Before Emigration

      September 1964, a week before Independence     The summer was bright over the rocks and the sea. A seagull dived into the water. A young boy watched it and thought of German bombers diving over ships and cities during the war. He was young and he wanted to jump into the…

The Distant Mountain Tops

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”   – Gustave Flaubert   I’ve been mulling over that quote for quite some time now as I prepare for my honeymoon adventure to the other end of the world. It’s a blindingly obvious thing to say, but: Chile is a…

Epicurean Realism

  Ever since I was small I was fascinated by the big role little things played in people’s lives. Being an argumentative sort I always pitted imaginary battles in my heads: food vs. career; football vs. relationships; mementos vs. ambitions. Of course now that I’m older and presumably wiser I know it’s not a case…

Numinous Childhood

From Childhood to Eternity Those eyes, still so fresh with the dew of youth, Will see things no poet’s pen could ever entrap; Noble Mexican tapestries, French vineyards of olden silk, Azure domains, verdant realms, celestial weaves, Waves without ships or men, races of a thousand hues, Greeks, Kurds, Quechuan and the ancestors of man….

Inner Landscapes

Childhood   What world is this With so many blues? Birds fly like planes And houses Have balconies for faces. Olive trees Shake hands With palms. And beaches Drown with the tide. Oh mother, I don’t know!     The Pen   Like snow To a mountain, Or the cocktail To the man who screams…

The Origins of Travel: Grace Under Pressure

  We are often told that travel is freedom. It’s a romantic view of what is essentially leisurely migration. I don’t see it that way. Not anymore. Wanderlust: one of the most beautiful words in the English language (and typically of Germanic origins) is an evocative word that breathes mountain air and wistful breezes. But…

The Voyages of a Devoted Reader

Literary Travel Guide to Europe and the Americas   Travel guides. Is there anything more miserable, more cliché-making, complacent and sheepish than those small, compact dictionaries-of-places that you can conveniently, nay embarrassingly, carry in your pockets? All you need to scream out ‘tourist’ even louder is a sun-hat, bermuda shorts and sandals. What happened to…

Day of the Dead

In the Xicotencatl, somewhere in the soul-deserting streets of the Coyoacan neighbourhood, Alicia found La Santa Gula. It was the only place in the whole of Mexico City where she could hope to speak Maltese. Her Spanish was pitiful, lazy, and speaking it elicited painful memories that used to be happy. No: she changed too…

The Ghost in the Arena

  The Ghost in the Arena     Writing is a blood-sport. And in many blood-sports you tend to find the influence of religion. Think of the superstitions of bullfighters. Or the outspoken religiosity of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Or the Zen-like spirituality of karate. Faith brings these fighters, who frequently flirt with death…

Check-Mating Free Will

  Free will exists. It has no choice but to exist. Our entire legal system is predicated on its existence. However free will has its limitations. Imagine a game of chess. A player is of course free to choose any move he desires. Move a pawn, a knight, a rook, try a philidor defence or…