Beach; Pond; Paradise

After being locked down in our cities, or ever-more crowded countryside, the timing of these isolation-paradise movies is impeccable. But what hooks us into these escapist dreams, these illusions, is no different today than it was in the 19th century. Like pilgrimage itself, it taps into an eternal impulse within us all.

Home is where the heart is

For much of the last four decades I have lived within walking distance of the Thames in London. This weekend I ventured out to explore a stretch of the river’s meandering upper reaches. Setting out from Lechlade in the very early morning mist only larks and reed warblers broke the silence.

The Oldest City

This week I spent a glorious hour in conversation with Karwan Jamal Tahir on the topic of female Peshmerga soldiers - research for my book - 'Women Warriors'

‘When in April, sweet showers fall

Stanford is a Catholic and the content of his book is heavily weighted towards Christian routes and shrines such as Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, and Rome. Nevertheless, he treads a balanced and respectful line across the wider religious terrain.

What’s in a Title?

During his lifetime Philip Mountbatten was known variously as Prince, Duke, Consort. Some of his titles were honorary others, were earned. In this latter category we might include Influencer – a person who through his trusted position was able to amplify ideas and inspire others to act.

Serendipity and the City

Experiencing that unique synaptic prickle that comes from fresh conversation and a new perspective on the world, my encounter with award winning podcaster Jeremy Bassetti made me nostalgic for that special quality of life in the city currently lost to lockdown. Not least the serendipity of the chance meeting.

Call Me Ishmael

Twenty odd years before Herman Melville penned ‘Clarel’ an epic poem on pilgrimage, he wrote  ‘Moby-Dick’, that wondrous mixture of fiction, natural history and social anthropology. Published in 1851, the book was a commercial failure. At the time the Nantucket whaling industry was already in decline and American readers no more wanted novels about whalers than … Continue reading Call Me Ishmael

Forty days

While the government contemplates the logistics, costs and implications for personal liberty of introducing quarantine for travelers, and hostile states whip up anti-vax sentiment, we might take a peek at the link between faith and pestilence, as sadly the two often travel hand in hand. Amongst the largest gatherings on the planet is the Hindu pilgrimage … Continue reading Forty days

Thankfully!

I had hoped to journey to the Orkneys last year to see the Ring of Brodgar, the Bronze Age standing stones not far from Stromness, but it was not to be. I wanted to get a better sense of this ritual site and experience at first-hand how it feels and imagine how it might have felt … Continue reading Thankfully!

From here to eternity

Every New Year’s Eve we become oracles, each prophesying the big political, economic and sporting moments for the year ahead.

The historical reality of the present

Lamb’s 2020 book ‘Our Bodies Their Battlefield’ is grim but compelling. Ultimately, I had to put it down, lacking the courage to continue reading. Afterwards, nursing my own cowardice, I thought of Lamb. The woman who had the strength to face the detailed accounts of violence sustained by women in the course of conflict.