Hot Strawberry Wine at a Christmas Market in Budapest

The snowfall was patchy and half-hearted, like a 50-year-old woman’s attempt at giving up her 40-a-day habit. It came down in a flurry for a few minutes as I weaved my way through the dense crowds of this night-time Budapest Christmas market. I was thankful; I mean, what Christmas Market is complete without a dusting…

A Twitchy Tourette’s Guy in Stockholm, Sweden

Watching the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden, I was standing next to a man with Tourette’s. He fuck was a head taller than me shit and most other  people and kept checking his watch. He was an older fuck guy, about 45 or 50 at a fuck guess shit….

Meanwhile, Somewhere in a Place No One’s Ever Heard Of…

If you don’t know where Bratislava is, you’re forgiven. It’s the end of semester. If you sort of somehow recognise the name from somewhere but you’re not sure where, half marks. If you know that Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia in eastern Europe and a charming little place, you can come sit on teacher’s…

Auschwitz (and Birkenau) with a Million Dead Jews

I’ve seen more than a few memorable things in my time – Machu Picchu, Petra, the Grand Canyon and New York City from the air – but my visit last week to Auschwitz, an hour’s train ride from Kraków, Poland, will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons. I’ll be honest, I walked through…

The Pink Granite Coast, Brittany

The Pink Granite Coast in Brittany on the north coast of France isn’t real. Or rather, it doesn’t look real. It looks like the set of a bad fantasy film; all the rocks look like they’ve been crafted out of plasticine and then painted. I looked at it and I thought I was in someone…

A Two-Week Fatherhood in Brittany, France

I was a father for two weeks. Every day for a fortnight I looked into those adorable little eyes and held those adorable little hands and found some comfort and unconditional affection in a terrible, loveless world. I loved them and they loved me and everything felt like it had a purpose and a meaning….

Customer Service from National Express (with a happy ending!)

Everyone has a horror story about dealing with a particular company or organisation. A severed ear in your KFC bucket, a seven-year wait for a new kidney on the NHS, too much head on your pint at your local, the list is endless. But some companies are hated more than others. Ryanair, for example, is…

Hunting Trolls in Norway

Norway is the land of trolls. Real trolls, not those socially-stunted, hate-fuelled nuisances that lurk on messageboards and shout “faggot nigger” at every rational, reasonable comment and make jokes at the expense of 13-year-old suicide tragedies. No, I’m talking real trolls, 13-foot monstrosities that live in the woods and eat goats. Now, I’ll admit I…

Posh Accents and Latent Homosexuality

Quick, where do specky smartarses with posh accents go before becoming politicians or lawyers or literary critics for the Times Literary Supplement? If you said “school” then congratulations, you’re officially a chav, a redneck, or whatever your country’s version of scum is. The correct answer, of course, is Cambridge, England. I’d also accept Oxford, Eton, any…

On the Water in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul in Turkey is a city so badass that it couldn’t be contained within one puny continent. It was ruled by Greeks as Byzantium and Ottomans as Constantinople and now it’s ruled by Turks as Istanbul and it’s partly in Europe and partly in Asia. If Istanbul was a soap opera, it’d be an hour-long…

A Cosy Night in Paris with a Romanian and an Indian

Picture your bedroom at home. You’ve got a bed in there, a double or a king-size if you’re doing well in life, a single if you’re poor and unloved. You’ve got a TV on a chest of drawers maybe. You’ve got a lamp, a bedside table, a wardrobe, some pictures or paintings on your wall,…