Monday, 27 September 2010

New York of the North

This is Manchester. Post-Madchester, post-rain, postal code M: Manchester. And I think I'm falling head over heels for her. I've had my eye on the city for a while and made my move just over a week ago. Shiiiit! So it's goodbye Valencia, hello new chapter. A colder, greyer, and slightly more expensive new chapter it might turn out to be, but, hey, this is still an incredibly enticing and exciting city that seems well at ease with the elements. Wind and rain may have nudged earth and fire off the top spots but who gives a former cotton mill. This city will never lose its soul. Sure, this joining of southern man and Northern town is still in its early days - a honeymoon period, you might say - and I'm still finding my feet (which has a bit to do with boots of Spanish leather being wholly unaccustomed to wet cobbles and a lot to do with a cutthroat rental market) but I'm an optimist. And I can spy blue sky over yonder and a number of new articles for the making. So let's raise a glass of spicy Rioja to my 'Out Of Office' Valencia blog for three years of tireless PR and internet-based support and then a tapa of your choice to my new one ( that now contains the writes ups on features I publish, other written work I undertake and a few observations about the use of words. Big cheers to Valencia, here's to Manchester!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Bed post

An interesting job this one...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Western wonder

VIP Valencia

This is the view from Vertical, a restaurant inhabiting the 13th floor of the Confortel hotel. It has a Michelin star and overlooks Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences from the east. It was one of a number of exclusive places that I put in a high-end city guide for luxury mobile phone company Vertu. Aimed at the business traveller who wears off the peg Prada on tour, listens to Genesis on a Bang & Olufsen and has a wine celler bigger than my flat, it was an insider's guide to the glitzy overbelly of my adoptive city. Before you laugh, yes, I have inside knowledge of these places. Okay, that might be through speaking to the chef de rang via email or looking through the online gallery for descriptive prompts but you didn't honestly think that I got to go to all the places I mention, did you?

Malaga revisited (and re-edited)

With the blossom-perfumed, finger-clicking, champers-popping trio of Seville, Granada and Marbella just a few miles away, it’s no wonder Malaga has been treated like the dowdy stepsister all these years. Admittedly, the city lacks the picture-box beauty of Seville, Granada's Alhambra and the millionaire magnetism of Marbella, but these things don't make the perfect holiday, they just give you a few things to tick off, don't they? Plaza de EspaƱa? Check. Flamenco show? Check. Sean Connery and wife? Check. We go to these places to see things we've seen in pictures or heard about from people who've been there. We go there to say we've been there. Not wanting to get all Alain de Botton on you, but what happened to discovery? Sure, you might have an epiphany sitting in a well-recommended tablao or shuffling around the "must sees" with everyone else, but you won't see anything different to what every other punter who's just hopped on a plane with a guide book sees, will you? Go to a part of the world like the Costa de Sol that gets more slagging off in polite conversation than Robert Mugabe, however, and you'll feel like you're on a voyage of discovery. I mean, grilled sardines on the beach, tapas for under €4 a pop and one of the best botanical gardens in Europe - for me it was more like a voyage into paradise. So I tried to convey my enthusiasm for the place in a five-page city guide for the Ryanair Magazine after a brief visit (with this photographer:, and explain that Malaga's charm lies in all the things that make it different from it's neighbours. But I fear that some of my honest talk of a much-maligned, diamond-in-the-rough, city-on-the-up might have been tamed to make it sound a bit more glowing. Ah well, worth a try. (

Friday, 28 May 2010

May day, may day

Slow April, here's for more work in May...

Friday, 23 April 2010

Green living

Bit of a late write up this but... In February I received a commission to 'go green' for the week for the 'Green Issue' of the Vueling inflight magazine, Ling. The idea was simple: to be as eco friendly as possible with regards to recycling, shopping, getting around, eating, etc... and discuss how it affected my everyday. Now, I already consider myself to be a thoughtful if relentlessly hypocritical friend of the earth (like much of the working planet that doesn't live in a tree) so I didn't think this piece would be too much of a challenge. I can't have been thinking straight. My mind must have been busy trying to figure out how wise it was for a magazine promoting a low-cost airline to be running a 'Green Issue'. Anyway, ethics aside and commission underway, the article was certainly a wake-up call to my sleep-walking wastefulness. I fitted timers to boilers, stopped eating meat, lowered my heating tariff, cycled everywhere, wore a few more layers of clothes (Valencian flats are built to keep cool, which is great in 35 degrees but bad news in 5 – the magic number on the thermostat during February's 'eco week') and sorted a 'pre-eco week' shop into literally a dozen bin bags. At the end of the experiment, when I was lugging those dozen bags full of plastics, metals, milk cartons, wine bottles and food waste down my stairs and then to the communal bins at the end of our road, I got thinking. Not just about how much of my money I was needlessly giving away to an energy company, but about the amount of other peoples' shit I'm willing to pay for and then dispose of in my own free time. Bastards! Never again. I resolved that I wouldn't become more eco-friendly because I love the planet, but because I hate getting treated like a mug.