At the start of 2017 I said that I wanted to travel to Asia and Asia-Pacific that year. From May I got to work in reporting and public information for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (or, more simply, OCHA) in South Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh).
At the beginning of December and following these busy assignments I decided to make my way around India, Australia and Thailand for the first time visiting Kolkata, Sydney and Bangkok. Three weeks later I was back in London spending a lovely Christmas break with my 84-year-old Mum, my brother and his family.
Then I hit the road again in the first week of 2018, taking in Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Min and Hanoi in Vietnam; Colombo and Galle in Sri Lanka; and Bali, Indonesia where I am now. It’s actually cheaper to be here than expensive London, whilst waiting for my next assignment, plus I get to miss all that city’s tiresome cold winter.
I like the song that blasts out from the Vietjet flight on landing in Vietnam (the link below will take you to the YouTube video).
I spent a pleasant Boxing Day at one of my favourite walking spots in London: Wimbledon Common which is like a little forest haven hidden away in the corner of South London. Weather was on the mild side, made even more agreeable by the sun peeking out on numerous occasions.
Wimbledon Village is ‘quaint’: not only does it boast the Common, but there are boutique shops including Comptoir des Cotonniers, Cath Kidston, Jigsaw and Hobbs; restaurants and cafes; and smart pubs. I wasn’t alone in heading for this green space as there were quite a few families enjoying the Monday-that-felt-like-a-Sunday Boxing Day walkabout. But I didn’t mind. Here I could still disappear in private solitude and reflect on wherever my thoughts flew, including plans for the coming year. To quote William Wordsworth:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills…
Travel highlights of 2016 were Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; and Zadar, Croatia. On my wish list for 2017 are Asia and Asia Pacific.
Music I’ve enjoyed this year (not necessarily produced in 2016):
Love+War (album) by Kwabs – I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but who cares?
Making Time and Mirrorwriting (albums) by Jamie Woon.
The Best of Earl Klugh – laid back lounge jazz and I love it.
Feel So Close (single) by Calvin Harris
Breaking the Rules (single) by Jack Savoretti – appeals to my adventurous side.
Rodrigo: Concerto de Aranjuez by Xuefei Yang
In Christ Alone (album) by Keith and Kristyn Getty
2016 Anthem – Fighter by Christina Aguilera
I’ve been reading a few books on writing this year and these included On Writing Well by William Zinsser; and Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clarke.
I often pass by this steel band orchestra in Croydon High Street, usually at the weekends. I think they’re great, and I defy you not to shake your shoulders in time to their sunny music. I like that it’s a mixed group – agewise and ethnically. You can find their website here.
If you’re looking for a work hub with 24/7 access, check out WeWork. These co-working/office spaces are building a reputation for themselves. They are located in a growing list of cities that include London, New York City, Buenos Aires, Sydney and Hong Kong.
I took these photos at their cheese and wine happy hour at the London Paddington branch on Thursday 8th December.
Last week I visited three locations, two in the suburbs just outside the City/Central London. The first was another happy stumble-upon – actually, I usually glance aside at it while jogging past. Start Up Croydon is a co-working and business centre near Wandle Park and next to the tram station.
Aesthetically it’s airy, pleasantly modern and a good working space for the freelancer/business owner. It offers services a freelancer would expect such as broadband, meeting rooms and kitchen facilities. It also hosts business seminars and breakfast mornings. The hub compares favourably with others I’ve seen, and I hope it does well, as it’s a welcome service to the area. Start Up Croydon opens right through to Saturday.
Start Up Croydon is in the Weatherill House Business Centre, New South Quarter, 23 Whitestone Way, Croydon CR0 4WF
For more information visit their website here
I’ve written about the British Library in previous posts, but down the road is the lesser known St Pancras library, for those looking for a place to work around Kings Cross. Near the Google building in St Pancras Square, its colourful seats and wide tables make it a good spot, and there’s also a café on the ground floor. For a break and change of scene, or after work relaxation, there are bars and restaurants to hand, including Notes which serves craft coffees and beers.
Finally – there are the Interchange Atrium and Interchange Triangle co-working spaces in Camden Town, part of the Nomad workspace group. Please don’t be deceived by the photos: Interchange Atrium is a lot bigger than you think and, in my opinion, more impressive, while you can work with a view over London at Interchange Triangle, its sister building down the road. This is an en-pointe work hub in the middle of seriously cool, bustling trendy modern markets (the Atrium is in the Stable Yard market, the Triangle in Camden Lock market).
Step outside and lunch is immediately served: wafts of garlic and seasonal mixed cinnamon spices in wine; brightly coloured curries and tacos swirled about in huge woks and cauldrons; crafted jewellery and clothes – these are just some of the scents and sights, made complete by the waterway running through Camden Lock. And that’s not to mention the myriad of eateries and things to do in Camden Town itself.
Check out these and other work spaces offered through Nomad here
The second event I mentioned in my previous post was at the London School of Economics (LSE) on the 1st December, and nods to International Human Rights Day on December 10th.
Fresh from a flight, Professor Philip Alston delivered his lecture on populism to a packed theatre of listeners.
Right-wing populism was the focus, not only in a Trump-led United States, but also in Turkey, Russia, France, the United Kingdom (in relation to the rise of Farage and UKIP) and other countries. Whilst not quite a doomsday scenario, he said he believes we are certainly at a watershed point in history. At this time of ‘new word disorder’ it’s time to rethink our assumptions and re-evaluate our strategies about human rights, he said. In his view the key issues are:
Yes, he did offer some pointers towards potential solutions, including his urgent appeal for a social rights agenda that would address everyone and not only the most marginalised.
(My take on that last point is that he may or not be right. But I think one should have something concrete in place before viciously tearing up the rug from under peoples’ feet).
But his (almost) final pertinent point was the need for every individual to think about what their own personal human rights role or contribution might be, however seemingly small.
Professor Alston has worked broadly for the United Nations over many years but hasn’t been afraid to criticise it either, most recently in its treatment of Haitians over the cholera outbreak – read UN Chief apologises for Haiti cholera, six years later.
Find and read The Economist’s review of the report The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John Judis (‘They want their countries back’ page 71 Dec 3rd -9th 2016)