Famous Ankles – Dr Martens

marcus-michaels-sol-jubrail-dr-martens-social

Some fine looking ankles right there.

You’re probably thinking “of course they’re some fine looking ankles, you fool, these guys are obviously professional ankle models!”. If that’s what you’re thinking (and there’s no point in lying to yourself), then you’d be oh so wrong. That’s me and my buddy Sol.

Okay, you can’t even tell it’s us and there’s not really much to talk about but still… I’m stoked about appearing on the Dr Martens’ homepage. We even had a stylist to keep everything fine tuned for the photographer.

marcus-michaels-sol-jubrail-dr-martens

I’m also stoked because they threw in a pair of docs to sweeten the deal. So fresh.

Thanks @drmartensofficial for the damn fine shoes. I love free stuff. #freshtodeath

A post shared by Marcu$ (@marcusmichaels) on

 

Freelancing: Is the risk worth the reward?

I love being my own boss. I love controlling every aspect of my life, from managing my finances and choosing my clients to taking time off whenever I want.There’s no one to tell me that with the 365 days we’re graced with in a year I can only have 25 of those working days off. It doesn’t make sense to me.

The way we work as a society is broken. All evolutionary aspects aside let’s look at something simple like daylight, especially when it gets dark early. You see, we as a species need sunlight, the human body absorbs vitamins from it, it affects our mood, sets our body clocks and so much more, yet we’re actively avoiding it.

A typical Winter’s working day:

Wake up, it’s still dark > commute, while it’s dark > get to work, it’s getting lighter > hopefully spend an hour outside for lunch in the daylight > leave work and, what’s this… oh, it’s dark again. Boom. Day over, rinse and repeat.

But hey, what can you do about it?

Well actually, you can change it.

There’s a lot of hype around freelancing at the moment. Breaking the shackles of a permanent workplace to sit on a beach in some foreign land, laptop by your side, sipping on cocktails.

That’s the dream, right?

However, is the risk of leaving a financially secure job worth it, and is it actually possible?

For a lot of people being away from the office just wouldn’t work because your job may involve specialist or cumbersome equipment or your role requires your physical presence.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I sit at a single desk all day?
  • Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?
  • Is my work computer based?
  • Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?
  • Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

Do I sit at a single desk all day?

Being desk-bound can be a key giveaway that you can probably work from anywhere in the world. Being at a desk means you’re getting stuff done on a table. If stationery and a computer is all you use – you’re golden.

Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?

If you need a lot of specialist equipment, e.g – high-powered microscopes, centrifuges, studio equipment – basically anything hard to carry, then your options are more limited. Stay employed or invest in your own equipment and start your own company.

Is my work computer-based?

Computers are so portable and so powerful today that if all your work is based in pixels then you’re already free. Well, trapped within the confines of your hard drive (hello cloud computing!) but essentially you can pick up that foldable chunk of circuit boards and crack on anywhere with an internet connection and electricity. That’s most of the world.

Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?

A lot of jobs involve real life meetings with real life people. 90% of meetings are bullshit and a waste of time. Saying that, however, it’s always best to meet people in person if you’re demonstrating a product, giving a pitch or presentation, etc. but with services like Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and whatnot – you can attend meetings from anywhere (just make sure your backdrop is appropriate… #NoToiletMeetings).

Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

A lot of larger companies store their files on a local server. It’s a good idea for security and always having the most up-to-date files at any given time. Being away from the office means you won’t have access to these files. There are ways around this by having files sent to you, though one issue here comes with large files. Maybe you’re a designer needed to access a 4GB photoshop file, or a video editor with hundreds of gigabytes of footage to download. In these situations you either need to drop by in person or have some nut busting internet speeds.

Is it worth it for me?

Still reading? Good. Maybe you’ve thought about it and yeah, you can do this. If not, there’s still plenty of options – not for this article though.

From the outside looking in, this seems like a no-brainer, but actually ask yourself “Is this lifestyle worth it for me”. Everyone has their own battles and everyone has a different situation. Can you up and leave without any responsibility to family, friends, pets or plants? The beach life isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, I prefer the coffee shop scene in a city (#peoplewatching).

What I’m getting at is that only you can figure out if it’s worth it.

This is what makes it the hardest part for most people. Everyone can give you advice but only you can choose to take it. Having a steady job with financial security takes a lot of worry out of life, and if the worst should happen you usually get at least a month or so to figure out your next step. On the flip side, you could argue that there’s no ‘jobs-for-life’ anymore so why should you trust someone to feed you their work to do when you can go and get your own work?

