First they came for the school meals, and I did not speak out—
Because I had no children at school…[continue]
On June the 8th I will vote for the Labour Party again because I believe in Jeremy Corbyn, and I believe that the Labour Party can win this election. I believe that they are the only party that can save us from the mess we are in, and if they don’t win then I fear that a Tory-led government will not only exacerbate our current inequalities, but force a hard Brexit that will irreparably damage our country for generations to come. I’ve put together a list of simple things we can do to make sure that Labour win….[continue]
This is what happens when you drink half a bottle of wine and then listen to iTunes on shuffle at the same time as reading the news. I was just catching up on Donald Trump’s latest escapades when Sting’s 1985 song ‘Russians’ came on and I found myself singing along but inventing new lyrics relevant to the recent period of crisis we are living through…[continue]
Now you’re going to have to bear with me for a minute on this, in the way that you might with an elderly relative, who, in order to explain why they’d forgotten to buy eggs, feels the need to include a backstory that starts with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, but I’ll try to be quick.
This story starts in 1985; we were going through a bit of a difficult time in the UK back then…[continue]
With dry-January nothing but a distant memory already clouded by several hangovers, what better way is there to celebrate the alcoholic joys of February than to discover that a microbrewery has opened in Yangon. In fact this might be the first ever microbrewery in Myanmar, or not, I might be wrong, but that’s not important. What is important is that it brews the best beer in Myanmar, and you can drink it fresh from the barrel…[continue]
I have to admit up-front, I’m not mad keen on karaoke. It’s never played an important role in my life or really ever filled me with any great pleasure. It’s always seemed to just be something that other people did, like croquet, or sudoku, or crystal meth.
I have however taken a certain interest in the subject recently due to the fact that my fabulously talented brother and his two equally talented mates are planning to sing Karaoke for 24-hours on Saturday to raise money for a local homeless charity…[continue]
You carry a container around with you all the time.
It might be a small flask, a cardboard box or a suitcase on wheels.
It could be a tattered old rucksack, or even a shiny metal briefcase; but it is yours, and only you can open it.
You are the only person who can fill that container and you are the only person who can empty it…[continue]
These words are painted on a wall in a bookshop in Paris called Shakespeare and Company.
They’re actually a paraphrasing of Hebrews 13:2, and when I first came across them they I was struck by the power of their message, not for religious reasons, (obviously) as I don’t believe in Angels, but because the words mirror an attitude I have long held, and an approach that has shaped my life:
Be nice to people, because you never know when you might need someone to be nice to you… [continue]
The year is 2 million years BC, and a lone Homo Habilis is standing on the dirt path outside his shelter, his friend appears behind him.
“That’s a fancy pile of strategically placed rocks encircling your dwelling place you’ve got there Wanna!”
“Oh hi Marej, yes I know, it’s taken me all feckin day, but the elders have told me I should put it up. They’re calling it ‘home security’.”…[continue]
A nice Thai massage is what you want, they said to me, that’ll sort you out. A bit of pampering is what you need to get rid of those aches and pains. Go on treat yourself.
A few hours later, a few hundred Bahts lighter, about to miss my plane and the owner of a recently acquired and complicated limp, I was pretty sure they were wrong…[continue]
A long and dusty road stretches off into the distance of a barren and parched landscape, a dirty barefoot girl in bloodied rags is staggering across the scrubland frantically waving and shouting at an approaching vehicle.
The car skids to a halt a hundred meters down the road and as the girl clambers onto the tarmac the passenger window slides down, the driver calls out “Need a ride?”…[continue]
It seems too coincidental that just a few days after David Cameron rolled out the old “This is a Christian country with Christian Values, we’ll have no trouble here” speech like an old racist shopkeeper, he and his family, friends and everyone in Christendom and beyond who happen to be uber rich have been exposed to be paying exactly the same amount of tax as the Church in the UK…[continue]
Hold onto your hats, the battle of Brexit is on its way to a TV near you.
The referendum will be held on Thursday 23rd June, which means the first three weeks in June might be a good time to go on holiday, or at least pretend to go on holiday, cancel the papers and hide under the bed.
