Hey, Let’s go to Tallinn!

I hadn’t been meaning to go there.

But then I read about espionage and the Cold War in Estonia,  burrowed in my bed at 6 o clock in the morning, in my leopard print, egg-stained dressing gown, while a gale blew a tune on the loose guttering outside.

The pretty pictures of gingerbread buildings and onion towers, the moody snaps of dark alleyways and disused KGB equipment were irresistable.  I recalled my travels in Poland and East Berlin, many years ago, before the collapse of Communism Continue reading


Pendle Hill – Training for Vesuvius. Sort of.

I’m saving up the airmiles and planning a summer tour of Italy’s volcanoes.

I asked my son if he wanted to come but he said, ‘you must be joking. Volcanoes are dangerous. I might get hurt,’ then went back to shooting zombies on a screen splattered with virtual zombie blood.

Now as everybody knows, volcanoes are made out of mountains (and with a bit of luck, fire), so I’ve got to get fit. Gym. Healthy eating. A complete fitness regime. Or in my case, Scrapheap Challenge.

My friend Sam thinks it’s hilarious. ‘You’ll never get that arse up Vesuvius,’ he said. Then he made me go up Pendle Hill. It’s a bit of a climb – only 55m short of being a mountain. I was huffing and wheezing like a Shetland pony with a heart problem, while gangs of octagenarians in kagoules and bobble hats said ”scuse me,’ as they skipped past with picnic hampers, fold-up tables and small dogs on leads.

But we persevered. Sometimes he dragged me, sometimes he pushed from behind and finally we reached the top where a large wet cloud was waiting for us.

I wish I could say the view was spectacular but there was nothing up there. Just stones and sheep and  the ghostly shapes of picnic tables and dogs frollicking as the bobble-hatted people ate their sandwiches.

It was worth it though, even if it did take 3 days to recover. In the meantime I’m writing to the Italian government to ask if they’d be good enough to install special ski lifts on both Vesuvius and Etna with my name on them.


Travel Writing Cliches to Avoid.

Travel writing is riddled with cliches.  They make your writing predictable and unmemorable.  Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

The best way to be familiar with those cliches is to read a lot.  If you’ve got your brain switched on, the cliches  start popping out at you after a while.

Here’s a glossary to the most popular (oh, and I promise never to use any of them).

Steeped in history. A town or city where loads of things happened once. People were separated from their heads in the town square,  invading armies heaved themselves uphill towards the castle (now open for guided tours) and pustule-riddled plague victims were wheeled off on a cart. We’ve loads of places like this in the UK.

Continue reading