Month: January 2015

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity (Moonlight reflecting on the sea)

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Serenity.”

In the moonlight the Black Sea looks very black and serene.

Moon reflecting on Black Sea

Moon reflecting on Black Sea

A better image of the moon reflected on water can be seen here: moon reflected on water “Serenity”

Book Review: “Short Walks in Shangri-La” by Peter Francis Browne

A travelogue about Peter Francis Browne’s trekking in Nepal. Peter prepares for his trip by walking up and down the stairs of his home in Devon, Peter is 54 and worried about his knees, and vertigo and pulmonary oedemae, whatever they might be.

Short walks in Shangri-La

Short walks in Shangri-La

Peter is an entertaining travel companion as he takes us around the Himalaya foothills. He hires a porter called Iman, who quickly becomes his friend the pair bonded with more than a little of the local hooch “raksi“. The book has given me wanderlust, not that I have plans to visit Nepal (I too suffer from vertigo, and tales of the bus trip to and from Kathmandu, leave me in no doubts, I want to give Nepal a miss.) The road heading down was even more unnerving than it had been coming up, the chasms easier to see plummeting beside a track as thin as a stray hair on a green blanket.” 

Travel is about novelty, new experiences, new vistas, new insight into the world. Not all those novelties sound appealing. Kathmandu sounds awful “all around there was the sound of a dawn chorus…men hawking, spitting and snotting into hands that shook the mucus into the street with deft finger movements...” There is a marked contrast between the wealth of the trekkers and the poverty of the locals, where thousands of girls are sold by their parents to the brothels of India. The guides’ observations of different nationalities is interesting, for once Brits abroad don’t fare so badly: “The Australians and English are very good, Irish too, and Scandinavians. The Americans are sometimes difficult. They expect things to be modern like in America, but the most rude are the Germans and the Israelis. Some guides I know refuse to travel with Israelis even if it means losing money.”

At times among gap year trekkers in the hostels, Peter feels like an old Fogey, lamenting his lost youth.

There are also some moments of drama, descending to Thorung Phedi on a glacis sloping north, they found themselves on ice unbroken for hundreds of feet, a fall could have been fatal as they had no ice axes or crampons, just a bamboo stick. Peter slipped and nearly went over the edge…”all the energy drained out of me as I lay there helpless, knowing that if I went over I would have perhaps ten seconds before striking the boulders below.” He did recover slowly but he was shaken by the experience.

It is an interesting read, particularly as the writer isn’t too much older than me. I would have liked some maps and photos.

My rating 4 out of 5


In my dream, I was windsurfing in the waves with some friends, they were making jumps but I couldn’t. As the dream continued I grew more confident and seeing waves combine, I was finally able to make a big jump.

Windsurfing is the only “extreme” sport, I have tried. Although I have never been out in extreme winds. I first tried in Australia in February 1988 at Frankston beach near Melbourne, it wasn’t a great success because although the waves were good the wind wasn’t, so I spent most of the time fishing my sail out of the water. Fifteen years later, I took a short Windsurfing course on a lake at  Lower Moor near Worcester.  The lake was quite shallow, and going to the centre felt like going on holiday, even if it were just for a couple of hours out of my daily schedule.

I also tried windsurfing in the sea at the resort of Bitez near Bodrum in Turkey. Although I can boast I have been windsurfing on three continents, my skills are very rudimentary. I would like to find somewhere around Tbilisi to try again…but not in January (brrrr). If you can swim 500m, I would recommend you give windsurfing a try, it is great fun.

This is this only photo, I can find of me windsurfing, unfortunately I can’t upload the photos I take in my dreams. I wonder if one day that will be possible.

This is me windsurfing at Bitez

This is me windsurfing at Bitez (June 2004)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

For this challenge, rather than take fresh photos, I used two earlier intriguing photos of interesting shadows.

the shadow of a ballerina?

the shadow of a ballerina?

The young man wasn’t aware of me, I wonder if he was aware of his shadow. This was taken outside Tavisuplebis Metro in central Tbilisi. In front of him is the #14 bus adorned with some full bus advertisement.


The ominous shadow of Disney

This is my grand daughter, Elene, I was intrigued by the apparent shadow of Mickey Mouse behind her. The Disney Corporation is the background of many childhoods.


Wanderlust, Itchy Feet

I have always loved travelling but in the past couple of years, I haven’t been anywhere really new.

Part of my motivation for travelling is to discover somewhere divorced from all previous experience, somewhere new. Sheer novelty.

I have visited 37 countries in my life so far. When I visited Georgia first in 2008, I was on a quest to visit all the countries of Europe by the time I was 50. This didn’t happen, instead of just ticking off Georgia and proceeding to the next country, I met Khatuna, who became my wife and I moved to Tbilisi.

wanting to visit every country of Europe

Together we have been to Turkey three times, the UK three times and France, once. We also wandered over the border into Azerbaijan, when we visited Davit Gareji, a monastery complex in the south east of Georgia. Much as I love visiting Turkey, UK and France, I want to see somewhere new.

