Love in the time of coronavirus

Welcome to the new normal.

But first, the good news

I’m really chuffed to introduce you to TONGUES, a new space for “conversations with questioners, mavericks and mavens”. Our launch interviewees include:

  • Anna Dimitriu, who makes art out of deadly viruses and bacteria (could you get more topical, ha!), and Hermione Flynn, a fashion designer with a 3D avatar

  • After Architecture, the young architect duo playfully transforming public spaces

  • Zander Blom, the South African artist experimenting with paint, and Brett Murray, whose pop sculptures speak truth to power

  • Jennifer Bonner, the architecture professor drawing on iconographic imagery to create a new Southern style

Intrigued? Find out more by reading the TONGUES Welcome Letter.


This bloody pandemic

I’ve been following COVID-19 obsessively for a while now. This (mostly) hasn’t come from a place of fear, but rather from an unquenchable urge to try to understand how this new disease will affect the world and all of us in it.

This morning, while watching a Visit Portugal video, I started sobbing. Not just because the clip was unexpectedly moving (also, I really love Portugal). No, I think my crying was largely because I was still digesting the latest slew of ominous data and the ramifications of the pandemic (in the US and SA). What’s quickly becoming clear is that things are going to become tough for most of us. What’s also clear is that, like in most crises, the poor, marginalized and vulnerable will be hit the hardest (economically and in health).

The need for major, systemic reform in the USA, SA and many other countries couldn’t be more urgent — big changes to provide more protections and opportunities for those that need them the most; big changes that will make these countries safer, fairer and kinder places. Those reforms will have to wait, though, until the pandemic can be brought to heel. In the months ahead, the role of the individual will be hugely important — and our actions (even ones as simple as staying home, generously tipping your Uber Eats courier or signing up to a CSA) will have the potential to change lives if enough of us do them.

At a time like this, we need to cultivate as much compassion as we can:

  • Towards ourselves, because goodness knows we’ll need it on a road that’s only going to get bumpier (for the next few months, at least)

  • Towards our brave medics who will save as many lives as they can and, in the process, risk losing their own

  • Towards everyone else, but especially:

    1. The already-sick, the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed and many soon-to-be-unemployed

    2. Those reliant on public services (e.g. therapy, treatments, school lunches) which have now been put on-hold — as well as folk who’ve been needing those services but weren’t getting them in the first place

Doubtless, COVID-19 has already inconvenienced you in ways both big and small (see below). In all likelihood, though, there are others nearby for whom its impact will be much greater. Do what you can to help them. I promise I’ll do my best to do the same.

One more thing before I hop down from my soapbox. As fascinating, mysterious and frightening as it is, don’t read too much about COVID-19 (as I fear I may have been doing). It gets to you — and what we will soon be needing in abundance is hope, optimism and kindness to others, not despair, frustration or apathy. Stay informed, but make sure you allow time to switch off too. Here’s something I wrote (months ago/a lifetime before COVID-19) about the extraordinary power of phone-less time in nature. If you’re permitted to leave the house for walks (as mercifully we are here in California), I urge you to try it.

And if you’ve been living under a rock and want just a couple of reading recommendations to get up to speed, then here you go:


Cancel culture

Back to school. This was me before my first class on UC Berkeley’s gorgeous campus a few weeks ago. After class three, my part-time course was postponed and I have no idea when it will resume. Thanks, COVID-19!


Crooning for your quarantine

Compiled by yours truly: Pandemic at the Disco, a playlist inspired by (and hopefully a mild palliative for) these trying times. Featuring mostly trashy pop, it includes “Don’t Start Now” (Dua Lipa), “Mystery Disease” (MGMT) “Scared to Live” (The Weeknd), “Solo Dance” (Martin Jensen), “Harder to Breathe” (Maroon5) and “No Time to Die” (Billy Eilish) and many more. You say bad taste, I say gallows humour!

Listen to it all here:


You’ve made it to the end of my monthly-ish dispatch (which, in less crazy times, normally covers where I’ve been, what I’ve been reading/listening to and what I’ve written lately). Keeping in touch is more crucial than ever before — but, because I hate social media, I started these missives using old-fashioned email instead. Replies are welcome and appreciated! Especially if they contain droëwors (jerky really is an abomination), DIY COVID-19 tests or the lemon verbena-scented Mrs Meyers. Book and Netflix recommendations will do just fine too!

