World in Pictures: Beating the January Blues

Oh bugger, it’s almost January.

Poor old January, he really has the worst deal of the year doesn’t he? All the other months must feel so smug when they look at his blue, bitter ways with his short, frost-bitten days.

April’s running around crying, ‘I might bloody shower on you but summmmmer’s ahead!’, August is all ‘I’ll bring you sunshine [In the pouring rain]’, September seduces us with, ‘I know August was a two-second wonder – he always is, but I’ll bring you an Indian summer’, while December just sits on her gold encrusted, red throne with Santa on her side and elves rubbing her feet. But even February, with his dark, gloomy days, just pulls up a seat, orders a gin and tonic, and says: ‘Hey I’m only 28 days long,’ and we all swoon a little. ‘And I’m not January,’ he adds, with a mischievous wink.

Bless January, he tries his best to impress us. ‘I’ll make you fit and healthy – let’s start using that gym membership,’ he promises desperately. ‘Let’s give your liver a rest – walk away from the wine, in fact I will transform you into a new person this year… Just make a list, lets do it together.’

But he just always ends up disappointing us, doesn’t he? He’s all talk… and throwing down hail, sleet and snow, while sending us back into work with a belly full of turkey does not help. And let’s not mention the stinking hangover he always insists on starting the year with. The bastard.

In a bid to combat the somewhat aggressive January blues that I can already feel coming on, I have searched high and low for my favourite blue pictures that Matty and I have taken in recent years. Because really, if you stop to think about it, blue is a rather beautiful colour. Maybe January should start using that as his chat up line instead…

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The wonderful Tyne Bridge in Newcastle. Especially wonderful in March 2011 as it marked the end of our west to east coast bike ride of England. Thank God for Star Bursts.

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Some arty, blue plastic bottles at the Musee d’art Moderne et d’art Contemporain in Nice (which I am reliably informed is French for modern art museum).

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One of the beautiful palm-leaf swinging trees of Bali… with oodles of offerings at their base

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One of my favourite bluesy pictures of all times, so must give credit to Matty who snapped this (while I was probably filing my nails or something) in Essaouira, Morocco in 2008

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The infamous sky-mirror at the Nottingham Playhouse on a particularly merry July evening in 2012.

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And this, folks, is my dear friend Nicki at a particularly blue-infused rave at Glastonbury in 2010. I told you blue could be brilliant.

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Well no blue collection could be complete without a cheeky little snap of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

;

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A Kenyan man in a a Nairobi slum from my trip with Christian Aid in 2010.

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And we’re back in Nice, which I visited in March 2012. I love this place.

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And a funky blue head on a posh hotel in Nice.

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Hungerford Bridge in London baby! (Taken at some point in the last five years).

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From the soon to be demolished Lenton Flats in Nottingham, snapped in 2011.

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And another from the Lenton Flats complex, 2011.

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Finally, some flying shoes in Ljubljana, Slovenia… snapped in 2011.

So, ahem, please feel free to share your views on the months of the year. Don’t pretend I’m the only one to give them sexes and personalities… Which one do you fancy the most?

Oh, and Happy New Year! X

World in Pictures: Collecting Christmas Tree Decorations

Souvenir shopping is a tricky business. The vibrant, bustling markets of India and Morocco leave me mentally decorating my home in glittering mirrors and patchwork cloth… I clutch abstract wooden carvings and lavishly decorated masks, convinced that they are exactly what my inner city Victorian terrace is lacking. But for some reason they never look quite so at home again as they did on that market stall.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve had some successes. Our huge green, hand painted Moroccan fruit bowl looks like it was made for our kitchen table and our Balinese coconut shell stores sugar just as well as anything that Ikea churns out… but, you get what I mean, it doesn’t always work.

However, have you ever noticed that EVERYTHING looks good on a Christmas tree? If it’s bright and colourful and a little bit garish, the chances are it will work just beautifully on the festive tree, if its a bit dark, sinister or just plain odd, it will probably work too – just like my Kenyan mask here.

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I think this bright blue silk butterfly, which I picked up in Malaysia, more than confirms my point.

So ever since my first big travelling trip in 2006, I have collected Christmas tree decorations from around the world.

And next year I will go on my biggest Crimbo decoration shop yet… in fact I will be giving up my job in a bid to collect tree ornaments from France, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, China and Vietnam.

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This little lady at the top of my tree comes from a previous trip to ‘nam

Admittedly, we are not just going to buy Christmas decorations, it is a trip we have wanted to do for years – and finally the time is right. But if truth be told, this Christmas feels a little strange… It’s going to be our last Crimbo in the UK for some time and perhaps the last ever in this little house.

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Our trip from Hyson Green to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Nottingham to ‘nam) will begin in April and take about four to five months and we shall be doing it all overland… from tram, to train to tuk-tuk. We’ll rent out our house and find some new digs in Vietnam, or at least that’s the plan.

So there will be plenty more tales to come on this blog in the next year, but for now let me leave you with some souvenirs of beautiful trips gone by. And if I don’t write again before Christmas itself… Have a bloody good one.

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The latest addition to the collection – the Bali ball… 2012

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This little angel was the only thing not corrupted on the football tour to Riga, Latvia… 2009

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From London with love… 2007

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All the way to Scotland… 2012

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My Indian elephant. The country I loved enough to get inked… 2006

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My Deutsche fairy from Hamburg on my very first press trip… 2008

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As if climbing his way to the top, this furry Koala is a Crimbo tree must… 2007

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And who says you can’t decorate your tree in shells? Fiji… 2007

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I heart Laos… 2006

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A Moroccan slipper and a Thai delight… 2008 and 2006

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And an angelic gift from Matty. Ljubljana, Slovenia… 2010

Merry Christmas and safe travels for 2013 x