21 December 2010

Before and after

Going for a walk in the White a few days ago. Crunching snow underfoot, misty breath, heavy boots, long johns, two pairs of socks, hat scarf, gloves.

Today, whiling the afternoon away at 20C, sipping tea on a terrace while the sunset turns the sky peachy and the air musky with evaporated sprinkler water. Wearing sandals, linen shirt, no socks!

Location:312th Rd,Dubai,United Arab Emirates

15 August 2010

My home from the air

We went flying today, now that Stuart has his license current again. This is first time I have seen the Ruhrgebiet from the air. It's hard to describe how I felt, privileged and awed, surprised at the shape this conurbation takes from the air. Travelling around it on the ground, despite the frequent fields and parks, the Ruhrgebiet feels like a big city, Bottrop joined to Oberhausen which is inseparable from Essen, which is invisibly connected to Bochum, which slowly seeps into Dortmund and so on. From the air there really is no join at all, our navigation takes place along the grid of motorways and canals: the A2 to the North, the Rhine to the West, Ruhr to the South, and Dortmund airspace preventing us from going too far to the East. In between we discover a mass of surprises: The vast swathe cut by the Rhine-Herne canal which is mostly invisible from the road, a fat waterway filled with barges and edged by industrial sites, and the occasional marina;

Canal lock near Gelsenkirchen

I had no idea that they were still working mines, or related coal industry, and there they are, mine shaft elevators, smoking chimneys, black coal heaps. And right next to the filth vast fields are being shorn of their wheat, as if we weren't in the middle of an industrial belt. The local mountain scenery of slag heaps, those monuments to the local past consisting of steel making waste and toxic left overs of the coke industry are not as visible as I expected, as overwhelming as they are when driving along a road only to have a sudden hill rearing up off the plains. I guess landscape flattens out from this high angle. Those slag heaps that have been crowned by a post modern artifice like a wind turbine or Recklinghausen's horizon observatory stick out, the rest melt into the general park/forest/nature area, covered as they are in mature trees and other old vegetation.

Horizon observatory in Recklinghausen

 There were surprises like the extensive prison site right near the A42 motorway that no one has ever noticed before, or the strange industrial shapes of water towers, gas containers, coal trains and water clearance ponds. And bridges. There are many, across train lines, canals, rivers and roads, and many are architectural fancies with colourful lines and abstract swirls. Or naturalistic ones, like the dragon bridge in Recklinghausen.

Of course we spend some time house spotting, looking for my mum's house, my brother's. Our own is unfortunately directly below us as we approach finals on the airfield, therefore invisible. We missed many other places of interest, so there will be another flight soon.

And suddenly I am realising that this may, after all my professing that I am a European, a World nomad, that I don't belong to a place, after all that this may be my home. Although I am not sure yet.

The rest of the photos are here:

10 August 2010


Germany has the best fairs: big wheels, roller coasters, wall of death and boxing rings. Cranger Kirmes is my favourite, and it's on for ten days!

06 June 2010

Reasons for owning an iPad #73

I've been meaning to read Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" for ages, but have you seen the size of the hardback Stuart bought? Instead, now this:

That's better.

13 March 2010

The final cleanup

Ok, it's been 2 months since our return to civilisation (63 days, to be precise), and it's time to clean up this blog. Going back to normal means that the route, the blog roll and the photos will have to go, so does the calendar and other trip-related links.

But, just in case they come in handy in future, I am not going to delete them as such, instead I will park them in this blog post for future reference.

The route:

View The Big Trip in a larger map

The Flickr photostream:


fiverlocker's items tagged with BigTrip More of fiverlocker's stuff tagged with BigTrip

The calendar:

14 February 2010

Nottingham in Scandinavia

Obviously, we have now well and truly arrived in Europe. Stories from the last weeks will follow. For now, a moment of recognition in Stockholm, even if the meaning is different.

08 January 2010

Border crossings


Arriving in Europe through the Balkans has meant many many border crossings. One day we had breakfast in Macedonia, coffee on the high plains of the Kosovo and dinner on the coast of Montenegro. Countries have blurred, we barely have time to put our passports away, but we have also crossed plenty of invisible borders: the ‘donkey cart on the road’ border, or the ‘reliable road signs’ border, the ‘clean toilets at roadside petrol stations’ and the ‘no more flatbread’ border. Some we have relished (who doesn’t like a clean toilet), but there are some things I miss in this return to old familiarities. There is a marked distance to strangers now. It’s not that I miss the intense privacy intrusions of Ethiopia or the hassling touts of Egypt, but the easy hospitality of Sudan and the friendly curiosity of almost anywhere we pulled up, the willingness to accept my poor attempt at local language in the Arab world.

One of the concerns I had about this trip has been whether we’d be able to cross all those African borders, whether we’d have to bribe people, whether we’d be refused visas or have our car searched. None of these worries became reality in the end. Border formalities were unfailingly chaotic and inscrutable, took a few hours of standing in the heat wondering what it is about bureaucracy that wins through with even the most relaxed nationalities, but no-one ever showed one bit of interest in the contents of our car or gave us grief about our visas. There was of course the exception of Egypt where at both the incoming border at Aswan and the exit border at Nuweiba the officials displayed complete contempt for any sense of efficiency, courtesy or honesty, but that was a big exception. Now we are in the EU borders have become a part of that memory of strange things we did in Africa. We recently crossed the ‘not having to get out of the car’ border, and now they just are no more until we again leave the safe bosom of our home continent.

06 January 2010

European landfall

We have arrived on our home continent. Actually, we have crossed it half way already, in a mad dash to get to central heating and warm showers, i.e. my brother's house. Have a look at the map and you'll see the distances we made in the last three days. Yay for being able to drive in the dark again. I expect the next update to announce our arrival.

Happy new decade!