Trams & People Don’t Mix.

Vintage trams are ace. They have dim yellow light bulbs and faded patterned seats that prickle your bum when you sit down. Best of all they make a rattly noise as they go along the sea front and have a bell so the driver can talk to everyone in tram language:

Vintage tram on the Birkenhead Heritage Tramwa...

A vintage tram behaving itself.
(Source: Wiki)

Dingaling! – Hey, I’m driving the tram!
Dingaling! Ding! – I’m driving the tram. You’re not. Loooo-zer.
Ding, ding. DING! – Get out of the way or I’m taking you home as sandwich filler.

But a modern trams is completely different.  Although it has a bell that goes dingaling, it’s just a train on a cable. Bit boring really.

Boring to everyone except me, that is.

I fret, I sweat, I chew my nails. I lie awake at night stewing and worrying and have finally come to the appalling conclusion that I seem to be the only person in the world who thinks it’s dangerous to drive a train through a shopping centre. Continue reading


Museum of Occupations, Tallinn, Estonia.

This small, beautifully designed museum is packed with objects from both the Soviet and Nazi occupations. Everything from political propaganda posters, everyday objects, surveillance equipment – it’s all here, down to the Lenin statues in the basement.

There are hours and hours worth of videos to watch – all brilliantly put together, charting the history of Estonia’s occupation, with footage of invading armies and interviews with ordinary people recounting their experiences.  Totally addictive if you love listening to people tell stories about their lives. There’s far too much to watch and take in in one go but the videos are so captivating, it’s worth making more than one visit to the museum so you can watch all of them.

Soviet Cars

soviet car, museum of occupations, tallinn, estonia

soviet car, museum of occupations, tallinn, estonia

soviet car, museum of occupations, tallinn, estonia Continue reading


The KGB, the exploding purse & The Hotel Viru, Tallinn.

Absolute top of the list of things to do in Tallinn is the KGB Museum at the Hotel Viru. Our guide, Jana,  was vivacious, animated and bursting with amusing stories about The Hotel Viru and its history.

It was built in 1972, to bring much needed tourist revenue into Estonia.  It’s bright and cheerful inside now but originally the decor was dark and gloomy, even a bit scary, with that typically Soviet, austere-but-trying-to-be-grand look about it.

Finland had a job shortage at the time and the Soviets wanted some of their oil so they did a deal and Finnish workers built the hotel which is why it took two years to build, instead of 7 or 8.

There was a three week gap between hotel completion and opening. Very handy. Gave the KGB time to get in there and install their radio equipment  and bugging devices on the 23rd floor –  the floor that didn’t officially exist. Although every so often, somebody would helpfully write next to the buttons in the lift, ’23rd floor – KGB’ and a cleaner would be sent to scrub it off, pronto.

The public lift stopped at the 22nd floor then a secret stairway went to the non-existent 23rd floor where there was a sign on the door saying ‘Nothing in here.’  One employee did wander into the surveillance room by mistake and found himself looking at the business end of a gun. ‘Oh hi guys, what are you listening to? Anything good?’ probably wouldn’t have been what he said to the men with the head phones.

kgb phone, hotel viru, estonia

KGB office and telephones. The red one didn’t need a dial. It went straight through to Moscow.

Continue reading



Years ago, I lived in a block of flats in South London. Well heated, they were, with loads of rubbish left all over the place.

The cockroaches simply adored it and once word got round, they arrived in swarms.  I swear the Cockroach Kingdom had their own Ideal Home Exhibition with a special display stand for those flats:
Strut your funky stuff at the South London Party Palace. A Disco every Night.

So they did.

It became second nature to tip shoes upside down before putting them on, inspect anything before picking it up and to kick the little critters off work surfaces, chairs and dinner plates. Once, in mid conversation, I absentmindedly stood up, brushed one off my friend’s shoulder and then sat down again and carried on chatting as if nothing had happened. Continue reading