On Jeremy Corbyn and Leadership

This post is not travelling related, but listen: shut up. This post is about politics, it is about ideologies, and it is about bravery.

The UK will have a general election on the 8th of June. Current polls have Labour some 20 points behind the Tories. If nothing changes in the next six weeks, Labour are set to take a pasting, Corbyn will be savaged, and a triumphant Right will cheer the fall of left wing politics across the Western world. Because, you know, the idea of affordable housing and fair pay for nurses is fucking nightmarish. Continue reading

Drink, Play, Loathe: Day 3, Paris


Drink, Play, Loathe – Day 2, Paris

Woke up at 3am because Aish, one of the Canadian girls, was talking in her sleep. Her mumbles continued for some time, then grew into tossing and turning, then thrashing, until at 4am she swung her legs over the bunk, dropped onto the floor, and sleep-sprinted out of the room in her knickers. Her friend Sarah jumped up and grabbed her, then must have remembered not to wake a sleepwalker, and simply followed her out of the dorm. I shrugged and fell back asleep. Continue reading

Drink, Play, Loathe: Day 1, Paris

It’s just after 7pm, and it’s been a strange sort of day. I feel like I’ve done a huge amount, and yet due to my exhaustion none of it feels real. I’ve been dreaming.

After waking in Berlin at 4am, I landed in France at 8.30 this morning and got the train into Paris. I got very confused and lost in the station, and finally arrived at my hostel around 10.45, and tried to check in. The girl looked at me like I was a half wit. Check in isn’t until 2, of course. I took my backpack and slunk off into the city. I decided the Louvre would be first. Continue reading

Drink, Play, Loathe: The Trip

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” 
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

So, I’ve been on a trip of Europe, and kept a diary all the while. If travelling is anything at all, it is unpredictable, and the trip I expected to have was, as is usually the case, radically different to the reality. Modern life is a series of spinning plates, and the more you age, the better you become at keeping them spinning. I am young, and youth is wonderful, but the trade off of so much freedom is that fairly regularly, largely due to my own gross incompetence at being alive, my plates come crashing down around me all at once, and I am left lying bruised and stupid beneath a heap of porcelain. Continue reading

The Berlin Diaries – Devil’s Mountain, Part 2

Previous post: Devil’s Mountain, Part 1

Before I ever tried any psychedelic drugs, I used to imagine that they would be enhanced by going to wild places. However, now that I have dipped a toe into the ocean of psychedelia, I have realised that this is a risky move – doing so increases the likelihood of you freaking out. The experience of a suddenly mutated reality is weird enough in itself without crowding your peripheral vision with terrifying foreign schema. The idea of a tree had baffled me earlier; now I found myself facing down a thousand nightmare frescoes in the bowels of a hidden necropolis.

Maya, however, was having the time of her life.

As I stalked the compound amid gathering storm clouds and grinding violin shrieks, she skipped alongside, marvelling at the artwork. I was loathe to spoil her fun, as I knew my panic was only chemical and would pass. I eventually murmured to Maya that I was scared, however, and she took my hand. I was craving a blanket, an armchair by a fireplace and a cup of tea, not this ravaged Nazi cemetery in a cruel and twisted hellwood. I couldn’t shake off the sickly tendrils of dread. Meanwhile, Maya was following a trail of dog’s paw prints in the mud and wondering aloud whether there might be puppies nearby. I agreed with her that there must be lovely puppies hiding nearby, but my inner monologue knew the truth. No, Maya. Not puppies. Wolves, coming to eat my face.

With an orgasm of relief we rediscovered the trail of painted cats, and followed it upstairs into the main building. The remains of the structure are a shell, without walls, and the wind rolled through as the cats led us higher. Breathtaking artwork lined every floor, the vibrant, pulsating colours pouring through more now that we were sheltered from the soul sucking drizzle and mud. I could feel my rib-cage cautiously relinquishing its grip on my heart. Miraculously, we stumbled upon a lone, dog eared sofa surrounded by paintings of tropical birds; the oasis I sorely needed. A soft wind rolled over us as we nested together. I drifted back down to earth, and I was safe once more.

Exploring further, we found a mural of a gigantic cartoon mouse wearing sunglasses, next to the words ‘Take it cheesy!’. Maya stood before the mural in awe, and I wandered into the next room alone, where I froze. The space contained nothing but a single, dangling noose. Maya came to my side, and we stared at it a moment in horror, before doubling over laughing; between the two rooms, nothing could have summed up our separate psychedelic experiences more perfectly.

