Of Cognac, Writing, And Travel

Short, tl;dr version: This site will include discussion of my fiction, my non-fiction, notes on travel and places, thoughts, photos and anything else I find worth sharing. It is also designed to serve as a hub for where to find other things I share with the world.

Long version, continue reading.

The following is a diary/blog post I originally crafted during the summer of 2018, edited and added to.* For now, this serves rather neatly as an introduction to what you should expect here on this site. Images are culled from travels spread over 2017/2018.

A large white house appears in the jungle of Thailand, as though transplanted from Europe. This site will feature several such misfits. The weird and the the strange is always fascinating.

I love things that do not initially seem to fit. This large villa could be somewhere in Europe but, instead, it hides in the northern Thai jungles.

It is time for me to talk once more. Not that I have been silent, of course. I talk, here and there, sometimes sharing snippets of my journeys and stories but, of late, I have remained far quieter than perhaps I should.

This is about to change.

I am typing this from a hotel bed in the town of Cognac. Yes, there is cognac here, with a special single-cask bottle sitting in the corner of the room. It is not mine, but I have no doubt I shall be sharing it when we return to the tropics in a very short while. Perhaps, as you read this, I shall already be there,† this is the magic of words — I can talk to the future, whispering tales of my present and all the while knowing them to be your past and, assuming nothing tragic happens in between, my own.

Writing is magic.

I have always known this, always believed in magic — but it has sometimes proved a cruel master and a hard mistress.

I enjoy an office with a view. Even better is an office with a view of others admiring the view; for the writer this is addictive stuff… This is Langkawi, in Malaysia.

In the past — my past — I have oft-times discussed “me”. Sometimes with more detail, sometimes with absolute anonymity. This journey, the one you are reading now, this will be a true representation of myself and my life and, especially, my work.

What is my work? My work is words; I am a magician whose power lies in the oldest of all secrets. We have, as a species, always loved story. These do not need to be true and, indeed, it is perhaps our way to wrap the dullest of truths within a bright and shining package of lies. Merely to embellish, of course, merely to take unpalatable, boring and sometimes brutal facts, coat them, make them easier to swallow. This is what I do; I make stories.

I take words and I take reality, then I change it, twist it, make it chewier and somehow softer in one. Add flavour and infuse with sheer creativity.

I write. I also travel.

There shall be history here, history of my own. How I got to this point, what has shaped this journey — some of it I have already touched upon, some is new, known only to me and a select few others.

I am in a good place right now — no, I don’t mean Cognac, although it has been good to be here, true, with a beautiful and laughterful wedding on the riverside — no, I mean mentally. I am also, however, not in the best of shape I could be — and this will also be discussed here, how I maintain and improve my personal health.

The northern slopes of Schiehallion, in Highland Perthshire, Scotland. The flank is lit by golden early morning sunlight.

The iconic cone of Schiehallion, in Highland Perthshire, Scotland. This is shortly after dawn, with direct sun yet to reach the valley. Mountains are important to me; to touch the sky is a great gift.

After a long European summer, beginning in late April, I am tired of being with too many people. Perverse then that I am longing for the cities of Southeast Asia, to be surrounded by languages and voices of which I understand precious little? No — for the introvert (yes, technically I test as one of those writers, INFJ/Advocate types, if you believe or are interested in that sort of thing), being around people I do not need to talk to is substantially different to being around those I love and those I communicate with. It is not as mentally exhausting. This is one reason why I am here, alone on a bed in a hotel, when there are people I love and people whose companionship is wonderful mere metres away from me, playing games outside, laughing, drinking, talking. I am increasingly tired and I need to recharge. It is not a weakness, of course not, although for many years I viewed it as such. I also now know myself and have discussed myself with those closest to me, in ways I wish I had done years ago.

Journeys, stories, truths in fiction, snippets and snappets and all manner of things I find interesting including, but not limited to:

…food, music, moving pictures, the stories of others, culture, nature, craftsmanship, travel tricks, money-saving, bushcraft, Scotland, Orkney, magic, calisthenics, love, the sea, the woods, the coast, the wind, our home planet, butterflies, birds, trees, carving, words, art-in-all-its-forms, history, archaeology, hunter-fisher-gatherers, the Mesolithic, kettlebells, the night scent of the jungle, journals bullet and otherwise, games, scents, wine, whisky, song…

These are just a few of the things I love, things you shall soon share, as I share them with you.

This is not exclusively a travel blog. Many excellent travel bloggers and writers came to the written word through their travels. In some ways, I did it the other way around. I have always wanted to travel, always had restless feet, an urge to see beyond that mountain, beyond that sea, through that wood. I wanted to think hard about how I could combine my love of writing with a love of exploring our home world, and this site is a good place to discuss that.

