Come along for the journey!

Come along for the journey!

Monday, 20 December 2010

GRAND DESIGNS: (Sydney, Australia)

Well, here we are, tagging a final leg on our Around the World Tour. Annoying isn't it? After being shunned from coming to Oz earlier in the year whilst the renno was still underway at the family 'stead on Sydney's beautiful Northern Beaches, we've finally got to see the folks big dream house realised. It's pretty spectacular. It has been an amazing spa-like retreat…erm, a retreat from our student scum and unemployed bum lifestyle that is.

Well, it's wonderful to spend time with family and catch up with Aussie friends. As well as feeding us up three year's worth of food in a month, Mum has our social calendar planned out with meticulous detail, starting with a fancy house-warming-cum-jazz & canape infused event.

Great to be home…a broad term for us Griffins.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


We left Bristol with a piece of paper helpfully written out in the vernacular by my course mate 'Daisy' with local tasty Chinese delicacies we ought to sample on arrival in Beijing.

On the paper were numerous references to animals and animal parts, including donkey (apparently not actually donkey, but a dessert), so much so in fact that we were told that if we were to ask a stranger where we might find these foods, they may direct us to the zoo.

Now if it had been me writing the list, I'd certainly have written some exceptionally dodgy things on there for my tourist friends, so I assured them I'd be back to punish them if they were leading me up a merry path. Meanwhile, in a fit of self abuse, I stomached an evening treat of sea slug and scorpions.
Deep fried …mmmm.

There are a bunch ways of you can make yourself misunderstood in China. When explaining 'what I do' (study film) to interested new people, I managed to leave someone with the idea that I star in the movies.

Equally, there were plenty of times when i think we got the wrong end of the stick. We visited a Church near our hotel in the 'Chongwenmen' area where we learnt that Jesus was in fact born in 'a mansion'.

Contrary to popular belief, the Church is thriving in Communist China. Despite the stereotypes we've picked up somewhere, we weren't arrested or followed back to our hotel.

Friday, 10 December 2010

MAGPIES: (The Great Wall, China)

While walking the Great Wall of China, our lovely guide 'Duo' pointed out a magpie and was pleased to count just one for good luck. We were fascinated to find that a tradition so idiosyncratic and particular to just this bird, was shared with such a distant people.

Who attributed lucky omens to magpie counting first? Who may have brought this bit of folklore back from their exotic travels? Is the Magpie even a nice quintessentially English bird at all, or has it journeyed from the Far East?

Well, we were eager to share the rhyme we grew up with which Duo was interested to hear, and she quickly declared "I want to see four".

It's strange walking around seeing young families with just one child. Duo cannot get married yet because family tradition in China usually states that the grooms family have to pay the brides family a dowry, normally to the tune of a small house.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


We've been treated like movie stars since our arrival, thanks to the very generous gestures from our friend's mother, Mrs Liu.

Minzhe, my well dressed course mate (pictured right) and expert editor friend, kindly mentioned our visit to his mother, who in turn booked our hotel and arranged for her driver and English speaking guide to collect us from the airport and chauffeur us around for the duration of our stay in Beijing.

Mrs Liu also took us to the finest Peking duck restaurant in erm, Peking, where we dined in a private room and ate like kings. We were relieved that Peking Duck is actually duck and not something fishy or offal-esque! It was the best duck we have ever tasted. We were truly shown the best time. We managed to finish the evening with a wonderfully executed 'Thank you' in Mandarin, and I think I avoided offending anyone…quite a coup for me.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

BACK IN BLIGHTY: (Dover to Bristol)

So, part of this year has been about rethinking what we're going to do next. We left our jobs with no intention to return to them. We're open to starting a family sometime...not in a hurry, but glad to have the travelling together unfettered thing done - we'll always be able to travel with kids too, but it's different that's all.