The stars dancing at the bottom of the sea

Hello from California

Amidst rising coronavirus panic, a plunging stock market and an interminable, exhausting American election season, a recent a visit to Monterrey Bay Aquarium proved to be a much-needed tonic.

I hung out with the African penguins (we compared notes on immigration, homesickness and Tito’s brave budget) and got to watch three adorable sea otters be tossed their mid-afternoon snack. The unexpected highlight, though, was the jellyfish. Various species were pulsing, glowing and flowing happily in their royal blue tanks — iridescent, wordless poetry; living 3D abstract art, both ancient and utterly modern. They were a joyously trippy reminder that there’s more to this world than rogue viruses and billionaire presidential contenders.


Recent scribbles

For the BBC, I’ve written a feature on the huge benefits of planting spekboom (or, in ecologist-speak, “restoring degraded thicket”). This South African native succulent sequesters carbon as effectively as a forest does. (Side note: its leaves apparently taste delicious in a G&T.)

For Business Day, I wrote a piece about Bao Down, one of my favourite Cape Town restaurants — an Asian-inspired delight in a city with a shocking dearth of decent Far Eastern cuisine.

Spekboom spotted on Fairfax Avenue in LA. It’s good to see another South African transplant thriving in California. The boots are Namibian kudu leather handmade in Swakopmund.


For your eyes and ears

In The Memory Palace, Nate DiMeo brings history vividly to life with his short, gorgeously emotive and lyrically phrased vignettes. My favourites (so far) are this one about air pollution (and so much more) and this one, about the oldest surviving gay bar in America. A lovely New Yorker profile gives the background to this pod.

The Catch and Kill Podcast, which shares the personal stories of several sources Ronan Farrow encountered during his tenacious Harvey Weinstein investigation, was utterly fascinating.

Links I loved:

(I am about 120 pages from the end of Richard Powers’ Pulitzer-winning novel The Overstory. It’s utterly gorgeous — and IT’S ABOUT TREES! — but whoah, did it have to be this long and meandering? Or is that just my frazzled attention span complaining…?)

A few books I’ve put on my to-read list for 2020:

  • Dreamland by Sam Quinones about America’s opioid epidemic

  • The Whistelbower by Susan Fowler — a memoir by the woman who exposed sexual misconduct at Uber

  • This Land by Christopher Ketcham, about the assault on public lands in the West

  • Working by Robert Caro — where the incredible journalist/presidential historian reveals the secrets to his research and writing process

  • Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami — the acclaimed immigrant author explores the notion of citizenship and what it means to be American

What else should I be reading this year?


Slate skies, chilly streets and an elopement to Africa

Earlier this month I visited America’s still-brisk Northeast for some quality time with friends and family. In NYC, food favourites included:

  • Dangerously delicious negronis at the old-school Brooklyn Italian restaurant, Queen, yummy Greek on the Upper West Side, gorgeous Georgian, and maybe the best ramen I’ve ever had (featuring a spicy miso bone broth) at Za-Ya

  • Insanely good crullers from Daily Provisions and, of course, the crack pie from Milk Bar

Thank god I was doing so much walking.

I also visited the glorious, grand city of Philadelphia, where my better half hails from. As close family (and a few somberly still antelope) looked on, a retired judge married us in the African Hall at the Academy of Natural Sciences (the oldest natural history museum in the western hemisphere, FYI). Along with daily moisturizing and the occasional use of conditioner, marriage is a welcome sign that little Alex is (finally) growing up. Praise be.


Thanks for reading my monthly dispatch! If this made it into your inbox, it’s because, despite ditching social media, I’d still like to keep in touch. Every month, I typically cover travel highlights, what I’ve been reading/listening to lately, and newly published articles of mine.

Replies are always welcome! Feel free to hit me up with gossip, life updates, podcast recs, Goop-endorsed face masks or cut-price Pete for America merch.

Full steam across the snowy West

A sumptuously slow start to the year.

Happy 2020!

Right now, I’m in a Silicon Valley hotel room gazing out at a multi-storey car park, squat office towers and murky skies. The view offers a painfully bleak contrast to the vistas I was treated to in early January when we took the Zephyr from Emeryville (near San Francisco, California) to Denver, Colorado. Over the course of 36 hours, the train rattled and swayed eastwards past dense forests, towering peaks and through snowy valleys. As cell service sputtered to nil, I listened to podcasts and steeled myself for the busyness of the year ahead. Staring out at the hypnotically beautiful landscape, I spotted the coppery flash of a mountain lion, a bald eagle guarding a fir tree, an abandoned basketball trapped in a frozen creek.

