A made up place

I am living in the year 2071, in a land which uses a lunar calendar. The time is 5 and three-quarter hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Here there are 8 of the highest peaks on my planet, stretching way above the clouds. Close by you will find the second most polluted city on my planet; surgical masks are fashionable here. Several religions, including no religion, co-exist in noisy, respectful harmony here. Everyone must comply with a curfew of 10pm, unless you wish to host an all night chanting vigil in the middle of the suburbs, with tambourines and a microphone, on a school night. There is no legal constitution here but plenty of ancient traditions. Strike days are determined by the government at random and mean you can’t drive unless you have a green licence plate. Menstruating women are banished to sheds and cows roam freely on the streets. There are daily electricity blackouts for hours on end and gas is in short supply. The internet speed is less than 256 kbps but as with everything here, people do not complain, they simply smile and wiggle their heads. Yoga and meditation are on the national curriculum and a daily fact of life. There are festivals every week, celebrated by all. The national flag is the only non-rectangular flag in existence. People here wear bright colours, especially red.  Everyone grows their own vegetables which they cook into spicy curries to eat with their hands.  In the face of poverty and adversity, people are patient and positive. There are wild tigers, sloth bears and rhinos with one horn, all guarded by the army.  The soldiers are short in stature but respected universally for their fierce fighting reputation. There is no highway code, no right of way and no traffic lights: you only stop when the armed police block your way.

This is not some imagined dystopian future. This is not a made-up place. This is Nepal.

#100happydays – the blog

It was the winter of discontent.   I felt like I had been drudging to and from work under the cover of darkness since the Dark Ages.  My Vitamin D was in serious deficit.  My last dose of sunshine was a faded memory and my next getaway felt like a distant dream.   The outlook was bleak.

January is infamously depressing; it’s cold, it’s dreary and you’re probably skint.  If, like me, you’re prone to a bit of self-diagnosed S.A.D. (Seasonal Affected Disorder) then it isn’t ideal to reside in a country with an ostensive 9 month winter.

So I had the January blues.  Some psychopathic philistines would probably say I just needed a massive slap round the chops.  Those psychopaths would only be partly wrong, because what I did indeed need was a change of perspective, but I was hoping to achieve it in a less painful way.

So in the bleak midwinter, I heard about a viral project permeating social media called the #100happydays project.  My friend Kim started doing it on facebook and it took me all of 10 minutes to realise this was exactly what I needed.

The concept sounded simple enough: find one thing to be happy about, once a day, every day, for 100 consecutive days, and post a picture of it either on facebook, twitter or instagram.  Continue reading

23 to 1

There comes a wondrous time of life when everyone you know seems to be standing with their back to you, solemnly facing a public official, entering into the most magical legal contract: one which is sealed with a kiss and followed by fun yet formulaic frivolity.  That time for me is 2013: a year in which I’ve eaten more wedding breakfasts than I’ve had hot dinners and I’ve drank enough fizzy white wine to sink a cream-coloured, ribbon-decked Rolls-Royce.   

Each weekend thus far has been a blissful blur of reckless hen dos, feckless outfit buying, and ultimately being blessed with the chance to attend the best day of someone’s life.  It doesn’t matter that marriage has monopolised my weekends and my wallet this year, because it doesn’t get much better than seeing someone you love, tying the knot in the name of love, surrounded by the people they love.  You could well-up just blogging about it. Continue reading

Call me Ishmael

I have been on a literary odyssey, across the salty spray of the high seas and deep into the finely dissected belly of a beast.

The Moby Dick Big Read is a bold and inspiring online project developed at Plymouth University. It has been an omnipresent part of my existence for 135 days.

The problem: Herman Melville’s classic novel is a seemingly inaccessible tome which is unattractive to most mere-mortal readers.

The aim: to bring this leviathan to the masses Continue reading

Greater Manchester Film Festival

We do culture and creativity extremely well in Manchester.  We love art, we love music and we love to be entertained.  We also see more than our fair share of drizzle, so we’re pretty adept at being entertained indoors.  Through the 3 universities, we have a wealth of talent pumping into the media profession and now even the behemoth BBC has lifted its London-centric anchor and docked down in the shiny Media City harbour.  We’ve even got a bevvy of picture houses – from your big, proper, blockbuster style Odeons, to the cultural, cool Corner House and even a few pop up cinemas throughout the year, such as yellow deck-chaired Screenfields in summer.

