Looking up at the grey of the sky over Kent, England, I have been thinking lots about religious prejudice, cultural ignorance and questions related to Britain in today’s multi-faith society.  Most importantly I have been thinking about how Muslims are represented in our society.

Earlier in the year Prime Minister Brown was universally heckled for calling a woman who asked a question about immigration, a bigot.  Maybe the word he chose was wrong or maybe she was and he was right (To confess, I didn’t hear what she asked him, so I can’t comment).  My thoughts are that he made a school boy political gaff by leaving his microphone on and it neither matters looking back whether she was or was not a bigot or indeed if the word he chose when he thought he was speaking in private (whilst his mic was on) was appropriate.  We are where we are, as they say.

In any event, I think that the reaction of the media to his response was the most interesting thing.  His words spoken in private were an opinion and I think should have kick started a wider debate on faith, society and even though it sounds a little passé the idea of celebrating difference or recognising common truths.

Over the past ten years or so, we have been bombarded with a duel and sometimes conflicting messages through the media and popular press.

Since 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London most people have had seared on their minds what an extremist Muslim looks like, a caricature of terrorism, if you like.  This picture has been reinforced; I suppose, with the coinciding war in Afghanistan and echoed by programmes like Spooks on the BBC.

At the same time a general repression feels to have been drawn across most of out society when it comes to talking about, thinking about or discussing people of other cultures, races, or faiths; Islam in particular.  I say repression because I have been guilty in the past of curtailing conversations which are talking about our society if there is any risk of ignorance or exploration being mistaken for racism or prejudice. 

I suppose now I am asking, “How else do we learn?” 

Maybe the expression of ignorant opinion if and when we do hear it, is at least opinion and the opening of, or the beginning of, a conversation where ideas and common truths can be explored.

I think that there needs to be a rebalance in messages sent out in the media and by government to better engage the portrayal of, and opportunities for, average Muslims to have conversations with the rest of society; and vice-versa. 

To this end also, I think we can all do our bit, simply by talking more, relaxing a little bit more and not immediately assuming that thinking and talking about faith and Muslims in particular in British society is a preeminent position only to be held by racists and bigots. 
I urge you all to go out to your community and maybe go further afield specifically with the intention of striking up conversation with Muslims (and people from other faiths) to learn a little about them exploring their day to day experience.  Essentially get out their and be friendly, to make new friends.

Muslims are apparently not well represented on the BBC where I heard recently even the actors who play the Muslim family on the square are not Muslim, why not? 

I watched a TV programme this morning where a good point was made which I would like to echo, why can’t we see a TV programme demonstrating the work Muslims are doing to curtail extremism? 

I had a number of great conversations when I was in Egypt last week during Eid.  I ate food with a group of friends and chatted about a number of concerns they had including drugs, health, environmental concerns, development in their country, justice and politics. 

All talked about their life experience and the journey their lives were taking them on.  Most talked about their hope for married life and a family.  All talked about their work, concerns for their friends and financial hopes for the future.  They were all average guys who happened to have a love for the Koran and their faith.

It was a pleasure meeting the taxi drivers, hotel staff and shop keepers and they made me think how all the world over, although our cultures and histories are so different, we are all just human beings with the same trials, troubles and dreams in this modern changing world. 

A while ago I went online to book flights to Sharm in Egypt.

I wanted to identify a dive school there to work with and having attended the Birmingham dive show this year, I had plenty of contacts.

Having booked the flights I set about booking accommodation. I checked all of the comparison sites and finally after being advised that there were no rooms at the inn, I was lucky enough to find one room for the first night in the Falcon Inn. Cool, I thought.

My plan was to turn up and spend the first day looking for a cheap hotel to stay in. All things being equal, there would be no problem. Sharm is a big place with over 90 4-star hotels. How wrong can one man be?

The reality is that this week is 'Eid ul Adha (10 Dhul-Hijja)' – the festival of sacrifice. Lots of Arabic people travel long distances to see their families and friends. This meant that the hotels in Sharm were full.