Amtrak is not short on flaws: a sleeper compartment is expensive; servers tended towards the censorious and surly; the food (except for the steak) was pretty gross; a psychotic meth-head had to be removed by police en route for threatening fellow passengers with a knife (don’t worry, our compartment’s door had a lock!). All that said, these long distance trains still offer a sumptuously slow, relaxing and meditative way to experience America — the travel equivalent of a deep inward breath (a bonus is being able to avoid the exhausting indignities of airport security). Do it!

  • Throwback: read my piece on taking Amtrak’s Southwest Chief from Chicago to LA in 2015

  • Next trip: Do you love train travel as much as I do? Which one should I take next?


Jottings

I’m stoked that, following months of painstaking research, my feature on nature conservation’s uneasy relationship with land restitution in South Africa has been published by Financial Mail:

  • The main article looks at the lessons we can learn from the hugely successful resolution of Phinda Game Reserve’s claim, as well as the more mixed fortunes of two claims for land in national parks

  • A sidebar unpacks the strange case of MalaMala — the billion-rand settlement that should never have happened

Background: A précis on my site briefly explains the whys, hows and whats behind South Africa’s land restitution process.


For your eyes (and ears) only

How to Write an Autobiographical is an exquisite collection of essays by novelist Alexander Chee. Whether discussing the art and craft of writing, 9/11, drag, racism, or the fight against AIDS, Chee offers a trove of hard-won wisdom, poignant observation and an appreciation for subtlety that — in these shouty, polarizing times — feels particularly valuable.

A House Divided by Crispian Olver: this cautionary tale of political infighting in Cape Town’s council as the city faced down its worst-ever drought is nuanced, rigorous, insightful — and as gripping as a thriller.

Pod obsession alert!

  • I’ve been binge-listening to all three seasons of the brilliant and impeccably edited Russia, If You’re Listening. With droll Australian wit and incisive clarity, presenter Matt Bevans explains the colourful cast of characters caught up in the Mueller investigation (remember that?) in the first two seasons. Season 3 fascinatingly explores Putin’s vendetta against the West, shining a light on ruthless assassinations, accident-prone spies, military invasions and much more

  • I’m slowly making may way through the five years’ worth of StartUp espisodes that deal with the birth and growing pains of Gimlet, a podcasting production company bought last year by Spotfify for $230m. (Certain seasons are dedicated to other businesses; I’ve skipped those.) It’s an intimate, inside look — not just at this nascent industry, but at the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Remarkable!

  • James Kim’s Moonface is the first fiction podcast I’ve listened to. It’s an aural feast, exploring identity, sexuality and personal growth in an artfully immersive manner (if you’re intrigued, Nick Quah’s pitch-perfect review on Vulture sums it up beautifully)


If you made it this far, thanks for reading! You’ve just finished my monthly dispatch about where I’ve been travelling, what I’ve been reading/listening to, and what I’ve been writing. It’s my old-school alternative to social media. Replies are always welcome (especially if they include podcast recs, mohair scarves, salacious skinder or street food favourites).

Merry, merry (and good riddance to those tumultuous teens)

Raise that eggnog: we're at the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Happy Christmas!

May it be shared with the ones you love (and who don’t irritate you too much).

In this bumper special festive edition dispatch:

  • The inaugural Alex Awards (an incomplete, biased and subjective list of the things that inspired, infuriated, disappointed and delighted me in 2019)

  • My 10 favourite articles from the last 10 years (in case your Kindle got stolen and you need something to read)

  • Lastly, an “OMG, we’re starting a new decade, so let’s look back at the 2010s!” essay (I’ll forgive you — eventually — if you don’t end up scrolling down that far…)

An icy blast from the past: New Year’s Day, 2010, Canada.


The 2019 Alex Awards

THE GREAT AND THE GOOD:

  • Best cure for homesickness: Freshpak rooibos tea and Spotify’s Gqom Power House playlist:

  • Most dazzling debut novel: Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (read more of my reading favourites here)

  • TV show I can’t get enough of: HBO’s Succession

  • Sexiest movie: The smart, funny, sublime and sultry Hustlers

  • The TV talent I’m dying to get drunk with: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

  • Loveliest bookstore: A quadruple win! Tattered Cover (Denver), The Yankee Bookshop (Woodstock, VT), the Gallery Bookshop (Mendocino, CA) and Elliot Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)

  • Worth subscribing to: HEATED, Emily Atkin’s newsletter, is a great way to keep abreast of the climate crisis

  • Favourite podcast: Eish, don’t make me choose just one!

