Walking to Fethaland

A sunny day provided the perfect opportunity for walking to Fethaland – the remote northern point of Shetland Mainland.

Fethaland is one of those ends of the earth places.

It’s at the northernmost tip of Mainland in Shetland (Mainland is the name of the main island in the archipelago), miles from anywhere. You drive (there’s no public transport) along narrow single-track roads, winding along the coast until you come to Isbister. Then you walk. Continue reading “Walking to Fethaland”

13 Things to Eat in The Netherlands

This is the post where I disclose my liking for weird foods like chips with peanut sauce and mayo. And oily balls. Yes, really.

What would be the word for someone who is a bit obsessed with the Netherlands and has an affinity with all things Dutch? If my country of obsession was France I’d be a Francophile; England and I’d be an Anglophile. But Netherlandsophile just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Continue reading “13 Things to Eat in The Netherlands”

Friday Flickr – Dubai

Dubai didn’t live up to my expectations. This was a good thing.

Dubai had never appealed to me as a tourist destination. I’d considered living there and using it as a base for travelling around the region, but not as a destination in itself.

I mean, what’s the point in going all that way just to go to a shopping mall right? Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Dubai”

Västerbottens Museum, Umeå

This museum is about everything Västerbotten

I was only in Umeå because that was where the bus ended up and it was where I could pick up the night train back to Stockholm. I’d spent the summer walking northern Sweden’s Kungsleden trail and now I was on my way home. Continue reading “Västerbottens Museum, Umeå”

Friday Flickr – Muscat

A desert city by the sun. Friendly people, good food and a fascinating culture and history. What more could I want?

Following on from my Friday Flickr album on the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d put together an album from the rest of my stay in Muscat. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Muscat”

Friday Flickr – White Sand and Blue Sea

Is there anything more enticing than a long white sandy beach and a dazzling blue sea?

I’m not a lying on the beach person, but I love to discover a gorgeous beach when I’m out walking and I’ll happily sit and read or just gaze out at the sea for a while before moving on. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – White Sand and Blue Sea”

Friday Flickr – Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

062_25494205204_oIt’s over two years since I spent a half term visiting a teaching friend in Muscat. Our holidays didn’t match up and so on the first day, whilst she was in school, I took myself out to explore. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque seemed the obvious place to start. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque”

Eating Chicken Shit – aka the worst job ever

I often get asked what’s the worst job I’ve ever done. I don’t have to think for long to answer. Cleaning chicken sheds on a kibbutz in Israel is by far my worst job ever. No contest.

The chicken sheds were the size of Wembley Stadium.

It was cold, but when you are given a brush and told to start sweeping something that size, you know you’re not going stay cold for long.

For the best part of a week, six hours a day, we swept. And swept. And swept. The movement – swing out arms, pull arms in, step back, repeat – and the monotonous swish, swish, swish of the brushes scraping the hard concrete were hypnotic. It was impossible to hear the tinny radio way over in the far corner and we were spread too far out to chat. Not that it mattered as chatting would have involved opening our mouths; it was bad enough breathing the chicken poop in and feeling it settle in the back of your throat without having it take a direct route through your mouth.

The fine ammonia powder got everywhere. As we brushed it created a cloud of dust that got into every pore, into our hair and ears as well up our noses. The taste stayed for days afterwards. No matter how many drinks we drank or how much strongly-flavoured food we ate, that taste overpowered everything.

As the minutes merged into hours and the hours merged into days and our blisters merged into callouses, we’d blink and realise it was time for a break or for lunch, or even the end of the day. Time stood still, yet at the end of the day it seemed like no time had passed at all.

That blank time allowed the mind to wander. So many memories, thoughts, stories would flit and flicker their way through my mind. I’d forget where I was and be transported to places I’d been to years ago, to my childhood or my wild teenage years. And sometimes I’d be transported to the future, to places I wanted to visit and to places I had no idea I wanted to visit.

It struck me how quickly the human mind turns in on itself when it has no external stimulus. Would this be how I’d cope if I ever found myself in gaol? Or if I was stranded on a desert island? (If I ever have to choose between the two, I’ll have the desert island please.)

The breaks were always welcome. Time to stretch out stiffening limbs, then sit down with a cup of bad coffee and chat. Usually about the chicken sheds – we couldn’t get away from thinking about them even on a break. And we all found we were having the same experiences. A kind of multi-tasking meditation. Why sit and do nothing, when you could meditate and sweep a six inch deep pile of chicken shit off a floor the size of a football stadium at the same time?

