Sunday, 27 March 2011


Today I walked by the river past the Tower of London to take a brief tour of the HMS Belfast which is fascinating and I highly recommend.   A battle ship that is no longer at war, although this weekend London seemed to be in the midst of one.  This wonderful city can be a lovely, very interesting and dynamic city.   In places obscenely expensive but then in truth only the obscene can afford to live and go there so perhaps that's for the best.   

I have enjoyed living on the outskirts at the SW side, driving in along the river on the occasions I have worked on radio and been blessed with a night slot so avoided the Chelsea tractor driving plummy mummies picking up their Cordelias and Arabellas, and the road rage that ensues.    The bridges are beautiful, the architecture fascinating and we have some of the best arts and theatre in the world, and wonderful street markets.   The river running through it is the pulse and increasing the developers thank goodness are making sure that everything turns towards it rather against it.

It was an interesting weekend.   Full of extremes of conspicuous wealth and conspicuous resentment.     I watched the Oxford Cambridge boat race.  Wanted Cambridge to win, Oxford won, but they both won really.   They took part.      Then up to town narrowly missing the march and the riots to see Aida at the ROH.   I think I was supposed to feel sorry for the heroine wailing her heart out about a man who loved her but also wanted to be with her father who was the enemy of the man she loved. Any way, there was not enough jeopardy, she looked as though she'd had more than three good meals a day,  and I didn't care about any of them.    I just wanted to slap her and tell him to get a life.    But the dancers were absolutely incredible and the singing sublime and as opera tickets are ridiculously expensive unless you get standing room I was amazed the rioters didn't target the ROH instead of Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz.  But I suppose they deduced the ROH pay their taxes.

Any way, after returning home, I watched the march on TV and looked at the faces of those who quietly protested.  They were good people I saw, with honest faces.  Something ironically I would never describe the likes of Bob Diamond nor the former chief of RBS as having, but hey, appearances can be deceptive.   Speaking of which, I felt for the police who were being attacked in the riots.  They are just doing their jobs. They are being impacted by the cuts as well. They are in debt, their livelihood and families.    

What I suggest, and it is only a suggestion mind you, is that we get those who work in the City (traders, only top level who made the decisions who assisted in the financial crisis. And ideally their CEOs and MDs) and the politicians who allowed them to get away with it. And next time there is a march we put them in the front line.  They don't have to say sorry or be forgiven (as Bob Diamond was asked to do at that ridiculous inquest not so long ago by the politicians trying to 'speak for the tax payer', and they don't even need to say sorry).  Words are meaningless and the banks will always find a way to claw in the money they are being asked to pay back.    No, I feel these people should stand in the front line. Then the rioters would be attacking the right people. Of course they would fight dirty as they always do but perhaps we could do what we did in Libya and declare a no fly zone to back up the rebels.    Did they but know it, by attacking the police, the rioters yesterday were really attacking one of their own.   

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


I presented to the Womens' Institute in Surrey last week.  In Surrey, they audition for speakers and I don't know if I was good enough but it was an interesting exercise of precis - turning a forty minute int a twenty minute without missing out the relevant bits.  Admittedly rather formidable, I enjoyed it.  A buzzer for the last sixty seconds ticked loudly which was a little disconcerting but good for the time keeping.   My talk was about the art of storytelling and writing your first novel.  And I felt there were so many stories those women could tell, if they had the time, made the time, or had the confidence to type or write out their story.  So many would learn from their experiences, their mistakes and wisdoms.     You can see sometimes in those old black and white photographs the echoes of stories - and I always remember that scene in Dead Poets Society when the Robin Williams (can't remember the name of the character he played) whispering in the ears of the watching boys 'carpe dieum' (?) seize the day.   Whether they chose to put me on their books or not, I hope at least some of those who were at the meeting, start to write....

Sunday, 20 March 2011

thank you!

Thank you to all who came to watch at the TNT Show.  Fascinating to walk past the vast queues that were waiting to get into the Ideal Home exhibition and to find an altogether more fun and focused assembly at the Travel Show, for the young and young at heart.   No blips in the talk except the announcements every ten minutes in the hall booming over my voice announcing...that I was talking in Seminar Room One. Hey ho, I did a dance every time they spoke.    

I hope those who came enjoyed the talk as I gave them some very good tips about what makes a strong travel book, and its nothing about getting the facts right about the destination, or the journey for that matter.  A lot of it is about passion and the ability to convey it.  

