Taking Chances


They told me they came from a distant land

Where nothing was the same and everything was different.

Beautiful. Spectacular.

The people there spoke a strange language and lived a way of life as if they were on another planet or in another time of history.

The terrain was wild, with mountains and lakes.


I wanted to go there but they told me:  

‘Whatever you do, don’t go on your own, when you go come with us’

But they never went home.

They loved their country but only at a distance.

It was a place in their minds.

Something created from reminiscences.  


I got impatient. 

One day I left, all my wordly belongings on my back.

They stood there and watched me as I went.

I told them that I couldn’t live anymore in the country of my birth

I was suffocating I said. Bored. I needed to depart.


They looked at me in silence.  

‘You will regret this!’ they said.


Of living in a place I knew too well.

Regret ……

Taking chances?


The Goldberg Variations

It was my mother who introduced me to Glenn Gould.

At the time, she was in a high care home for the elderly. Every afternoon, she sat in her large comfortable chair and listened to a classical music station on her small portable CD player/radio whilst reading a book.

Listening to classical music was a long standing habit with her. It began long ago, after her days of playing the piano and organ came to an end with the birth of my brother and sister. Motherhood however never turned out to be a destiny she was comfortable with and it was then that she began studying part time for a degree in accountancy. From notes and bars to facts and figures.   

As the first born and the only child who shared her life when she was playing the piano every day and the organ at the church on Sundays, I was exposed at an early age to classical music.

During my teens and early 20’s, when I was in rebellion against my parents and blasting my ears out with rock music, there were nevertheless times when I listened to classical music and opera.

So there we were, further down the road of life, mother and son, she in a high care institution and me dual citizen on one of my temporary stays in Australia.  

After turning down the music, she began talking about the famous Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould.

Did I know who Glenn Gould was?

Yeah, I knew, I said off handedly.

No one who was interested in classical music could have not have heard of Glenn Gould. Three decades after his death, he still commanded an international cult following who regarded him as a kind of God. He was above all famous for his playing of Bach’s keyboard works – which is precisely why I had never bothered listening to him. Bach’s keyboard works bored me to tears. Too mechanical, like an old clock.

I wondered why all of a sudden she seemed so interested in him.

It transpired that she had followed a programme on the radio about the famous pianist and fallen in love with him.

Irrespective of my distaste for Bach’s keyboard works, Dorothy’s enthusiasm for Glenn Gould was not to be lightly dismissed. In the past, she had recommended soloists, orchestras and conductors, which I had taken an immediate liking to.

So one night I went fishing on You Tube, put on my headphones and listened to Gould playing of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ whilst working on a translation.

Then I stopped work….….

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Schiphol Geese


At Schiphol Amsterdam Airport there was a problem with geese.

A decent sized flock of geese in the air can present a real danger to planes landing and taking of, but compounding Schiphol´s problem was this: The Netherlands is a paradise for geese. You’d almost think that centuries ago, when the Dutch began reclaiming their country from the waters, they did so in order to create Goose Paradise: a flat land with a surfeit of water and grass.  

Water where the geese can flock together and keep safe from enemies.

Watery grass they can eat: the richest, the greenest grass in the world which feeds the cows which provide the milk which produces some of the best cheese in the world.

And smack bang in the middle of this flat watery grassy land – Schiphol Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.

The geese weren’t bothered about the constant roar of jets taking off and landing at one of the world’s busiest airports. What they saw was lots of flat grassy land lying vacant, not being farmed or cropped or used – empty.

As their numbers proliferated, they became a part of our modern globalised world in ways which were truly remarkable….

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On The Nile

In early 2012 Anya and I went on a river cruise on the Nile. 

We went as a part of an organised group.

Normally we much preferred to travel on our own, as individuals, determining where we went and where we stayed. But there was little choice in the matter.

Egypt was embroiled in a political crisis.

Two years before, not long after our first visit to Egypt, a wave of popular protest in the Middle East known as the ‘Arab Spring’ arrived in Egypt and led to weeks of protests and the fall of the dictatorial Mubarak government. Free and fair elections were organised, but this led to the resounding victory of the Islamic fundamentalists – the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Party – whose agenda was to turn Eygpt into a Sunni version of Iran. They wanted to base the constitution on the Sharia and furthermore, were equivocal towards Egypt’s ancient past which they regarded as heretical. 

In the euphoria of the Arab Spring, western journalists had failed to see that in Egypt there was a huge discrepancy between the people living in the cities and those living in the rural areas. In the case of the former, there were high levels of education along with the widespread use of social media and the internet; in the case of the latter, who constitued the big majority of the population, matters were very different. The women, most of them clad in the burka, gave birth to lots of children; widespread illiteracy, mass unemployment and poverty were widespread – and fundamentalist imams were very powerful. These basic demographic factors, not unique to Egypt incidentally, provided the back drop to the spectacular success of the fundamentalists at the elections. 

As a result, the army became restive and the very urban dwellers who had brought down the dictator Mubarak and called for an ‘Arab Spring’, suddenly changed their minds when presented with the prospect of government by religious zealots. The country slid into anarchy as its irreconcilable contradictions rose to the surface. There were strikes, attacks, and violent episodes.

Meanwhile tourism, the life blood of the economy, plummeted.

It was only on the Nile that the safety of foreign tourists could be guaranteed by the army. It was a far cry from the Egypt we were familiar with, where one could travel almost anywhere.

Nevertheless, we went, drawn by the lure of the greatest outdoor musuem in the world, a country with a history like no other….

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Divine Comedy


Vailankanni: we both made the same mistake.

When we read in our guide book that it was a former Portuguese trading outpost located on the south east coast of India, we imagined something akin to Goa and Dieu (their antecedents also Portuguese) on the west coast – only without the tourists.

We thought we had found a hidden gem.  

And well, the few lines in our guide book about Vailankanni were written by a travel writer who had never been anywhere near the place.

So there it was; after a long day travelling on local buses, hot, overcrowded, sitting on hard wooden bench seats or standing in an aisle crammed between people, we were expecting to arrive in a place with deserted pristine beaches fringed by palm trees….

And were met by a sight which left us momentarily in a state of utter bewilderment……

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