Month: January 2017

Dateline Havana: Hotel Inglaterra

You stand in the grand lobby – gilded, ornate – waiting for the lift-doors to open. Off to your right, behind the wrought-iron grille, a pair of well-heeled diners sip at their coffee, eyeing the menu, while an unctuous waiter in starched shirt glides by. At any moment the lift will arrive and Bogart will step out, a laughing Bacall or Bergman on his arm…. You don’t go to the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana for its service (we left without eating, even though we were starving) but for the elegance, the ambience, the colours and scent of the corrupt and gorgeous neo-colonialism of pre-revolutionary Havana. There is […]


At midpoint in the week, with things to do – find a place to live, buy a car, launch a new project – this is not the time to be off blogging. My images of Havana will have to wait…maybe this weekend? But an infant won’t wait, as we know – so here is one more photo of my grandson, Joshua.

Slipping back into the moment

Coming home to South Africa is like slipping into old clothes, and I have been wearing these familiar garments for a week now. Hard to think (I wrote this on Thursday) that it is barely a week since I left Toronto. The most joyous part has been reconnecting with my daughters, and their husbands, and meeting my beautiful, happy, chortling grandson. New worlds lie in his chubby little hands and beatific smile – long may he live to explore and enjoy them! As for me, I can see already that being a grandfather is a whole new experience, and a […]

Grand tourer

One way to see Havana – to take in the major sights, get a feel, so to speak, for the lay of the land – is to take a ride in one of the fifties convertibles pictured in this image. Gaudy, romantic, gas-guzzling, polluting, they are the perfect expression of a particular version of the city. Other cars from the fifties, clattering down the streets, overloaded with Cubans rather than with tourists, offer a different perspective: the view of a city just managing to scrape by, abandoned by modernity, impoverished yet resilient. Then there are the Russian Ladas, in various states of repair, the […]

Tears, but the good kind

I woke this morning to the birds calling and whistling in the high trees outside and in the garden, the light streaming through the window, the air cool and damp after last night’s thunderstorm. You don’t hear birds much, in Toronto, certainly not at this time of year, not even in summer. I am here, I think, lying in bed, listening, and somehow I feel lighter, and looser, calmer, at one with myself and with my surroundings. It is good to be home. I was met last night at the airport by Eve and Shaun, and my grandson Joshua: I […]

Au revoir Toronto

What better way to say au revoir Toronto than with three big XXXs in the sky above Roncies? Toronto, and Canada, have been good to me, and to us: I will miss our friends, and the weather, and the frolicking by the seaside and on the high mountains – wait, oops, that would be Cape Town, I guess! Anyway folks, I fly out this evening, for sunny South Africa, and on Thursday night will greet my daughters and my sons in law and my new grandson in Johannesburg. Rob will follow at the end of February. But, we will be back, and […]

Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana

Nuevo Vedado, Havana. It is New Year’s Day, 2017. We drift towards wakefulness, in the blue room at our casa particular or homestay, on a raft of sound. The ring of a bucket as it’s set down on concrete. A man’s voice, and a woman’s, greeting the new year in Spanish. Water splashing, a dog barking. The rumble of a truck or car in the street outside. Screech of a parakeet. The noises are right inside here, in the room, amplified. We were greeted on Saturday, on the eve of the new year, at Havana’s Jose Marti Habana airport, by […]

Connecting to outreach and mutually update

Once a year, dear Lucy Kellaway of the FT, bless her heart, offers scalding remedies for obfuscation and verbiage, the debasement of the language. The fauna of her verbal forest live, unfortunately, in the uplands of business, or else a thin-skinned, orange-haired ‘nasty man’ would surely – surely? – have taken the biscuit – and thrown it, like everything else he touches, into the garbage. Clipped from: Contenders for 2016’s gong ranged from euphemistic to ‘plain moronic’ Every January for the past decade I have handed out awards for horrible use of language in business. Usually the task amuses […]

From Havana, with astonishment

Havana is like no other place I have been to, too layered, complex, brave, catastrophic – too much human experience compacted into one decaying, living, breathing city – to write about or photograph easily. And now that we are back in safe, sane, organized, clean Toronto, we are back also in the mode of ‘planification’  – preparing for tomorrow’s farewell party, preparing for my departure for South Africa on Wednesday – and in a place where meditation, thought, writing, and the making of images – not to mention figuring out what to even think about an astonishing city – must […]