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Archive for May 2016

Reading ‘The Dark Defiles’ in Naivasha

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The book: The Dark Defiles, Richard Morgan

The place: Naivasha


I can already tell that this is one of those series that I am going to be somewhat heartbroken on finishing. I managed to give myself a bit of a break between the first and the second books, but I finished the second one late on Friday night and had to go immediately onto the third, which I’m now about a third of the way through. Slow down, self! This is the last one! There will be no more!

(Richard Morgan has a rather excellent blog, incidentally, albeit insufficiently regularly updated. It’s almost like he has more important things to do than publish multi-thousand word blog posts for free. Chh.)

Just back from a couple of nights at Sanctuary Farm on Lake Naivasha, which was pretty gorgeous: I’ve been to some properly amazing places in Kenya – which I have detailed at tedious length – but never anywhere I felt so casually surrounded by animals as at Sanctuary; please note the giraffe calmly posing in the background of the photograph above, which was taken from our back porch. Also seen: plenty of wildebeest, plenty of zebras, some form of Generic Hoofed Animal (TM my friend Hannah) that did some very impressive leaping about, and, last night, a parent hippo and three baby hippos making their waddling way back across the lawn to the lake.

This dude ambled past while we were on our way to lunch.



Sitting by the fire at dusk. Later, I managed to upend the fire-plate by resting my feet on it too vigorously, bringing a cascade of flaming logs onto my legs and nearly setting everything on fire.

Aside from the hippos, the only animals we were warned about were buffalo, but they were in short supply. Unfortunately this afternoon our buffalo luck ran out, when we decided to stop on our way back to Nairobi to climb Mount Longonot. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages, and it was very much worth it, stunning views back to Lake Naivasha and the Rift Valley, and then, from the summit, a great crater gouged out of the earth and surrounded by crags. We were smugly pleased with ourselves for leaving it until 3.30pm to start the climb, as the weather was perfect and there weren’t too many other people about – said smugness promptly evaporated when we ran into some buffalo on the way back down and were thus trapped on the mountain. We retreated uphill, and eventually managed to get hold of someone from KWS by phone, who initially blithely instructed us to walk past them, clapping (“no, we are NOT going to do that,” my companion said firmly); a series of phonecalls later we were assured that someone from KWS would be up to rescue us, and meanwhile we whiled away the time standing on some sandbags, playing my running playlist at top volume and intermittently banging on a metal sign, in the (mistaken) belief that making a lot of noise was the right thing to do, to keep the buffalo away. After about half an hour, an absolutely lovely Turkana chap called Paul appeared, clad in camouflage gear and carrying a gun, and led us on a forced march down the mountain, in a race against buffalo and time, as it was very close to getting dark. Lesson learned: do not mess with buffalo; probably the potential negatives of climbing a mountain near dusk outweigh the positives. Worth it, though.


Longonot Crater.

View from the top…

…and back towards Lake Naivasha.

Rescue shot! Thanks, Paul.


Written by Jess

May 29, 2016 at 4:01 pm

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Reading ‘Hallucinating Foucault’ in Glasgow

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The book: Hallucinating Foucault, Patricia Duncker

The place: Glasgow


Well, technically, the photograph above was taken in Lochwinnoch, rather than Glasgow, where I was visiting a dear friend and her new baby. The unprecedentedly summery weather that I mentioned in my last post has continued, and while I have been working, I have also managed to carve out time for various good-weather Scotland adventures, including:

  • A seaside excursion to North Berwick with my friend K., where I dressed for summer and paddled in the sea and sat on a blanket on the sand and mostly weren’t that freezing, and I only had to put my emergency jeans on (under my sleeveless silk summer dress) while waiting for the train back.

Totally totally not freezing. Nope.


  • A driving lesson, for the first time since (oh god) 2000? Drove at a glacial pace through Glasgow streets clogged with drifts of cherry blossom, and mostly kept the panicked shrieking to a minimum.

This was actually in London rather than Glasgow, but you get the idea.

  • One lunch-and-writing date; one coffee and cake session at which I only realised when my companion pointed it out that we were sat at the next table from the First Minister. Scotland!
  • Another excursion, this time to fulfil a long-held dream from when I was 16 and a quasi-Wiccan living in Australia and I bought a book called The Occult Guide to Great Britain and became fascinated by the story of the Reverend Kirk, who was allegedly kidnapped by fairies on a hill near Aberfoyle at the end of the seventeenth century. My companions were very indulgent of my ludicrous overexcitement: we had lunch in the Fairy Tree pub (where we were very disappointed to find that they were out of the locally brewed Rev. Kirk Ale), visited Rev. Kirk’s alleged grave (presumably full of stones or similar, as he is off living in Faery), and then walked through the bluebell woods and up the hill to the fairy tree at the top where Rev. Kirk’s soul is allegedly imprisoned. I can think of worse places for my soul to be imprisoned for all eternity, though to be fair we were there on an uncommonly gorgeous day.