The choice is simple. Stay or Go…[continue]
As sad as I was to hear of the death of David Bowie; it is quite lovely to think that as I sit here alone in my lounge listening to him, across the world thousands of people are doing exactly the same…[continue]
If you were to ask a dozen visitors to (or residents in) Myanmar if they had ever been to Pindaya, I would bet a bottle of beer that the majority of answers would be in the affirmative. If you then asked those that had been there to describe the town or name the hotel that they had stayed in, I would bet a case of beer that most people would probably respond, “Oh no, I only went to the caves” or words to that effect…[continue]
Each November in the UK we celebrate a failed attempt to once blow up a king by huddling together in a draughty back garden to watch (from a safe distance) someone’s dad struggle to ignite (at arms length) a succession of damp fireworks.
In Myanmar they do fireworks a little differently….[continue]
“Cinema’s ‘ban’ the Church of England Lord’s Prayer advert!”
And so they should!
When I go to the cinema to watch a movie filled with guns and explosions and people being killed, with a hint of a love story and maybe one comedic character for the kids. I want lots of sneaky product placements to subconsciously infiltrate my mind, so that when I leave I immediately go out and spend a fortune on memorabilia and unrelated goods that seem to have been endorsed by the stars of the film…[continue]
British politics today is like wrestling, and I’m not talking about that fake American stuff, I’m talking about real (and it was absolutely real) wrestling, proper British wrestling (circa the late 1970’s early 1980’s), when it was televised on ITV World of Sport on a Saturday afternoon.
There was no better Tag-Team at the time than Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, and at their peak they could pack out Leeds Town Hall (can you imagine!)… [continue]
“Do you have the time.”
This is barked at me across the aisle in the quiet carriage on a Thursday afternoon by a man who makes it very clear that this is not a question, this is an order. From the manner in which he has spoken and way that he is dressed I imagine he is someone who is used to demanding answers rather than asking questions.
I hesitate as I take in his words, for he was the first person to speak anything to me for some time other than “tickets please” but also because although I had just looked at my watch, he knows this hence his communication, I can’t for the life of me remember where the hands were pointing…[continue]
With the rain on the tin roof playing an out of time accompaniment to the cacophony of snoring from the dozen or so men around me on the floor of this monastery I snuggle further into my sleeping bag, mummified to the extent that only my nose is uncovered I’m still cold, but it’s a nice kind of cold.
Despite the temperature, the hardness of the floor and the background symphony of unsynchronised apnoea, I’m tired enough to know that nothing will prevent me from achieving the deep satisfying fatigued sleep of someone who has completed a decent days walking…[continue]
There are no rules, (or if there are I was too busy boozing to catch them) and there are absolutely no distasteful and bizarre British initiation ceremonies involving animals.
A simple interest in whisky will suffice…. [continue]
It doesn’t matter whether the recent allegations about the British Prime Minister are true or false, the damage has been done. And though what he is accused of doing is technically not illegal, (owning pictures of it might be), he will be remembered for this accusation for evermore, which is a bit of a shame because he’s done a lot of worse things in his time as Prime Minister that he should be remembered for. But if Tony Bliar can sleep well in his five star bed whilst raking in millions around the world working as a peace envoy then I’m sure Dave will get over it….[continue]
Loikaw the capital of Kayah state is a dusty little low-rise town that at first glance has the appearance of somewhere that hasn’t changed in many years, if you scratch under the surface however you’ll discover a recent history that belies it’s sleepiness…[continue]
There is a new beer in Myanmar called Yoma, it is made by Carlsberg at their recently opened brewery in Bago, and back in June I made it my mission to taste this brand new brew.
It was harder to find than I imagined, however with great dedication above and beyond the call of duty, and undeterred by my failings to source it, I decided to make the most of my investigation time by carrying out a tiresome and extensive tasting (and review) of the other beers currently available in Myanmar.
