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Showing posts from 2011

The Undiscovered Country

Ladies and gentlemen we have some news for you. The die is now cast. The deed is indeed done. The rubicon has been crossed. Lisette, my lovely wife, is very much in the family way. Yes, On June 13th 2012 we're due to welcome one Farquhar Scopello Reilly into the outside world....

Those of you that know us well will be aware that children (or "screaming brats" as hitherto we have characterised them) are not really our bag at all. So we're a little... hesitant about our news. We're kind of pleased. And we're kind of terrified. When we rationalise we realise that we've been very blessed in life so far - we've done a lot. Maybe this is a good idea? And then occasionally we just hold each other and ask "Have we made a terrible mistake???"

It's the fear I wasn't expecting. I'm not sure what reaction I expected to feel to the news that I'm a father but I'm pretty certain that being petrified wasn't on the list. W…

"FREEDOM!!!!!! ..."

"... I won't let you down ... FREEDOM!!! I will not give you up... FREEDOM!!! Gotta have some faith in my sound... FREEDOM!!! "

One thing I find fascinating about travelling around is the contrasts that you observe between different cultures. I’m not a believer that national stereotypes are the whole truth about a society but there generally seems to be some reality in amongst the myth.

Take “FREEDOM!!!”. We were in the process of inquiring about a trip to Stromboli (an active volcanic island) from a man who looked uncannily like George Michael in his first post-Wham days (mirror sunglasses; the whole shebang). He was, by any stretch of the imagination, an ebullient and noisy character. I liked him instantly. During his description of how the trip might pan out he wanted to illustrate to us that during the day we would have “free time” and indeed “freedom to wander” on Stromboli. Isn’t it obvious that the best way to communicate this to us would be via a capella ve…

Mafia in Syracusa and Tiddles gets stuck

It was the early hours of Wednesday morning on Ortigia, the island that is connected to the South East tip of Syracusa by a number of bridges. On Via Della Maestranza, one of the main thoroughfares of the island, all was quiet. Then a Fiat Panda detonated. It had been packed with explosive and parked directly in front of the main window of a shop that sold decorative metalwork. The window was blown in by the explosion and the stock redistributed around the interior of the store with some force.

Lisette and I did not witness this. We arrived mid morning to see the remains of the incident. What presented itself was a blackened burned out husk of a car which looked like Mr Creosote post "wafer-thin mint". The street was coated with soot and the store was completely devastated. I tried to take a photo - Lisette pushed me on before I could.

It made us re-evaluate though. Since we'd arrived we hadn't really given any thought to the organised crime that Sicily is s…

How not to climb Mount Etna

'Twas a fine morning in Taormina. The sun was shining, the world was happy; we were going up a volcano. Mount Etna was our planned destination having signed up with a tour the day before. We strolled down the main street looking for our tour and found a big jeep of jolly looking folk just waiting for the final people to join them before the ascent began. We liked the look of them, they liked the look of us; surely this was the start of several beautiful friendships.

Alas tragedy struck, this was not our tour. And as we panned left we saw our future. An oversized double decker coach was before us, already full to bursting with people and still taking on more passengers; none of which looked particularly friendly. In fact they all seemed to be carrying expensive camera equipment and/or children and gave us the kind of looks that suggested that we had developed intricate plans to be away with both. We got on, feeling a touch wary and took our seats (just above the toilets). …

Julian Assange is dead?

"That's right isn't it?" said Lisette pointing at the Wikileaks frontmans picture. "Wasn't he poisoned by the Russians?"

It's possible that Lisette is confusing Mr Assange with Alexander Litvinenko... However, I do wonder if something might come out of this. I think that maybe Lisette has the beginnings of another "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier ... " inside her. Am planning to record her random thoughts and publish a spy novel of the collected works under a nom de plume. Perhaps Jeanette le Carre.

A certain amount of filtering a reshaping may be necessary to turn this into a proper pot boiler. For instance I'm not entirely sure where the following utterance would fit in a book about spies and derring do:

"maybe Italian woman have some kind of deal with the goddess of beauty - they front load their attractiveness in life so they look amazing up to the age of 40 and then it all goes to pot..."

We don't normally travel carry…

Euphemism / Gravity is on my side (Apparently)

We were halfway up the mountainside and panting like dogs in a hot summertime when Ek, our whippet-thin guide, turned to me, patted me on the belly and said "when due?" before dissolving in peals of laughter on the ground. Didn't know much English, our Ek, but he knew that.

Aside from taking abuse from the natives I'm happy to report that things have improved since our Sliding Doors escapades (or "Down the Wrong Leg of the Trousers of Time"). Lisette and I have made our way across the briny sea from Phuket to Koh Lanta where life is looking up. :-)

Lanta attracts a very different demographic to Phuket. Essentially it's rammed to bursting with Nordic families - all with very young babies. The reason, or so I gather from chatting to a Finnish guy and his Swedish wife (with baby strapped to her belly), is that paternity leave is quite staggeringly generous in Sweden - in fact I thought he said "480 days" but it was a noisy bus an…

Sliding Doors

So.  There's this film called Sliding Doors.  In it there is a crucial moment at which point Gwyneth Paltrows life is divided into 2 possible alternate realities.  In one she makes it past the sliding doors and onto the tube train where she goes home and catches her errant boyfriend with another woman.  In the other universe the doors shut, she misses the train and consequently doesn't find out about her cheating fella.

Happily nothing in a similar vein to be reported from Thailand apart from the idea of a life (or in this case 2 lives) diverging at a given point.

Lisette and I were in Chiang Mai and having just finished our cookery course we were getting itchy feet.  We got talking to this retired American guy who'd just been to Luang Prabang in Laos and couldn't stop talking about it - all French Asian and dead pretty lanterns and the like.  Bakeries.  So we thought we'd give it a crack.  Love a bakery we do.  Off to the travel agents with our cunning plan to fly…

"Beware Fake Monks"

... read the sign on the restaurant wall. Not the sort of thing you'd see at home.

It turns out that Thai people have a very strong affection for the orange robed Buddhist monks that roam the streets and pretty much venerate them. Monks don't queue as a general rule of thumb, they have reserved areas in airports and are given the best seats on planes and, that weren't enough, they are given money by the locals on the street. The upshot of this is the modern day occurrence of fake monks; tribute monks if you will. People who purport to be monks (shave their heads and wear orange) so they can experience the benefits.

Hence the government is now warning tourists not to be taken in. But apart from saying "Beware Fake Monks" they haven't really provided any guide on how to pick them out. Lisette suggests keeping eyes open for monks ordering steak, smoking and swigging beer but we've had no takers on that front so far. Sneaky monks. (Or g…

Big hands

So the flames licked up the side of the building and smoke billowed like billy-o. The people up and down the street turned, pointed and stared and the restaurant where Lisette and I had eaten our first meal in Bangkok was consumed by fire.

Yup, Lisette and I are on holiday and appear to be blazing a trail in a more literal sense than usual. We are currently resident in Bangkok and making plans to head North to Chiang Mai.


I love my wife.

This hopefully doesn't come as a surprise to you but the fact was brought home at the start of the trip with a more emotional than usual departure to foreign climes. It started with Lisette and I attempting to board the Thai Airways flight to Bangkok in Terminal 3, Heathrow. We should actually have been attempting to board the British Airways flight - the bouncer (for want of a better term) set us straight on this by replying to our "Can we board please" with "That'll be a negative sir". "Negative"…