Send in the Clowns

“It is useless to describe the astonishing performances of the acrobats and gymnasts. The turning on ladders, poles, balls, barrels, &c., was executed with wonderful precision. But the principal attraction was the exhibition of the Long Noses, a show to which Europe is as yet a stranger. These noses were made of bamboo, and were five, six, and even ten feet long, some straight, others curved, some ribboned, and some having imitation warts upon them. It was upon these appendages, fixed tightly on their real noses, that they performed their gymnastic exercises.”

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Coated and scarfed, we trooped across the common, crunching leaves under foot. The almost-full moon brightened the autumn sky. Circusy-music drifted towards us on the breeze, promising high-wire tension and hilarity.

Some 35 years ago I’m sure I must have run,  towing one of my parents behind me, across the entire dusty field to the circus entrance, a similar pink ticket stub in my small hand. White horses with plumes, the smell of damp straw, animal cages, waistcoated monkeys and hotdogs – the Boswell Wilkie Circus! Continue reading Send in the Clowns

Ferry across the Mersey … of my life

”The steamer Mongolia, belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, built of iron, of two thousand eight hundred tons burden, and five hundred horse-power, was due at eleven o’clock a.m. on Wednesday, the 9th of October, at Suez. The Mongolia plied regularly between Brindisi and Bombay via the Suez Canal, and was one of the fastest steamers belonging to the company, always making more than ten knots an hour between Brindisi and Suez, and nine and a half between Suez and Bombay.”

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Jackup semisub barge tugboat
Marine tonnage – my daily grind & night time dreams.

The year A.D. 2017. Month October. Any given day.

Banned from using the word ‘busy’, I’m left with ‘occupied’, ‘challenged’, ‘full’, ‘hectic’, ‘exacting’ … or perhaps the more positive, ‘full’, to describe my life. “It’s the new normal,” you say. “Same for you, then?” I reply.

What’s the saying I’m looking for … You are what you eat? Dogs resemble their masters? Stupid is as stupid does? Continue reading Ferry across the Mersey … of my life

Autumn Equinox, Hot Chilli and a Round-the-World trip through The Baltics

“Monsieur is going to leave ‘ome?” “Yes,” returned Phileas Fogg. “We are going round the world.”

“…why, I’ve just this instant found out… that we might have gone around the world in only seventy-eight days.”

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Google search: London to Tallinn (return)

Walk to Putney Bridge Station
Take District Line to Victoria
Gatwick Express to Gatwick South Terminal
Air Baltic to Riga, Latvia
Taxi to Hotel (overnight in Riga)
Walk to coach station, Riga.
Coach to Tallinn, Estonia (4hr, attend wedding, overnight, wonder round walled city)

Ryanair return flight cancelled

Fly LOT Airline to Stockholm, Sweden
Fly SAS Airline to London (flight delayed in Sweden for 2 hours – hang around)
Piccadilly Line London Heathrow to Hammersmith
Taxi home (too tired to eat, so crawl into bed) Continue reading Autumn Equinox, Hot Chilli and a Round-the-World trip through The Baltics

Russia part 4: Moscow: Power, Politics and Patriots

“You must remember that there was virtually no air travel in the early 1930s. Africa was two weeks away from England by boat and it took you about five weeks to get to China. These were distant and magic lands and nobody went to them just for a holiday. You went there to work. Nowadays you can go anywhere in the world in a few hours and nothing is fabulous anymore.”

Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

The Russian Federation
Seems I’ve not covered much ground in the Russian Federation.
Midnight. Every now and then a sharp whistle and a flash or two of light illuminated the cabin from the crack in the window blind. I lay on my narrow top bunk in a state of semi-sleep. The train rolled south, the clank and blatter of machinery somehow peaceful. I slept. Smoked fish, pine forests and icons visited me in my dreams all the way to the capital.

Moscow. A city of squeaky-clean-newness, works-like-clockwork-efficiency, labels and bling.

Why? Like every proper W.A.G., Moscow has found a perfectly good reason for a make-over –  FIFA World Cup Football 2018. Continue reading Russia part 4: Moscow: Power, Politics and Patriots

Russia part 3: Karelia: Petrozavodsk, Taiga, Kizhi, Valaam

Petrozavodsk
Onego Lake Embankment, Petrozavodsk

“For this I weep all my days
and throughout my lifetime grieve
that I swam from my own lands
and came from familiar lands
towards these strange doors
to these foreign gates.”

The Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot

The train stopped. The announcer spoke first in Russian then in English. Five minutes, she said. 10:37. I looked out the window. Travellers poured out onto the platform and lit up. Venders met them with trays of smoked fish and wild berries. I watched smokers cough into their berry breakfasts and then rush back onto the train. It jerked back into action, leaving the sleepy hollow of Svir. 10:42. Five minutes exactly. Continue reading Russia part 3: Karelia: Petrozavodsk, Taiga, Kizhi, Valaam

Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

“Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

Our first view of Saint Petersburg (pronounced Sankt Pyterborrg or just Pyterborrg by Russians) was from the window of the Meteor (hydrofoil vessel) from Peterhof. A cheerful, high pitched woman’s voice shrieked and crackled over the loudspeaker in Russian – no doubt telling us the mysteries and wonders of Saint Petersburg. However, the Meteor was packed full of Chinese tourists and we three auspicious caucasians squished like sardines in among them.

Nobody had any idea what she was saying. Continue reading Russia part 2: Saint Petersburg

Russia Part 1: Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Peterhof

“If so, better let him be named after his father. His father was Akaky, so let the son also be Akaky. Thus it was that Akaky Akakievich cam about. As the child was being baptised, he cried and made such a face as if he anticipated that he would be a titular councillor.”

The Overcoat by Nicholai Gogol

A South African in RussiaIt seems that Putin and Zuma have formed an unholy alliance. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I hear your groans. I see your rolled eyes.

But there is a silver lining.

As of 31st March 2017, South Africans have visa-free travel to Russia and Belorussia.  If you itch to travel the world and experience different cultures, now is your chance. Go! Go to Mother Russia! Continue reading Russia Part 1: Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Peterhof