Castles made of Sand

Today had a certain rebellious quality to it and bears sharing. On 6th November 2012 the state of Washington in the United States of America approved by popular vote legislation that legalises small amounts of marijuana for adults aged 21 and over, taxes them and designates the revenue for healthcare and substance abuse prevention and education. So, this morning it was with huge interest that I showed my ID to the amiable security guard sitting by the frosted glass door and stepped inside the Herban Legend store in downtown Seattle. Continue reading

Drop Kick me Jesus

It’s not often I come out and take a hard line on a subject being someone who likes to get all sides of the argument and then think it all through from what I hope is an unprejudiced wholly objective viewpoint: the helicopter as opposed to the worm’s eye view. But on one matter my mind was made up ‘pretty darn quick’, that moment of revelation coming in Tennessee whilst listening to radio station WKDF on 103.3FM out of Nashville when some poor misplaced hillbilly sang “Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed”.  Continue reading

The Lake at the Top of the Stairs

During my early years a framed picture hung on the wall at the top of the stairs: a deep blue lake backed by numerous rocky peaks swathed at their feet by a multitude of conifers. It was a place in the Canadian Rockies near Lake Louise that my mother had visited in the late 1950s when she lived and worked in Canada. Photograph albums from that time pictured her on horseback with Canadian cousins or smiling as she sat in sleek finned cars from that era. Continue reading

Goin’ Where the Wind don’t Blow so Strange

Clarksdale Mississippi has an abandoned, ramshackle air of neglect in the air. It is a place where that much over-hyped notion ‘The American Dream’ has not materialised yet and is unlikely to any time soon. When we first drove through the downtown area nobody was walking on the streets, just the odd car pushed slowly through the intensely hot and sticky air that wrapped itself around everything. But people do seek Clarksdale out as it is famous for being a focus for the extraordinary music that spread out from the Mississippi Delta: music forged in a cauldron of fear, cruelty and despair. The Blues, possibly the most sublime and pure synthesis of African and American culture that there has ever been and ever will be. Continue reading

Georgia Bound

In the Orlando Greyhound Terminal all is hustle and bustle: a short young woman of astonishing pinkness is trying to coax a can of Coke from a huge vending machine: a small child is glued to her side literally riding on the roll of flesh that encircles her midriff. Seated across from us are three men who could step in as extras for a remake of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ without a wardrobe change or recourse to a makeup artist. A man in baggy tracksuit pants shuffles from the ‘restroom’ clutching his groin: he needs to as if he releases the material the pants will fall to the ground, they barely cover his backside as it is. In the land where the car is king taking a bus might seem like a poor decision. Perhaps: perhaps not. Continue reading

Guns and God

I settled happily into my seat on American Airline flight 922 from La Paz to Miami: it had been delayed for 13-hours and we were ready to get going. Sitting in the window seat was a well-built young man wearing a bright yellow FIFA football top. Buckled and upright we began a round of formal chat of the ‘where we’d been and what we’d been doing’ style. Adam was a Pastor’s son from Indianapolis, Indiana and had been visiting his Bolivian girlfriend’s family in Santa Cruz in the eastern side of the country. Yasmin, pretty in the picture on his cellphone, was on another flight back to the US and her college where she was taking a degree in music. She and Adam had met at his church 3-years previously when she came with a choir to sing there. Continue reading

Love Letter to a Fellow Walker

We met walking. And by that I mean it was when we first really spent time doing something that we both loved to do. The summit of Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, Wales in late summer of 2003 will always hold a very special place in our collective memories: it was where ‘We’ began. Continue reading

“Let’s go Someplace like Bolivia”

The Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up outside the Butch Cassidy Hostal. I stepped outside and stretched a body stiff from 5-hours bouncing along rough dirt tracks. My mouth, like the rest of me, had a fine coating of dust and I spat gritty saliva onto the road. Bolivia tasted of adobe. In 4-days we had driven over 1,100-kilometres through some of the strangest terrain imaginable. The altiplano in winter, the dry season, is a near-deserted vastness of unprecedented geological complexity stretched out beneath a deep blue sky. Continue reading

The Daily Betrayal

I took the bowl of warm milk with a few oat flakes floating on the surface from her and set it gently down on the table. “I just want some normal porridge’ she cried softly, tears welling. It seemed like a small thing to be upset about but this was our second attempt at breakfast and it had gone as badly as the first. We had both been ill recently and were in that vulnerable phase where food was a vital ingredient on the road to well-being. But the tears were not just being spilt over a pitifully poor example of a bowl of porridge, these were tears of grief at the state of our distant homeland, the United Kingdom, split down the middle by a referendum on whether or not to leave the European Union. The vote went to Leave. Continue reading