We eventually emerged onto the rooftop, back into the drizzle, and took turns yelling inside the two giant ragged golf balls. They are echo chambers, and every sound is churned over and over like a tombola drum. The yellow cats then led our duo of giggling idiots into the creaking skeleton tower, where together we began the ascent of the blackened stairwell towards the final orb, the last, pristine sphere at the very pinnacle of the compound. As we drew nearer, music floated down to us.

At the top of the stairwell we left the daylight behind, and hand in hand we stumbled into a thick blackness. We’d expected nothing much, merely venturing up out of sheer curiosity, and yet at the top of Teufelsberg, after hours of wandering, of suffering the elements and battling an imposing panic, we were richly rewarded. We had passed all of the trials thrown at us (admittedly, almost entirely self-imposed), and finally, we emerged from the stairwell into a new reality; a room unlike any on this earth.

High above the forest, amid howling winds, we found ourselves in a hallowed cavern, the walls stretching away in all directions, reuniting high above us. The second we entered, we were embroiled in a torrent of drums and oily echoes, a cacophony of the purest, deepest sounds you ever heard. The orb was vast around our small, confused forms, groaning high above in complete symmetry and perfect dark, save for one blade of light that severed the gloom, cast from a small grille. Beyond that window, there was nothing. Mist had ransacked the forest and left only unforgiving white. The blankness beyond was startling, and seemed to insinuate to my fragile mind that we were inhabiting a space that was disconnected from the real world. This tower of endless echoes was all that existed, lost in a white void.

We weren’t the first there; two French girls were sitting in the centre of the sphere sharing a joint and playing music from a speaker, the source of the infinite drums. The orb’s echo was so powerful that every beat hit a hundred times, a whisper became a roar, and everyday sounds of no consequence boldly elbowed their way to the fore. I could still hear myself humming ten seconds after I had finished. Every sigh became a waterfall, every footstep an avalanche.

The French girls shared their joint with us, and then faded away down the stairs, leaving Maya and I alone on the shores of our dark cove. My mind was a cinder, burned out by the day’s exploits, so I gave up trying to comprehend the spectacle and instead we simply sat, listening. And it was only when we sat, that we saw it.

Above us, towering and wreathed in shadow, was the Devil himself. Ten metres high, savagely scrawled across the whole interior of the dome, the Devil glared down at us, arms outstretched, reaching to embrace us. Maya hadn’t noticed it, yet. I took a photo of her as she sat, pensive in her innocence, cradled in the arms of Lucifer.

We stayed there a long time, lying side by side, idly chatting and clicking our tongues at the Devil, listening to his immaterial orchestra sing back at us. Maya and I found that we could sit twenty metres apart and whisper to each other. Occasionally, birdsong from beyond the grille was swept into the cavern on the breeze, where it was bowled around the sphere like a carnival daredevil gunning a motorcycle around a Cage of Death, finally reaching a brilliant, sweet crescendo, then disappearing. None of it made sense, it was all too much to process, and so we simply lay there in wonder.

I remembered the spray cans just as we were deciding to leave. We looked around for somewhere to sign, and chose the spot where the only sliver of sunlight fell. We signed our initials in pink paint. It makes me happy to think that it is still there now, a simple message to whoever next climbs the tower that two people were happy there, once. Finally, we bid farewell to the chamber and began our descent.

Within five minutes we were back at the guardhouse, its door still sending forth blossoms of smoke into the afternoon air. It seemed a lifetime had passed since we were last here. We’d been hours inside the complex, lost on our voyage of nonsense. The 2CB had worn off now, mostly. Patterns and textures were slowly stabilising, and colours were settling back to their normal shade. It felt like we’d been asleep for a very long time, and had finally woken up from a symphony of peculiar dreams.

We looked back together at the tower and its crowning white orb, watching us leave without emotion. Mere moments ago it had seemed a safe, tranquil womb, our secret cove, but already the tower was reestablishing its menacing posture. It had shown us its secrets, it had allowed us a brief glimpse into the unknown, and now, as we wound our way back through the woods, it was reclaimed by the clouds once more. We smiled at each other at the thought of our initials daubed up there, entwined in the sky.


The Berlin Diaries – Devil’s Mountain, Part 1

One Friday a couple of weeks back, I woke up in bed next to Maya and looked at her while she was sleeping. She’s a sweet, graceful dreamer, not like me whose mouth hangs open with all the elegance of a kicked over dustbin. Our bedsheets were flecked with stubborn glitter from the previous weekend, and we woke every morning that week covered in it. She lay there dreaming, her chest sparkling in the morning light as it rose and fell with the gentle rhythm of her breathing. It was our last day together, she was flying home early the next day. I was due to start work at 9am, and it pained me to think I’d be wasting our last few hours together stuck in an office. Damn it all, I grabbed my phone, called in sick, then rolled over and kissed Maya awake. “We’re going on an adventure,” I told her. Continue reading