Snow falls in the French Alps, the trees are gathering a blanket of snow, the sky is grey and flake-filled.

The silence of falling snow is ethereal, something Other. Snow in the woods, such as here in the French Alps, is a blanketing magic.

I am a writer who travels. Not a travel writer. Yet I will also share my travel writing with you.

The principal reasons for this blog are twofold.

Firstly, I want to talk again, to share things and wonders that I see, that I witness and take a small role within. I have done incredible things in my life, yet not all these have been told. It seems a waste not to share.

Secondly, I want to document this decade in a way I have not before. I want to develop increased discipline as I push on with my plan for world domination through my words. Not really domination, of course — but I do want to show the processes and hours of hard work that go into writing. Too many people don’t see that.

Here is how I wish to share things, in simple bullet form:

  • Photographs of places, of people, of nature and views and culture. Sometimes my own, Scottish, culture, often others.
  • Wee tales of these. Things that I see that need to be shared with words.
  • My thoughts on the world. Not necessarily all sweeping philosophy, but sometimes just a brief note saying how I share in the pain of so many, the frustrations that seem to be clawing deeper and deeper into our collective psyche. But, also, sweeping philosophy.
  • History. My story.
  • My stories. My fictional words that are becoming increasingly important to “making a living”.
  • Wilderness. How I view it, how I spend time in it. How it charges me. How bushcraft, and acquiring skills and knowledge of what it takes to live comfortably out-with society, is crucial to understanding those stories and that history I mention.
  • Reviews of things I use for travel. Review of things I use for writing. Reviews that I hope may generate a little affiliate income, in order to pay for this site. I’ll be up front and honest about these and will only share things I believe in. Expect a wide range some things unlike those you’ll see on others’ sites, some perhaps more familiar.
  • Travel tales — how I do it, why I do it, where I do it, etcetera.
  • Things I like. That list above, for example. I think it is increasingly important to shout about the positives, lest the negativity that is everywhere drowns out the good in the world.

One of my income streams (have more than one — diversify, it’s the way forward!) is through social media management, and I intend to take what I’ve learnt from this and apply it to myself, as though I am a brand-of-sorts. Which I both love the idea of and simultaneously hate. I ain’t no brand. I’m me. But I know that my readers — of which there will be many one day soon — perhaps need, or want, to know more about me and the person behind the words. How much I share, and how much they choose to believe. well, who knows? I’d rather be in control of this, however.

How I share things is an interesting question. As I mentioned previously, I have sometimes been anonymous, sometimes far less so. Do I include true names? Photos of others? I have not yet answered this question in my head.

We shall all see, I guess.

An African penguin in the Western Cape, near Cape Town, South Africa. The wind here felt like home.

This is an African, or Jackass, penguin. This was taken in South Africa, in the Western Cape, my first time below the equator and outside Europe. It was a formative process, for several reasons. Expect other nature photos here.

There are many other things I am yet unsure of too. And, perhaps, this is another reason I have not started this site as swiftly as I should have done. I think a part of me wanted it to be perfect from the start — but this is conceited nonsense. Instead, I am glad I have commenced, glad I am simply getting words out there. Why wait for perfection? I don’t do that with my stories — redrafting and editing is the bulk of the writer’s work, so I shall not do it here either. Throw a partially-polished site out into the world, images unedited, SEO not-yet-perfected. “TK” here, “In Progress” there.

And now I shall leave this piece, it is time for dinner — as I write, I only have ten more dinners left in Europe, so I intend to make the most of them…‡

Looking down and across Chiang Mai, a wonderful city and a perfect place to base myself. This is a favourite hike up the mountain to Wat Palad, a temple behind our house.

*I have many of these diary pieces, blog posts crafted and drafted but never released. This has especially been true in the last two years, as I prepared to leave the UK, left the UK, and began a personal exploration of this wonderful planet we live on. I often find these posts cathartic, writing about personal issues, as well as words on writing or travel. Some of these unseen posts may well surface here over time, others will be cannibalised and shamelessly stolen from, turned into something different. There are stories of love and loss, of desire and the heart, of dreams and pathways unseen. I honestly cannot wait to begin to post here regularly. I have much to share.

†Yes. Yes, I am in the tropics. Have been for a while, actually. And the cognac, Frédéric Mestreau, Cognac Borderies, X.O N 08, is absolutely incredible. Merci, Francois et Charlotte !

‡As I edit, I have now reached the point in SE Asia where I can enjoy eating (GF) pasta again, where I miss wine, rather than simply feel glad that wine here is not as readily available, nor as good. I am not sure when next I shall be in Europe, but it will not be this calendrical year. As I edit, Vietnam is next. And who knows what will happen with my UK passport, who knows what having a French girlfriend will soon mean? Times, they are interesting and complicated.