Dawn had barely touched the sky. I stood in the silence, trying to decide where the dragon had plunged into the sea. My boat drifted past islands and craggy cliffs born when the dragon of the gods, after gouging the mountains with his tail, plummeted into the sea. The foaming waves then rushed in to flood the devastation, creating Halong Bay.
Now these islands with their impossible peaks swim in a sea of emerald. Later that day I would find a floating village (complete with a school and a bar) hidden among the 3000 islands (or maybe 1500 islands, depending upon your sources). Elsewhere there are forgotten grottos, or islands with names such as The Two Hens or Tea Pot Island.
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. I felt that from the moment I woke… The way I came to miss the end of the world-well, the end of the world I had known for close on thirty years-was sheer accident: like a lot of survival, when you come to think of it.
From the opening sentence the reader knows they have entered a world which has quite literally changed overnight. Like other great dystopian novels such as 1984, this is not an alien world but our own, so familiar yet different, and it is this contrast which is so important to the effectiveness of the The Day Of The Triffids.
John Wyndham (John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris) published The Day Of The Triffids in 1951 to critical acclaim. A post-apocalyptic novel, it follows the rapid disintegration of society following a world-wide meteor shower which blinded all who saw it. With most of mankind now sightless, the world falls rapidly into decay, hastened by a subsequent unknown plague which rapidly kills those who are infected. All the while there is the ever lurking presence of the triffids, carnivorous plants with the ability to move, to kill – and to learn. Continue Reading →
When I sip my macchiato of a morning, I remember Mont St Michel. The link lies in the small cup I bought there, a post-modern pattern of blacks and browns, born from the island’s swirling tides.
I watched these tides from the safety of the town’s ramparts, which have proved impregnable to both sea and invading hordes down the centuries. Victor Hugo wrote of the waters sweeping in à la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (as swiftly as a galloping horse). A bell tolls when the surge begins for, like many a medieval pilgrim, people still drown making their way across the tidal flats.
Some forty montois, or locals, live on the island. Most tourists come only for the day, and as evening fell I sat in a deserted cemetery tucked amongst the houses at the foot of the Abbey. There is also a quiet garden near by, and stone seats in the wall to sit and gather repose. A place to feel the spirit of the island, as it pulses to the rhythm of the tides.
Having ebbed, the tides began to swirl once more around the island. In the space of a glance, swathes of sand disappear beneath the unrelenting water until the island became once more a bastion of solitude floating on the waves.
Such memories sleeping in a small china cup, which holds at most two mouthfuls of coffee.
Gough St, Central is a small street in the Central/Western district of Hong Kong Island which boasts an amazing, and often changing, range of restaurants and cafes. It is reached by a five-minute walk from Sheung Wan MTR- uphill. Seriously uphill. Gough Street runs through that area of Hong Kong where the steepness of the streets necessitates a footpath more steps than path. Rock walls struggle to stop everything from sliding downhill, with roots of giant trees cascade over the rocks, somehow holding the stone walls together. Walking remains the best choice; many taxis won’t come to this area because of the difficulty negotiating the roads, and the ubiquitous minivans which serve as light buses simply can’t fit.
Yet walk up Aberdeen St, past the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, and turn right into Gough St. In that short walk lies a snap shot of Hong Kong, from pedlars touting their wares on the street to high-end galleries. A few streets away are the Graham St wet markets; a few streets the other way is Cat Street, lined with antique stores. Continue Reading →
We found the queue long before we found the restaurant. In a city of 24 million, Nan Xiang dumplings reign supreme. A satellite restaurant in Hong Kong boasts a Michelin star, but the branch in the Yuyuan Bazaar encapsulates the paradox of Shanghai.
Once known as ‘The Pearl of the Orient’, Shanghai is a meld of Blade Runner, Gotham City and The Jetsons. From the airport The Maglev, (the world’s fastest train), races at 430 km/hr into the city. The number of high-rises beggars imagination – my taxi drove through a sea of buildings scraping the sky. Multi-lane highways floated through the air to merge with massive overpasses. I half-expected to see hover-jets. By midday the sun becomes an orange ball floating behind a haze of smog.
I woke to a watery sun creeping through the window. Yesterday, I’d looked over terracotta rooftops and onto an Umbrian countryside so classic as to be breathtaking. Now Assisi lay hidden by mist. Spires and steeples appeared and disappeared at the whim of a cold breeze, and every noise came as if from far away. Water dripped from the roof and onto the windowsill beside my hand.
Through the mist came the muffled peal of a bell calling the faithful to Mass. As the world slept I made my way through the dimly lit corridors of the hotel. Outside, a winter wind fingered my clothes. The few people passed at that early hour seemed more shadow than reality as I made hurried to the Papal Basilica of St Francis. Continue Reading →