Searching the Sun: San Francisco

Janette Ayachi

This summer the sun was shy in Scotland, so I went searching for it in San Francisco.  Instead of a direct flight to the city, I travelled from LAX airport on the infamous Greyhound bus.  We swerved passed valleys of blossom, grape vines, palm trees and cranberry-coloured flowers, honeysuckle and scorching sun…

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Out of Fear

Adrianne Finlay

As a child I went through a slightly compulsive phase where I walked around with my hands clenched into fists. I had a fear of spiders, and my twelve-year-old mind had created a visceral connection between my fingers and the creeping, thickly hinged legs of the spider. To see either my fingers or the spider’s legs move, the way each appendage seemed to act independently of the others, the way there were just too many of them, disturbed me…

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The Spider on the Differential

Pat Neil

This story feels like a mere series of anecdotes, barely connected. The connection I hope is really like those old Victorian playthings, where you flip the pages over quickly and a sort of moving picture appears, although each one on its own is static.
Once you start this remembering business it takes hold of you by the scruff of the neck, the years slip away. And it has come to pass that indeed I can recall incidents from 50 years ago very clearly, smell the Mediterranean herbs crushed under the donkey’s hooves, feel the grittiness of the sand as it formed a crust with the scented Ambre Solaire…. Keep your madeleines Monsieur Proust, it’s the nose that does it for me.

It was the 60s, but not as Britain knew it…. London was swinging – Carnaby Street, music festivals, beads, dope, flower power and floaty skirts, the Beatles. It all, all passed us by. We were living in an alternative world…

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Operation Carmargue

JPM Justice

For me travels are instrumented by a key inspirational feature. Flamingoes entail kitsch, neon affection in certain quarters (alongside the palm tree) what with their remarkable coloured plumage, distinctly awkward dimensions and tropical habitat. Most recently Herzog and Lynchʼs casting of them as ʻeagles in dragʼ and subsequently hostages in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done has brought an affectionate glimpse of the bird in domestic captivity. Thus, etched on my mind, they became a natural wonder I eagerly desired to gaze up close, especially before committing one to tattoo needle (alas the stuffed version I had viewed in the Biology department of St Andrewʼs university didnʼt quite suffice for my ink- inducing research)…

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Instructed Vagrancy

Claudia Massie

‘Our instructed vagrancy, which has hardly time to linger by the hedgerows, but runs away early to the tropics, and is at home with palms and banyans – which is nourished on books on travel, and stretches the theatre of its imagination to the Zambesi’.

George Eliot wrote these words in The Mill on the Floss  in 1860. The art of travel literature has continued to flourish, and nourish, to this day. We could if we chose circumnavigate the globe many times over and along myriad routes, solely through the pages of books. But which route to take? Which writers to follow? Here, in the first installment of an occasional series, we will attempt to trace a route eastwards around the world from Greenwich in the company of some of the finest writers who ever crossed those continents. The journey taken and the authors selected will be by no means constitute a comprehensive guide to anything other than the joys of the meandering art of travel writing…

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Use What You Want

Richard House

The road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penn is a plain black hardtop with subsidiary roads that branch into the scrub as thick and pink unpaved tracks.  The coach driver, a young boy, appears to slumber at the wheel.  His head dips and lolls and he uses the horn to rouse himself and as an incidental warning to cows, traffic, pedestrians, men on bicycles, that he isn’t going to slow down.  The roadside is cluttered with pigs, black and ruddy fowl, tan dogs with tight-curled tails, and huge, slow, and handsome water buffalo, all dusted with red legs and bellies.  Beside them, calm enough, men squat in the dust while women and children labour, sweeping, or turning and picking through rice laid out to dry on loose sacking.  Sometimes, someone will catch your eye, and momentarily they will stop what they are doing and smile, and those smiles are well worth catching.  Set back from the road and raised high on slender stilts sit wood houses: bare one-room dwellings with thatched or tin roofs, and they string out along the road in a thin line; a line occasionally broken by schools, administrative buildings, large concrete complexes.  Between the houses and the road lie deep square ponds, thick with water stained orange by the dirt.  On either side the embankment is drecked with plastic wrappers and bottles, cans, and paper.  Almost all of it comes from the coaches as passengers stuff trash out of the window without qualm.  All of this seen in passing: fast traffic, slow lives.

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Swim in Berlin: Müggelsee and Obersee

Words: Zoe Green; Photography: Lisa Khanna

One tends to associate Berlin with art, music and a crazy nightlife, not with the great outdoors. Yet the city is surrounded by lakes, popular with Berliners in the summer months but rarely visited by the city’s visitors – most of the ‘Sees’ being only easily accessible by car. However , the biggest of East Berlin’s lakes, the Müggelsee is easily reached by the S-bahn (Line 3) and it takes less than twenty minutes to get there from Alexanderplatz….

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Spain in Cold Storage

Pat Neil

A tired hungry country when I was first there in 1960, hungry for everything – freedom of speech , information, prosperity, food. The old man’s dead hand clamped over every aspect of life. Or tried to. Even as a young naïve extranjera I managed to discover pockets of resistance…

Reflections on a vanished land by Pat Neil, who lived in Spain during the last decade of Franco’s rule, a foreign land indeed for a teenage adventurer from the Fens. Continue reading…

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