One girl asked me at the end 'how do you become as passionate as you are about traveling?'   I don't know the answer to that one.   I have always loved to explore the new, discover or rediscover,  and am curious and tenacious by nature.    And I believe without passion, or at least having someone or something to be passionate about, what is life about?   

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


For any of you who have the time and inclination, I'm talking at the TNT Travel Show at Earls Court this Saturday about how to make the most of your adventures and how to get your travel diaries published.  So many of those I meet have utterly fascinating stories to tell around their travels and don't write it up, even for their own benefit or that of their immediate family.   It's a personal choice, but deciding to write about an adventure, even before you plan it, can make all the difference in turning a great journey into an extraordinary one.  The talk will focus on the why, what, where, when, who and how to write up the adventures and then,  if you so decide how to get it published to a wider audience...  Please come!  10.30 am on Saturday Earls Court TNT Travel Show for all those intrepid explorers out there...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

poetry in emotion

I had a stinking argument with my ex last night.   For the first time ever I put the phone down and wished he would actually choke on his money.   But then some time ago I wrote this poem below.   And although in the bright light of day I still wish he would choke on his money, I realise that once upon a time.....  



Faded smiles of a sunshine day

In Autumn’s flush when colours already begin to smudge

Ghosts dance around shadows in the room

Their spirits bright despite the crackle of time

The shining young so full of hope and denial           

Their egos full

Morning suit affectation of pot bellied bankers

Guffawing the last bubbles of nonsense

First wives about to give birth to their first home truth

And I watch myself

The girl in white, so open and stupid

Who couldn’t and wouldn’t even glance at her groom

as she walked down the aisle

and I want to shake her and hold her tight

And tell her to love the man she just married with all her heart

and try harder to be

interested and interesting

even when he is deathly dull

and she is tired and bored

And to compromise but never

Compromise herself.

She got those two mixed up

And I want to tell him to be less angry

and be less afraid and to be stronger.

And that she truly loved him but not herself

The singer and organist playing portentous

hitting the right notes at the wrong time

As did the bride and groom

We should have known.

and I hush the sound and fast forward through the dull bits

as we would do in life if we could

and wonder if I would rewind any moment of my life

and my marriage now it is merely a crackling faded memory

how I would change an old wedding video

My twelve year old watches his mum and dad now


but magically reuniting on screen with smiles

now knowing it won’t last unless in some wiser parallel universe it does

Although the spark of happy ever after sits cuddling by me now reminding me

It was so worth it.


Sunday, 6 March 2011


I have just returned from a whistle stop tour of Barcelona and Palma, following the life and times of the artist Miro.    Commissioned for the Tate Magazine, I felt privileged to walk around the galleries and be told about this man, how he had evolved as an artist, and how, unlike many others, was in fact, quite a happy balanced soul.  No cutting ears off, taking drugs, committing suicide, manic depressive here. No infidelities. He had a very long and happy marriage, a daughter he adored and travelled extensively, influenced greatly by the Japanese and his own sense of love of life and passion for his country and nature, which formed his artistry along the way.  He was an artist who I would have really liked to have met him. (Unlike Gaugin who was a philandering ex banker who sounded like a real conceited shit, albeit extremely talented - unlike most philandering ex bankers).  

I watched a dvd of Miro painting in his studio in Palma and he had smiling eyes, and an interesting face, one that had seen a lot and filtered out only the good stuff and turned the negative into positives.  His style was graffiti, almost a precursor to Banksy although I am sure the art historians and experts will call me a charlatan. (I do not care).    He died at the age of ninety, but as I wandered round his garden of half finished canvases and gazed at the twenty or so canvases that he had prepared to paint on next (and in some cases burn), I felt he died too soon. Miro still had so much to give and grow.  He used the walls of his home to practice his art, even sitting on the toilet seat he drew, and found out paintings at flea markets which he bought and painted over (and managed to enhance by doing so). His sculptures are hypnotic.   He mixed with poets and writers as well as the likes of Picasso, and children 'get' his paintings whereas adults frequently don't.  I am writing the piece as Miro will exhibit at the Tate this year.    Please go see. Wonderful art, lovely man, beautiful story.  

My guides were wonderful - Maria and Marisse.  Thank you to all those who helped with the trip, it was brilliant.    They made the journey in finding out about this artist a pleasure and enhanced every step of the way.   My experiences will be out in the Tate magazine next month.