    • In Conspiracyland , veteran investigative journo Mike Isikoff explores how the 2016 death of a Democrat party operative has been exploited by a whole cast of unscrupulous characters — including Russian intelligence, rightwing talkshow hosts and Julian Assange. The perfect (and perfectly gripping) primer on the post-truth era

    • The Dropout is an absolutely captivating (and rigorously reported) account of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of blood testing company Theranos

    • You can find a full list of podcast favourites here.

  • Most exciting chef: Andre Hill of Upper Bloem who deliciously combines contemporary verve with Cape Town’s culinary heritage

  • Tastiest retail experience: Farmers’ markets in the US (especially Portland’s enormous one); but the variety of greens and veg is staggering even at much smaller markets such as the one in Arcata). When in Cape Town, OZCF Market remains my go-to

  • Negroni you’ll be tempted to order five of: The cosy Joburg wine bar Douglas + Hale serves up a dangerously good one!

  • Yummiest in-flight meal: Crispy and tender roast goose on Lufthansa

  • Most sublime wine tasting: bubblies on Twee Jonge Gezellen’s sunlit rooftop (near Tulbagh); goat cheese and gorgeous Pinot Noirs at Pennyroyal (in California’s Anderson Valley)

  • Tastiest milk alternative: Oatly — a game-changer

  • Most comforting scent: Mrs Myers lemon verbena liquid hand soap

  • Funnest way to spend an afternoon: Snorkelling with seals in Cape Town; a jet boat to hot springs near Tofino

  • Trees to stop you in your tracks: Phinda’s incredible sand forest; the HUGE redwoods of Prairie Creek

  • Room with the dreamiest view: Pel’s Post lodge in Pafuri, Kruger National Park

  • Colour I couldn’t stop staring at: The inky indigo of Crater Lake, OR (see pic below)

THE BAD AND THE UGLY:

Most disappointing new season: Season 3 of The Crown (dull, dull, dull; also… BRING BACK CLAIRE FOY!)

  • The country with the most reluctant, disgruntled service: Jamaica

  • Worst meal: “Malawian night” at the increasingly decrepit Mumbo island lodge gave me food poisoning that took a week to recover from

  • Shittiest stop-over: Niagara Falls, Ontario — a tacky “Vegas on the river”. After getting locked out of my hotel room due to a malfunctioning keycard, I had to prove to the concierge I was a resident and not some opportunistic meth-head/rent boy trying to break in. (His icy scepticism melted eventually…)

  • National Park you should really hire a 4x4 for: The stunning Richtersveld schooled us in the difference between mere SUV and fully-fledged 4x4. Pick the former at your peril…

  • Most underwhelming natural attraction: Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone (not the gusher I thought it’d be)

  • Most overhyped major art museum: Cape Town’s Zeitz MoCAA (have you been there lately?)

  • Scariest moment travelling: Getting two flat tyres simultaneously thanks to a gigantic pothole in Mpumalanga; three rounds of questioning upon arrival at SFO by America’s friendliest border agents

What were your favourites/least favourites this year?

Crater Lake, Oregon, July 2019. Of course a photo can’t do the real thing justice.


A decade of scribbling

Articles are like children — their creators always have their favourites. These are 10 of mine from the hundreds I wrote in the 2010s:

  1. Lines of beauty: In this 2012 interview, the Man-Booker author Alan Hollinghurst tells me about taking ecstasy (and putting gay fiction on the map)

  2. Paul Theroux reaches the end of the road: The 2013 interview that earned me some hate mail from the renowned travel writer

  3. Discovering Pafuri, a hidden corner of the Kruger, on foot: The first piece I ever wrote (in 2014) about one of my favourite places in the entire world

  4. Searching for silence in the Karoo: What I found where cell signal and internet do not reach

  5. Hit and miss: To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, every man should kill the thing he loves to eat. And so, on assignment for Sunday Times in 2015, I gave it a go

  6. Swaziland’s handmade revolution: A 2016 report on how fair trade design is helping to empower thousands in Africa’s last absolute monarchy

  7. Saving mantas — a ray of hope: The conservation efforts to save Mozambique’s extraordinary marine megafauna

  8. Katse dam’s deep flood of suffering: While this Lesotho scheme delivers ‘white gold’ to Gauteng, my 2017 report shows how the lives of residents in the area have been diminished

  9. A retreat-in-motion: In this 2018 article for Sawubona, I explore how walking the Portuguese Camino can be an opportunity for reflection and rejuvenation

  10. Same difference? (PDF): My 2018 report for Monocle about the (somewhat brief) period of hope in Zimbabwe following Mugabe’s ouster

Read more on my website.

