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February 2015

Happy New Year at Last

You may remember that I postponed making my New Year resolutions until February 17th aka the Chinese Year of the Sheep. If Google hadn’t published an image of a ram bashing its head on a tree today, the date could have slipped under my radar.

Knowing little about rams or why the Chinese have dedicated twelve whole months to one, I Google searched and fell upon a WikiHow piece – How to Defend Against a Ram. You may find this useful in the year ahead.

We are advised never to turn our backs on a ram. Also, if he gives you a mean look then ‘ there is the likelihood of an oncoming charge.’ At this point they suggest tackling the ram as you would an opponent in volleyball.
Never having played volleyball I imagine I’d be dead at this point. I’m also really bad at reading the subtle facial expressions of sheep. The next piece of advice is to drag the ram to the gate, let yourself out and close the gate behind you leaving him in the field. My advice would be to stay out of fields.

As you know, I am of the city, preferring the gentle hum of traffic to the dawn chorus of the birds, nevertheless when our kids were small, I threw myself into country living with abandon, even going so far as to grow my own vegetables.

After investing in a digger and some hoes, a pair of Crocs and a Barbour jacket I planted out tiny shoots and seeds in neat lines and lovingly tended rows of beans, carrots, sweet corn and cabbages. Months went by with every spare moment spent tilling, watering and weeding. The supermarket was only ten minutes drive away which was just as well as the vegetables were organic and prone to slugs. They were dwarfish in size and unrecognizable in shape, but I had the zeal of the newly converted believing that one- day we would see the fruits of our labors.

Our garden was surrounded by a hundred acres of farmland, which will only seem idyllic to anyone who has never lived in a house surrounded by a hundred acres of farmland. One afternoon six enormous tractors came into the field and sprayed pesticide on all the crops, including ours, which happened to be down wind. This left us no longer organic.  A little while later the rabbits celebrated Thanksgiving on our patch by eating all the carrots and cabbages. That brought an abrupt end to my Beatrix Potter phase and our foray into self- sustenance. After that I’d have happily taken a gun to the rabbits and possibly to the farmer who delighted in riding his machinery as close to the end of our property as his wheels would allow. We’d have had a more tranquil existence under the flight path at Heathrow.

Anyway I digress. This is the Year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat according to which Chinese Mandarin symbol you choose. I am making only one resolution. I will do my level best to avoid running into a ram, or for that matter, a sheep or a goat. Happy New Year.

Around the World in Thirty Days

I’ve zipped past the north-pole and flown over China before re-entering the blogosphere this week. I’ve been around the world in thirty days.

“That’s impressive.” I hear you say.

Well kind of. Thank you. But let’s be clear here. I wasn’t sponsored to cycle, swim, abseil or walk any part of the trip. I’ve scaled no mountains, broken no speed records, discovered no new lands.  My iPhone photographs are not going to be featured in National Geographic. Publishers aren’t in a bidding war for the serial rights to my next book and there are no movie options in the works.

Unlike Jules Verne’s character in Around the world in Eighty Days, my ‘Tour de Monde’ did not involve rescuing anyone from a funeral pyre in India,  robberies, opium dens or being chased by Sioux warriors.

When you fling yourself from the sunshine state, to an icy January London and have to navigate Paris in the rain before hitting the heat of Dubai the greatest challenges are sartorial. One of the most stressful parts of anticipating my trip was deciding what to pack and on arrival, what to wear.
Call me superficial. I really don’t mind, but you try getting a table at Brasserie Lipp in ‘Paris Fashion Week’ if you’re not looking pulled together. You try going to a series of meetings with PR Teams, publishers, event planners and public speaking events in your trainers or turning up at a formal dinner in the middle-east sporting ripped jeans and a leather jacket. Unless you’re Johnny Depp it just doesn’t work.

Nevertheless, by day four of my trip despite careful planning (weeks of obsessing,) my hair needed color, my nails were split, the hotel mirror was holding unimaginable terrors and the jet lag had set in. At this point all resolutions about not drinking too much wine were thrown to the far reaches of the soon to be circumnavigated globe.

Several glasses of Sancerre will lift the spirits of a weary traveler and buying a glass for all the other guests in the hotel bar is a wonderful way of making new friends. I will return with tales of ambushing Russell Brand, taking part in an impromptu photo-shoot and having a shower thirty-five thousand feet in the air just as soon as I have my land-legs back. Right now my own bed feels like the most wonderful place on earth.