It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it…[continue]
If you’re visiting (or staying in) Myanmar there are a few do’s and don’ts that you need to make yourself aware of before you get here. And it really is your responsibility to be fully informed of them, because although for minor infringements you’ll often be excused (and someone might helpfully point out your mistake to make sure you don’t do it again) there are some things you just shouldn’t do because you’ll really upset people. There are even a few things you could do that will get you kicked out of the country or at worst (as sadly happened to a mate) sent to prison…[continue]
The success of Hsipaw as a tourist destination has been surprisingly rapid, especially as it has always been talked of as a well-kept secret. Vang Veing it is not however, and is still managing to retain it’s charm as a riverside market town despite the throngs of independent travellers. There was a period of time where the town was in danger of becoming the setting of a children’s book with invented antonyms such as Ma BoatBoat, Mr Book, Mrs Popcorn, Mr Shake and Mr Bike. Thankfully recently opened establishments have steered clear of this naming trend, and we can only hope that a Mrs Twentyfourhourdisco isn’t currently putting together her business plan…[continue]
Would it be too clichéd to start an article about eating insects with a ‘Waiter, waiter’ joke? Probably, so we’ll take that bit as read. But eating insects isn’t a funny business, and according to a 2013 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) it is something we should be paying serious attention to in the future…[continue]
I met Bob and Carol in the visitors book of a nondescript free to enter museum in Dubrovnik one wet afternoon many years ago. We were only there for few minutes whilst the weather sorted itself out, and it was cheaper than having to pay for an overpriced coffee in a swanky cafe…[continue]
Have you ever cooked Pennywort, Roselle, or Myu leaves? Do you know what a Chinese Potato tastes like, or know what to do with a swastika printed tofu block? Have you been instructed how to properly dissect a squid, or been surprised by a catfish leaping at your ankles from a tin bowl on the floor? Have you ever sat down with a butcher, armed only with Google images on an iPhone and a lot of gruesome hand gestures to get into the nitty gritty of what bits of beef come from which bits of the cow?
Welcome to market shopping in Yangon!…[continue]
Back in October 2013 I chucked my two penneth down into the interweb along with a thousand others who had something to say about Russell Brand – (Russell Brand’s Revolution or “Wankers one and all”?). He’d just leapt into the political spotlight having guest edited the Spectator magazine and appeared on Newsnight to tell Jeremy Paxman that he didn’t, hadn’t and never would vote….[continue]
You might find the whole process excruciatingly painful, an unpleasant trial to endure, or something you just want to avoid at all costs. It might be an integral part of your overseas experience, a normal aspect of your everyday life, or even a challenge you relish. But regardless of whether you love or loathe the cut-and-thrust of haggling you will undoubtedly have found yourself negotiating with someone over the price of a product or service at some point…[continue]
It is twenty-nine years ago to the day that I had to recite the poem ‘St George and the Dragon’ by Alfred Moyes at a school assembly. The terror of those excruciating 30 seconds burned onto my mind to such a degree that I can still repeat it ad-verbatim, and it still makes my knees wobble and bladder ache when I do so….[continue]
A lady called Katie Hopkins had an article published in the Sun Newspaper on Friday 17th April 2015, titled:
I’d use gunships to stop migrants”.
And it is upsetting a lot of people….[continue]
A Rat King if you are unfamiliar with the phrase or have never seen one before, (don’t click on that link if you are just about to get stuck into a plate of spaghetti bolognese) is a pretty nasty (possibly crypto-zoological) phenomenon. It is basically a collection of rats that are inextricably bound together through being born into and growing up in a restricted environment…[continue]
In amidst all the revelry, loud music, heat and water throwing, as an outside observer it’s easy to forget that Thingyan is a very special, spiritual and beautiful time in Myanmar…[continue]
In South East Asia we are definitely blessed with an abundance of beautiful beaches to visit, and you don’t have to travel very far to find your idea of paradise – be that the hedonistic haven of Haad Rin, or the idle tranquillity of Gili Air. You may even have your own secret little spot that you keep returning to, one that you’re keeping under wraps for fear that it’ll be ruined should the word get out that it is still beautiful, tranquil and the perfect place to build a concrete monstrosity and 24-hour nightclub. You may even hold dear and distant memories of locations changed beyond recognition; Phi Phi for example before both nature and man decimated it…[continue]
For me it is tea – industrial strength tea, the kind of tea that you could build a house with, or slice up and make a sandwich out of – the kind of tea that would worry a cheap teaspoon. English Breakfast tea, Yorkshire Tea to be precise, Yorkshire Gold if I’m feeling flush. I stockpile those little packets of pleasure as if preparing for Armageddon. Every visitor I receive is encouraged to fill the corners of their suitcase with those little bags of bliss…[continue]
According to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?” (Adams D. ‘80)
According to the latest Lonely Planet Myanmar guide, it seems that “Where shall we have lunch?” is not that much of a problem in Yangon, as apparently you can’t walk more than a few hundred yards before stumbling upon somewhere that will serve a feast of flavours, a mountain of noodles and a fair sized portion of oil to see you through the afternoon, all for a few Kyat…[continue]
Ask a hundred runners why they run and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Some will tell you it is simply about the health and fitness whilst others may suggest it is exercising to exorcise demons. Some may even go as far to suggest that that it is about fresh air and space – clearly they don’t run in Yangon – and to others it is a way of hiding in plain sight…[continue]
It’s been seven days since I promised some pals that I would publish this piece within twenty-four hours – so true to form I’m late. It’s not been a week of lounging by the pool drinking margaritas I might add. It’s been a week of studying documents, reading newspapers, and scouring the web for information. I’ve also taken the time to contemplate my own thoughts rather than gut instincts, scrape the crispy dried bits from the edges of my brain, and sieve out the facts from the conspiracy theories of my own suspicious mind.