Well, I've just been accepted onto doing a Masters in Film & TV Production at Bristol Uni. Big departure for me in some ways, not sure if I'm just chasing a silly dream, or if I'm lacking the talent needed, but I'd rather not have the regret of "what if's" hanging over me. I always remember when nursing some time ago, an old lady telling me that she had far bigger regrets about the things she hadn't done than the things she had. That always stuck with me.

We are loving being back - the rhythm of evening commitments - home group, band & footy, the familiarity of friends and family, the restfulness of our own space and the excitement of a new year ahead. Neko is looking for work...

Monday, 23 August 2010


Well, Mr & Mrs Paradise arrived for some fun and games here on the Cote d'Azur. Ever the gentleman, Ricardo arrived suited 'n' booted, in the finest of linen suits, ready for his driver to show them the sights.

So there we were, eating wine, drinking cheese, playing les boules, and looking beautiful I think you'll agree. The ladies were looking rather good too.
Une Poseur, & the man from Del Monte

So we hit Monte Carlo, dined at Medieval villages, frequented the local art exhibitions, beached and bronzed and showed the Frenchies a thing or two about fashion. Sacre bleu!!

Stunning the Art World...again

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


Aged 14, Mum thought it might be adventurous for me to go stay with for three weeks with a guy who she'd met on a train in Italy. Ahhh the 80's, when you could leave your front door unlocked and anyone your parents age was your uncle and aunt. He was actually a great guy, a director of Italian TV, and Mum thought I might get a precocious foot in the door to television!?! Well, one of the highlights back then was sneaking a peek in the amphitheatre in Verona where Madame Butterfly was being performed. I was enchanted, but we couldn't stay.

Returning now, Neko and I hoped to have a romantic evening at the opera and fulfil my childhood longing. We started our day waking up contorted having slept in our lil' car at a truck stop somewhere in eastern Slovenia, and ended it eating at a Mitchelin star restaurant, staying at a boutique guest house, and watching Aida. An occasional treat.

I love that about us - we are as happy to slum it, eat street food, and people watch, or to dine fine, and rub shoulders with the hoi polloi….it's all the same to us, learning the secret of being content in any situation.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

THANK YOU LADIES & GERMS: (Budapest, Hungary & Slovenia)

 So we met up with Cath and her friends, Graham, Laura, and lots of others. Fine fine people. Cath showed us the sights - all the best drinking establishments with their idiosyncratic offerings of hoppy brews…and proceeded to drink white wine spritzers. She is clearly disorientated and will need psychiatric help when she returns home. SO nice to see Cath in a place so special to her.

We spent a few days wandering around, discovered the Hungarian House of Photography and Museum of Crafts & Textiles (top recommendations in Art Nouveau buildings), and went to an old regency style neo-classical Spa. We quite like spas. We ended up marinating in another one later in Slovenia, stewing for seven hours in thermal waters and other people's germs. We've been sick ever since.

If you're interested in going to Budapest, the Hungarian name of the Spa was Szengeti (I can spell that with some authority cos my wife is a Spelling Bee champ).

Sunday, 1 August 2010


Can you imagine our disappointment when we spoke to Cath earlier this summer, excited to come to Hungary and hoping to see her there, only to find out after 3 years she's moving back a couple of weeks before we get there. Oh the irony. Kind of. How's about those Bosnian escapades though hey? Police stop us for having our side lights on, then we break down and a mechanic rigs the lights to be constantly on. Now that's irony! With all my time in America, and the loose grasp they have on the concept, it gets hazy at times. Never mind Morrisette's "…rain on your wedding day" (which I believe is only ironic if you're a weather man, getting married, and you predicted it would be sunny).

So to our delight, we heard Cath is back THIS WEEK to collect her things for the final move home. Well, in another turn of irony, I decided to call her to arrange hooking up in Budapest, doing my favourite 'Mo's Bar' stunt of faking some alias or another - this time a demented sounding old fella who is insistent that she's just called me. Cath remained on the phone for a remarkable amount of time - I would have told such a rambling nutter to politely bog off by now. Testament to Cath's good Christian nature? No. Her dad's just had a stroke and it might be him calling. Man I feel bad now. I'll buy her a pint when we see her.