Still ignorant of the reality, I got up on my first full day, went to reception and asked if |I could stay longer. "No, the hotel is fully booked. You must get you things and leave." Oh my word! What to do?  Having shared my problems with the owner, I was allowed to leave my things at Moon Divers, who were really accommodating.

Later the same morning during a meeting with Emperor Divers I was asked "So, which hotel are you in?" I explained my predicament. Luckily Sarah of Emperor said she had an apartment and would be happy to rent it to me from two days time. I jumped at the opportunity of a bed to sleep in.

I spoke to a friend of mine who was staying in the Falcon and arranged to take the second twin bed in their room. This arrangement was nick-named 'the secret falcon'. I used the secret falcon for two night before a lift had been booked for me to transfer to 'Egyptian Experience'.

Day three soon came and my ride pulled up outside Moon Divers. After getting in the mini van, I was asked the usual questions; "Where are you from, are you married, do you have a family?" And after being told by Achim that he has two guns which he likes "I like guns, man" he shouted "I just bloody love guns", he then said "You like rock, yes?"

I said I am happy to listen to any music.

So, to the sound of the Survivors "The Eye of the Tiger" blasting loudly into my inner ear we drove like the wind out of town, past the airport into a place which has been referred to as 'just beyond the middle of nowhere'.   Achim spent the whole time dodging other vehicles, lighting his cigarettes or speaking (shouting) into his mobile phone.   The journey itself was priceless.

The place is good and I have a bed, but Egyptian Experience is not too well connected. Taxi's are easy enough to come by but at 60 Egyptian pounds per journey into town, it really is a case of being prepared for the day and evening, so that not more than one journey away and back home has to be made. At least I didn't need to sleep rough in Sharm, or run the risk of my worst nightmare coming true (being kidnapped by Achim and for a spell, getting familiar with his guns).  That treat I missed – thank God.

Frost was just starting to appear on the grass as I returned to the UK after about seven months on Lanzarote.

My mate LE was immediately keen to proceed with plans for a far eastern tour via the Trans-Mongolian Railway and made arrangements for us to meet with Trailfinders in Canterbury.

The sales guy Stephen was very helpful as he went through an itinerary taking us through Russia (Moscow, Irkutsk, Listvyanka) Mongolia Ulaanbaatar), Hong Kong and Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket and Ko Tao). Occasionally he would say, “I have been here” or “there” and suggest for us to take one off excursions, all was very encouraging.

Finally he turned to us and said “Well, I think we have done really well here since the flight alone would cost you a few thousand each and the price here for you both is £7,377”.

I confess, I nearly fell off my chair.

I asked how long we had to consider it, and he said he could hold some of the prices open for 2 days, when it would all need to be paid in full.

We left the shop more than a little conflicted, excited that we now had a clear itinerary but a little disheartened by the price.

Since we were given a copy of the itinerary, the following day I proceeded to undertake searches on the internet to see what comparative prices I could find.

You will not be surprised to read that with a little patience we have been able to chop just under 30% off the bill without compromising the integrity of the trip, whilst booking half decent hotels (only time will tell here) and getting a few more sights in along the way. 

As it stands, it looks like Christmas will be spent just outside Moscow and New Year will be on a train in the middle of nowhere, just outside of Ulaanbaatar. 

Sorry for the delay in writing.

Since arriving back on the rock I have been up to my eyes in diving, sun and generally going out and about meeting new people.  What a tough life…I hear you cry.  And you would be right.

One of the little gems which my pal SJ introduced me to is a little cafe in Teguise.  I am pretty sure I wrote about it before.

Essentially it is just off of the Lion Square.

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This is the outside just after the Sunday market has closed.  Stall holders, artists, bohemians and the like meet and socialise inside and outside 'Las Palmera'.  I recommend it to you.  But only if when you go in, you tell the guys there that I sent you. 

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This is the door.

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This is the bar.

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The guy in the hat is a really good bloke.  The whole place is filled with music, food, drink and spanish chat.  It is a really vibrant place.

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It's only small but you can fit a lot in.

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These are the Sunday afternoon musicians. 

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Counting money.