Freelancing is a double-edged sword and what you put into it, you get out of it. You can make as much or as little as you want. Don’t feel like working for a couple of months? That’s great, but you won’t make a penny. Want to work solid for a couple of months? Even better – you could make more in those two months than four in your old job.

Let’s weigh up some pros and cons.

Cons Pros
No steady monthly paycheck Ability to earn more in a month than before
No one to guide you You’re your own boss
Pressure to acquire your own clients Build your perfect client list
Clients can stop giving you work You can refuse work for asshole clients
Harder to plan for the future Able to save more money, faster
It can be lonely Live and work where you want
Harder to meet new people The people you meet are usually likeminded
No routine 🙁 NO ROUTINE! 😀
You have to wear every hat in the business You have full control over your finances
You have to market yourself properly You can brand yourself however you want
People may give you a hard time as it’s not a ‘real job’ It’s way better than a ‘real job’
No pay on bank holidays or sick days

Anymore for anymore? Leave ‘em in the comments below.

I’m not here to tell you what to do with yourself, how to live your life or what’s in your best interests. Freelancing isn’t for everyone and unless you try it you’ll never know the control and freedom (good and bad!) you can have over your life.

For me, I’m enjoying the freelance lifestyle which may or may not end up being long-term, though by taking this risk I know exactly what I do like and what I don’t.

Looking for a way to get started?

Design, Photography, Copywriting and Coding are all great examples of things you can do on the move. If you want to go down the coding route because you want to build websites, apps and/or useful tools for specific problems I’d highly recommend Treehouse. It’s an online learning resource (the best one I’ve used) that teaches how to code, design principles and even how to start a business. Give it a go with my free trial.

More Travelling Summaries…

I’m a terrible blogger. I have to come to terms with this. Here I am, galavanting around the world and one of the things I wanted to do was blog it all. Everything. All the little details, what I had for lunch, the people I met, where I stayed, awesome local knowledge.

I need to (and plan to) write more detailed individual posts about each country, experience, activity, whatever.

Forget about it.

The last time I blogged I was in Krabi. From Krabi we flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and stayed there for ten days, then dropped down to Singapore on a luxury bus (and unlike the ‘Luxurious VIP’ bus that came off the road in Cambodia, this one was really really nice).

After ten days in what I believe is the safest city in the world we flew (Singapore airport it awesome) to Australia. Spent a week in Brisbane (AirBnB), then got a JUCY campervan. I won’t go into details about us having to change campers because of a cockroach infestation, dead batteries and a sunroof that wouldn’t close right before a heavy heavy thunderstorm; but it was really fun and Australia is an amazingly chilled place with amazing coffee. Like, seriously – they know their coffee.

A month done in Oz and we fly out of Sydney and into to Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s relatively small but still with a load of untouched landscape. We stayed in Auckland for a month (another AirBnB) but rented a car and drove all around the north island (even did a few days in Wellington). We also checked out the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo which was a highlight of the trip that I’ll never forget.

Yet again, another month passes and from New Zealand we head to the states. We land in Los Angeles, stay in Hollywood for a week, visit a few key places – checked out Santa Monica, rented a car and road tripped through Santa Barbara, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Yosemite (jaw droppingly large trees), Las Vegas (gambled on Red… landed on Black), down to Palm Springs (#cougartown) coming full circle and dropping the car off back in Hollywood.

From Los Angeles we get the Amtrak from Union Station – 43 hours sitting on a sleeper train with no horizontal laying space – we travel through California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico (picked up a traditional Navajo blanket in Albuquerque), Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and finally Illinois where we get off in Chicago. It was an intense couple of days but with the stunning views and enthusiastic new Guatemalan friend sitting on the seat next to us (whose goal it was to teach us Spanish in its entirety in that one trip), it was fun.

Now I’m writing this in another AirBnB in Lakeview, Chicago and so far we’ve walked along the lake, checked out Navy Pier, visited The Loop and tasted far too much of the amazing food here. Oh, and we saw someone order a ‘chocolate milkshake’ at this burger joint that doesn’t actually sell milkshakes…

…they sell burgers, hot dogs, a whole lot of abuse and a black chick who gets her tits out and shakes them at you if you order a chocolate milkshake. Chicago is pretty cool.

Next stop: New York.

(or obesity, whatever comes first.)

10 little big things I’ve learned in South East Asia

Travelling through south East Asia has already taught me so much about the world, life and myself (cringe!). I could go on about the pursuit of happiness, how important family is, the kindness of strangers, blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very valid and life changing stuff.