Saturday, 31 July 2010


So, it's been fantastic to catch up with Andy & Sam. Can you believe how plucky and pioneering Andy & Sam are? Moving out to Hungary and buying a farm, getting some animals, with plans to grow what they eat and maybe more…the whole nine yards. Sam is English, but raised for a significant spell in Hungary and Hungarian speaking Romania.

They showed us a great time - first stop, the flea market, where we picked up not only a couple of Hungarian nicknacks, but also a couple of Hungarian words too. This is particularly impressive as, having done half my Tessol course a while back, I can inform you that Hungarian is agreed to be the most difficult language to learn for English speakers in the World! More than Chinese! It's just mental. This makes Andy's achievement of becoming fairly conversational, and stringing sentences together, a work of God himself.

There are other challenges of assimilation into Hungarian life that Andy has to face, including the ability to grow ridiculous facial hair, wear clothes that look garish and 20 years out of date, and eat half ones body weight in meat. Oh hold on, Andy's gonna be just fine. The Hungarian diet is pretty meaty and with plans to raise and eat nothing but pigs, Andy is nearly fully fledged Hungarian already. With Sam so familiar with Hungarian language and ways, alongside Sam's mother Cathy next door, he is set up well. The two of them are really going for it, Sam is cracking on with her Phd and Andy is employed by the university. They're enjoying dreaming some big dreams and settling into country life.

We were also taken to see some traditional Hungarian sights. Most of all, we got a real glimpse into Andy & Sam's lives: where they work, worship and welax (needed the 3point sermon style there). It makes our challenge of getting back on our feet with work and things feel very doable. Lovely talented people those Cheesman's. And speaking of axe wielding, rest assured Andy continues to play his guitar at level 11 at his Hungarian speaking Church, in a language we all understand. Go Andy! (Cue 'God made rock & Roll for you').

Thursday, 29 July 2010


Why is it you know you're going to get good times and relaxation in some countries, and end up with some travel horror stories in others? After a genteel jolly through Sarajevo, we were stopped by the police on one of the major roads north. Flagged over, I was asked to step out of the vehicle and come to the patrol car. I was informed that our lights were on and that "…we have to punish you". Seriously. Scarey words when you're not even in the EU.

I was curious, because I had read at the border and online that Bosnia requires lights to be on all the time. "Ah, yes but not the side lights". It's raining, with dark clouds overhead, the sidelights seem reasonable. "Oh no, we have a set fine for having extra lights on…35 Euros". This I was informed had to be paid at a local bank, whilst our passports were held and we returned with a receipt. Bonkers. I spoke to the English speaking younger officer and asked why it wouldn't be reasonable to simply warn us given the ambiguity over the requirement. He replied there was nothing he could do as the non-English speaking older officer was calling the shots. I was keen that if I was going to have to pay the money in this 'good cop bad cop' situation, then at least I'd get my 3500 cents worth across.

I said to the young cop, that it is no wonder the police have a bad reputation, not just in his country, but in many countries. "I know" he said, "but what can I do? He's the boss". "Well I'll pay the fine, but you know this business can stop with him - when you're calling the shots one day, you'll be able to do things differently right"? Around about now, I was getting ready to have my pious butt thrown into jail…but I was pretty annoyed.

I stood resigned to the fact that this was the way it was whilst they continued processing paper work. Moments later, the 'bad cop' returned my passports with the younger cop saying "You're lucky, you can go".

I'm a tad feisty in the face of injustice. Gonna get me in trouble one of these days. Incidentally, this blog entry wins the prestigious 'Nekolina best title award' for innovation.

Incidentally, still had no camera battery at this time, so you'll have to settle for a pic of when Neko was pulled over in Oregon.

