It’s all a matter of perspective.

Standing on a cliff edge 200ft above the beach below can certainly give you a healthy regard for life – especially when there’s a bit of a breeze blowing. The thing is, if you want to taste the full drama of this rocky coastline, you’ve got to get a little bit close to the edge.

I guess it’s like a lot of things in life. There are many amazing experiences we can have in life, but sometimes we have to take a risk to enjoy them. Maybe this getting near the cliff edge speaks of stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

It’s all to easy to stay in the proverbial rut and not seriously consider what may lie beyond that same rut, much less do anything about it! It is a cliché, but nonetheless true, life is too short not to. 

May we live for our hopes and dreams, and refuse to be anaesthetised by the mundanity of life. Instead, let’s be inspired by a distant shore – whatever that may mean for each one of us.

Car Bundh

My entry for the World Nomads / Lonely Planet Travel Writing Competition 2016.

We listened to our Nepali guide, Nema, as he spoke excitedly on the phone. Then I heard the phrase ‘Car Bundh’ and my heart sank. Bundh meant a political strike and in this part of the world, Car Bundh was a road blockade – and probably one fuelled by violence too. Years of experience in Nepal had taught me that strikes here were anything but peaceful.

My two friends and I needed to get to our hotel in Birgunj. It was June, and in the pre-monsoon heat of the Southern Terai, I wiped my brow free of sweat, once again. A difficult and troubled passage lay ahead. Climbing back into the vehicle, we reluctantly proceeded down the road.

Evidence of a disturbance began to mount as we witnessed one discarded truck after another. Drivers preferring not to go any further and risk danger to themselves or their vehicles had parked up and left. You don’t mess around in this part of the world. Soon enough, a seething mass of people came into vision with trucks drawn raggedly across the road to form an impenetrable barrier.

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Our driver slowed and began the turn off the main road to evade the approaching flashpoint. Then out of nowhere, a protester appeared running towards us. His face contorted with aggression and anger, he launched at us with a lathi raised high in violent intent and threatened to smash in the window. This was it, now we were really in the thick of it.

As the animated exchange then took full flight between dissenter and driver, every means of escape was cut off. Young men hurriedly pulled a makeshift barrier across the track to our left, whilst others dropped large rocks on the road behind our vehicle preventing us from reversing. We were completely trapped.

Without warning, our driver exited the vehicle and vanished into the crowd. All we could do was remain calm and still. We waited and waited, trying not to succumb to the mounting tide of tension. Surrounded by a powder keg of unrest which was liable to explode at any time, I was beginning to regret being in this beautiful country I had loved for so many years.

Then as quickly as he had disappeared, our trusty driver returned. The barriers were removed and we were on our way. Later it emerged that he knew the leader of the mob and after discussion and payment no doubt, we were released.

Arriving at our hotel in Birgunj at last, we headed for the bar glad to be feeling safe again. We laughed and as I sank my first cold beer, it had never tasted so good as right there and right then.

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Where I live.

North Devon is a special place. I’ve lived here most of my life and in terms of natural beauty, it’s hard to beat. We get our fair share of rain, but that’s why it’s so green and lush – as you can see.

I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve roamed these hills and had my breath taken away by the rugged coastline stretching out before me. On a good clear day, numerous coves and bays are clearly visible.

It’s a great place to think, pray and consider without fear of being disturbed. The fresh sea air and perfect solitude has a unique way of clearing the mental fog in your brain. I really recommend it.

Pappardelle’s, Arundel.

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If you ever find yourself in historic and beautiful Arundel, at the bottom of the main street on the right, you will discover not one but two Italian restaurants. In fact, two restaurants in one.

Now that I have sufficiently piqued your attention, I will explain. What you’ve got, rather cleverly, are two dining experiences under one roof. Bottom floor, you have ‘Osteria,’ which serves some Italian food and also some other non-Italian dining choices too.

Osteria is really just an Italian term for a restaurant that serves good food, beer and wine – slightly lower in the pecking order than a Ristorante or Trattoria.

Anyway having said all that, my friend and I proceeded upstairs to Pappardelle’s which is the proper Italian Ristorante side of the business. Here, we were welcomed by one Jan Marco of Genoa, Italy.

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The evening commenced with the mandatory but altogether scrumptious ciabatta with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This was followed by a simply stunning beet cured salmon, with capers, horseradish and ciabatta (again).

Having learnt from a recent trip to the Emilia Romagna region of Italy that Spaghetti Bolognese is not actually an authentic Italian dish, I ordered the more accurate Tagliatelle Bolognese – with lamb.

