Thursday, April 09, 2009


Katrina Larkin is a co-founder of the Big Chill music festival. I will be covering the festival for the Guardian. Katrina will write a piece prior to the festival on my Herefordshire, the Herefordshire that I dream of when away traveling. I spent today visiting favorite sites for Katrina's article. Great having our Dutch friends here and celebrating both Easter and Passover week. I refer to the Dutch as our friends - not true. They are our family. Waking this morning, I lay in bed and listened joyfully to their voices rising from the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I have a great life: a wife, four sons and a daughter, all of whom I adore and all of whom talk to me. My two elder sons and my daughter have wonderful lovable partners. I have four glorious grandsons. A first granddaughter is due imminently and a second next month. We live in a three-hundred year old cottage (slum or cute, depending on your expectations) with beautiful views across the Herefordshire countryside. We have kind and enjoyable friends on every continent. I am in good health, get to travel and write.
Don't give me that crap, old man.
Get it together or Bernadette will kick you up the backside...


Our Border terrier, Hamish, is young and feisty. He escaped yesterday (the postman had left the gate open). Frenzied barking led me to a house down the lane. Hamish had discovered a large flop-eared black and white rabbit in a cage on the front lawn. A tough Chav-type rabbit, safe in its cage, would have stuck its tongue out at Hamish. This rabbit was in shock. I dragged Hamish home and stuck his nose in one of the many moles hills desecrating our lawns. Hamish's answer: he doesn't do moles. He does sex with almost anything (including furniture), he does sleep, he does food and he does friendship with all and sundry (including burglars if any came our way). All in all, a totaly useless animal...
Though very handsome.


The image I project is of a fat, moderately jolly old buffer. In fact I suffer from manic depression. Traveling produces the manic mode. The past few weeks I have been in depression. One of the side affects is an inability to write letters. This must strike readers as the most inadequate excuse for bad manners. However, from those with whom I should have communicated, I beg forgiveness...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I have been practicing for the new DSA bike test over the past two weeks. The test includes riding through a speed gate at 50 kph and immediately swerving before pulling up in a box. I ride a Honda 125 loaned by BRANSONS MOTORCYCLES, the Gloucester Honda Agent. The test area is short and a Honda 125 isn't the speediest accelerator. It takes a while to get the line and acceleration right. Steve of Acer Motorcycle Training spent ten years track racing. He has practiced on the new course over the past two months and reached 58 kph through the gate on the Honda CG. He is a good teacher and I finally made 51 kph after ten practice runs.


I wrote that I must get off politics and back to cooking. Our eldest son, Josh, visits next Tuesday for two nights with his girlfriend, Jen. Josh called to say Hi and ask what I was preparing for Tuesday evening. We haven't met Jen. Josh says she isn't a vegetarian but wouldn't order a steak at a restaurant. Sea food?
Great - I will prepare my favorite dish, Tom Yam. I use mussels as well as prawns and prepare a hot sauce to serve on the side.
chilies, garlic & shallots
fish sauce and shrimp paste
soft brown sugar

Monday, April 06, 2009


I have been enraged for the past few days by morally corrupt British politicians. I need to get back into the kitchen. We have a Dutch family, dear friends, arriving Wednesday for Easter/Passover - a fine time to plan a fine meal. I will drop by the butcher in Malvern Wells tomorrow. He gets his beef from the Scottish Highlands. Skirt is the perfect cut for the barbecue. Essential that I remember not to overdo the chili.


Geoff Hoon was Minister of Defense when Britain joined the United States' invasion of Afghanistan. Geoff Hoon was Minister of Defense for three and a half years. He occupied a luxury apartment free of rent in Admiralty House. He rented out his own London house and charged the British tax payer for the upkeep of his home in his Nottinghamshire Constituency. Meanwhile the families of British soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were condemned to substandard accommodation. Their accommodation was Geoff Hoon's responsibility. An honorable man would resign in shame. Honor is foreign to Mister Hoon.
Hoon's father was a railwayman. By profession, Hoon is a barrister. I recall a saying from my youth: Go screw the working class, I've got the foreman's job at last.
Bravo, Mister Hoon...


I spent much of my childhood in the Scottish Borders. I remember reading Buchan and Kipling and imagining myself a British officer disguised as a Pathan tribesman, the Cheviot Hills as the Hindu Kush. My elder brother and I rode most day - my brother, a turbaned Chieftain. Tsarist Russia was the enemy. So much for fantasy...
Forty years later I followed moujahidin into Afghanistan. I wore a khaki turban and khaki pyjamas and carried a World War One rifle (all Afghans carry weapons). Soviet Russia was the enemy.
A narrow footpath climbed barren mountains parallel to the Khyber Pass. The path petered out and we scrambled up slides of granite scree and clawed our way across rock. We reached the head of the pass at nearly 3,000 meters, descended into a valley and walked until evening when we dined on chapatis that were 80% sand. Full moon and we stumbled all night up a dry river bed. Dawn and we slept an hour in a ruined farm house - no chapatis. Then we walked all day and were finally through the Russians' exclusion zone. For those two days the leader of our troop encouraged me with threats of Russian helicopter gunships. I prayed for a Russian gunship. One bomb. Peace...
A different peace came three days later.
We had shivered through the night on an open mountain side. The sun rose. The clarity of vision in the mountain air verged on the hallucinatory. We followed a stream up a narrow valley. Grass grew emerald on the banks and I recall wild flowers and a pair of blue kingfishers and an abundance of pale yellow butterflies. An old man had presented me with a horse the previous day and I rode to the rear of our troop. One by one, the moujahidin passed me their weapons until I resembled a mobile game of pick-up-sticks. I had no idea of our destination nor of our troop's intention. For the first time in years I was freed from any possibility of taking a decision and rode in an almost trance-like state of peace. Yet this was war. Two thirds of the population had fled their country, every village lay in ruins, livestock had been stolen or killed by bullet or landmine, food was famine short. So, though happy, I was also shamed by my happiness.
Two mulberry trees in fruit shaded the stream at the head of the valley. We rolled rocks to form a dam and one of the younger moujahidin climbed the trees and shook berries down into the chill water. We sat with our feet in the water below the pool, cooling them from the march and eating the mulberries and I recall the faces of the moujahidin - fierceness melted by the moment's content. I recall jokes and laughter and an intense companionship and trust one in the other and of trust in these harsh mountains that rose purple from the valley and barred Russians in their tanks and APCs. Now the tanks and APCs and gunships are American and British – and the heroes I traveled with are terrorists.