The grave. While wandering the churchyard I glanced sidelong at this grave, said to my friend B. “that’s the sort of grave that should be Rev. Kirk’s”, AND IT WAS. Clearly am just as psychic and in tune with faerie as I dreamed I was at sixteen.

Aww, Past Jess, see how I look out for you?!


Deeply creepy teddy bear stuck to fence, a la Blair Witch or similar. 20160514_145700
I mean seriously, if your soul had to be imprisoned forever in a wood, you’d choose this wood, am I right?



Without wishing to be unbearably parochial (it’s not where I’m from, after all), pretty sure there’s nowhere more gorgeous in the world than Scotland when the weather’s good.

Massive detour on the way back, so we could drive over the bridge that R. built on the side of Loch Lomond.

  • Southside drinks with friends, where the streets were thick with marauding hipsters and alarmed-looking locals.

I am off back to points south tomorrow evening, but if this is all the Scottish summer I get, I am very grateful for it indeed.


Moon over Victoria Road.

Probably my favourite view in all the world: spring dusk, looking north from my living room.

Written by Jess

May 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm

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Reading ‘The Steel Remains’ in Glasgow

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The book: The Steel Remains, Richard Morgan

The place: Milk Cafe, Glasgow


I’ve never been entirely convinced by your typical sword and sorcery and maybe some dragons-style fantasy; it’s been through so many iterations that it’s hard to find anything truly original there. (Maybe. Not that I’m a fantasy aficionado or anything; I may well be talking out my arse.) However this – recommended by my friend Leda, whose recommendations I should always trust – has turned out to be a stonking read: robustly written and gloriously, humanly violent (something I probably shouldn’t like as much as I do) with a cast of awful-yet-likeable characters whom I want to know much, much more about. Good thing it’s the first in a trilogy, then.

Reading in gorgeously sunny Glasgow, where I have lucked out to be on one of the few days of summer. When I first moved to Glasgow in 2007, my then-boyfriend, Glaswegian born and bred, told me the problem with Glasgow summers are that they only last about ten days, and those ten days can take place at any point between around April and October. This is depressingly true: I’d probably go for a shorter summer and a harsher winter if only one could guarantee a period of time in which the weather would certainly good. But when you happen upon one of the days of summer, it is semi-magical, and the city is transformed into a bit of a wonderland, taps aff notwithstanding. My favourite thing about this time of year is watching the light seep out of the sky somewhere between nine and ten in the evening, pink and grey to the northwest: it always reminds me of why I’d be hard pressed to live anywhere else, these days.

Written by Jess

May 10, 2016 at 9:37 am

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Reading on transport in Sri Lanka

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The book (1): A Glasgow Gang Observed, James Patrick


The book (2): The Professional, Ashok Ferrey

  1. Sitting halfway out of the second class train carriage on my way down through the mountains and the jungle from Kandy, the plains heat rising up to meet us, and then the rain, the threads of lightning, the paddy fields like silver.
  2. In the back of a tuktuk heading south from Colombo, the sea huge and heaving on one side, skeletons of houses rising out of the greenery and collections of tsunami graves by the roadside.


Some photos from lately:


Mount Lavinia beach, looking back towards the Colombo skyline


Temple of the Tooth, Kandy. I thought the Buddhist monk picture, bottom left, was having a quiet and contemplative solo chant, but he was just on his phone.


Sigiriya, known to some of the more irreverent of my friends as “Titty Mountain” owing to the very breast-focused rock paintings halfway up. A word of advice: do not climb this at the hottest part of the day.




Dambulla cave temples. My Sri Lanka-resident brother had named these as his favourite thing to see in Sri Lanka, and so I’d visited based on his recommendation alone, knowing very little about what I was going to see. I should do this sort of thing more often, as the fact that I hadn’t seen any photos of the site ahead of time really intensified the experience, and it was probably the single highlight of the trip.


Gadaladeniya Temple, near Kandy.


One of my favourite things to see outside a Buddhist temple. 

Mirissa beach

Mirissa Beach.


Nbd just a GODDAMN WHALE. I think this was a Southern Wright but we did also see a Blue Whale; sadly my photos of it didn’t really work out.


Mirissa Harbour.


Stormy Galle. I timed my visit to Galle almost comically badly, arriving at the same time as a 1 May political rally, meaning that my tuktuk from Mirissa had to drop me around 4km from where I was intending to go, and I ended up effectively marching through town in the thick of the rally, surrounded by boisterous blue-clad political supporters and exuberant Kandyan dancers. Happily most of my fellow ralliers and onlookers were more entertained than anything else to see a clueless foreigner wearing parrot-patterned shorts marching in the middle of a political parade, but it was a little discombobulating.


Sunset, my final night. Thanks, Sri Lanka! x

Written by Jess

May 2, 2016 at 9:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized