SYRIA: BEFORE THE DELUGE

INTELLIGENT TRAVELLER It seemed to me that most of Syria had been visited, inhabited or invaded by Phoenicians and Egyptians, Romans, Mamluks and the Knights Templar. TE Lawrence, Agatha Christie and Roosevelt had all made pilgrimages; even the cheery folk from Mossad took time out to make a day trip and detonate a car bomb in Damascus on the day of my arrival. The pull of the place was undeniable.

 

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HOLLAND: AMSTERDAM TATTOO MUSEUM

GUARDIAN Pretty nineteenth century Plantage Middenlaan is the unlikely setting for one of Amsterdam’s newest museums.  The Amsterdam Tattoo Museum is incongruously housed in two Belle Époque mansions; bourgeois painted flowers and fancy plasterwork interiors provide an unlikely counterpoint to the frankly fetishistic nature of the exhibitions. Continue reading

ZANZIBAR: ADVENTURE ON THE HIGH SEAS

INDEPENDENT  I’m not what you’d call an adrenalin junky, macho thrills’n’spills aren’t my thing.  But when the ratchet shrieked and yards of fishing line zipped out across the waves I was beside myself with excitement.  Adrenalin rush?  I was faint with it… time to eat my words… Continue reading

CAPE VERDE: SAUDADE IN SAO VICENTE

INTELLIGENT TRAVELLER Music is embedded in the very DNA of Sao Vicente; a fact that becomes rampantly clear in the run up to carnival.  Its capital, Mindelo, positively thrums each weekend between Christmas and Lent as rival teams devote themselves to outdoing their neighbours with drum practise. Continue reading

CAPE VERDE: MELODY MAKER

GUARDIAN After a swift glass of grog Chico was only too happy to chat.  “Of course I knew Cesaria Evora” he said.  “I played with her on a tour of the United States; hey, she was first discovered singing at my piano!”  It soon became apparent that there were many in Mindelo who’d known perhaps the greatest exponent of morna there ever was. Continue reading

I’LL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL TO THE DOCTOR WHO EASED MUM’S PAIN

DAILY MAIL Earlier this month, Dr William Lloyd Bassett, a Shropshire GP, was hauled in front of a disciplinary panel at the General Medical Council.  It was alleged that he’d deliberately hastened the death of a terminally-ill man by giving him a huge dose of morphine. The case made headlines across the country, and prompted debate about the fine and treacherous line between aiding a patient in distress and hastening death. Continue reading