Some photos from across the years

I thought that I’d post some photos that I have taken with a few comments made on each picture. I will use each photo as a discussion point as people often say to me that I have done so much travelling and worked in so many different places that I should write about it. Only, I find it hard sometimes to know where to start. So using my photos as a talking point seems to be a good solution.

Check my website for more.


This is my son Paddy and was taken in 2017 on the west coast of North Island in New Zealand. I adopted my son in Swaziland in 2006 so he has now been part of my life for twelve years. We hired this van from a rather unscrupulous outfit as it turned out. It had clocked almost 200 000 km by the time I had the pleasure of driving it. It actually had cobwebs under the bonnet. I love New Zealand. I first visited the country in 2003 on a round the world trip. I wanted to show Paddy what it had to offer.


This was taken from the top of Roy’s Peak near Wanaka. This is in the middle of winter and there were not many people climbing this 1 km high mountain that day. The snow was pretty deep near the top. This view in my opinion is stunning.


In 1997, I was living in Zimbabwe and took a road trip that year through Namibia with a house mate and some people we met in Cape Town. It was my first time seeing Namibia and what struck me was how flat and arid much of the country was. In many cases, the roads continued in a straight unbroken line as far as the eye could see. At night, distances were deceptive. A light on the horizon would take a fifteen or twenty minutes to come into view even driving at 100 kph because it would be 30 km away.


You had to be particularly careful driving on the dirt roads. We had hired a VW Golf from Cape Town and had been warned about speeding on the dirt roads as cars frequently overturned killing those inside. One of those amongst us was a twenty-something English woman who, whenever she was taking turns driving, would drive at breakneck speed. This made me very nervous and no matter how many times I asked her to slow down, she would not do so.


This photo was taken in about 2001 in Matopos National Park, near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It shows my friend Tim Cherry (behind the wheel), his son Andy (with the red cap) and my friend Nontando’s son Kelvin. I met Tim and Nontando whilst teaching in Zimbabwe in 1996 and 1997. When I began teaching there, 1 GBP was worth about 10 Zimbabwe Dollars. By 2002, the exchange rate was something like 60 000 000 000 dollars to a pound.


This photo was taken from aboard a ship that I took from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales in southern Chile. It took three days and wove its way through these fjords. I was in Chile as part of my round the world trip in 2003. I had got the idea of taking this voyage from reading the book by John McCarthy and Brian Keenan who, when held in captivity by an Islamic terror group, had discussed what they would do on their release. They talked about setting up a yak farm in Patagonia. So it was that five years after their release, they did in fact travel to Chile and covered this vast and diverse country by almost every mode of transport possible. They took this same ship that I did and it was this that gave me the idea to take the same journey through the Chilean fjords.


This rather retro-looking shot is of my campsite in the Chimanimani Mountains of the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe. I think this was in 1996, my first year in the country. I was hiking on my own and had rather a heavy rucksack. At one point, I stumbled and badly sprained my ankle. The pain was so bad that by the time I had descended, I decided to camp for the night as I could no longer walk. A couple of young German women hiked past where I was camping, in a place where you would definitely not choose to set up a tent, and I remember trying to impress on them that I was in trouble and needed help. They could not speak English nor I German so they just stared at me and walked off without attempting to understand me.

About six years later, I had reason to have my ankle x-rayed after another bad sprain and the doctor asked when I had broken my ankle. It turned out that I had fractured my fibula in my lower leg in 1996. No wonder it was so bloody painful.

In 2003 on my round the world trip, I decided to learn to fly in Port Elizabeth. I studied at Algoa Flying School. It took about five weeks and flying was done in Cessna 150s. The previous year, I had learned to skydive at Witbank Skydiving Club in Mpumulanga Province, South Africa. I continued to skydive there when I began working in Swaziland as it was only about a four hour drive. I haven’t flown myself since 2006 as it is so expensive. I stopped skydiving about the same time when I adopted my son as I didn’t have the time. I found the kind of people who skydived in South Africa very macho and there was a fair bit of racism at the club so I wasn’t sorry to stop going there.

Fluffy was a cat that I acquired when I was living in Hungary. I lived in Hungary for three years from 2008 whilst working as a maths and physics teacher in Bratislava. There were a number of feral cats that I used to feed in the village where I lived. One gave birth to a litter of kittens in my living room, and fluffy was the runt of the litter. She died in December 2018.


This photo was taken in about 1950, and shows my mother and her two aunts. This is probably taken in Slough where one of her aunts lived at the time. On the left is Edith and in the middle is Ada.

South Africa Trip 1993

In 1993, my eldest brother had been living in South Africa for about six years. He is four years older than me and we had never got on. However I wanted to see him and see South Africa as it sounded very interesting. Free elections were planned for the following year in April and this was a transition period for the country. He had met a businessman when on holiday in Crete who lived in Pretoria and ran a construction company. Jack was an odd-job man who sometimes lived in a remote private game reserve 80 km east of Pretoria looking after the place and sometimes acted as a foreman on building sites. He had embraced the Afrikaaner way of life and attitudes and was a difficult person to get on with at the best of times. He was a loner and a bit of a loose cannon. He seemed to share many of the character traits of my father. He was belligerent, moody, and would attack me verbally and get very defensive about minor issues.