And after all that research, heart and head searching I’m still left with the first three words I started with.
It’s not fair…[continue]
There is little doubt that Yangon is a city of smokers – you only have to walk into your nearest teashop or beer station to experience the modern-day equivalent of a Dickensian ‘pea-souper’. Whilst the health authorities in many countries are fighting hard to prevent smokers from lighting up almost anywhere where it might be pleasurable for them to do so, it seems that here smokers still rule the roost – regardless of the displeasure and ill-health it may inflict on others – certainly for the time being anyway…[continue]
Because if you lie Father Christmas won’t give you any presents. He’ll zoom right past – on his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer – and go to the house next door; regardless of how much Sherry (do we still do that or has drink driving kicked that into touch?), mince pies and carrots you leave at the bottom of the chimney….[continue]
There was a guy in Manchester who I’d see on an almost daily basis when I lived there, I named him 50p Phil. He was a beggar, just one of many I’d meet on my way to and from work in the city. 50p Phil had a slightly different take on the whole begging thing and a slightly unusual approach to twanging the old heartstrings. His routine was well practiced and executed perfectly every time….[continue]
They primarily worked the outdoor area along Canal Street, and in between finishing the left over pints on the tables (mine sweeping they call it) they’d periodically pester you for 11-pence…[continue]
“Get a Job!”
This was the reply an educated, articulate and generally amiable mate of mine gave to the guy sat on the floor as we walked past on a rainy boozy November night out.
This beggar who’d dared to ask the question – one of the many on the streets of Manchester that didn’t use the crafty strategies of 50p Phil nor the clever mathematical tactics of the 11p Crew – had no retort for my pal; he simply continued to sit passively like a bundle of rags that had fallen off the back of a dustbin wagon…[continue]
said the man…
…wearing his Burberry cap, Fred Perry shirt, Lonsdale sweat pants and Reeboks. Made in China, Portugal, Malaysia and Vietnam respectively.
With his St. George Cross flag (manufactured in China) stuck to the back window of his American owned, Turkish built Ford Transit Van…[continue]
Last year I wrote a blog: “Russell Brand’s revolution: Wankers one and All”.
And recently it’s been getting a massive amount of attention. That might be because he’s just written a book called “Revolution”, or maybe it’s linked to the word “Wanker” in the title I don’t know.
Or it could just be because Russell Brand is making a bit of noise, and getting a lot of press attention at the minute…[continue]
…And that concludes our presentation. In summary – this is the most technologically advanced communications device the world has ever seen. None of our competitors are within in a mile of the clever electrickery inside this baby, the market is ours. We’ve listened to our customers and made it fast, clever, smart strong, sexy and practically indestructible…[continue]
They gather in gangs by the gates of compounds, they hang about outside temples, and slouch intimidatingly in the shade on street corners. They moodily stare at you as you walk past, muttering under their breath, making sure you know that you’re not welcome on their territory. Sometimes they approach you and sometimes they cleverly ignore you – lulling you into a false sense of security until you have passed before menacingly appearing behind you.
They are the street dogs of Yangon…[continue]
The first person you’ll more than likely meet when you arrive at Pansodan Jetty will be Peter. He isn’t an official, a ticket vendor or a paid employee of any kind – he sells post cards, five for 3,000 Kyat. But if you haven’t been here before – and he’ll know if you’ve visited Dalla before – in perfect English he’ll gladly show you where to buy your ticket – $4 return for foreigners…[continue]
The taxi driver turned and laughed as he gestured with his hands at the Toyota cars in the traffic jam before us; the same traffic jam we had been sat in for forty-five minutes. I wondered whether it had taken him this long to make the joke up, or whether it was an old favourite that he saved for frustrating occasions like this; for times when his passenger was dangerously close to getting out and walking to the meeting they were fifteen minutes late for. Disappointingly it turned out that this was the only joke he would make in the ninety minutes we were together…[continue]
To some they are just big crisps to crunch whilst waiting for a cold pint of Cobra, or a handy snack to soak up the evening’s alcohol consumption. To others they are a device to distract the mind from the rumblings of the stomach, or just something to pass the time whilst perusing the menu.
But to me, poppadoms (or papads, pappadums, or whatever spelling variation you favour) are much more than that…[continue]
What reward is this?
You work hard for all of your life, saving what you can, putting little bits aside every month for a rainy day. You’ve lived a good life. You are a good person.
And you’ve saved it for what?
To end up here, with all these other folk in this ‘facility’.
Is this how it is supposed to be?
You can see heaven from here, if you look carefully…[continue]
Epic motorbike trips, it seems, are ten a penny these days. Everyone and his or her dog are filming themselves carving tracks through the dust of the African Savanna on the back of massive Yamahas, or blogging about their bravery biking the treacherous mountain passes of northern India on Royal Enfields…[continue]
I feel conned; a bit like when I found out that there was no Father Christmas; that the rumours I’d heard at school were true and the whole thing was an elaborate hoax; only more so.
How could I have been so stupid to believe – the chimney, the mince pies – the flying reindeer, oh for God’s sake how could I have been sucked in by such a charade?
It seems so obvious in the cold light of day, now, looking back in hindsight.
How did I not see it?…[continue]
As I mention in the previous blog, this is something I hear quite often.
By the way, I agree, absolutely, one-hundred percent with the statement “Charity should begin at home.”
I am horrified and ashamed that in the UK in year 2014 there are people sleeping in the streets, and that some families are dependent on food banks to feed themselves.
And I understand that during these times of austerity why some people in the UK may feel this way, and I agree, family must and always should come first.
However I do have just two small points to clarify on our agreement of this opinion…[continue]
I’ve been away from England long enough to have got over myself and my issues with the UK. Despite what I think about the place it will always be my ‘home’.
I wear the White Rose of Yorkshire with pride on my shoulder; it’s the symbol of my ‘tribe’, I proudly explain this to anyone who happens to see under my shirt sleeve and ask its relevance…[continue]
Is one of the most wonderful things you will do today. It’s more satisfying than spelling your name in the air with a sparkler and even more pleasurable than peeing your initials in the snow. Imagine writing with the fanciest fountain pen on the most expensive handmade paper, whilst sitting in a cloud in your pants and socks eating chocolate truffles, and you’re getting close…[continue]
There is a Latin phrase – ‘panem et circenses’ that has been washing around my brain for a few years now. It translates as “Bread and Circuses” and was first penned by the poet and satirist Juvenal in about AD100.
Basically the bread and circus reference is a criticism of the hoi polloi – the generally poor public in Rome (the plebeians) – who had become so apathetic to the politics of the time that they were satisfied mainly by the provision of food and entertainment, rather than by public services provided by their elected government…[continue]
I’m not a Top Gear aficionado, I’ve seen it once or twice, I know it exists. And I am aware of the pleasure it brings to millions of TV viewers around the world.
And if seeing Diana Ross driving around a race track in an Austin Maxi is your kind of thing then that’s fine by me.
But this is the first ever episode of Top Gear that I have actually intentionally watched, and only because I had a vested interest in the subject.
And I won’t be watching part two…[continue]
Regardless of what time of day it happens to be, it’s customary in these parts to take a drink with the Chief when you arrive at his village. So when the Chief of this particular dusty little hill village produced a dirty brown glass and a bottle of cloudy green liquid at nine in the morning, I wasn’t really in a position to argue…[continue]
“Marijuana grows everywhere, serves a thousand different functions, all of them positive. To make marijuana against the law is like saying God made a mistake.” – Bill Hicks.
A ‘true’ story.
