Category Archives: Travel

The Beast from the East – Edinburgh.


Snow is hell. As Scots, you’d think we would be able to cope with the scenario but evidently not. The whole country is static, with bewildered cattle stocking up trolleys with bread and milk.

Anyway, sometimes there are serene scenes. It looks lovely out there.

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On the sauce in Salzburg and Munich.

Back to Salzburg and Munich again for a double-headed session. To think the birthplace of Mozart and Doppler was now the temporary milieu of beer-compromised attempts to retrieve a Snickers bar from a dilapidated vending machine at 4:16 a.m.


Salzburg is a place with many bars, sadly few ATMs (seeking a Geldautomat is depressing), and with a most varied supply of charming newsagents, which appears to my primary interest these days. Somewhere down the line vistas ceased to be of fascination. I couldn’t find a Lidl, though. Gutted.


The salient memory of Munich was feigning a limp in order to use a disabled toilet, and attempting to escape the city for the airport. There was “something wrong with the tracks,” they kept barking at me in the station. I don’t think I’ve ever been on so many trains to get to one destination, and so drained of vitamins throughout. I thought I was going to die on that plane home from an overdose of fatigue and amaretto. But I didn’t.  Good times.


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Henry Worsley – the modern-day Shackleton.


I didn’t know a thing about this bloke and his quite bonkers accomplishments until I stumbled upon a ‘long-read’ New Yorker article, ‘The White Darkness‘. By the end of the piece I was flabbergasted, drained (from the warm confines of my living room), and in awe of the feats accomplished.

Worsley’s travails on Antarctica mirrored those of Ernest Shackleton a century ago. In 2008 he led an expedition through the Transantarctic Mountains, 100 years after Shackleton’s Nimrod misadventure. And in 2011 he redid Roald Amundsen’s 1912 journey to the South Pole.

Worsley’s final mission was to complete his journey unaided (and without a kite to help drag his supply sled) across Antarctica in 80 days. He somehow managed 913 miles in 69 days, but had to radio for assistance with only 30 miles to completing Shackleton’s unfinished Endurance trek. Airlifted to Chile, he died on 24 January, 2016.


Be it scaling Everest or circumnavigating the globe on a yacht, feats of human endurance – failures or not – have something of the Homeric in them. It’s an Icarus kind of deal.

Further reading:

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The Boeing 314 Clipper.


Look at this madness. A bygone age, passengers on Boeing’s 314 Clipper were graced with sleeping compartments, lounges, changing rooms, and a bridal suite (De Lux Compartment) for trans-Atlantic travel. Some of the images of the time (1930s and ’40s) appear ‘pre-history’, as if this is how all air travel should be; we were denied it by economics and the rather vexing religious cuckoo.

The Emirates A380 business class experience is the closest parallel to that luxury flying boat; think Patrick Bateman from Dubai to Sydney with all the mod cons. What’s missing, however, is … well, look at that photo of the Clipper interior – it’s pure shameless decadence at 13,000 feet, but without the sandals and hoodies. Every Master of the Universe is suited and booted.


When I make my millions from pulling off the most daring robbery (don’t tell anyone) since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, I’ll be flying from airport to airport on one of these Emirates bad boys, a bottle of £20,000 champagne and the Mighty Ducks movies to accompany my victory laps. I won’t be visiting places; the airports will suffice.

Further reading/viewing:

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Edinburgh roundabouts ….


This park is usually frequented by mutilated junkies off their tits or those wee post-Noughties hipster kids taking selfies on the swings (the Decline of Western Civilisation). You are, however, blessed once in a blue moon (Definition: informal, very rarely) by these kind of vignettes. Silence. No one in sight. Lovely.

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Medieval globetrotters.

Concerning us riff raff in the Middle Ages, I pictured some plonker of my age birthed in a ditch and travelling in a lifetime no further than 30 miles from that manky hole in the ground. That was my preconception of life as a shackled-up member of the peasantry.

