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What Writing Means To Me

There’s no such thing as perfect writing. Just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.

Note: Stream of consciousness was the primary narrative device driving the style of this post. Well, my own brand of streaming.

A writer I chanced upon told me the quote above. It was only much later that I caught on to the real meaning of those words, but at least I was able to find some consolation in them; that there is no such thing as perfect writing.

All the same, when it came to getting something into writing, I was always overcome with despair. The range of my ability was just too limited. Even if I could write, say, about Corsac foxes, I probably couldn’t have written a thing about what a Corsac fox would wear. So it went.

For many years I was caught in that dilemma, for a long time, one might say. Of course, you keep telling yourself there’s something to be learned from everything, and growing old shouldn’t be that hard. That’s the general drift. Ever since I turned sixteen, I’ve tried to stick to that philosophy of life. Thanks to which I had been dealt smarting blows, been cheated and misunderstood countless times, or just as often got myself into the strangest situations. All sorts of people have come my way telling their tales, trudged over me as if I were a bridge, then never come back. All the while I kept my mouth shut tight and said nothing.

Now I think I’m ready to talk.

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South Park ‘Let Go, Let Gov’ – NSA Monologue

If Mark Twain is a wanker and wankers are hacks, then the rest goes without saying, really.

Excellent satire from Trey Parker & Matt Stone. A welcome return to form by having an NSA Chief use transitive property / relation to spit out pro-spying rhetoric. Here we go:-

South Park - Let Go, Let Gov: NSA Monologue

South Park – Let Go, Let Gov: NSA Monologue

“Yeah, we’ve heard of [the Constitution]. We’ve also heard of the Declaration of Independence. See, there’s a lot of people out there who think like you. People who think that think their government doesn’t have the right to go around poking their noses in the emails of its citizens.

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Locus Solus – A Serenity in Solitude?

…solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.’

On Sunday I had a rather heated debate with a friend and he proceeded to quote Tacitus / Byron, as above, ‘He makes a solitude, and calls it — peace.’ This made me think hard about a rather onerous decision I made a few months ago: To find and live in perfect solitude. I am, however, still in the ‘finding stage’. But is my friend right? Is my self-imposed solitude, emotional not physical – the latter would require my being a hermit and that’s impossible in my lines of work – anyway, is my emotional solitude a cowardly ‘hedgehog’s dilemma‘ approach to my problems. Will self-imposed introversion and isolationism really help me recover from my mental health problems or make them worse. Can I forgo all emotional, ‘meaningful’ (whatever this means), human contact and still function; or do social beings require others?

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I’m of the mind that most well-minded people will make the right decisions about how the live their lives, instinctive self-preservation and whatnot. By well-minded, I mean that their decisions are influenced by rational and logical thoughts (decisions influenced by drugs and alcohol and, to some extent, love and religion are not what I consider rational or logical).

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Requiem for the High Street + Short Cambridge Guide

The traditional heart of British retail is dead. Rather than artificially resuscitating it with low taxes and cheap parking, we need to reinvent our town centre as more than places to buy stuff.

Note: This is an expansion (read: unedited version) of the article as it appeared in ICON (Issue. 124).

Walk down almost any British high street and you’ll see shop windows whiting out like the eyes of a dying cartoon character. Familiar retail names are blowing out like a fusing switchboard. Woolworths, Jessops, Comet, Borders, Virgin Megastore. Some of them have even, given the strange zombie world of bankruptcy, gone bust twice. And as they do, there is a collective wailing and gnashing of teeth. It’s as though something fundamental is disappearing before our eyes, as though a part of the intrinsic nature of our cities is dissolving into nothingness.

Typical London High St. - In this case, Fulham

Typical London High St. In this case, Fulham

Before moving to Marylebone (London) I was was a long-term resident of Cambridge – which, coincidentally, is ranked as Monocle’s most liveable UK city. I could not agree more with this observation. I dare anyone to walk from Cambridge Wine Merchants on Bridge St. to the Fitzwilliam Museum on Trumpington St. via Trinity Lane, King’s Parade and Market Sq. without marvelling at the architecture, intelligence and breath of the services on offer. For less than a mile’s walk you could have your morning flat-white, get fitted for a suit, attend a lecture or two, buy some books, clothes and / or jewellery, watch a polo match, taste cheese from Languedoc, indulge in a slice of home-made Red Velvet,  buy your evening’s wine, choose to dine from a variety of French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Indian restaurants, and still have time to admire Monet, Manet and Renoir. More importantly you would be able to do all these things at independent businesses, not your usual high street chains.

King's Parade / towards Trumpington St.

Cambridge: King’s Parade / towards Trumpington St.