The year is 2 million years BC and a lone Homo Habilis is sat on the outskirts of his settlement by a burning field. The reason the field is on fire is not recorded; although fire has been discovered by this point in history, discarded cigarettes are still a long way off, and anyway the method of ignition is irrelevant, let’s just say it was an act of an as yet undetermined deity…[continue]
My early-to-bed-plan was rudely interrupted last night as both my phone and the four teams I had lost contact with simultaneously found themselves with reception. Through poor lines, intermittent service and my ability to speak fluent Myanmar by shouting loudly and slowly in English I managed to complete my nightly round up of the twelve teams scattered throughout the region I am supervising. Though after the twenty odd calls it took do this it was knocking on midnight by the time my head returned to the pillow…[continue]
Now that I have eventually arrived at the year before the year I turn forty, I’ve found myself doing a bit of reflecting; as you do when you get out of a car after fourteen hours and feel seventy…[continue]
There are a number of unwritten rules that blokes follow when urinating in public, and when I say ‘in public’ I mean in in the conveniences provided to gentlemen for that purpose and not pissing in the shallow end at Lister baths. They’re actually more natural instincts than rules, they aren’t taught, perhaps they are imprinted in our DNA, or maybe they’re in the genes that make up our Y chromosome. I don’t know…[continue]
I’m currently moving around some pretty ‘sensitive’ parts of the country, the kind of places you don’t take photographs, let alone blog about, so I can’t really say that much about my trip. However due to the long hours travelling; my brain dashing around my skull as my body bounces around the inside of the car like forgotten pocketful of loose change on a forty degree cycle, I’ve had plenty of time to think…[continue]
STAR Movies is an Indian Satellite movie channel, and the only one on my television that has English language, it shows the usual fare of Hollywood pap interspersed by a large number of adverts for whitening cream, and one rather disturbing advert for an internet provider that involves a baby delivering itself, cutting its own umbilical cord before taking a selfie with the midwife, uploading the picture to Facebook and strolling out of the hospital using a map on an iPad…[continue]
I’d just gotten to the good bit in “Paradise by the Dashboard light”, the bit where Meatloaf can’t take it any longer and is about to start praying for the end of time; and my driver put the radio on.
Despite having at least five minutes of the song left I realised that this was perhaps a signal that I should end the impromptu acapulco/karaoke session I’d been conducting from the back of the car for the last hour and a half…[continue]
Like a lot of people my first introduction to the Nelson Mandela story was through the Specials AKA track Nelson Mandela in 1984. I didn’t even buy it by choice; it was track number three on the B-side of the first cassette of ‘Now that’s what I call music 3’, it was preceded by Two Tribes by Frankie and White lines by Grand Master Flash. It was the first of the NTWICM albums I had ever owned and that B-side was my favourite. I played it to death that summer in a caravan somewhere in Yorkshire…[continue]
Abattoirs play classical music over loudspeakers as the animals are led to be slaughtered; the music provides a calming environment and stops them panicking and putting up a struggle when they realise the fate that awaits them at the end of the queue.
In shops they play “Now that’s what I call Christmas”…[continue]
As usual I’m a bit late joining the party and have only just got around to getting myself a smartphone. It’s in Chinese, cost me $50, and is really not much more than a glorified musical Christmas card. As I look at this bit of electrickery in my hand I wonder, isn’t the prefix ‘smart’ a bit of an exaggeration? In a similar way that a supermarket isn’t that terrific nor a happymeal all that joyous; isn’t the term ‘smart’ just oxymoronic when attached to a telephone?…[continue]
Good gosh is that the time? It’s the end of October already, my how the year has flown by. It seems like only yesterday I was ruffling the hair of February and pinching the cheeks of March and now I find myself nervously peering up at an angry November wondering what he has in store for me…[continue]
We see this word a lot in our lives, and although not generally in our everyday vocabulary, we are happy for REVOLUTION to occur all over the place; in hair-care, tooth-whitening, and hand dryers. Even Argos have recently used it to justify the end to their catalogues and pens, and we still refer to revolutionary when talking about weight-loss, and vacuum cleaners, and sanitary towels. It’s just one of those words that we seem to have allowed to become gradually modernized and sanitised into becoming part of our mainstream language…[continue]
I’ve just come back from a ten-day motorbike trip around Mandalay with some friends. Despite the fact that the term ‘motorbike’ was hotly disputed by my pals it was wonderful to get back on a bike after a long (government imposed) hiatus. Motorbikes are not allowed in Yangon…[continue]
Myanmar Times – October 2013
If you’ve ever attempted to ride a bucking bronco, you will undoubtedly have experienced that brief smug feeling when, at about the 30-second mark – having so far survived the gentle rocking and to-ing and fro-ing – you smile and think, “Hey, this isn’t that bad at all!”