As all things do, sweeping the chicken shed came to an end. We stretched, yahooed and got ready for our next task.

This time we were outside. Yes! Fresh air! But it was cold. And raining.

We had to clean all the metal tubing and piping that takes feed, drugs, water and who knows what else, into the sheds once a new batch of chickens are installed.

The small metal parts were freezing to hold and the taps we were washing them under only flowed with cold water. As icy raindrops pelted the back of my neck and cold drips ran from my hair down my face, and as my fingers slowly went numb and I worried about frostbite as I held cold metal under cold water, we talked (yes, we were close now) and actually found ourselves reminiscing about the good old days of sweeping and thinking. Yes, we decided. Eating chicken shit was preferable to this.

Finally the days of cleaning the chicken sheds came to an end. Stretching out on the veranda of the volunteer accommodation, sipping a well-deserved beer we watched as smoke curled upwards in the distance.

It was coming from the chicken sheds.

They were on fire.

They burnt completely to the ground.

Electrical fault they said.

I won’t repeat what we said.

The British in India Museum

Entrance to British in India Museum
Spot the museum

The British in India Museum is hidden away in a warehouse in Nelson (Lancashire). It’s not signposted and is difficult to spot. We drove past it several times before we spotted the sign over a side door to the warehouse reception area. As it’s closed at the weekend I’d already waited a long time for the chance to see it and so was determined not to let its camouflaged location beat me. Hardly surprising really that it ranks at one of the top five least visited museums in Britain.

inside the British in India Museum

The museum started life as the private collection of Henry Nelson who had served in India in the 1940s. He came home with a suitcase of souvenirs and continued to develop his collection and his interest. By 1972 he had enough to open a museum.

Tiger skin

The museum is as museums used to be. It smells musty and is crammed with artifacts and memorabilia; everything from a tiger (complete with black and white photo taken of the party who shot it) to medals, newspaper cuttings to weapons and clothes to model soldiers. There’s a lot of information to read and even more to see. We walked round several times, each time seeing things we hadn’t noticed first time round.

soldiers on stilts
The Indian Princely States could not afford war elephants, so they trained infantry on stilts to combat the elephants of their wealthy neighbours. The officer is on foot.

Originally the museum was housed in a building in Colne and it moved to its present location a few years ago after the death of its founder. His son now runs the museum, but it is a sideline to the warehouse. The entrance is shared with the warehouse reception. The man on reception walked us through to the museum and from then on we were left to our own devices. He told us that there are a lot more artifacts in storage, but it’s a massive job searching through everything and getting it all catalogued.

collapsible camping chair
A rather ornate, but completely collapsible camping chair. It puts my canvas camping chair to shame.

Although it seemed obvious that the museum could do with a full-time curator and a new roof, as well as a bigger space, part of me hopes it will never change. There aren’t many museums left like this and visiting it is an experience in itself. And I like that I’ve been to one of the least visited museums in the country.

ornate chair
Detail from the top of a carved chair

detail from ornate chair

I wonder what the number one least visited museum is? Maybe I could go there next?

Sambo books
I’m sure I had some of these as a child. They seem so politically incorrect now.

Here’s a short clip of the museum I found online.

Can you recommend any unusual or little-visited museums?

Friday Flickr – Prague

A few days in Prague whetted my appetite for Eastern Europe.

It’s a few years since I visited Prague. I had a few days there over the Easter holidays and managed to pack an awful lot in. Although I know Western  Europe fairly well, I’ve spent very little time in Eastern Europe. Probably because when I first travelled in Europe all those years ago, I avoided Eastern European countries because they all required visas. Since then, they were never really on my radar.

Prague was a great introduction. As well as being a beautiful city, I found it easy to navigate and reasonably priced. I discovered some great museums, gorgeous architecture and a fascinating (and ultimately horrific) Jewish history.

Memories of communism are never too far away, but it struck me how quickly people had moved on. The huge McDonald’s outside the Communism Museum being one example of ‘then and now’.

My short sojourn is Prague whetted my appetite for Eastern Europe, but it’s now several years later and I still haven’t done anything about it. Looking back through my photos and reliving my memories makes me realise how remiss of me this is.

Click on the image below to access the Flickr album.

Prague