On assignment for the Sunday Times in 2015. Who said journalism had to be a desk job?


Hello 2020! Looking back on the tumultuous teens

Do you remember the start of the 2010s? Back then, I was a fresh-faced, freshly minted graduate. The newspaper where I’d interned straight after college had shuttered on my fourth day – a sad but useful reality check about my chosen profession.

My next media internship a few months later, at Monocle, was more successful — landing me a “Devil Wears APC” job as an assistant to the editor-in-chief. And so, 2010 saw me moving continents (into a shitty London bedsit) and beginning full-time work. It was also the year I was diagnosed with and began treatment for OCD (thank you NHS!), the year I used a Blackberry and messaged via BBM and SMS, listened to music on an iPod Touch, watched DVDs, phoned to order taxis for my boss and even occasionally sent faxes.

By 2010, same-sex marriage was allowed in South Africa but not the USA. That year, the first iPad launched (and journos were wondering if this would save or destroy us); South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup (with aplomb).

WhatsApp voice notes, Airbnbs, Uber rides, banking apps, Netflix streaming, Alexa, the Instagram influencer epidemic, deep fakes, Russian election meddling, #MeToo, Brexit — all that lay in the future.

2019 is almost done, and a brand-new decade soon commences. Where do things stand?

  • The environment: Glaciers collapse; the Amazon burns – despite huge strides in renewable energy (and, in some instances, conservation) our climate, biodiversity and remaining habitats are in crisis. Solutions are attainable but typically stymied by corporate greed and government intransigence. Will the EU’s Green Deal be successful – and, even more importantly, inspire others to be as radical? While we all should be doing our bit (fly less, Alex; eat less meat!), it’s mostly down to countries, blocs and major energy companies if we’re going to stave off systemic environmental catastrophe. The clock’s ticking…

  • Tech: There are definitely upsides to smartphone ubiquity. With a few swipes and taps, you can easily meet new people, stay in touch with old friends, transfer money, get takeout or summon a cab. And yet accompanying these perks is a tech-fuelled dystopia of increasing alienation, polarisation, bullying, interference, and distraction. Big Tech spies on us, sells our data, fragments our attention and facilitates the dissemination of misinformation. Drastic change is required – from how these companies are regulated (hello, antitrust) to the ways in which we use (and relate to) their services. Many of us have a much stronger awareness of technology’s pitfalls and dangers than we did in 2010 (though given the proliferation of smart speakers, there are still lessons to be learnt). The rise in techno-scepticism is good: let’s hope it translates into technology use that is wiser, safer and more beneficial.

  • Media: Over the last 10 years, the tools I use to ply my trade have stayed remarkably unchanged — notebook, pencil, voice recorder, laptop. The future of journalism remains every bit as precarious as in 2010, too. It’s not all gloom: some non-profit newsrooms are thriving, while the likes of the New York Times, and FT have shown it’s possible to build robust subscription-based businesses. And yet, the industry is still haemorrhaging jobs, freelance rates are stagnant, and newspaper and magazine closures continue unabated. In short, there’s still much to be figured out. Personally, in the years to come, I’d like to expand beyond text to become an audio (and possibly visual) storyteller too. Or maybe in the 2020s I’ll just become an organic veggie/cannabis farmer, natural winemaker or venerable ceramicist instead…

  • Politics: In this year alone there’s been Brexit drama, a Tory landslide, Ramaphoria, post-Ramaphoria, load-shedding, SAA nosediving, collapsing municipal coalitions, Maimanexit, impeachment, looming US presidential elections… at least it’s not dull. It’s impossible to predict the next week, never mind envision the coming decade so I’ll refrain from the latter. Still, I hope that civility, caution, compassion and constructive engagement in civic life and political discourse stages a comeback someday. Michelle 2024?!

In short, I’ve got more questions than answers. There is doubt, fear and frustration but also hope — in the power of communities and movements to achieve change and that science (might?) prevail over destructive greed.