Everyone wants to tell you how to change your life with big, bold, life changing advice. I probably will too, but for now here are 10 little things that blew my mind.

10. The Bum Gun is amazing.

Holy crap, why have I never seen this in the UK. I’ve seen the Bidet in a lot of homes but man, that’s a lot of work. Using a Bum Gun on the other hand, means not even having to get up and you’ll save a ton of money on toilet paper.

Imagine a garden hose next to the toilet that instead of using to spray on your on your flowers, you spray on your flower… *wink wink, nudge nudge*. Next level cleanliness.

9. Thai Chili Paste is the shit.

It comes in a tiny jar and starts with a consistency similar to strawberry jam – mix this with anything and turn your boring, lifeless, good-for-nothing food into a gourmet treat. Rice, soup, pasta, even spread on bread. A little goes a very long way and sits firmly in the “Why did I not know about this as a student?!” category.

8. Planning is okay but not essential.

With a plan you’re unstoppable, without one you’re unpredictable. Throughout this trip the only things we planned were accommodation over Christmas and New Years near the start of our journey, and even that changed. It’s good to have to have a roadmap but don’t be scared of the dirt track.

7. You’re going to worry, even if it’s about not worrying.

What makes us human is the constant questioning of every possible variable in our lives, all the damn time. Are we fed? Thirsty? Safe? Is that mouse coming back when I’m asleep? Are those guys gonna steal my kidneys? If it happens it happens, don’t worry,  – or worry that you need to not worry.

6. Plane wings can flap.

They shouldn’t, but the way I’ve seen a plane (from the inside!) bounce across the clouds is kind of reassuring. Those things are resilient.

5. I’m a tourist.

Calling yourself a nomad, traveller, explorer, wanderer doesn’t change the fact that you’re a tourist. You’re touring the world. It sure makes us feel superior and cultured to try and avoid the ‘touristy’ places, and perhaps we’re not the stereotype of a tourist but the fact is – if you’re not a local, the only people you’ll be kidding are other tourists. And yourself.

4. Money can buy happiness.

Not in a sense of a literal exchange of money for happiness, but in the sense that if you know you’ve got enough to eat, get from A to B (and worst case scenario C) and a bed for the night, then there’s a less worry and more happy… just remember number 7 and don’t get too bogged down.

3. Bugs are everywhere.

Embrace them. The majority of them won’t kill you especially in the UK – there’s nothing to worry about – and they’re an affordable source of protein (there was an ant colony in my Pineapple).

2. Home comforts are awesome.

I can’t wait to get back and play Playstation, order a Domino’s pizza and get a Pick ‘n’ Mix and that’s okay. The things we miss fill the mind with happy nostalgia.

1. Face value means nothing.

You may think the fancy (and relatively expensive) beachfront restaurant will have better tasting food than that of the guy standing outside his home serving food from a stand in unmatched plastic bowls onto rusty tables with questionable hygiene standards, and, well, you’d be wrong.

Also, just because something looks artificially colourful, doesn’t make it sweet.

 

The 19:35 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

train-carriage

train-food

bunk-master-flex

bottom-bunk

chickens-on-the-track

forest-laundry

There are two sleeper trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai that depart every evening. We chose the later one — as do many others — purely for it’s slower service.

Slower service?!

That’s right. In an air conditioned carriage with our seats-that-transform-into-bunk-beds beds (and after eating a suspicious looking Sweet & Sour Chicken and Thai Red Curry with an unidentified meat) we settled down for the 14 hour train journey. It may seem counter productive to go for a slower train, but the beauty of those extra hours means that rolling into Chiang Mai we were greeted with views of northern Thailand’s rural residents and vast forestry doused in the morning sunshine.

The train ride itself was an experience not soon forgotten. We arrived at Bangkok train station — a hotbed for all the scam artists you read about everywhere. We’ve been lucky so far. We sat down for an iced tea at the station’s Black Canyon coffee shop while we waited to board. Nothing to report except for an old frail Thai man that kept staring at Charlotte and hocking spit into a cup. He also had a long white beard that made him look like a wizard.

We finally boarded the train I was surprised at the size of the seats you get, like mini leather sofas that convert into beds. The first part of the trip while the seats are still seats you’re offered food from servers walking up and down the aisle, whom we realised afterwards weren’t actually working with the train’s food carriage. It made sense of the luke-warm cling filmed dishes we were served, still, it tasted alright.