Then, seconds later, finding yourself lying in pain on the floor looking up at the ceiling, you probably wondered where it all went wrong. If this sounds at all familiar you’ll possibly be able to understand what it feels like to travel on the sleeper train from Yangon to Mandalay…[continue]
Dear Paul Dacre,
You don’t know me; I am only one of the hundreds of millions of readers who access the Daily Mail online each month. I am writing to inform you that with a great sigh of relief and a tremendous feeling of release I will no longer be reading your newspaper…[continue]
(*Not to be confused with the similarly titled series of 1970’s films starring Robin Askwith)
I have an addictive personality, what in a pre-PC age would have just been known as being weak-willed. It’s an affliction that the experts regularly disagree upon, as they do with most things, but involves a propensity to unnecessarily consume, rely upon and overuse almost anything…[continue]
As a result of one of my previous blogs, I attempted to change some of my habits of a lifetime. I actively sought out new places to go, different products to buy, different websites to visit and even went as far as to try and sit in different chairs. It was a real effort; in fact so much so, that I was amazed by the amount of choice available to me and equally amazed at the confusing effect that actually had on my options…[continue]
I don’t watch TV, I don’t buy magazines, I’ve never seen Mad men, and I’ve got adblock on my internet; so although my day-to-day exposure to marketing is thankfully fairly limited it does mean that whenever I return to Europe and the UK I am very unprepared for the increasingly intrusive levels of advertising I witness when I get there…[continue]
I thought I’d throw my thoughts on this down pretty sharpish as I’m in the middle of an assignment that is due in tomorrow and really should be writing that, but this headline caught my eye this morning as I was flicking through the Daily Fail so I thought I might respond in a timely manner with my opinion…[continue]
“Don’t sit there!” – the waiter shouted across to me as I plonked my bags down onto the table and my arse onto the chair.
This is the waiter, I’m afraid I don’t know his name, nor him mine; he is the guy who always looks after me, he’s the one who speaks the best English I guess, and through a process of elimination over the space of a year he has become my waiter…[continue]
Is it safe to come out yet? I hope so, I’ve stayed away from the newspapers for long enough now, the drama is over, and to no surprise it turned out be a baby after all that. Jolly good show.
I’m not a big fan of the Royals. Though to be fair, I’d have to say I’m a not a big fan of Pete Doherty either; each to their own, eh? My time spent as what you might call a royalist, is quite brief, in fact it amounted to a wet afternoon colouring in-between the lines of a union flag in preparation for the visit of Prince Charles to our small town…[continue]
(Move where? Move around? Do you want me to dance for you big boy? Is that what you’d like?)
– Yes mate, this is ‘no-smoking’, you’ll have to move to the smoking area…[continue]
Posting blogs and sending emails from Myanmar is often a bit like trying to get letters past Irving Washington, which goes some way to explaining the recent vacuum of this blog…[continue]
When I originally sat down to write this ‘little’ piece about the death of Margaret Thatcher I imaged it wouldn’t take very long but I knew that it was something I should do, and to be honest it wasn’t something that I thought I had a great deal to write about. I was just going to chuck a few words down on the page, move them about a bit, make sure it was suitably relevant and put it out there on the blog for the world to see. I ended up writing five thousand words…[continue]
I hadn’t even realised I was crying until I tasted the tears collected by my spoon that had been paused mid feed, hovering momentarily between bowl and lips as I processed the information I had just received…[continue]
I guess one of the reasons why I seemed to be so unaware of the impact Mrs T. had on my life is that I had almost forgotten that she was (until recently) still alive, only Meryl Streep and those clever Hollywood types reminded me a couple of years ago when they tactfully decided it might be a jolly good idea to produce a film about an old lady (still living) with dementia. I have to admit I did watch it, if only for the surrealism of watching footage of striking Yorkshire miners whilst sat in a cinema in Tanzania, and to be honest I found the whole thing rather intriguingly distasteful. I wonder if she watched it, or even knew about it?…[continue]
“The miners united, will never be defeated”
Hearing this short sound-bite whilst watching the film ‘Brassed-Off’ eleven years after the end of the miners strike opened up feelings of sadness and hopelessness within me that I had forgotten existed. These words poured over my body like a wave, I suddenly felt cold and a shiver ran through me, the memory of an inexplicably empty hole of disappointment and disillusion reopened. The scene is of miners’ wives picketing outside the fictional colliery of Grimley (Grimethorpe in real life) and they are chanting these six words, over and over again…[continue]
Did you know that you could fit the whole population of Wales into about 44 thousand double decker buses?
How amazing is that?
And did you know that if you stacked those packed buses on top of each other they would reach about halfway to the moon?…[continue]
I open my eyes briefly, but weighed down through tiredness they are forced closed before they can focus. My eyelids, they feel as if they are filled with sand, the muscles too weak, too tired to sustain the contracted position for more than a second.
But there was definitely a man there, a man in my room.