WHAT WAS THE CASH POINT IN THAT?: (Somewhere in Bosnia)

So it was always going to happen - you buy a vintage car cos it looks pretty and you so know you're going to end up stranded in some loony place where noone understands a word you're saying and a very moustached gentleman dismantles your car with a view to charge you inordinate amounts of money. Ahh, like I've said before, stereotypes are a real time saver.

Well we were correct on the inevitability of breaking down - it was just a case of when. We bought a pretty sound car all up, with only 80k on the clock and a more than sturdy engine that any grease monkey could work over - none of this new-fangled computerised nonsense. Still, we were thankfully wrong on all our other hackneyed ideas. Driving through the middle of nowhere, conquering a mountain pass and enjoying an excursion of the Bosnian Forest parks, we were out running the weather that the ol' motor isn't so keen on, and it finally happened. Thankfully, we came to a halt right outside a restaurant, where there was a group of English speaking lads (not so common here), and they knew 'the best mechanic in town'! Woohoo…how lucky was that?!! We're saved.

Within 10 minutes, we'd been kindly pushed off the road into a field opposite, offered Turkish tea and some chit chat, and the mechanic was beginning to tinker about. Out came the front driver panel, out came the light covers in the boot. It's an electrical problem. Sounds about right, that engine's bomb proof, but we do enjoy the occasional quirk with the heating and things. With our big plan to get through Bosnia in a day on our way to Andy & Sam for dinner in Hungary, we had a picnic lunch and no local cash. Holy smoking spark plugs batman! Next thing you know, we're being driven to a cash point by a couple of guys in central Bosnia.

Thankfully we weren't robbed and left for dead with our car up on bricks when we got back. Rather, the everso kind gentlemen returned us to a smug looking mechanic, who'd fixed our car (it was a blown fuse - 20p part) with the slightly quirky adjustment of having to turn our lights on to start it. He rigged up the petrol pump to the lights. Basically, if we turn off our lights now, we stop. This isn't going to roll with the Bosnian police. We've gottsta get outta here.

For his troubles, and he'd been there over three hours mind, we were expecting the worst. He could have charged anything - we had our backs up against the wall. After a bit of head scratching and cheek puffing, he gave me a good hard look and told me " 10 Euros please"…in Bosnian. He wouldn't even let me tip him.

So what did we learn from this wee exercise. "Don't follow leaders an' watch those parking' meters"…words of wisdom from Bob? Dump your stupid stereotypes at the border? We're figuring it all out.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

ENJOYING THE MOMENT: (Dubrovnic, Croatia)

We left our camera charger and spare battery in Greece. We were fleeing a cafe where a woman was telling us about how the Masons were taking over the world, and Neko was getting a particularly hard time as an Obama supporter. We've gone through Montenegro and Croatia without a camera. A severed limb.

Such was our desperation that when we mounted the beautiful walls of Dubrovnic at sunset, we resorted to asking a young guy with the same camera if we could buy him a drink and charge our battery on his charger at the same time. On the surface of it,  it looked like a classic tourist scam…smiley pretty gal, drugged drink, then lighten his load of a fancy camera. Bonza. He declined our plea.

It was actually quite nice simply walking the walls without trying to get all the angles and pics for posterity, something I struggle with at times: enjoying the moment….now.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

MACKS & OSK VISIT: (Halkidiki, Greece)

We left Thessaloniki a morning after arriving to go to Halkidiki with Mackenzie & Oskar - who managed to swing getting a few days off during their high season!

We felt very privileged to get in on some of their spare time as it's so rare and precious. We had a very kicked back relaxing time, until O&M showed their fierce side on the go-kart racing track. They're both completely nuts - Mackenzie's bull riding adrenaline crazed past shining through.

