Not a barrier in the least

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20160116_081818Whangaparapara Harbour, Great Barrier

In New Zealand we may not be able to provide the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, or the vast wilderness you’d find in Yosemite. We have no bears, coyotes, bison, or alligators, no rattle-snakes, or cobras; in fact no snakes at all. We can hike through our native reserves unworried by strange rustlings or rattles, knowing that the only thing that’ll eat us is a sandfly (and they’re not deadly). Most tourists head south to the ski-fields and fiords, and it is terrific down there, don’t get me wrong, but it is wise not to forget the north, as here you’ll find hundreds of splendid beaches and islands you may never have heard of before.  Continue reading

Fact, fiction and a feathered friend

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varenna.jpg
Varenna on Lake Como, is a town I adore, so when my daughter and I began planning a trip to Europe, I booked us into a small apartment there. I had often spoken of my love for the place, and one area in particular. It was day three of our five day stay. We’d taken the ferry to many places, including Bellagio, Cernobbio, Lenno and Tremezzo. We had shopped, eaten, and walked part of the old Roman road. Lake Como is fabulous and I was happy, except we hadn’t yet visited the castle.

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Not your average train trip

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Venice

Lara and I, and other bag-totting lookalikes, stepped off the water taxi at Venezia Lucia Station. All eyes lifted to the arrivals screen. What! The sleeper train to Paris had been cancelled. “Information Office,” I shouted and a mob ran with us the length of the platform.

“It says cancelled. But it’s not,” the official snorted, making a shooing action as if we were flies. “Keep watching the screen.” And thank you too, I muttered.

Try holding two shoulder bags, nailing a big case with a foot while nibbling pizza from a paper bag and holding your eyes on a screen. “It’s arriving,” a backpacker yelled an hour later, and we stampeded down the platform like fleeing refugees.

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An unexpected journey

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Fort_Mason_Center_and_Downtown_San_FranciscoI just happened to see an advertisement in a literary magazine I subscribe to,  Narrative, where one of the editors was calling for applications to his forth-coming writing workshops in New York and San Francisco. ‘How exciting’ I thought, and then squashed that frivolity with the prosaic ‘don’t be stupid’.

But I kept thinking about those workshops.  I had travelled to many cities in many countries, but not San Francisco. I was restless, my future in limbo, and decided I had nothing to lose by submitting samples of my work: a requirement for selection. Only twelve participants would be chosen; it was highly unlikely I’d be one of them. I sent off two short stories anyway and tried to forget the whole thing.  Continue reading