Charlotte and I were saying before the trip that the best case scenario of our seat neighbours were a similar aged travelling couple and the worst case scenario would basically resemble the coffee shop wizard… well we must have done something right as we were seated next to a similar aged Canadian couple — really nice people and the first lengthy English-spoken conversation we’ve had since we arrived.

Everyone had settled in, eaten and the guy who converts seats to beds (let’s call him the Bunk Master) was coming round converting the seats to beds.

If you ever get this train — pay the extra for the lower bunk and also bring a hoody or something because the AC is on overdrive.

I shared the bottom bunk with Charlotte for a bit while we hung out. The lower bunk, once the curtain is closed is well shaded from the light and AC — I later moved up to the top bunk for some shut eye and it was like sleeping in an open-top igloo during the day; freezing cold and really bright. The curtains aren’t placed high enough so it felt like the light that lights the train was in my bunk space.

The conditions generally sound nice but I’ve got to mention — this is a Diesel chugging beast of a train with holes as toilets, bangs and snaps, chug chug chugging noises all night long. You get used to the noise, the bits that woke me up though was being thrown side to side, planning the escape route in my head for when the train topples over. Luckily that was at night and the too bunk doesn’t have a window because when we hit sunlight and I moved to the bottom bunk which does have a window, along with the beautiful sights of the locals farming, building and cleaning when we got into the forest we were riding high, like, the tips of some massive trees weren’t as high as us. The thought of toppling is bad, but the thought of toppling into a bottomless descent is worse.

Those thoughts soon departed as the sights filled my vision. The surroundings gave a sense of calmness, I could already tell it was going to be nicer than Bangkok, but maybe being in Bangkok will make us appreciate Chiang Mai more.

Drowse Exhibition, Bangkok

out-draw-studio

drowse-blurb

light-stool

Art-by-Ekkalak-Satiatawat

drowse-selfie

The malls in Thailand are surprisingly tourist-free. It wasn’t until half-an-hour of strolling around the place we realised we were the only western faces there! There seems to be a pattern forming with this happening. Anyway, this post isn’t about the mall but the walk to it.

We passed this yellow building which we didn’t initially notice but instead noticed the sign with a roughly written ‘Drowse Exhibition’ on it. We stare at it for a few moments before this guy walks out with an enviable moustache and all around cool-person persona. He invited us in to look at the gallery. We oblige and enter the building. He takes us through a door and up a set of stairs… the place looks abandoned – uh oh. We go up another flight of steps and here we are, at this really intimately sized exhibition. Some really nice work on display and talking to our moustached mate (his work on display behind us in the selfie), find out he’s actually an art teacher for the lessons taking place on the ground floor. He takes some photos of us, we get a selfie with him and we all leave best of friends, well, Facebook friends. And we liked the Facebook Page.

Bangkok: Day One

After sleeping for more than 15 hours (well deserved by the way), the day was pretty much gone and we left to explore at roughly 5 o’clock, Thai time. We were still foggy eyed from the trip over and didn’t want anything too strenuous so we did what we do and went shopping.

Anywhere new we go, we like to walk places to get a feel for the area and really explore… 8km later and we hit CentralWorld, this crazy big mall that houses a whole lot of stuff over 5 enormous floors. I’m not gonna lie, the walk knackered me is probably part of the reason why I when it came to ordering a beautiful chicken noodle soup from a street vendor outside (it was a lucky dip whether we got a chicken foot or something, er, meatier), I managed to spill half the bowl scalding my wrist. If that wasn’t enough I also dropped my fresh pomegranate juice breaking the bottle and spilling it everywhere. If this all happened at the same time then perhaps it would have been a forgivable passing moment, but the 5 minute interlude means I’m probably just an idiot when tired.

The food began to digest and I was feeling myself again. Charlotte and I began to explore the mall. We looked around for a bit and then stopped for some coffee at Black Canyon Coffee. I was going to get my usual black Americano but the menu was really persuasive and instead I ordered an Iced Hazelnut Frappucino and Charlotte got a Watermelon Smoothie. Both were great and we head off to explore more floors. The mall closed at 10 so we head out where we wandered through the swanky bars on the lower floor with a cheeky ice-white Lamborghini peeking from around the corner. This definitely wasn’t where I parked my car and we found the exit only to be greeted by a 25 foot, inflatable Snoopy surrounded by another 40/50 mini Snoopys. Some sort of tribal ritual possibly? More likely a marketing stunt? Either way we took some photos before hailing a taxi to take us back to our still-warm bed.

This taxi driver — like the first one — couldn’t find our hotel either.

