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Showing posts from December, 2011

The Big Adventure - Christchurch Earthquake

24th December 2011

Three weeks ago the skies were blue as we flew into Christchurch and, as we descended for our landing, I was struck by how you could see the flat green Canterbury plains stretching out to the south of the city until they hit the high mountain ridge of the Southern Alps to the west, beyond which you could then glimpse the wide blue ocean again.

New Zealand's south island is effectively long but relatively narrow which makes crossing from one side to the other reasonably easy and offers up some spectacular mountain passes. All looked so beautiful and tranquil in that afternoon sunshine, but as we have travelled around New Zealand in these recent weeks, we have come to understand so much better what a volatile piece of land this country is. From its formation in ancient times when it broke from the supercontinent of Gondwanaland and drifted west across the ocean, was then almost submerged before rising again with the deep forces within this mighty planet of ours, N…

The Big Adventure - Bangkok, Thailand

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'One night in Bangkok' as the song goes. Well, actually it was two...

Bangkok: big, busy, brash and boisterous. Less polluted than many Asian cities, despite the motorised three-wheel tuk-tuks, but also a little less exotic than we were expecting. The 'haves' and the 'have nots' juxtaposed as they so often are the further you travel east: smart high-rise next to low-rise shabby chaos; pockets of sophistication side by side with basic existence. A city, inevitably of contrasts; changing its identity, losing its identity? Who knows what the future holds for Bangkok with its population of 11 million (although many of whom are now moving out to the northern provinces to avoid the increasing risk of flooding). A city where tall neon towers light up with 'Long live the King and Queen' and where shrines bedecked with yellow flowers where incense gently burns sit side by side with temples of materialism such as shopping malls and fast food chains. A city in fl…

The Big Adventure

Years ago N and I talked of how one day, were we to get married and have children, we would love to bob around the Mediterranean on a boat with the children for a year. The idea was inspired by a family we came across one evening on a beach in Rhodes over two decades ago. There was a yacht moored out in the bay on a milky evening as the beach was emptying. A small dinghy was launched from the boat and as it came towards shore we saw three little blond heads rowing their way towards the sand. They were sun-tanned and sun-kissed on that golden evening and we learnt that their father was retired from the RAF and they were taking a year out just sailing around the Med. I held that idea in my head for all these years, urging N to take some time out so we could do something similar with our three girls before it was too late.

I persuaded him to pencil some extended time out in his diary just over a year ago, he having decided that December and Christmas was the best time for him to be abse…