Spaghetti Bolognese is an adaption of the real thing which is only ever made with Tagliatelle and not spaghetti. It’s also a lot less tomato based than what we’re used too here in the UK.

Either way, the version I was served was delicious, and whilst not entirely accurate, was much closer to the Ragu I had eaten in Bologna. It looked amazing and was thoroughly satisfying.

Washed down with a carafe of house wine, a Barberra 2014 described in the menu as having juicy cherry and damson fruit flavours, I couldn’t have asked for more.

I was not disappointed in any way with the food, ambience or warm and friendly service, and will definitely be returning sometime soon.

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The only way is forward.

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Standing at a crowded Euston Station today, it made me think that life is a succession of journeys. Some literal and geographical, and some metaphysical and emotional.

I guess our direction of travel is really important – it should always be ultimately forward. Today, I literally travelled to the post-industrial town of Blackburn. I discovered it is most definitely a place of opportunity.

In travelling, not only do we discover new places, but we discover ourselves too. You often hear the phrase, ‘enjoy the journey,’ and that is certainly true. We should always do that, wherever we are going in life.

For me, the travelling is as important as the arriving. It’s all about never missing the moment, because life is made up of moments such as these.

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Waxy’s Little Sister

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On the corner of both Lisle and Wardour Street in London, just tucked inside Chinatown, you will find Waxy’s Little Sister. And in case you were wondering, it’s an Irish pub.

A curious name I hear you cry! Well it refers to the Waxy O’Connor bar across the road – which I guess must be like the mothership.

I soon got chatting to the Mirko the Italian barman. So now we have an Italian barman, working in an Irish pub, in Chinatown in London. Well London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the face of the earth. What else would you expect?

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A good chat about all things Italian ensued as we discussed the culinary and otherwise delights of Emilia Romagna in the north of the country. Mirko himself hails from the lakes area near the Swiss border, but loves London.

You can’t keep a good man down though… After a brief spell in Italy at the end of the summer, he’ll be off to Paris. There are so many interesting people you can meet, if you just take as little time.

As I gazed outside at the myriads of tourists, workers and locals, once again the clouds shed their heavy load and a torrent of water from the skies poured downward. Well it is Britain isn’t it?

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Syria.

Syria. Who understands Syria, and who actually knows what is going on in Syria? Only this week we have heard rumour of collusion between the Assad government and Islamic State.

The protestors in this video in Trafalgar Square know what’s going on. They know their friends and families are being bombed and hurt and that, like in any war, innocent people are suffering and dying.

Only last week apparently, the last paediatrician was killed in Aleppo. It was the philosopher Plato who said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”  Ancient these words maybe, but how ringingly true they still are.

May God give us peace in our time.

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Capital.

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London. There’s nothing quite like this beloved capital city of ours. Centuries of history at every turn, cultural diversity and the sheer glamour of one of the most iconic cities in the world – all combine to create that most unique experience that is quintessentially London.

Born and raised here, I will forever want to go back. To go back home. The fact is, there’s just something intoxicating about this place, like some kind of geographical drug you can’t get enough of…

100,000 people move to the capital every year; no doubt in search of a better life, a bright future pregnant with possibilities and maybe, just plain excitement. I wonder if they find what they are looking for?

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Devon.

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There surely is no shortage of natural beauty in the lush, green county of Devon. There’s a reason why it rhymes with heaven.

2 coastlines, distinctively different from each other, 2 vast expanses of open moorland, sheep, cows, clotted cream and sleep inducing fresh air are what makes this place special.

I could wax lyrical about wooded valleys and babbling brooks, but I think you get the picture. Space, peace and tranquillity are what this county is all about.

And yes I know it rains a lot in between the sunshine, but how else would it be so green?

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Shallow Seas.

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The name ‘Bahamas’ literally means ‘Shallow Sea.’ And when you first arrive in this archipelago of some 700+ islands, you immediately begin to see why Christopher Columbus graced these islands with this name.

We found ourselves on Great Exuma, a beautiful cay (pronounced key), shot over by cobalt blue skies and surrounded by turquoise waters. We drove down to Little Exuma too, which was no less beautiful.

Eventually, we discovered Coco Plum beach, said to be the finest in the Bahamas. Well I couldn’t possibly comment because I haven’t explored many of the other islands, but I think we’ll let the locals fight that one out. It was pretty stunning though, and that’s probably an understatement.

Things were fairly quiet round there though. I mean, if a beach was busy, you may see 10 or so people occupying a half a mile stretch of pure white sand. If it was quiet, then nobody – except you of course. Just the way I like it.

And with many of these remote beaches serving cold beer, rum (of course) and delicious, grilled food, what more do you need?

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