On our return to Thessaloniki, we spent our time hanging out with Ted (In Greek, phonetically: Thethothis…that's a lot of 'th') a ringer for Jose Murinho. He was a star. He helped us translate vital things to the mechanic, so that the car was tip top after a year sitting still, prior to setting off on our four thousand mile journey home.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Following our fascinating detour via Bulgaria after EasyJet cancelled our flight due to Greek airport ground staff going on strike, we managed to see Polis & Maria for all of a few hours before they flew off to England! How frustrating. Still, it was good to be there after our silly cycling fund-raiser, and we presented them the finished short film Kris made about the victims and perpetrators of human trafficking. Maria, once the awkwardness and laughter of hearing her own voice recorded (never great) wore off, seemed to think it was a good representation of the work she is doing. She took it as planned to the conference in Sweden and the Salvation Army General's wife has ordered extra copies. That's encouraging.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


England's green and pleasant land
We are back for a brief stopover on route back to Europe where we'll pick up the car and begin our swan song home. Liz & Christian welcomed us home with a BBQ.

We stayed with Georgie & Bloxy, celebrated David's birthday at the Lido, checked in for a therapy session with Professor Williams, played footy twice and had a very tense round of Golf with Dr Dalton and Dr Harley.  A very fun stopover was extended by our flight being cancelled due to an airport strike in Greece. We're delayed leaving England again - last time it was the ash, this time it's the Greeks (sounds like a line from 'Lock stock'). We now fly via Bulgaria!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

OLD MAN PETERS: (Sioux Falls, South Dakota USA)

Grandpa can make anything. You know the way the A-Team would always hide away in some tool shed ('Shop' for y'all American listeners) and after a few hours it seemed, with only some scrap metal and a few spare nuts 'n' bolts would pop out in an armoured tank with a can of whoop-ass…well that's a little like how Grandpa approaches things from his 700 square foot 'shop', fixing their van, or the neighbours lawnmower, or making an illuminated metal cross for their church, all out of things found at a garage sale.

There's a tool for everything in there…in fact there's five of each tool for everything! Talented man. Meanwhile, Grandma is cooking bean soup, Neko's in the yard sewing, Jane is painting. It's the Waltons!

We're not as genetically inclined to be so resourceful in our clan, so I'm glad I've married into a handy family. Until recently, it was a stretch for anyone in our family to even put a shelf up.

On another matter, we saw a load of old photos in Gr&Gr's albums. Fascinating to see Neko's roots. We came across a peculiar pic, one that Grandpa took in earnest, but that we found quite funny. Sorry Grandpa. His cherished pet dog of his youth is seen bounding around, and then...well, dead.

You're not alone in your photographic preferences Grandpa...Grandma Humphrys on Kris' side once amused us all with a group photograph of friends from Church. The lady at the centre of the picture was clearly in pain but mustering up a smile. On further investigation, she had a broken arm. When asked why she would take a photo at such a time, Grandma responded with perfect sense "well, everyone was seemed an opportune moment".

Grandpa is certainly one of the humblest and content people I have met - probably a good idea that we spent a good amount of time with them eh?!!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

HOME, HOME ON THE RANGE: (Sioux falls, South Dakota USA)

So nice to get to know the family better. We've been hanging out with Neko's cousin Mike. His wife Laura is great and her family all live around the golf course and driving range. We went for a round where I got to cruise around in their 'Pimp my ride' golf kart, don some white gloves and show Mike a thing or two.

Thing number one - "This is how you break the clubhouse window"…

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

FAMILY TIME: (Sioux falls, South Dakota USA)

The family, with it's proud Norwegian roots, is battling to hold on to it's identity in the decreasingly Scandinavian ghetto of the midwest. After Grandma's initial disappointment that Neko wasn't marrying a true blood Norwegian, she found the fact that I have a Norwegian name and all my own teeth a consolation of sorts.
Cuz'n Dave Monen said "You know you're redneck when your family tree only has one branch on it". Well that's not how we roll in the Peters, Monen, and Griffin fold: I like to think of my contribution as that of widening the gene pool.

The family have been teaching us Canasta, and we've been introducing them to the wonders of Wimbledon and World Cup football. It's decided, we'll be supporting Norway.