Flash non-fiction: a tale of surf war

I’ve just found an old bit of writing, it’s a sort of flash non-fiction piece and I thought I may as well share. It’s quite airy-fairy and no jokes, I must have been having a grown-up week. I’m really busy at the moment so finding it hard to blog, there could well be more of these. Feel free to let me know what you think, even if you think it’s crap. I’d also welcome ideas for a slightly catchier title.

Beach, a tale of surf war

west dale

There’s no one on West Dale Beach.

The bay scoops into the land like a bite stolen from a giant biscuit and I’m standing where the gap in the front teeth would be. Rocks crumb into the steely water which stretches back, merging with the autumn sky. All that lingers between is a distant dark island, I don’t know its name. Anna does. She says only puffins and guillemots live there.

Standing on the cliffs, I can see rocks below, pebbles too, sand, sea, but no people. Then Anna comes into view. She’s reached the beach and is clomping across reddy-pink stones, hair flapping, heading for the sea.

“If she could keep going,” Amy, our mentor, tells me, “the next stop would be Venezuela.”

As I watch, Anna reaches the lip of the sand, where the band of loose stones – they’re the colour of watered down Merlot – gives way to a paler and softer sort of beach. She mars the sand’s smooth surface with the first satisfying footprint. I want to shout to her, to tell her to stop and wait for me, but it’s too windy: cold air rushes at my face with force enough to muffle any sound.

Instead, my feet begin to shuffle. I run.

Carefully, I leap gnarled wooden steps, two at a time, down the sandstone cliffs. At the bottom, there’s a clatter as I hit the pebbles, keeping my arms out for balance. Then a dull doof… doof... as I thud over the sand.

Anna’s not far ahead now. If I’m really quick, I think, I might feel the sea wash over my feet before she does. My cumbersome wellies slip off with a wriggle and a flick as I run, lightening the load. I hurry, now with bare feet pummelling the cold wet ground. But she still beats me to the shoreline.

A tall frothing wave crashes, swells and swallows her feet up to the ankles.

I walk the edge of the bay kicking worm castings and water. Anna stays where I left her, flicking her primrose hair and paddling.

A week in Pembrokeshire


Photo of the week: Istanbul’s floating kitchens

When I first saw these floating kitchens from Gelata Bridge, I thought they were some sort of fairground ride. Bursting with neon and rocking violently in the wake of a passing ferry, it seemed the most logical conclusion. In fact, they’re grilled fish vendors, selling their sandwiches to people on the adjacent street. It doesn’t seem very practical, but it seems to work for them, business was booming.


Armchair travel: Shiraz in 360 panoramas

So here’s my new thing – wasting time looking at 360 panoramic shots of things. Some are brilliant, others are not so, but all allow you to get a bit of a travel fix while bored out of your mind at work. Who knows how I ended up looking at pictures of Shiraz, but it turns out it’s not just a tasty variety of wine. Shiraz is Iran’s ninth largest city. Situated seventy kilometres south west of Persepolis, it’s famous for literature and gardens.

These are some of my favourites:

Iran carpets

Carpet Repair Workhop

A colourful, raggedy workshop where they seem to be repairing Persian rugs. At least some places have resisted adopting the throw-away culture.

Iran Mosque

Nasir Al Mulk Mosque

This mosque’s stained glass is stunning with the sun streaming through, it forms this trippy pattern-on-pattern effect in bright sweet shop colours.

Iran poems

House of Poems

A shop with poems hanging from every available surface. It’s every writer’s dream.

Iran lion

Lion Statue

The word Shiraz means ‘cave of lion’ because at one stage it was seen as absorbing productions from the rest of the country, while exporting nothing itself. The sandstone lion statue, hiding away in a cave is mildly interesting, but this shot of tourists taking pictures is just so meta. I loved it.

Iran tomb

Tomb of Hefez

Shams al-din Mohammad, or Hafiz, is considered as one of the greatest Iranian poets. Little is known about him but he is thought to have been born between 1317 and 1326 A.D. in Shiraz. This monument is nowhere near that old, it was built in the 1770s. The detailing in the roof reminds me of sun refractions in the sea.

Which one’s your favourite?

Photo essay: Little Venice to Camden

A winter walk along the Regent’s Canal

We found this walk on the Canals and Rivers Trust website, well, my friend Jenny’s new, and now very much in favour, boyfriend did. It’s the Little Venice to Camden circular taking you along the Regent’s Canal most of the way. It’s quite a long walk and it was freezing, but I have to say it was really beautiful in winter: gulls were floating along on shards of ice, the trees were dramatically bare, contrasting against the moody sky.

Starting out at posh Warwick Avenue, where we were joined by a pair of bright green parakeets for a while, we headed up towards Edgware Road, then skimmed Regent’s Park, passed London Zoo and onto Camden. I had no idea just how many barges would be moored along the way, jumping out from the winter murk with their circus colours and boisterously fonted sides. With it being London, there’s this amazing juxtaposition between the grand, and uber-expensive, houses along the path and the baggy-jeaned kids smoking weed, or the blue sleeping back curled up under a bridge.

As you approach Camden, street art begins to appear. The walls under one canal bridge has been home since 1985 (until recently) to the Banksy Vs King Robbo war. I’m pretty sure this part of the canal is where the Mighty Boosh scene featuring Noel Fielding as a shaman drug dealer was shot too. “Me mum’s making me Spaghettios, do you like Spaghettios?”

We finished the walk in Camden, deciding to thaw out in the Hawley Arms because I couldn’t feel my body anymore. You can continue all the way back around to Little Venice, I might leave it until it’s a bit warmer before I try that though.

Ragent's canal walk start

Start. There’s a nice barge cafe here so you can grab a nice hot tea.


Regent's canal barges

Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a house boat.

Regent's canal 1st bridge

Surveyors, er… surveying.


Regent's canal posh house




London Zoo

Show off.

Regent's canal street art 'Homeless'

This was on the pathway next to bridge with several sleeping bags under it. I can’t find out who it’s by. The way it’s become distressed and weather beaten really makes you stop and think.


Regent's canal houses

If I could live here, I would never whinge about anything again.

Regent's canal Pirate Castle

Regent's canal Camden


Regent's canal bookshop barge

A bookshop on a barge. Genius.


Camden Lock

Camden market moped seats

It’s been a while since I’d been to Camden, I usually avoid it because it’s so touristy and the stalls had become so sterile. Anyway, it’s all changed. These are these new moped seats in the market for a start. Nice recycling Camden council.