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Atay Maghrebi: Bahia Palace and Reflecting in the Souks

During breakfast of orange cake, yoghurt, atay and the world’s sweetest apricot jam, the distant shape of a plane takes off carrying Ireland’s answer to Ali Baba back home. All around me are the chattering voices of a multitude of languages; French, mainly, but also a smattering of German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish, mostly belonging to females.
Having become really accustomed to the main thoroughfares of the medina, the ways in and out, and a few landmarks, I hear stories of being lost and confused.
J'ai tourné à gauche comme il l'a dit. Maar ik was op de onjuiste plaats. Sucedió tres veces más.

Last evening, after dinner, I had swapped numbers with Dee. The idea was to head to the Palais de Bahia (or Bahia Palace) together after breakfast, but there was no real sign of her anywhere.
At around half past ten, I received a message from Dee saying that she been up all of the night chatting to her dorm mate, a young Moroccan woman, but still wanted to come along.
So, a little l…
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Living for the Weekend: Queens Park Rangers

William Shakespeare once wrote “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” He wasn’t talking about watching Queens Park Rangers play against Aston Villa at Loftus Road, but due to the weather he might well have been.
I haven’t been to Villa Park in a long time and so I’ve tried to make a more concerted effort to see them play when they visit the capital – the last time was a hammering at the hands of Arsenal during a woeful season that almost saw them relegated.
On this occasion, a colleague, John, had spotted the fixture and managed to get tickets at the last minute. Unfortunately for us two Villa fans, we were in with the QPR supporters as the travelling Villa contingent had sold out the School End many weeks before.
On Saturday 18th November 2017, the weather had been nothing but appalling since the morning and with John caught in traffic in the Bermuda Triangle that is the Uxbridge Road on a Saturday afternoon, I was condemned to standing at the side of Ellerslie Road as the rain f…

Eminönü Kadıköy İskelesi, Istanbul

On my first day in Istanbul, at the start of April 2018, I decided that I would avoid the tourist cruises that navigate around the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. Instead I took a commuter ferry between Eminonu pier on the European side of the city to Üsküdar on the Asian side of the city.
The trip isn't too long, doesn't cost much with an Istanbulkart (the Istanbul version of London's Oyster Card) and has a small café for anyone in need of a çay top-up. Some of the ferries look particularly battered and bruised and some websites imply that a few were actually built on the Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
This photo was taken whilst I was deciding which ferry to randomly jump on. There had been intermittent rain all day which was trying to clear, leaving half of the sky behind the Galata tower cloudy and the other half much brighter, something even the water was reflecting. It was shot using a trusty Nikon D3300.
For more, follow me on Instagram: @ayohcee.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

In the mid-2000s I had read parts of Robert Macfarlane’s book Mountains of the Mind for a Masters Degree assignment on Percy Shelley’s ‘Mont Blanc’. I must admit, until he appeared on my Twitter feed with his ‘Words of the Day’ tweets having been retweeted by someone else, I’d almost forgotten how knowledgeable he is. 
How does this all link to a book by a completely different author? Well, Macfarlane and writer Julia Bird, decided that over the festive period they would run a Twitter-based, read-along reading group based around Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising.

The #DarkisReading and #ArtisRising hashtags were born.
The story, despite being written for a younger audience, is full of rich descriptions of landscapes and nature. Furthermore, Cooper seems particularly adept at recreating the otherworldliness of the snow-bound countryside: “The strange white world lay stroked by silence. No birds sang. The garden was no longer there, in this forested land. Nor were the out-buildings nor …

The Soundtrack to My 2017

Over the latter half of 2016 I had enjoyed curating a short playlist of songs that evoked a particular memory of a place or feeling at the time. The process itself was so interesting (never truly knowing which songs would still be melting my iPhone headphones many months later) that I thought I would repeat the process all over again in 2017, adding, deleting and re-adding to my Apple Music playlist over the course of the entire year.

As before, the criteria for inclusion was simple: the songs had to have spent a substantial amount of time getting played on my Apple Music account over the previous 12 months, whether they are from 2017 or not.
As for 2017, it was a lot less weird for me on a personal and professional level, but completely eclipsed 2016 in terms of bizarreness at times.

Right Stuff by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

I feel that over the two years, not only have I been guilty of neglecting Noel Gallagher’s solo material, but I feel there has been a bit of a tendency b…

Atay Maghrebi: Skala du Port, Essaouira

As I sat on the highest point of the roof terrace drinking coffee, I scanned around the view: flaking whitewash on all but a handful of buildings, rusting chimneys pumping out benign traces fire of black smoke against the hazy blue canvas and lending the whole town a sea-bleached aspect. 
I decided to take in high tide down by the Skala du Port, a place I had visited the year before.
The Skala du Port is perhaps the most obvious example of the Portuguese colonial history of the town they called Mogador. A castellated fortification, it joins the main wall around the medina, before holding out a protective arm against the Atlantic breakers around the fishing port and the shipbuilders.
From the top of the fortified tower, a mere 10dh to get to, the view looks towards the Île de Mogador and the ocean in one direction, and the medina tightly huddled past the rising smoke of the fish grills by the main square in the other.
Inside the harbour wall, there is a constant hive of activity as fi…

The Wren Boys by Carol Ann Duffy

As an English teacher it is impossible to escape Carol Ann Duffy. A couple of years back, a colleague in my department perhaps to rub this in, perhaps because of the story's link to Ireland, or maybe just seized by the Christmas spirit, bought me one of Duffy’s small seasonal poems, The Wren Boys, beautifully illustrated by Dermot Flynn.
The tale of the poem links to a rural Irish tradition that takes place on St Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas Day, whereby groups of people will dress up and go hunting a wren.
According to the various myths, the wren, or wran, is thought to have betrayed the Saint’s whereabouts to his captors with its song and to have cheated against an eagle in a flying competition.
The writing is wonderfully evocative of a cold, rural Christmastime: The old year, a tear in the eye of time; frost on the blackthorn, the ditches glamorous
with rime; on the inbreath of air,
the long, thoughtful pause before snow. The air is filled “everywhere musky with peat fro…

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…