As the world continues to speed up, I’ve also got a deepening appreciation for slowing down (and even stopping still). As life gets noisier and more digital, I treasure the quiet and the analogue more than ever. Time on mountains, by the ocean, in the forest and the semi-desert. Dog walks, wild swims, printed pages, writing by hand, moka pot coffee. Good food, wine and conversation with the ones I love. In a world that’s constantly changing, I guess some things don’t change all that much, after all.


I’m impressed you made it this far! You’ve just finished a special festive edition of my monthly(ish) dispatch, which I started as an alternative to social media. Replies always welcome (especially if they contain restaurant tips, hot gossip, movie suggestions or a picture of you in a Christmas sweater).

There's a bat in the sink

Cabin fever in California

Greetings from Mendocino

A cabin in the forest with a wood-burning stove is exactly as idyllic as it sounds — until there’s a bat scratching against the walls and zooming around your head as you’re trying to fall asleep.

The following evening, I discovered our furry friend had decamped to the kitchen sink. There was none of the previous night’s daring acrobatics on display; instead, it was panicked and flailing — a state I was quickly reduced to too. Fortunately, my (extremely calm) partner was able to scoop up the little thing with some Tupperware and fling it through the open door into the night.

I’m normally quite relaxed about nature stuff: I’ve hiked in Big Five bushveld and done 10km swims in shark-infested False Bay. And yet… bats terrify me. In spite of me being armed with a rabies vaccine, they remain the stuff of OCD-fuelled nightmares. Perhaps it’s time for a booster shot.


A return to redwood country

Soggy bats notwithstanding, Mendocino county (about three hours north of San Francisco) is my favourite part of California and I’m delighted to be back. Since returning, I’ve spent a decent chunk of time huddled indoors, quietly working on a few slowly gestating editorial projects while rain lashes the windows. In between storms, there have been misty walks on crumbling bluffs and jogs along a lonesome old logging road, gulping lungfuls of crisp, coniferous-scented air.

We’ve managed to revisit a few favourites from our summer visit — for example, enjoying harbourside bisque and a codfish sandwich at Princess Seafood and browsing the well-stocked shelves of the Gallery Bookshop. New haunts include the Cafe Beaujolais (extremely yummy lunch) and The Madrones (for a hattrick of Anderson Valley wine tastings).


Books, pods and scribbles

Okay, Okay, Okay, Finuala Dowling’s novel inspired by the student protests at the University of Cape Town is smart, funny, achingly poignant and powerful. Read my review in Business Day.

On Medium, I’ve written a rant about The Economist’s outrageous lack of diversity, and how it affects its coverage of the world.

Disappointing sequels:

  1. I started reading Winter, the sequel to Ali Smith’s amazing Autumn, and just couldn’t get into it. Have you read it; should I be patient and plough on?

  2. After about 20 extremely dull and disappointing pages, I also gave up on Find Me — the follow-up to Andre Aciman’s dazzling Call Me By Your Name. Don’t buy it!

Luckily, I’m now slowly and joyfully wading into Richard Powers’s transcendentally delightful The Overstory. With trees (my favourite thing!) at its core, it’s the perfect novel to read in a forest — or anywhere, actually.

Audio I’ve recently been enjoying includes:

  • Evil Genius: a panel of comedians skewers the reputations of the famous and (in)famous — including Amy Winehouse and JFK. Thought-provoking, hilarious (and sometimes a little sick)

  • Tunnel 29: the can’t-switch-it-off true story of a tunnel built underneath the Berlin Wall to rescue refugees from East Berlin

  • Cautionary Tales: Economist Tim Harford’s accounts of catastrophic mistakes from history — and the lessons we can learn from them


A little shout-out: The Wilds

A few months ago, I interviewed James Delaney for MONOCLE about how he and a band of volunteers have transformed The Wilds in Joburg from a derelict, dangerous park into a beautiful and safe sanctuary for all. James has launched a crowdfunding campaign (where you’re able to buy several of his gorgeous art prints — like the one below) to raise money for further improvements. Support this phenomenal cause — and get yourself some terrific South African art while you’re at it.


If you made it this far, thanks for reading! You’ve just finished my monthly dispatch about where I’ve been travelling, what I’ve been reading/listening to, and what I’ve been writing. It’s my old-school alternative to social media.

Feel free to hit “reply”! Travel tips, gossip, article ideas, podcast recommendations, rabies vaccines and news of novels you can’t live without are always welcome.

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