Sunday, 6 October 2013


We are returning to Corfu for the first time since 1995 for a few days in October. One of the largest of the Ionian islands and with links going back to earliest Greek mythology - it contains some beautiful and stunning coastal scenery in the north of the island and is associated with the writer Lawrence Durrell and the naturalist Gerald Durrell  who lived there during a period in the 1930s. We're going very much outside the tourist season and hope to be able to get to some places well off the beaten track. Greece is suffering economic difficulties at the current time and we do feel fortunate to have the opportunity to travel at a time when so many Greeks will not be finding it so easy to do the same. As always, the best way to travel is with an open mind and hopefully I'll come back refreshed for the challenges ahead in 2014.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Swansea Bay

Took a walk along the cycle path that used to be the tramway which runs from the centre of Swansea down to Mumbles around the edge of Swansea Bay. The oldest tramway in the world and at its peak took thousands of local residents, holidaymakers and day trippers back and forwards with some stunning maritime scenery and also some modern industrial developments across the bay at Port Talbot.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Back in the Old Country

Arrival through a back door at Heathrow T5 on a battered airport bus as the plane had to embark us on the tarmac 'for operational reasons'. A low key arrival - always the best!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Time for Tea

We sampled a traditional Kazakhstan tea. A very smoky blend served from an ornate china pot with the milk already mixed. A selection of dried fruits, nuts, raisins, spices, spices, pastry and a sour curd cheese.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Atyrau Buildings

The Russian Orthodox Church
A local government building
Atyrau theatre

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Belief and Faith

The Russian Orthodox Church is in the centre of Atyrau. I spent some time on a Sunday morning with the congregation who filed around the church in silence to take the communion wine and bread from the priest on duty. No photographs were allowed inside. I was struck by the silent dignity and belief even when the way of life appeared harsh to an outsider.

Monday, 8 April 2013

On The Ball


I spent week-end time on the streets observing life, meeting people and kicking a ball with kids. The young footballers playing on the makeshift pitches in the ex-USSR residential areas all had their heroes from the players of the great European teams like Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea, Man Utd, Ajax and PSG but I doubt any of those players had bigger smiles or bigger dreams than the kids who sought to emulate them.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Amsterdam to Atyrau Kazakhstan

I arrived back at Amsterdam Schipol airport 2 hours ahead of my Air Astana flight to Atyrau. I checked in early and spent the time before the flight taking things easy and making sure I had all the paperwork needed for my 3 week stay in Atyrau. The flight took 5 hours and with the change of time zone I found myself walking into the customs and immigration hall at around 8pm local time. It is hard to imagine that this place was more than 2000 miles away from home - air travel these days just seems to relocate people like a piece on a chess board. Here as definitely somewhere I had never been before and a culture that was not only new to me but also new to a lot of the local inhabitants. The independent Republic of Kazakhstan had only existed since 1991 follow ing the break up of the former USSR. Anyone under the age of 22 was just like me - experiencing something new. Only difference was that I was flying in and out - they were living here all the time.

On my first week-end, I went out with my camera on the streets and to the local market. Fish is a speciality : caught in the shallow waters of the Caspian Sea and in the Ural River which flows through the town and which is the natural border between Europe and Asia.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Swansea to Amsterdam

Off to Kazakhstan. Left home at 9am to catch train to Paddington at 9.30. Usual Bank Holiday and Weekend engineering works apply to journey. This time Reading Station was closed for final stages of redevelopment and re-opening later in April. A journey of normally 3 hours today was billed as 4.5 hours due to diversion via Oxford, Banbury and High Wycombe. A missing driver at Oxford, later found, added another 14 minutes. Luckily the short hop on the Heathrow Express added only another 20 minutes and I found myself checking in for my flight from Heathrow T5 to Amsterdam earlier than expected - in fact too early for the baggage drop. Two hours to spend in the terminal before boarding turned into catching up with some reading, getting in touch with people concerning our upcoming group Exhibition with Commensalis, and general Facebookery and Tweeting and some old fashioned emailing. The papers are full of stories about the coldest Easter since 1986 and Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of Stare for Employment, claiming that it was possible to live on £53 a week benefit or £7.57 per day. Made me think - I paid £6.50 for a sausage panini and an orange juice on First Great I'm not sure how he worked that one out. He needs to realise that it's not just a question of living on this amount for a few days which maybe is possible as a paper exercise - once someone gets into this situation for a prolonged period, a lot of other adverse effects often follow, including a feeling if worthlessness leading to possible depressive illness. It is important for young people to feel the benefits that come with working. I think an incentive needs to be found for people like myself to consider retiring early and offering the benefits of a job and training to a young person. At the moment, early retirement is penalised by 4% reduction per annum on a pension. So maybe that is also some food for thought rather than just asking the Minister to prove he could live on £53 per week. He couldn't - no one could.