A man is hurriedly unplugging his kettle; he is wearing cheap white hotel slippers over black socks. Now he is curling up in a ball on the floor holding a pillow over his head, to be honest he looks a bit annoyed about the whole affair…[continue]
There are generally not many things that my father-in-law says that I agree with; and although he seems to have an inappropriate catch-phrase for almost every occasion there’s also not many that I would repeat in polite company. This however is one that I particularly like, and one that I occasionally use:
“If you make a fuck-up of it, make a feature out of it.”…[continue]
“By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?”
If you’ve never read it, it is worth a glance, well more than a glance as it a huge poem, but it is absolutely awesome, it is one of my favourites, and a tale I return to regularly. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge tells the tale of an old man who holds an impatient wedding guest captive with his story…[continue]
Have you ever found yourself in that awkward position of being invited to a wedding, but not actually being invited to it? You know the story, you come downstairs and poking out in-between the bills on the door mat is an expensive hand-addressed envelope. You eagerly peel it open as you would a well-made bed in a posh hotel, and peek inside to see the acres of lovely cream crimped sheets within. Shiny gold italics and embossed bells come flashing out at you, mingling with the smell of unnecessarily overpriced stationary…[continue]
It’s been a hectic old week, what with 2 days spent travelling back from the far north of South Sudan to Dar es Salaam, and then hitting the bureaucratic assault course of the Tanzania Fisheries/Livestock export department at a sprint that gradually ground to a gentle stroll and then a shuffle…[continue]
So here I am again, sat outside my tent, my last night here before I head home and the blogging deadline I’ve imposed on myself is looming. I’ve promised a post on gender in South Sudan, and I really don’t know where to start…[continue]
A short one today. I was drinking beer in the village and a man was desperate to tell me his joke, not sharing a language, it had to be translated, regardless it still produced a huge laugh from the guys I was drinking with…[continue]
The dirty details of the Rabid Dogs, how to avoid cockroaches and why stepping on a “Sudanese Landmine” is a bad move. Warning! Do not read this latest blog post if you are about to get stuck into your Pret A Manger…[continue]
So the real catalyst behind this adventure in blogging was a “creating writing” course I attended in Greece back in September, trying to find my “writers voice.” I know it sounds a bit flaky I figured it would be a good way to determine once and for all whether I had any abilities when putting a series of words together, and whether I could in theory develop skills that might carry those words further. Also I love Greece, and wanted to spend some cash there this year…[continue]
They arrive slowly, one by one, from all directions, many having walked long distances to be here. They return to this place, at this time, every week, and they take their familiar positions under this huge perfectly drawn cartoon tree of shade; perfectly domed at its top, and perfectly flat along its underside, at this hour it casts a perfectly round shadow twenty yards in diameter directly beneath its ancient branches…[continue]
I wake up to the sound of hysterical laughter. I’m tired, I’m hot and I am dusty, the dust has gathered on top of a layer of sweat and dried to form a crusty shell, it has been a long day. Slowly in the front of the Land Cruiser my head had dropped, my eyes had drooped and I had nodded off…[continue]
So it has been a little while since I last uploaded my words here, although I assure you my absence is not through apathy or laziness, or the dreaded ‘bloggers block’. I continue to write daily, I make sure I get my 10 minutes down, and more often than not it is scratched into the dirty, tattered, scruffy notepad that has become such a permanent resident in my pocket that is almost a parasite, it sits there happily feeding throughout the day from my consciousness, eating dust, sweat and gorging on my frenetically scribed thoughts and ideas…[continue]
I am determined that this blog will be positive, and although a sounding board and a place to exercise my (current) right to free speech, and right to be critical of others, I will try to maintain that in a positive light. But I believe, as a living breathing human being I must be allowed to be constructively critical about the world around me and the word as I see and live it….[continue]
A phrase I have always thought of as a polite and positive answer to a question that has been posed…[continue]
The story you are about to read is true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent…
She whispered into her computer…[continue]
So what is the significance of the title of this blog? I hear you ask, (in the same way that an imaginary friend might) well it’s kind of a long story, and will probably take a year or two to explain, so I will skip the juicy and scandalous bits and cut to the chase…[continue]
Hi, how are you? Do you have a minute? Well, when I say a minute I mean about five. I need to get something off my chest…[continue]
First past the post
This is a test of the new blog. The first post, written in my best handwriting like on the first page of a new exercise book. I haven’t even had time to cover it in sticky plastic.