The thing is they *did* travel – it was an arduous, unforgiving task fraught with more dangers than a Saw movie, but there were, as recent research has illustrated, plenty of people who embraced the unknown and left their ‘shitholes’ simply for the pleasures of the destination, the exhilaration of seeing new things. The Canterbury Tales were ‘real life’.


I’ve yet to see a film forensically shed light upon the dangers and pitfalls of travelling in the Middle Ages – how it was done, the ordeal of the whole escapade. Imagine plodding hundreds, even thousands, of miles in heavily armed groups to reduce the dangers, the only knowledge of your destination that of hearsay, not a single image preparing you for the place.

Cinema needs a cracker about a penniless tradesman slogging it solo across all manner of mayhem, ‘Edmund’ from a Lancashire hovel on his epic mission to Florence. Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005) is the only flick in recent memory that with verisimilitude depicts some snippet of the gruelling nature of travel back in the dark days, this the late 12th century of the crusade and the crucifix.


I have this image of your stock member of the rabble doing anything to escape his lot (‘Nastybrutish and short‘), the grasping of even the most remote of opportunities, a former serf, now peasant, off exploring sans the protection of his noble.

I’ve met so many folk in Edinburgh who simply have no interest in seeing the world. It’s not their oyster; it’s an irrelevance. The sense of haughtiness applies even at the micro level – “Why would I want to sample Aldi when I have a Lidl on my doorstep?” Today’s by-choice non-travellers are a carbon copy of our image of the medieval peasantry. Either through poverty – a simple economic inability to explore – or through a self-cocooning belief that other places don’t belong to them, a large swathe of our populace travel proportionally less than their medieval counterparts. I don’t get it. Perhaps staying put it just easier and that’s the only explanation for it.

The dangers of travel are immeasurably less than in, say, 1418, yet the fears of tragic happenstance metastasise in the mind – pervasive news media can really pump the fear. It could be you on that AWOL Malaysia Airlines flight.

In a digital world which comes to you, there is less need to seek out the exotic. Video games and virtual reality are the modern-day pilgrimage, Amazon and eBay the trip into town.

Further reading:


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The Central Park Bird Lady.

In every park in every city there’s an initially creepy but ultimately benevolent bird lady with a heart of pure gold. Please pass on a turtle dove (and some shampoo) to your resident hobo this Christmas.

N.B. The Bird Lady – her life story up until meeting Kevin McCallister – really should have been a movie prequel.

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Edinburgh – Gorgie ice age.

IMG_20171218_092258053_HDR~2Gorgie has finally approached full Ice-Mode so it is therefore officially winter in ‘God’s Country’. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a tracksuit-wearing ruffian bolting for the bus and slipping on his/her/its arse. In a rare Vanilla Sky-esque snap, we here witness the ghetto at its most pacific.

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Aberfeldy – doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.

This was a laugh, a fleeting jaunt up to some ridiculously ostentatious lodge in Perthshire – well it was until the taps froze. Ah, rum for brekky instead of water, and shower-free days spent sat on my hoop watching movies and munching Pringles.

I saw a deer who insouciantly wandered into our garden. Here’s the proof with a shitty photo:


I also played pool and rediscovered my childhood with a game of Buckaroo! Indolence, I’ll always embrace you.


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Christmas Day in Oslo.


Christmas brings back the nostalgia, and I do most cherish those memories from the good ol’ days – stuffing my cheeks with selection boxes whilst wailing “Woof” at Buzz’s girlfriend. Xmas is a childhood signifier, the throwback event to an uncomplicated time when the most strenuous task was grabbing forty winks on Christmas Eve.

One recent Christmas Day stays with me, though. Alone in Oslo circa 2013, it was a day of, if not self-discovery, then a serene, surreal solitude (accidental alliteration).

I was reminded of that line in Heat (1995) when De Niro’s character ventures, “I am alone, I am not lonely.” That was Oslo for me: I simply walked the barely inhabited streets apropos of nothing, uttering not a word to anyone, feeling myself an invisible, pointless wanderer passing through the geography. I did nothing, and liberating it was. I’ve not had a jaunt like that since. I recommend Oslo – anonymous, pallid, flat – as the place for it. Maybe it’s livelier in the summer.



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