Friday, 9 November 2012

Up, Up and Away - Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

I went to Turkey and went hot air ballooning over the magical landscape of Cappadocia. You can read about it, and see the pictures, at The Skinny.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Skinny on... Colombia

After travelling to Colombia, I wrote a broad overview of the country as a backpackers' destination. You can read it, as always, at The Skinny.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Kayaking in Fiordland

I wrote an article about kayaking in the Fiordland area of of the South Island of New Zealand, you can read it at The Skinny.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Missive from Thailand: Everything's Going Swimmingly!

I wrote about learning how to swim in Chiang Mai, Thailand. You can read it here.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Very, Very Big Match

Racism at the highest level, countless corruption allegations, match-fixing enquiries worldwide, disrespect for our sacred poppy, the never-ending demands for video technology; FIFA is under pressure from every angle and now faces a new controversy following last Sunday's big Blues v Purples match in Surin, eastern Thailand. The Purples' tricky No.7 was both the star of the show and the centre of the controversy - let's call him, for no special reason, Luis - for three times he raced through the heavy footed Blues' defence with the ball tucked under his trunk. Twice Luis uncurled shots at goal from close range only for them to be blocked by the Blues' massive No.2, and the other time he was foiled by his own last-minute miscontrol, but the Purples' goal was scored with a similar maneuvre by the gigantic No.9 who was clearly inspired by Luis's display. Oh, this was an elephant football match, by the way. The players were all elephants. Literally elephants, Jamie. Elephants.

I made a 22 hour round trip from Bangkok to watch this match, and it was barely worth it, for it's not often you get to see a match featuring players of such phenomenal natural strength, grey leathery skin and big flappy ears; neither is it common (at least in the SPL; I don't watch English football) to see a defender caught out by a through ball because he is too busy defecating on the pitch. Fortunately for the huge centre-back, this piece of sloppy defending went unpunished.

The match finished 1-1 after a sclaffed goal-kick by the Purples' goalkeeper landed right at the toes of the Blues' really very large No.9 who, showing good feet for a five tonne septegenarian, turned and sclaffed a shot straight back to the goalkeeper, who in turn sclaffed the ball backwards and between his own posts. The goalscorer - who we'll call Zlatan, in preference to Peter, so as to not confuse readers of my next giraffe match report - celebrated by reaching his nose-arm into the crotch of a surprised team-mate, who was then lucky not to see red for a Rooney-like kick out at the offender. Direct nasal-genital groping or not, provocation is not an excuse.

At full-time the match went to penalties, which were won 1-0 by the Blues, who thereby displayed more accuracy from the spot than the Brazil national human male squad did at the Copa America. Despite their triumph, the Blues trudged off the pitch as if they had no idea what their victory truly meant. I'm glad I'm not a fan.

Back to the main controversy: does the definition of handball include the trunk-dribble? Elephants already have four limbs which are uncontroversially feet, because they are required for the elephant to stand, walk and run. The trunk is like a nose on the end of an arm, it's not very much like a foot at all. Let's ditch the legal mumbo-jumbo ("definition" etc.): it looks like handball. In fact, an elephant running at a line of other elephants with a ball wrapped in its trunk looks near-identical to a game of rugby, which would certainly not be worth travelling halfway across the world to report on. Elephant rugby? That's just stupid.

Friday, 14 October 2011

10 of the best pubs in Edinburgh

I wrote an article for Guardian Travel about Edinburgh. It's pretty self-explanatory.

10 of the best pubs in Edinburgh

Detour presents: Meursault / Happy Particles @ Glasgow Science Centre (Planetarium)

Meursault / Happy Particles at Glasgow Science Centre Planetarium (****)
Sunday October 9
live review for the skinny

The planetarium isn't just a novel location for the sake of gimmickry, since a certain brand of rock music routinely provokes descriptions like "star-gazing" or "cosmic" and can feel emotionally profound in the same vague, mindclutter-emptying way as staring at the stars.

Sunday's first band Happy Particles fit the bill perfectly: even without a domed ceiling of stars and planets above them, they might fairly be described as a space-rock band. Before they start, the seated crowd is treated to a brief introduction to astronomy by planetarium staff member Simon, who amusingly talks to all us trendy music types like we're six years old again. "Look out for Geoff the Whale!" he tells us, before the stars above start to orbit the room, and Happy Particles slowly shift between chords.

Theirs is not a clean or intricate game, preferring to play in the mud of indistinct guitar noise and heavily processed vocals, but it’s perfect for right now, gazing at flickering stars, what looks like Mars, and some dubiously drawn constellations (how can you get a dog from two dots?). Happy Particles should never perform in a wee bar again; please, talk to Simon about a residency.

Meursault, perennial kings of Edinburgh’s gentle acoustic scene, could be a less appropriate choice for a setting that encourages us to consider infinite size, and the closer, a sparse take on ‘...Fields’ familiar to any fan, is somewhat swallowed by the "endless canopy" above it. But the new songs that dominate tonight's set reveal a heavier sound than ever before, which fills the room, if not the universe. Neil Pennycook’s songwriting has taken an angry turn, so his bandmates wallop the drums and strangle the guitars, but Pennycook’s voice is still a versatile emotional tool, and some of the new piano melodies are startlingly pretty. Meursault may benefit from more intimate venues, but Detour deserve a lot of credit for thinking outside the pub.