How Le Monde Sees Brexit and the Scottish Referendum

The week that ‘Article 30’ was triggered by Nicola Sturgeon and ‘Article 50’ was triggered by Theresa May’s letter, I was in France and over a cafe creme each morning, read about it all in Le Monde. This great European newspaper with its painstaking reportage and thoughtful opinion; sophisticated use of photography, and broad agenda of international news, illuminated the situation and it is always interesting to see oursels as ithers see us, as the poet said.

At their meeting in Glasgow, May said to Sturgeon about the referendum call: “Ce n’est pas le bon moment.” Some things just sound better in French. In English her: “Now is not the time,” has a rather nanny-ish ring, it’s one of those circular phrases that May likes. I can imagine a character saying this in Alice In Wonderland and the White Rabbit replying, irritated, looking at his watch: “The time is always now, don’t you know anything?” But “Ce n’est pas le bon moment,” sounds faintly desperate. It reminds me of the Jacques Brel classic “Ne me quitte pas,” with its lines “Oublier le le temps perdu” (Forget the time and the time that’s past). This song, of course, would also do as a soundtrack for Brexit.

Road Trip Part Two: Utah. Zion and A Bottle of Water That was the Answer to a Prayer

Road Trip 2. (Find more in this series under ‘Travel’ on the right hand menu). First light is the best time to take pictures, and on our road trip stop off at Zion National Park, a chilly dawn found us at Overlook Point, Rob and his tripod hovering on the edge of a 1,000 foot drop. The landscape stirs echoes of cowboy B movies, Star Trek scenes and prehistoric epics. You could almost believe the rocks were polystyrene and peering down into the deep valley, I half-expected to hear a dinosaur roar. This area has been the backdrop for many movies, the most famous being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Road Trip Part One: Utah. Bryce Canyon

Photos: Rob Bruce. I have a precious 15 year old Baedeker guidebook to the US, the pages falling out with overuse. In the flyleaf of the book is a tiny map of the entire country with around a dozen sites picked out. Bryce Canyon is one of them. It always intrigued me as it was one of the only ones of which I had never heard. So it was great to get an opportunity to visit on a road trip from Salt Lake City to San Francisco this September.

Glastonbury for Geeks, San Francisco Dreamforce ‘15

SAN FRANCISCO gave itself over to ‘Dreamforce’ for a few days in September. Now in its 12th year the event was bigger than ever. Usually busy roads were closed to traffic and rolled over with fake grass, inflatable arm chairs, stages, huge screens and food and drink stops. A 1,000 berth cruiseliner moored near Fisherman’s Wharf to provide extra accommodation. Airbnb apartments were available for $1,000 a night. Stevie, Wonder, the Foo Fighters and Japanese artist Yoshiki played. But this was not a music festival – it was a software conference.

Cycling along the Canal du Midi

From the Herald Saturday Magazine, May 11 2013. Just as ‘slow food’ generally tastes better than fast food, slow transport – at least on holiday – is a more enjoyable way to travel. Better still when the travelling is done in the sunny south of France, in the shade of plane trees and with frequent pit stops. Whether by bike or by barge, the journey along one of France’s grandest feats of pre-revolutionary engineering, the Canal du Midi, is increasingly popular.

A Fair Trade Holiday

House swapping in Franche Comte, from the Herald Saturday magazine on September 1, 2012

When I opened an email on a grim winter’s day offering a holiday house swap for a cottage in the mountains near the border of France and Switzerland, it didn’t take me too long to reply “ooh, quelle bonne idee”. We hadn’t planned a foreign holiday but free accommodation in beautiful surroundings seemed too good to turn down.

Holidays in Scotland and France

From a Scottish Review special on memorable Scottish holidays. Perhaps the most memorable Scottish holiday I know of was not mine but someone else’s. Once, I took a taxi in Coatbridge driven by a man with a fund of stories. A couple have stuck in my mind. Once he was booked to take an elderly resident to Asda. He waited for her in the car park on a sunny day and when she emerged, hot and laden with bags, she said to him: ‘Take me to Largs, son, take me to Largs’.

Holidaying with teens in Sutherland

Herald, Saturday magazine 30 May 2011

To say our teenagers were not keen on a week in a cottage in the far north of Scotland would be like saying Ryan Giggs is not a fan of Twitter. It was not, apparently, their idea of a holiday. The word they used in fact was “nightmare”. But I closed my ears to their girning – second nature now – and insisted they pack plenty of warm clothes and borrow some holiday reading from the school library.

Of course, I told myself, no self-respecting teenager would welcome a week in the Highlands with their parents. I am sure I made the same kind of extravagant complaints myself – but I did enjoy it once I was there.

Travel Delhi

Herald Saturday mag August 9 2010

“Mum, it’s fine.” Even on the other end of a mobile phone I can tell my 13-year-old daughter is rolling her eyes. “What could happen?” What indeed. She and my friend’s 12-year-old son have jumped in an auto rickshaw and headed across uptown Delhi to go shopping – without permission.

A la carte camping your way

 From the Herald 25 Jul 2010

It is camping, but not as we know it.

The French may not yet be talking about ‘le glamping’, but they are certainly au fait with the concept. From gypsy caravans to an atmosphere-controlled plastic bubble with a clear view of the sky to a sumptuous two-bedroom treehouse, where breakfast is hauled up each morning in a basket on the end of a rope, the campsites on France’s Atlantic coast offer an a la carte choice.

In praise of wild camping

In praise of wild camping

The Herald Magazine. Hiking off into the purple yonder with nothing but a sleeping bag and a loo roll – that is camping as it once was and, for some, what it is becoming again. There’s a resurgence in so-calledwild camping in Scotland as the countryside access laws bed in. Forget the designer floral tent with matching curtains, the elegant plastic wine goblets and the pre-cooked lasagne – leave them at home where they belong and head for the horizon with just a toothbrush in your pocket.

Stuck in the Midi – The Herald

TAKING five children canoeing in France was always going to be an adventure. The polyglot Dutchman who is supplying our gear seems a good man to ask for advice on the route but he gives a shrug that is almost more Gallic than the real thing. “I wouldn’t go that way, ” he says. “It is just flat water. It is very boring – go down there. There is white water. Don’t worry, it is very safe.”

A city that’s proud to be itself again

A city that’s proud to be itself again

The Herald

FOR many Britons, Dresden still conjures up thoughts of the Allied bombing and firestorm that razed it  during the Second World War. But it is a shame that more of us don’t visit this magnificent regional  capital today to see how it has risen, phoenixlike, from the ashes.

Holiday Exchange – The Herald

OUR holiday house exchange nearly didn’t happen. I had forgotten to mention the dog. In a flurry of e-mails with the French family we were going to swap homes with for a fortnight, they asked if we would ”garder le chien”. ”Le chien, il aime les enfants?” I asked in my best franglais and they replied that he adored them. Picturing a cute poodle, I put it to the back of my mind. But then, after everything was arranged, my husband opened his e-mail and found a photograph of a large Alsatian slavering over the other family’s three-year-old.

On a heat wave that killed thousands in France

The ”canicule”, what the French call literally the ”dog” weather of the past fortnight, and which was blamed for causing up to 5000 deaths is over and the barometer is set to ”stormy” – for politicians.

Director-general of health Lucien Abenhaim has resigned because of allegations that the authorities failed to react to the crisis quickly enough.  Our family holiday coincided almost exactly with the heat-wave, so we watched the story unfold from the comparative safety of a shady farmhouse  in the Normandy countryside. Even there, it was too darned hot.