So it may come as a surprise that… Continue reading

The India Book Blog

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front lately, too busy eating, holidaying and writing other less pleasurable pieces!  I’ve also been reading plenty and its time to share some of that with you.  For my trip to India, I researched and read as much literature as I could.  Here are my recommendations:

A Passage to India by E M Forster.  The quintessential colonial classic was my kindle companion during my own passage through India.  Despite making me feel embarrassed to be British at times, it is cleverly derisive of the upper classes romping their way through foreign lands whilst keeping their minds firmly shut to alternative cultures.  Witty and perfectly composed, this was more enjoyable than Forster’s other works for me.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I didn’t realise this popular novel, another Booker winner, was about India until I started reading it. Whilst technically located all-adrift on the ocean waves, it is a very Indian novel in style and in its sense of drama.  The main character is raised at the Pondicherry Zoo on the south-east coast of India.  The plot centres on his shipwrecked adventure aboard a lifeboat he shares with Mr Richard Parker, the Bengal Tiger.  Surreal, symbolic and summing up with a twist, it is justifiably popular.

Continue reading

Festival Packing List

It’s that heady time of year when you tingle all over with anticipation and dream of escaping that rat race to ‘find yourself’ on a higher plane of consciousness, ankle deep in British mud, swilling cider down your psychedelic tights.  I tackle this hedonistic getaway with the same precision approach I apply to the more mundane side of life: preparation is everything. 

Unless you’re a captain of spontaneity and need little more to survive than rolling tobacco and a feathered headdress, you should adopt my methodical, organised attitude and indulge yourself with this season’s must-have accessory: the Festival Packing List.

The list below was created for a good friend coming to Glastonbury for the first time, but it can be easily adapted to your ‘chosen field’.  I’m often asked to repeat it, so here it is

Continue reading

All hail the eco dudes

If you’re an eco novice like me, but also LOVE planet earth A LOT and wouldn’t mind it sticking around for a bit longer, staying a bit green and keeping all those ace animals intact…then you probably try to do your bit for the environment – y’know – keeping on top of the recycling, turning the washer down to 30 degrees, scabbing a lift instead of bringing your own petrol propelled polluter into the world…that kind of thing. Continue reading

Blue Monday

If the doomsayers are to be given credence, the third Monday in January is the day we are supposed to be at our lowest ebb, most likely to phone in sick and most likely to feel depressed.  This media promulgated day of gloom is colloquially known as “Blue Monday” and this year it falls today, 16th January 2012. 

A combination of December over-indulgences, the nightmare of the economic downturn and there being no bank holidays until April, culminates in today feeling a bit glum.  The boozy haze of Christmas has faded, the looming leftover Christmas chocolates fill you with pangs of guilt and you’re already reprimanding yourself for breaking all your flimsy new year resolutions.  And so many of us (me included) are engaging with “White Month” – the preposterous idea of actually giving up alcohol for 31 days, at the time when we arguably need it most!

Lest ye all run out and drown yourselves in the nearest bottle of gin, I thought a bit of positive reframing was necessary.  We can collectively tackle the blues and make this a day worth savouring.  Here’s some ideas: Continue reading

The veins of the beast – Indian Rail Network

The Indian Railway Network may as well be its own country with a constitution, its own culture and its very own quirky characters.  Accordingly it deserves a blog of its own, dedicated to trying to convey my snippet of an experience aboard this monolithic beast that is the pulsating life veins of India.

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The train stations are like refugee camps, clogged with litter, inhabited round the clock by sleeping families, limbless beggars dragging across the stone floors, the obligatory cow crunching crisp packets and cackling macaques clambering the wires above. Continue reading

Article in Stylist Magazine!

I’m very embarrassed but chuffed to bits to share this – I won a travel writing competition and was sent to review a cottage in Snowdonia for the weekend.  The article was published in Stylist magazine and is online to view here:


Let me know what you think!