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This is the kitchen.  It is really basic but produces amazing grilled meat.   If there is a reason not to be a vegetarian, this place is it.   So I can't become a veggie just yet!

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Better view of the grill.





During the first Saturday in July I went with my sisters' family to the Luss Highland Games.  

They featured the tug- o-war, field cycling, throwing the hammer, throwing the bushel and wrestling.

In every event there was a token woman entered in the spirit of equal opportunities.  Although there did not appear to be a womans class in any of the activities except dancing,  This is in no way a critisism, merely an observation.  The whole thing was great!!

The day before Luss, in commemoration of my little nephews 7th year, we walked to the top of Ben Nevis (the biggest mountain in the UK).    The weather walking up Ben Nevis was appalling except for the top where it appeared that we were above the clouds. 

The path is maintained exceptionally well with the lion's share of the work being undertaken by hand.

What is so amazing the day after climbing the hill is that and whilst at the games, as the adults complained that "My calves are as tight as a …" ending
the sentance with as many variations on the same theme including
'drum', 'tight cycling shorts', 'a badgers bottom' etc we watched as
the lad jumped around in an inflatable pirate ship with other kids
before entering himself in the running race.  I know that they are made
of rubber, but the fact that he was so full of beans was amazing.  My little nephew took part in the childrens race, making a valient effort  to come in a very proud last. 

My brother-in-law, who doesn't any longer like to be
described as having a squint, glass eye, wooden leg, green curley teeth
or in fact, any reference to his pink mohican failed on this occasion
to wear his traditional scottich garb.  Despite this, the day was a real treat.

Thank you Ben Nevis,  Thank you Luss!!


I have been in Reading for the past few days with a pal of mine.  We have been working on my new dive related project (watch this space).

J told me that he had recently been on a trip to Legoland in Windsor

Apparently it was a great day out, but I was stunned and shocked when I heard just how expensive it is to get in.  J said that it was £38.00 per adult.  Soft drinks were £4.00 each.  I think that this is extortion.

Maybe this is a sign of the modern world.  In any event, I think its too expensive.

Below is a TEDtalk on Lego, which I thought you might like.

I went to Cambridge last week.  I cannot recall ever having been there before.

A shop that struck me is called CallyCo. located on Peas Hill. 

As a child there was a strong arts and craft focus in our family home. 
Surrounded by my mother, sister, auntie and grandmother, I was actively
encouraged (if not beaten) to learn the finer points (if you can pardon
the pun) of all things needlework related  including tapestry, crochet,
embroidery, knitting, patchwork and quilting.

CallyCo. is a small haberdashery shop with a clean modern style, yet at the same time the shop feels 'traditional' by placing customer service and quality of stock at the forefront of its approach.   The company is owned by Caroline Preen.

This fresh young company produces bespoke items for sale including memo boards, aprons, cushions, doorstops all designed to complement any home.   My description of their services would not be complete if I did not mention their excellent making up service enabling customers to have curtains, blinds and cushions lovingly designed and beautifully made to exact specifications.

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The shop display is beautiful demonstrating the diverse stock contained in this quaint little street. It really is very inviting.

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A rainbow of coloured ribbons hang tantalisingly, inviting customers to buy just the amount they need.

At CallyCo. customers don't have to buy a pre-packed plastic pouch of too much when the small amount needed can be cut precicely and not wasted or overcharged. 

It's an old fashioned concept but it wastes less, is cheaper and makes more sense.

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 Spring coloured material is stored on shelving waiting to me cut by the meter.

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The shop is clean, not over-dressed and well ordered.

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Racks of material rolls stand displaying their vibrant patterns.  All crying out to be chosen to be made into beautiful things.

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Everywhere one looks, coloured textiles hang like flags celebrating imagination and creativity. 

Handmade buntings hang in the window waving to passers-by.

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Found throughout the shop are examples of works made from the stock.  A small ballet-shoe cushion  modestly sits in a corner, hoping to attract the attention of a customer, sparking inspiration and the self confidence to make something like this for their nursery or bedroom.

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Small knick-knacks and other gift ideas are also available to buy.

