The second father

2nd-father-2-largeJuly 2010 – Here’s me supplanted, replaced, reduced. Reduced to this. Someone’s in my house. Look in the window and see. There’s Julia my wife and Bo and Bea the kids, curled up watching television—a perfect domestic tableau, a twenty-first century Van Eyck, (except Julia’s not deathly pregnant and I’m not some po-faced merchant limply holding her hand and it’s not autumn). Instead, I’m the overweight balding guy standing in the dark in the winter snow like a thief, like a perv, peering through the window at my little family and shivering… Continue reading

In the Emerald Hotel


After nine months, one hundred and twenty-seven flights, one hundred and ten hotel rooms (fawn walls and twenty-four-hour corridors) and two hundred and sixty-five thousand frequent flyer miles, I’ve arrived on this high plateau called exhaustion. Nothing much grows here: a few leathery-leaved plants, xerophytes adapted to low moisture, low fertility and air freshener and there’s us, the travellers… Continue reading

Showering in New Zealand

shower_nz_2May 2016

New Zealand is a small, bifurcated country just to the right and a little down from Australia. It has over 15,000 kilometres of pristine coast, hundreds of inland lakes and rivers, spectacular waterfalls and an average annual rainfall of between 600 and 1600 mm. In other words, there are plenty of ways to get wet in New Zealand; the least satisfactory of all these is the ensuite shower… Continue reading

Construction sites in Paris


November 2012

Paris has some of the finest construction works in the world. Louise holds that I am wasting my time, and that a guidebook on building sites is useless because by the time they are plotted on maps, photographed, captioned and then published in some slim (or fat) volume to be sold alongside the Lonely Planets, the Frommers and the Rick Steve’s by some papeterie on the Rue de Grenelle, the construction will have been completed and the high-viz workers and the traffic barriers will have departed. This is a common misconception which holds that building works are ephemeral; the truth is that they are as fixed and permanent a part of our cities as the cathedrals, palaces and park benches where the privileged prayed, ate and lounged while feeding cake to the pigeons… Continue reading

Showering in France


November 2012

Maintaining personal hygiene while travelling in France is important, not only for the benefit of your travelling companions but also because, as visitors to La Belle Fromage, we are each in our own small way ambassadors for our countries. However, keeping up a regular regime of showering or bathing, what the French call laver, can face the problem of plomberie francais and its worst manifestation, the French bathroom… Continue reading

Lunch at La Fontaine du Mars


Eating in France, and Paris in particular, is easy and provided the traveller doesn’t venture into either the reptilian or the gastropod clades (if you do, you’re on your own) you can choose with confidence anything from the menu from gigot d’agneau to yaourt maigre. Generally, the French are such good cooks and the cuisine so refined that anything you order, regardless of ingredient, will taste better than anything you’ve ever eaten before and better than you ever will again until you return to Paris as you inevitably will… Continue reading