Day Two: Khao San Road.

London to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi

IMG_0449.JPGIMG_8040.JPGIMG_0450.JPGIMG_0451.JPGIMG_0452.JPGIMG_0453.JPGIMG_8045.JPGIMG_0454.JPGIMG_8052.JPGIMG_0456.JPGIMG_0457.JPGIMG_0455.JPG
Setting off.

I’m not usually phased by much and setting off travelling didn’t seem that big of a deal — until the night before when I freaked out about the size and weight of my hand luggage! “They won’t let me on the plane!”, “it’ll get destroyed as checked luggage!”, “I need to get rid of all me clothes!”. It ended up being fine and in retrospect the panic I placed on my backpack was actually more likely the idea of travelling finally sinking in and how unprepared I was for it. The next morning I woke up and instead of panic, a serene calmness washed over me. I left the house and however prepared I was or was not — it didn’t matter — I had left.

Leaving on a jet plane.

When it comes to flying, I’m accustomed to a certain type of experience. Anything less than the cramped, rushed and lack of empathy just really doesn’t sit right with me — complements from RyanAir, of course.

Wait. What’s that you say? RyanAir is actually really really terrible and no one should be subject to being treated like aviated cattle?!

Well blow me down; you’re right!

London to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi with the sky-high-luxury Etihad Airways. Window seats on the wing, as requested for both flights. Lamb Kofta with Basmati Rice and Olive Sauce for dinner, served with a lovely feta infused side salad and topped off with a Chocolate Orange Delice for desert. Food at 37000 feet had never tasted so good!

Then there’s the entertainment. Films like Lucy, 22 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy, Begin Again, countless TV shows and my personal favourite, outside cameras so you can see the plane land from the pilot’s perspective. I could go on and on about this little window of happiness. 750 hours of entertainment at the tip of my finger (touch screen technology too). The food, free drinks and entertainment were only made better by the overear headphones, fleece lined blanked and mini toiletries kit that greeted us on our seat before take off.

The 7 hour trip from London to Abu Dhabi just flew by, and despite the bad puns, after three hours in the Abu Dhabi airport checking out their array of watches and hanging out in Burger King with a coke, we had another 6 of it all over again.

On the flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok the place was a little smaller and had three seats instead for two next to the window but the screens were better and they had a USB and universal charger for my juice hungry devices. They also had WiFi but the price was sky-high so that didn’t takeoff for us.

Touch down.

Landing in Bangkok we were ready to get to our hotel and plonk out. We booked a cab inside the airport as every guide book and internet article has advised – 1,200 baht and I can’t help feel a little ripped off. We happily paid anyway because you can’t put a price on peace of mind and the also the sandman was getting agitated waiting for us.

After roughly an hour and a half of our driver getting out at every Tuk Tuk station and asking for directions, we made it to the hotel. The UMA Residence looks lovely on the website but man, arriving here just made our 20 hour trip worth every minute.

Then we signed in and our room was occupied… so they gave us a free upgrade. Hello bedtime!

Home Is Where The Clouds Are

Charlotte leaving Malta

Lexi and Marcus looking dapper

The Shed's Lounge

The Shed's Decking Area

Shed's Kitchen

Charlotte happy in the kitchen

Shed's Comfy Bedroom

Charlotte nomnomnoming

Fine Fields

Misty Morning Field

Cheeky Lex

No Name Street

Sandwich in Sandwich

Charlotte Skimming Whitstable

Charlotte walking by Beach Huts

Seagulls Scavenging

Brum (kind of) car in Whitstable

Signwriting in Whitstable

We boarded a plane drenched in clear skies and sun we landed in what can only be described as a colour – grey. Landing in England is like someone’s sucked the colour saturation out of life. Thankfully I’m starting to see more blue!

We’ve been back in the UK for just over a week now, although it doesn’t feel that long as we haven’t actually been at home that much.

We arrived back on Thursday morning and as soon as we said hello to everyone and dropped our stuff off we were straight out the door again to the shops! The reason we came back was for my cousin’s wedding and as I’d lost a load of weight – I didn’t have a suit that fit. I bought a grey suit from River Island that was okay but nothing special. It was good for a backup if I couldn’t find anything else before the wedding on Saturday.