Reading “Short Walks in Shangri-La” by Peter Francis Browne is fuelling this wanderlust.

Short walks in Shangri-La

Short walks in Shangri-La

I’m not especially interested in visiting Nepal, where the book is set, it is just the idea of visiting somewhere new, new vistas, new tastes, new sights, new sounds, new freshness. Only a few Asian countries interest me at present: Azerbaijan, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia and Iran. None of these I plan to visit in the immediate future, but maybe somewhere in Europe. Possibilities include:

  1. Armenia, it would be cheap to get to and Khato has an aunt in the capital, Yerevan. Apart from its proximity and novelty, I have no burning desire to visit the country.
  2. Italy. I have visited Sicily and Pompeii but I’d love to see the more northern cities of Venice, Florence and Rome. Khato would love to visit Italy, too.
  3. The Baltic States: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. I have been reading about the amber coast in the last novel, I read A Visible Darkness that was set in Napoleonic Prussia. Kalingrad (Königsberg) could be tricky as we’d need Russian Visas. Maka, my step daughter needs her prosthetic eye replacing, her doctor is Latvian, usually he visits Tbilisi, but we could also visit his surgery in Latvia. I have been to Lithuania previously (2003) but Latvia and Estonia would be new. It should be possible to visit all three in one trip. I’ve been taking the Lonely Planet Guide to the smallest room (makes a change from “The Top Gear Years” by Jeremy Clarkson)

Lonely Planet Guide to Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

There is still much of Georgia to explore, the mountainous areas of Svaneti and Tusheti sound fantastic. Last Summer we just visited Qobuleti on the coast, beach holidays were never really my thing, I love swimming in the sea, but I also want to explore new places. My mind is going off on flights of fancy, I’ll be back soon.

Some Guidebooks on the shelf

Some Guidebooks on the shelf

Books Read in 2014

I read around 50 books in 2014, mostly in English, four in French and a few books for children in Georgian. Over 16 000 pages in total.

"Istanbul" by Orhan Pamuk

“Istanbul” by Orhan Pamuk

I tried to review each book I read for this blog. The highlights for me were the following (the links are to my reviews):

“Cathedral of the Sea” by Ildefonso Falcones

“The Man from St. Petersburg” by Ken Follett

Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins-Clark

“Istanbul: Memories of a City” by Orhan Pamuk

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

“Alone in Berlin” by Hans Fallada

“Dumb Witness” by Agatha Christie

“A Morbid Taste for Bones” by Ellis Peters

I also managed to read some classics that had been on my “to read list” for a very long time like “Middlemarch” by George Eliot, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell and “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens.

There were, a few books, I wished I hadn’t bothered with, usually I will put down a book if I haven’t got into it by the fiftieth page but I persevered with “E is for Evidence (Sue Grafton), “Ratner’s Star” by Don DeLillo, “Nutcase” by Charlotte Hughes and “A Hero of our Time” by Mikhail Lermontov. I regret the time spent on these books I didn’t enjoy.

I’ll see if I can read another 50 in 2015, and try to include some in Georgian….

The Georgian Language: ქართული ენა

გამარჯობა! (gamarjoba) this mouthful is “Hello!” in Georgian.

These posts are not to teach the Georgian language as I am in no way an expert, these are more my reflections on learning this difficult tongue.

Some basics of the Georgian Language:

There are 33 letters in the Georgian alphabet, 28 consonants and 5 vowels.

Georgian is read and written from left to right like English.

There are no capital letters, which makes it difficult to determine what are names in a text.

There are many consonant clusters (this makes it difficult for me to pronounce).

მე ვსცავლობ ქართულ ენას (me vstsavrob kartul enas) I am learning Georgian!

All nouns end with a vowel, unfortunately just adding an -i to the end of an English word doesn’t make it Georgian (though it occasionally works). Here in Tbilisi,  I am always Jimi (like Hendrix) not Jim.

Georgian nouns and pronouns have no gender. My Georgian students frequently confuse “he” and “she” in English, even when they have reached quite a high level. Conchita Wurst winning Eurovision hasn’t helped.

Georgian has no articles.  (a. an and the)

The Georgian Language is one of the oldest in the world, it is believed that the Georgian alphabet was created in the fourth century BC, it is a unique language not related to any others. It is one of the kartvelian languages in the Caucasian-Iberian family.

The first letter of the Georgian alphabet is ა pronounced like the a in apple.

This can combine with მ /m/ to make მამა (mama) which is bizarrely Georgian for father. ა can also combine with ნ /n/ to make ანა (Ana) my granddaughter.