Almost fifteen years ago – in September 2000 – I visited Nicaragua’s small and remote Corn Islands. I thought about the islands again when a friend, Grant Peeples (who, with his wife Cathy, owned and ran a wonderful little hotel in Little Corn, the smallest and prettiest of the two islands), told me that I now wouldn’t recognise […]

For our fabric needs in Masvingo, a town in southern Zimbabwe, Anneliese and I were told to look no further than Ali & Co. Located on Josiah Tongogara Street, Masvingo’s principal shopping artery, the shop is packed-solid with cloth and sewing accessories suitable for pretty-well every conceivable taste, budget and purpose. Judging from the number of customers who were […]

While wandering around central Johannesburg’s Braamfontein Cemetery, I came across an imposing monument to British soldiers who lost their lives in the South Africa’s Boer War of 1899 to 1902. From Britain’s perspective, the war was all about the maintenence and control of empire. Meanwhile, for Britain’s Afrikaans-speaking ‘Boer’ opponents the war was fought to defend the independence […]

I hardly know anything about Grace, my father’s aunt and the sister of my grandmother, Edith. Grace Goodbody, as she was then, was born in 1891 in Maidstone, Kent, where she and Edith were brought up in their father’s pub, the Fortune of War. In 1919 Grace married Frederick Woodhead, and soon afterwards they couple left England to start new […]

Shortly before visiting South Africa, I read Lost and Found in Johannesburg,* Mark Gevisser’s wonderful memoir combining family history with an exploration of the ruthlessly fashioned spatial absurdities of the city of his birth. As a child obsessed with maps, Gevisser noticed that parts of Johannesburg seemed uncharted, that city’s geography was “bizarre” and “eccentric”. Neighbouring areas – […]

Jacaranda trees are found all over Harare and Zimbabwe’s other towns and cities, as well as widely scattered across the countryside. People in Zimbabwe with whom I spoke said that they always look forward to the blossom which, apart from simply being pretty, is seen as marking the change of seasons – the end of the dry ‘winter’ and the hope that ‘summer’ rains will bring. Just as cherry blossom is a Japanese icon, so too is jacaranda an icon of Harare. Except jacaranda isn’t Zimbabwean. It’s an invader.

Most diplomatic missions in London are found in a fairly small area of the city, concentrated in the wealthiest parts of Kensington and Westminster. Even the least well-off countries like to be well within one of these boroughs. A case in point being the impoverished (and tiny) Kingdom of Lesotho, its high commission being in a small, but elegant, […]

It’s the week of the World Travel Market (WTM), one of the world’s largest travel and tourism trade fairs, attracting exhibitors and visitors from across the globe. Since 1980 the WTM has been held annually in London, and each year destinations vie with each other to attract the attention of tour operators, travel agents and […]