Charlotte had found this amazing “Rustic Shed” on Airbnb (not sure how it can be called a shed though, it was bigger than our London flat!). It’s based about 10 minutes away from Sandwich – the place, not the food (unfortunately) – which was perfect as the wedding’s reception was taking place over there in The Bell Hotel. We decided to go up a night before and leave a couple days later so we could take our time and enjoy the area. The shed was incredible! It had everything you’d need, an awesome kitchen with breakfast bar and a really comfy sofa which pulled out into a bigger-than-a-bed sofa bed that faced a huge TV with freeview and stacks of DVDs.

Debs, our host, was bubbly, friendly and pretty much me if I was a woman – she was into photography, gadgets, super enthusiastic about everything and an all round really nice person who was easy to get on with and had the coolest little dog.

The best part for me about staying there was the morning views – coming out of the bedroom there’s a big window overlooking a misty field where horses play. There’s some decking with a picnic bench right outside. Eating breakfast there was a highlight (I couldn’t not have sandwich).

I’d recommend going there, meeting Debs and staying in an awesome flat overlooking horses playing in the field.

Anyway – back to my suit shenanigans. On the way up to the shed we naturally pass by Lakeside, a massive shopping mall just off the M25. We popped in there because I still wanted a better suit, Charlotte still needed a dress and they’ve got a good food-court. We got there, browsed a bit and then decided to split up and reconvene after we’ve got what we needed so we could enjoy the rest of our time there at a leisurely pace.

One hour later, Charlotte found her dress and I had turned into the girl. Still trying on suits, still rushing around and then I ended up in Next. Their suit department was massive. I found a really nice dark teal suit that fit perfectly so I reserved that, ran to the car, returned my River Island suit, went back to Next and almost bought the wrong suit! The suit I liked I asked to be put behind the till for later, an when I asked for it back the girl brought back a vivid blue suit. She said “was this the one”, and I was all like “yup” and Charlotte was all like “Are you a moron? That’s a totally different colour and 6 sizes too big” to which I replied “Oh yes, this isn’t the right suit”. The til girl realised her horrible mistake, begged for our forgiveness and of course rectified the problem.

With a suit and accommodation sorted we settled in and then the next day went to Alexi and Kathryn’s wedding. Getting there we must have passed more than 6 churches in the space of a mile and ended up in the wrong one! Luckily we had a few minutes to get to the right one and made it on time to see the bride walk down the aisle (I wish I could say the same for my folks!). The wedding was traditionally English and was beautiful, as was the reception and everyone looked proper dapper. Towards the end of the night some greek music blasted through the speakers. You know it’s good when Zorba the Greek drops and everyone is dancing and clapping and trying to keep up with it.

The morning after the wedding we had breakfast with my family at the pub where they stayed. Getting all the family together in one place at the same time is becoming a rare treat so it’s always enjoyable, especially as the immediate family grows bigger and bigger. After that we went for a walk around Sandwich with Theo, Anna and the kids. It’s a really pretty place and super friendly.

We got back to the shed and Charlotte and I did what we do best. Put on some comfortable clothes and kicked back with our terrible food haul from Tesco (and by terrible I mean amazing), some meat and veg from a local farm shop and watched TV and films for the rest of the day/evening/night. That was pretty great.

On the way home we stopped by the pretty little seaside town of Whitstable (famous for it’s oysters) and took a walk along the pebbled beach and got a 99 flake. Then we went into town – oyster shells everywhere – browsed the boutique shops and left for home.

So now we’re back home about to head out to Hastings and Charlotte’s birthday is coming up on Tuesday and I haven’t got her anything yet. I don’t even have a clue.

Gostra – The Maltese Tradition of Running Up a Greasy Pole

greased-pole-1

greased-pole-2

greased-pole-3

greased-pole-4

greased-pole-5

greased-pole-6

greased-pole-6a

greased-pole-7

greased-pole-8

It’s awesome. The maltese game of Gostra is an age old tradition of greasing up a wooden pole with three flags attached at the end (each of religious meaning) and holding it over the sea. The aim of the game is for crazy brave men run up the pole and (attempt) to capture the flag.

The annual tradition stems back to the Middle Ages where this used to happen all around the islands of Malta and Gozo, but now it’s only held in one place – Spinola Bay – just down the road from where we’re staying in Sliema!

When we got there both sides of the bay were packed with locals, tourists and oversized camera lenses. The people anchored up on their boats definitely had a good view, but without question the best seat (or shall I say bed!) was the guy kicking back on his Lilo floating directly under the pole. DANGGEERR ZOONNEE!

Anyway, the highlight was definitely the nut shots, though the atmosphere when someone caught a flag was pretty cool too.

Then we went and binged on a cous cous chicken wrap, doughnuts and ice-cream.