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Folkestone Revisited: St. Eanswith’s Hotel x Cinque Centre

Architecture can’t fully represent the chaos and turmoil that are part of the human personality, but you need to put some of that turmoil into the architecture, or it isn’t real.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of staying at one of my friend’s apartments at The Grand in Folkestone. A port located on the English Channel in Kent, and a stone’s throw away from Dover, Folkestone has – rather unfortunately – lost its allure. Prior to the Second World War Folkestone was a Deauville-esque traipse-spot that saw the likes of the aristocracy (Edward VII for example) and the Kensington set regularly ‘summer’ there. Now it’s no more than a pitiful shadow of it’s former self.

The Old High Street, Folkestone

The Old High Street, Folkestone

Folkestone Town Centre is a heartbreaking mix of family run cafés, artisan’s stores and clothiers with the usual decrepit typical High St. fare. culminating with the opening of the Bouverie Place Shopping Centre  in November 2007 bringing ‘new’ stores to Folkestone. The Town’s shops include Debenhams,  Sainsbury’s, Asda, Superdrug, Next, New Look, Argos, Peacocks, Poundland, Primark, Iceland, Sports Direct, Wilkinsons, Boots, Clarks, Bonmarshe, Clinton Cards, Card Factory, EE, KFC, Burger King, Store Twenty One, Subway, H.Samuel, Savers, McDonalds and TK Maxx. This is certainly not a Who’s Who of stores intended to inject money into the city.

A lot has been spent ‘re-developing’ the town centre, yet missing the glaring fact that Folkestone is also a harbour and that is where the majority of it’s development should be focused. Walking along the wharf one is  greeted with end-less car parks, loitering youth, a sketchy ‘night-club’ and old empty buildings that remind me of that other crumbling city, Gloucester. In fact, modern Folkestone reminds me of Ali-G’s parody of West Staines; but it does have the hallmarks of a once thriving luxury retreat. The old cinema has a very 1930s Casablancan feel to it, and some of the old cobbled streets remind me of Prague and Lyon.

Like Menton on the Riviera, I believe that Folkestone can be returned to its former glory and still retain a dedicated set of regular visitors from London and further north even. Following is an architectural plan for one such revitalisation. I introduce:-

St. Eanswith’s Hotel x Cinque Centre

At dawn: St. Eanswith Hotel x Centre

At dawn: St. Eanswith’s Hotel x Cinque Centre

St. Eanswith’s is a proposed luxury hotel and centre that defines itself by providing guests with an environment of creativity and collaboration. Just as ships would dock at Folkestone in order to replenish supplies, visitors will come to St. Eanswith’s to reinvigorate their bodies and minds. By weaving together luxury and creativity, St. Eanswith’s will not only act as a sphere of influence on individuals from London and across the English Channel, but it will also attract companies pursuing invention and start-ups seeking an open forum. St. Eanswith’s frees new ideas by lifting guests from a climate of confinement and by engaging the beauty of Folkestone.

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Beginner’s Guide to the Middle-East

If one rejects laissez faire on account of man’s fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.

Considering the continued cluster-fuck that many UN MEDCs have placed themselves in – especially the USA – with regards to Syria and the Middle-East in general; let me take this moment to bring to light exactly why that region should be left alone. So:

  • Iran is backing Assad (Syria). The Gulf states (Saudi-Arabia et al) are against Assad.
  • The US and Gulf states are allies (read; oil).
  • Assad is against the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood and US are against General Sisi (Egypt).
  • The Gulf states are pro-Sisi and, therefore, anti-Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Iran is pro-Hamas, but Hamas (group behind most suicide bombings) is backing the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The US is backing the Muslim Brotherhood (in Egypt), yet Hamas is anti-US and the Gulf states fund Hamas.
  • Turkey is with the Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro-Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi (a man backed by the Gulf states).

Did you get that? Bon! Welcome to the Middle-East and enjoy your stay.

To the Mayor of Nairobi or; ‘How Not To F**k Up My City’

We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it.

How do you plan for one of the fastest growing cities in the world? Furthermore, how does one develop plans for a satellite town of metropolitan (Greater) Nairobi.

Modern Nairobi Skyline

Modern Nairobi Skyline

I am a third-culture kid (TCK) which means that the lion’s share of my cultural identity was cultivated in my formative years – in Muthaiga, Nairobi. Then, three years ago, I had the pleasure of returning to Kenya after 13 years to visit my father and teach at the Mackenzie Education Centre (MEC ); an all-boys boarding school in Tala, Kangundo. And to any Kenyans reading this, I have Luhya heritage but teaching in the Kisumu-Busia region would have been too much of a travel hassle from Nairobi (poor transport, and only an airplane is reliable!). I address this because so may Kenyans ask why I taught centrally instead of in the West, where my tribal heritage stems. Kenyans really need to get over tribal affiliations.

Anyway, within a few days of being in Nairobi, four things struck me; 1) There was a rapid and seemingly unplanned expansion of residential areas, 2) Poor infrastructure, across the board, to meet the demands of said rapid growth, 3) A brazen disregard for the environment, and, 4) Non-existent forward planning stemming from a ‘money-now’ culture.

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