I took a BA flight from Heathrow T5 and arrived at Amsterdam Schipol airport with a large crowd of Japanese tourists. I found the courtesy bus for my overnight hotel and was very glad to get some sleep!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

New beginnings

The West Pier at Brighton will soon be the focus of a commercial venture designed to lure the public and re-create the glories of former days. The Brighton Tower promises spectacular views and will undoubtedly become a landmark construction on the Sussex Coast. Whether it will linger long in the memories of those who visit is entirely another matter.....

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Crowded cabins on voyage

Crowded cabin on a voyage....Marx Brothers style with some pretty sharp Groucho one liners....

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


A new and unexpected opportunity for learning something new about a culture I have never had exposure to awaits. In 2 weeks I will be setting off to Atyrau, Kazakhstan. Situated on the Ural River, it sits with one foot in Asia and one foot in Europe. I shall try and relay some of my experiences through visual imagery and through words.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Japan March 2011

I arrived in Japan in March 2011, two days before the terrible nuclear power accident at Fukushima in North Eastern Japan which triggered a huge earthquake and tsuami. The consequences of this for Japan are still being felt. 30,000 people were killed, lost and some indeed still missing. I was the guest of the Kansai St David's Society and was invited to show some of my images and impressions of Wales to the members of the society who all had some connection and/or a strong interest in Welsh culture and way of life. I was several hundred miles away from the earthquake zone and staying in Kobe (itself the site of a horrific earthquake in 1995), Osaka and Kyoto. I was meant to travel to Tokyo to repeat my talk at the University but I was advised not to travel to the region because of regular power cuts and risk of aftershocks. I spent two weeks in the Kansai region observing how life was continuing even though many people I met and talked with were affected in some way by the disaster. News programmes, both Japanese stations and international organisations like CNN and BBC World carried a constant stream of images, discussion of the consequences and thoughts ahead to the future. The most moving footage was on Japanese TV where they carried in total silence, film of the power of the tsunami flooding, destroying and crushing all traces of life in its path - houses, cars and buses, shops, roads, bridges, railway tracks. There was nothing really anyone could say in any case - it just left one dumbstruck that this disaster was unfolding in front of the eyes. I recorded a number of images of life continuing and people just getting on with things where I spent time for 14 days in the Kansai region - unremarkable in themselves and not close to the 'action' at all - and when I came home I was asked to write an article for the Guardian Cardiff on-line website about my experiences. A link to the blog and a flickr photo album is provided here.

Travelling with an Open Mind

In response to feedback from many friends, I have started to post some thoughts, opinions (of my own and of others) and visual images about travel. Whether we travel to the next town or to the other side of the world, there has always been, for me, a sense of anticipation, not always knowing quite what to expect. Sometimes our pre-conceived ideas about life in another part of the planet, or even on another planet, are confirmed when we spend time in another location. More often, in my own experience, there are things which surprise us, frighten us, delight us and confound the pre-conceived ideas. The journey, and being in transit, is often more exciting and thrilling, than the arrival. Often the unremarkable seems more interesting than the remarkable. Life is a long journey we are all engaged in. Trips to Japan, France, the USA, Iceland, Australia, wherever are what a Michelin guide would probably classify as 'Worth a Detour'. Our own experience of such a detour will confirm if it worth the experience or not.