He was thirty years old and had left school with few qualifications at sixteen.  He had then worked with horses at racing stables in Lincolnshire, Ireland and Somerset. His life consisted mainly of shovelling horse shit as far as I can make out. He met some pretty rough people. He did this for several years and ended up taking a brick-laying course in his early twenties. I was still studying for my A-levels when he returned to my mother’s house in mid-Sussex to stay, which didn’t last long.  He then lived with my father in Petersfield where he continued his lifestyle of getting in with the wrong crowd. It was from here that he ended up spending a year on a kibbutz in Eilat, Israel. After finishing there, he worked in the seaside town of Tel Aviv before coming to South Africa in about 1987.


The plane landed one morning at about 7 am and I collected my bags and passed through customs and immigration at Jan Smuts International Airport. My brother and his friend Freddy were waiting for me and the first thing we did was buy some beers at a cafe. He seemed pleased to see me and we caught up. I had not seen him in about eight years. I did not really know what to expect. I was to find out soon enough.


Freddie was tall and weathered, in his late twenties or early thirties. He was of Afrikaaner descent with curly hair and perhaps a touch of the Hottentot in him. He was unapologetic and hard-core in his racist views. I think we visited a few friends of my brother’s during the day before driving out to Bronkhorstspruit, a quiet dorp off the M4 motorway, in the evening, which was where Freddy lived with his wife Mona.

Continue reading “South Africa Trip 1993”

Tulbagh to Pietermaritzburg


Here you see me sitting in the drivers’ seat. The land Rover is well and truly stuck in the mud. I was travelling with my friend Nontando from Bulawayo. We had just dropped off Maurice at the farm. We visited the local Drostdy Hoff winery where we picked up some rather nice white wine. After leaving Tulbagh, Nontando and I headed down to Cape Town. We were planning on meeting up with Nontando’s other half Tim Cherry and her young four year old son Andy. After a few days in Cape Town, we then followed the Garden Route via George, Knysna and Port Elisabeth. Our destination was ultimately going to be Durban before driving back to Zimbabwe via Beitbridge.

At Pietermaritzburg, I paid for Nontando to do a tandem skydive. I was doing some parachute jumps myself and had just started my advanced freefall course. She unfortunately threw up on the way down inside her jump suit, as recommended by the tandem master!


Tour in a 1960s Landrover


In July and August of 2001, I drove from Bulawayo to Cape Town and back in a friend’s old 1960s Land Rover passing through Botswana on the way. My mate Tim Cherry had bought it from new, but it had seen better days. A worker employed by Mike Barry’s father was unwell with a heart condition and I was asked if I could help take him down to the family’s farm at Tulbagh, about 100 miles north of Cape Town, where he could get better treatment. We left Bulawayo and headed out towards Plumtree on the Botswana border, but not before spending several days trying to get the old Land Rover roadworthy. I had been told by the owner that it was serviceable, but this was far from the truth. It would not start, had a flat spare, almost bald tyres, brake lights that did not work as well as poor brakes. The rear fuel tank leaked, the fuel pump was on the blink, the electrics were decidedly dodgy, and you could see the road through a big hole in the floor. The windscreen wipers did not work either.

Once we got the worst of the problems fixed, it took several days to drive down to Tulbagh and we ran out of diesel a few times. The fuel gauges did not work, and we did not realise at the time, but fuel was draining from the rear tank. We slept in the vehicle on the way down. In figures 25 and 26 we see Maurice and Mike about to pull our Land Rover out of the mud with a tractor on their farm in the hills surrounding Tulbagh. The farm had extensive vineyards and a beautiful old farmhouse in the Cape Dutch style. The little town of Tulbagh had some fine cafes where you could sample the delights of milk tart, an Afrikaans speciality.

The Land Rover gave us a lot of trouble along the way. The battery went flat and wouldn’t charge, fuel leaked, and we often had to bump-start it. An electrical fire started in the dashboard. I spent a lot of money on repairs. Rachel and Mike were trying to make a success of a bed and breakfast business they were running. I heard later that Maurice died of a heart attack some weeks after we left Tulbagh for Cape Town. It was very sad.

Mike and Rachel had a turbulent relationship. Mike was a mechanic by trade and very skilled at fixing cars, trucks and tractors. I visited them both in early 1998 with my current partner Leonard who was from Cape Town. Rachel was very histrionic and went barmy when we stripped off and swam in the dam. She used to scream like a banshee at the farm workers and complained if Mike used one teabag per cup. Her driving was terrifying and she paid little attention to traffic lights. She was very erratic. The business was not exactly a success because they were quite a long way outside Tulbagh itself. Rachel had the daft idea of calling the guesthouse The Duck Pond. Nontando and I were among the first guests to stay. However, after a few days, Rachel turned around and said that she wanted us to contribute to our stay. I had been buying food, cooking and paying for wine. Whenever Mike had more than a couple of glasses, Rachel went into full banshee mode. She was like a fishwife when she got going. I told Nontando that I was leaving and did not say goodbye to Rachel, I was that annoyed.

Rachel and Mike subsequently married and had a daughter despite Mike’s numerous affairs and infidelities. Some years later, I heard from Nontando that Mike had committed suicide in Bulawayo after Rachel had returned to the UK and told him that he would never see his daughter again. He had gassed himself inside his car. It was a tragedy. 

After Tulbagh, we drove along the garden route stopping at Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Plettenberg Bay, Tsitsikamma National Park, Port Elizabeth and Coffee Bay finishing up at Durban. After this, we visited Pietermaritzburg where I started a skydiving course which was cut short when I badly twisted my ankle. Travelling with Nontando was not without its difficulties. She tended to wander off with Andy after she woke up in the morning when we were camping and not come back for hours. This was very frustrating. When we stopped by the side of a main road to check the Land Rover, she let Andy, who was three years old, wander unsupervised in the road.