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More rolls of fabric jostle for attention.

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More gift ideas and other pretty little items all compete for eye time.

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Patterened material bolts displayed in racks.

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Stripes and chickens.

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Pinks, white, reds and blue.

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I ask you; who doesn't love buttons?  or a full spectrum of threads even.

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This whole section of textiles is great and probably due to the union flags print, fills me with a kind of wartime nostalgia.  I instantly want to live a simple life, eat real food, go up to the Penny Pictures for the news followed by the Troxy for a dance; before taking a walk or getting a tram home.  Where did all that come from??  

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Ooh buttons!! and a great little Silko chest of drawe.

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This is a great  zinc-topped piece in the shop resembling something produced these days by by Kent and London of Whitstable. In this case its is used to sell remnants and fat quarters for patchwork enthusiasts. 

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Netty and Bethany go about their work behind a beautiful tradional looking counter with an inlaid brass meter rule.  Here they are stocktaking and dealing with customer enquiries.

If you want to visit the shop or if you have any enquries about products or services, the contact details are:


TEL: 01223 778744



TEL: 01780 753409


As I drove down from Famara toward the salt works, I passed mile after mile of small semi-circular windbreaks built from volcanic rock.  The windbreaks surround one side of a dell dug from the pecan. 

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The dells and windbreaks are to protect individual grape vines.

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The uniformed rows stretch from the road in all directions and in most cases continue up the sides of the old sleeping volcanos.

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The grapes produce a selection of wines which in my experience taste ok and do the job at a reasonable price.

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The shapes are interesting to look at and I am told this method is distinct to the islands in this part of the world.

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I can't help reflecting on how long each basin and windbreak must have taken to create initially and then would love to know how many centuries have passed with this method being adopted. 

Answers on a postcard please.

A few weeks or so ago I hired a car to drive around the island.

020510 093 This is a picture of my Opal; my ticket to freedom!

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On one of my trips I went to Famara which is best known for its excellent surf.

020510 390 I was struck by the sand dunes which resonated with me, probably due to happy memories of Camber Sands.

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The sands are blown into picturesque shapes.

020510 387 The trade winds blowing from the Atlantic cut grooves into the dunes.

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If the sands are disturbed, small slides are started, creating new and strange shapes.

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Overall I was really impressed with the sands of Famara.

For more information on Famara:  CLICK HERE  (opens in a new window)

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the house of Cesar Manrique.

The Cesar Manrique Foundation is located in Taro de Tahiche (Close to Costa Teguise). It is probably the work that best represents Manrique's artistic and personal ideals.

Cesar Manrique's house was built in 1968 on top of a volcanic trail
from a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1730-36. It uses the natural
formation of five volcanic bubbles for the main rooms within the house.
The outside of the house and upper level is an inspiration from the
traditional architecture of Lanzarote.

If it was not for Cesar Manrique, the Island of
Lanzarote would not look like it does now. He fought for all the
buildings to be no higher than the tallest palm tree and that all the
houses should be the same colour (except for the painted wood found on doors and window frames – generally blue or green).

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The sculpture outside the foundation.

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Bones and skulls hanging outside the entrance.

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A clever glass sculpture.

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A canvas which caught my eye.

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A window overlooking the lava fields.

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Fish and duck.

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The symbol of the Devil's island

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A design for a roundabout.  Lots of the roundabouts have wind sculptures on them.

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Another roundabout sculpture design.

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Another design for a roundabout sculpture.

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Another roundabout sculpture design.

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A great fishy picture.

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Water fountain in the garden.

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A lava tunnel which is utilized as a hallway from one room to another.

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A room is designed within a lava bubble.  A tree grows through the ceiling.

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The garden with pool inside a lava flow makes this house seem like a James Bond set.

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This is really clever.  The window is made at ground level.  A chunk lava is left jutting into the room reminding us that this clean contempory house is still a part of nature.  Fantastic.

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I like the green lamp shades!

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The little man sign outside the mens toilets.

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I like these camel designs.  They seem so simple.

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The fish are really clever too.

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So ends my homage to the great CM!