flat in Isleworth for a duration.   I once took a campervan or RV as they call them in North America, with teenage son around the top of the world trip in Canada. Fabulous views, but aforementioned son was stuck to iPhone, head down, and I was wondering where next petrol station was imminent as I didn't want to be stranded in wilderness (there is some genuine wilderness in the Yukon) as we would undoubtedly then see a lot of grizzly bears.  Admittedly there are not many grizzlies in the wilds of England, but there are some not very friendly locals who have made it known to all and sundry including their own tourists boards, that they don't want you there - especially if you've been one of those incubus-of-plague city dwellers.   
    Then there was 'cultivacation or eco tourism trend, which is an oxymoron which the travel industry and audience have yet to catch on to, although its been a trend allegedly for the past five years or so as Sir David's voice and documentaries have become less like worse case scenarios than historical timeframes.  The best way to be an eco friendly traveller is, erm, not to travel.   To stay put, not as in staycation, but to be in isolation.  So affectively Covid has done more for eco friendly tourism than any political mandate - unless you conspiracy theorists out there count Covid as a political mandate. 
Authentic, wellness and mindful tourism have been rebranded as trends to community immersion, longevity retreats and co working camps.   
    Well, community immersion, which genuinely did make me smile, as I remember the banner which the Cornish locals pinned over a bridge on route to their fabulous county telling visitors from anywhere else in no uncertain terms where they wanted them to go - and it wasn't Cornwall.  Covid has not brought out the best or worst in people - it has brought out the 'truth'.  So erm, community immersion ideally in a community where they want you to immerse yourself in their culture.  Not one where they don't.   Remember, if these places could find a better way of making money than having you visit them, they would!
    And longevity retreats. Fell off my chair at that stage. As a yoga instructor in schools and clubs, and someone who has written about retreats, spas, variations on that theme, longevity comes from peace of mind, regardless of geography. It comes from lineage, diet, attitude, perspective.   Taking your emotional baggage from place A to place B still means you have that emotional baggage on the way back, it just feels lighter and effects disappear quicker than the tan.  Research has been done on it, back in 2010.  
    And co working camps.  This sounds more like concentration camps than mindfulness holidays but perhaps that's just my take on it.   Giving back to the community is not a holiday it is an experience. It is something you invest in, and come back feeling, often, that you need a holiday because you realise how much work and time it takes to make the places you visit look so good.    
    No one really knows what the trends will be in 2021.   My guess is as good as yours.  I would like to believe people will be more appreciative of travel, having forgone the pleasure of being able to travel.   The wealthy will have foregone nothing, so they will be just as unappreciative, self serving, sociopathic and sanctimonious in their self imposed bubbles as they ever were.   They know how to look after themselves and they don't care if the locals don't like them in the places they frequent. They pay for them to like them, as they do everyone else.  
I would like to believe, David A and Greta T et al will have won their battles not only with the super powers of the world, but the masses who have, if they did but know it, the real power, and realised if they continue to travel the way they do or did, that they would have nothing to experience and appreciate. 
    For the rest, I believe, depending on how long the stop-start-stop-start Hokey Cokey of Covid/Brexit (and Brexit will have an impact on travel too), people will want the guaranteed sun of overseas. When bombs went off in London Underground and we had to be more vigilant about packages we saw on the seat next to us, and there were polite and ominous sounding announcements about delays because an unsuspected package had been seen, I remember listening to other commuters complaining they would be late for work.  As the summer exodus showed this year, even a pandemic, and prospect of agonising death, won't stop the British from wanting their summer holiday.  Many will have far less money to spend so will stay put not because of environmental reasons or to help the local economy but because they have no choice.  And although there will be travel companies who will have disappeared, there will be others that will take their place, with a more flexible and robust business model - because it will need to be. 
    Those who have holiday homes overseas will appreciate them more, unless of course they have rented them out to couples who wanted to try before they buy into a rural idyll which is nothing like the programmes on daytime TV. Social distancing which has never been an issue, with the reticent British, will suit those in search of small group walking, cycling, trekking holidays where you collectively tick all of the boxes of eco, mindful, wellness, authentic, nomadic, wilderness, authentic trends in one bang.  

In my novel The Redundant Travel Journalist (a parody on the Reluctant Fundamentalist) I suggest airports be turned into schools, where those children who work really hard are rewarded with holidays overseas as opposed to A***.  You literally see where your hard work - and trying hard takes you in life.  And that is how it should be.  

    When we identify a travel trend that shows we have learnt our lesson from this pandemic, and why we want to travel in the first place, and if it is actually good for us as a global collective to travel, perhaps then we have learnt the greatest lesson of all and realise the meaning of that oft quoted platitude 'life is a journey, not a destination.'

Saturday, 26 September 2020


 So there I was. Richmond station by the card shop.  2pm on first grey Saturday of 2020, on the first date since over a year ago.  Which seems like a decade ago.  Lee from Hove sounded nice on the phone. Long way to come but he said he didn't mind.  I haven't got a clue what the etiquette is now.  But friends told me to dress glamorous - outside Richmond station.  So looking as much like my photo as I could, I wore matching face mask to pink jumper.  Boots, skinny jeans, I looked OK.  I had been teaching yoga all morning so very flexible and chilled.   A part from the (cleverly) masked cold sore that always arrives a few days before any date, or meeting of any importance whatsoever. 

I wasn't sure to be fair, as I had another offer to meet a friend around Liverpool Street, and he's great but no, I thought, take a leap of faith.  You know, like Leonardo di Caprio's wife did in Inception, and see what would come of it. 

Ten minutes in. Card shop empty, so walked in, reading through little books of.... you are amazing, of life's journey... how not to give a fuck...peered out again in search of anyone who looked remotely like Lee in the photo.  Who looked like a sort of adonis.  But with gingerish hair.  Profile. Good nose. 

Walked into the station. Man standing by another card shop (WH Smiths which is sort of card shop), asked. "Are you Lee?"  He smiled. "No".  He didn't look disgusted or relieved or annoyed when he looked into my eyes. All good signs. 

Lee looked six something, (in height not years),  athletic.  Said he had dated someone from Bognor Regis the week before.  Hmm.   Should I be here.   I looked around.  Twenty something, sixty somethings, and lots and lots of drug dealers.   Wearing dark glasses on a grey day in September.   No one offered me drugs. I no longer know if this is a good sign or not. I have never ever been offered drugs, so I either look square, like a policewoman or like no fun whatsoever. I think that is probably not so good.

Twenty past. Walked outside again.  Very old man with pony tail and loads of tattoos.   Fuck. Is that you Lee?   No.   Another man. Ginger-ish hair.  "Are you Lee?"  "No," he said smiling again.  I returned to the card shop.  Wandered in again, and looked at the cards, congratulating mums to be and birthdays for cats, and saying all classy people get plastered on Prosecco.   I looked at the girl serving.  She smiled. I smiled under my mask.   

Out again, walked to the bus stop opposite and was just about to ask someone, but thought no.   Thankfully his boyfriend arrived the very next minute. 

Half past. Looked at mobile and the battery had gone dead.  Should I recharge and return home or stay around.  Wander staring into the eyes of every ginger haired man I met.  Perhaps he had dyed his hair since the photo, or had taken ill on the train, or got CoVID or had hitched up again with the girl from Bognor. 

At forty past I thought bugger it, and left to find that Marks and Spencer in the station is now open. Bought myself some nuts which will probably make the cold sore worse, and walked home to write more and finish book.