Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

What I would say if they asked me.

I've bought Wanderlust Magazine since issue 1. I can't remember exactly when I started to get it on subscription but it was certainly early on. It's the only magazine that I still get every issue, without fail.

Although it hasn't always been there, and the questions and format have occasionally changed a bit, there is a regular feature in which they ask the same set of questions of various people. They do include subscribers but I have no idea how they pick them so I thought I'd just answer them here, just as if they'd asked me. Practice in case they ever do, I suppose.
Anyway, the answers in the magazine have to be quite short. Here I can stretch out a bit. And add some pictures.

Mountain, desert, ocean, jungle… which are you?

Didn't have to think about it for a second. I love them all but I have this terrific memory of waking up in the White Desert in Egypt. I hadn't bothered to pitch a tent and I'd dragged my groundsheet far enough away from the people that I was travelling with that it felt as if I were alone in the desert. The night was cloudless, the sky was endless and I fell asleep staring at the stars. I woke up as the sun was poking its fingers through the distant mountain tops and watched the night mutate into the day. It was marvellous. I even wrote this poem about it.

Awake on the bone ground
In shattered geometries of stone
Alone, surrendered to the night,
In the White Desert
Starfish stranded, darkness bound
The centre of the silent dome
Of scattered, ancient frozen lights
In the White Desert

A falling star, a spark
Ignites the breaking fire
Pours flame over the circling heights
Into the White Desert
Drives wedges through the dark
Until it's clutching hand expires
And reveals again the sight

Of the White Desert.

What was your first great travel experience?

That depends on what you mean by great. The first memorable one was my disastrous trip to the United States but I'd hardly call it great. No, the first one where I remember it being truly amazing was actually a two week package deal in China that took in Beijing, Guilin, Shanaghai and Xi-An. I fell in love with China and though I've only been back once, it was for two months. My favourite memories of it include the Terracotta Army, the Reed Flute caves and chatting to a sign writer in Beijing who wanted me to help him fix the grammar in his delightful sign that read "Everywhere to be looking around tickets".


What has been your favourite journey?

That of course is the hard question. I would have said the nine months travelling in North and South America but as you may have read in a previous entry there were parts of that that were utterly miserable. I suppose I'd have to go for my first trip to Peru and Machu Picchu. Hiking up the Inca Trail in the pre-dawn and arriving at the Sun Gate as the dawn broke was one of the most memorable things I've ever done. I remember about half an hour later we had walked down into the ancient city. We were standing just looking at it when the mist rolled across and cut off the view and filled the world with silence and for a few eternal moments it was as if we had been transported back in time to when the city was new and full of life. Unbelievably wonderful.

Which are your top five places worldwide?

Machu Picchu, as in the previous answer. Yangshou, in China, which Paul Merton hated but which I thought was terrific. Bryce Canyon National Park in the USA which is so alien it could just as well be the planet Mars. The top of the Empire State building, looking down at the city. The Iguassu Falls which are quite simply the most spectacular natural thing on the planet.

Which three items do you always pack?

The first is very mundane. Earplugs. Sharing a room with a snorer is always bad news. Sharing a tent with one is worse. I've done more than my fair share of both. You can look here for some good advice on what to do about snorers.

The second is a thick new unlined notepad and very fine point pen. I always keep a diary when I travel and I write a lot. I use it right side up and from the front for the diary and upside down and from the back to write poetry.

The third I don't actually take any more but I always used to travel in a green New York Jets shirt. I had it for years and took it everywhere with me, usually wearing it for the plane journeys. Now my expanding girth means it's way to small for me. It's buried in the bottom of a wardrobe somewhere.


Not El Salvador, Roatan where I went instead.

Which passport stamp would you most like to have?

That's another easy one. El Salvador. When we were travelling around the Americas the single regret that I have is that I passed up on the chance to visit El Salvador with my mate Manu. He went and when we met up again was full of how good it had been. I on the other hand had had a thoroughly miserable week on Roatan that led to this poem being written.

Nothing Under The Sun

There’s nothing here, nothing under the sun
Not a damned place to go, not a thing to be done

One day in this ‘paradise’ drags on like a year

A man could go crazy from boredom out here

Read every word on every damned page

Of every last book to be found in this cage

Lay down on my bed unmoving for hours

My energy sapped, my life’s will devoured

I don’t want to be here, what more can I say

I live for the moment when the plane flies away

There’s nothing here, nothing under the sun

Not a damned place to go, not a thing to be done.

Where or what is your guilty travel pleasure?

It has to be Las Vegas. There is no reason on Earth for me to like this glossy, tacky ludicrous temple to conspicuous consumerism but I do. I can't help it. I love the place. It's Disneyland for grown-ups. I love the bright lights, the shows, the roller coasters. I love it all. Does that make me a bad person?


And that's it – all questions answered. I hope it's given you an insight into who I am. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

1 comment:

Cat said...

I've never been to Vegas. I keep thinking all the same things you do: there is no reason on earth for me to like that place. But then my friends will come back, raving about this or that thing they did, and how really inexpensive it can be to stay there if you're not gambling, and I think "hmmmm", but I still can't imagine going.