Discovering Europe


One amazing cruise you can take quite cheaply is the slow line from Silja Line shipping from Helsinki Port to Stockholm via the archipelago. After setting sail, it takes about an hour to get to the actual archipelago and it's an awesome sight to see. The channels between the tiny islands are deep enough for a car ferry with thousands on board to navigate its way through the islets, and some are so close you could almost reach out and touch them.

People keep holiday homes on some of them, and when the ships pass, the kids come out to wave and have some fun with this monstrously enormous ship passing them by. The usual sailing timetable is to board in the early evening and party through the night, then arrive at Stockholm in the early morning so you have the entire day to spend in the city before a return sailing back to Helsinki that evening at around 1900/2000.

Costs less than fifty euros per person for your private cabin, access to the smorgasbord, and sailing both ways. If you have the energy, you can party all the way back home again with a new set of passengers. It's a two night package and is usually packed with party loons looking to have serious fun.

Excellent in the depths of winter and the heights of summer.


A general question for everybody. If given the choice would you live in France, Italy or Spain?


I'm thinking maybe France too, though I've some fond memories of Spain - Barcelona in particular. I think with Spain its image is dragged down by the amount of gurriers from Ireland and England who visit it, though they are usually confined to certain areas. Parts of Spain, including Madrid are actually very nice to visit. Anything with Costa del in the title is probably best avoided.

I also think France is in some ways a more conservative society than Spain, even in the South of France. Holidays in France seems to be geared more towards families, and French towns and city centres in general seem to be geared more towards family living. France is also more Northern European in the sense that suburbanisation is more common than in Spain which has a more Mediterranean tradition of dense towns and cities.

With the exception of Paris, Spanish cities are definitely more lively and 24/7 than French cities in general. That said, French cities are probably a lot more densely compact and livelier than cities further north in Europe. In many ways France is like a halfway house between Northern European and Mediterranean cultures and societies.
Gorgeous creatures all the same. I saw a documentary about them back around 1979. There must be a hit wildlife documentary programme about the wild horses of Europe.

The pitch is 'Equus: The Wild Horses of Europe' with music local to the region. You could go from the Nordic wild horses to the Icelandic ponies, to Connemara and Shetland and progress to the Camargue and the wild steppes ponies and then finish in southern Europe, by way of Spain and Portugal.

A kind of equine journey through the wild herds of Europe with music contemporary and ancient to accompany the televisual spectacular of the wild horses in their habitat interspersed with factual data from local experts.

Bet it would be a prizewinner. It would appeal to a number of tv audience groups, wildlife of course, easy watching TV (a considerable audience demographic), people interested in both traditional and ancient music around Europe (another sizeable demographic) and just who make up a large demographic which is those who simply like watching a gentle cultural programme with a number of facets to it.

People who like horses. Even people who are scared of them up close will happily watch a programme with foals in the Camargue or in Connemara or Iceland with variations on the music to suit the landscape.

It is a Sunday night blockbuster. Radically, no presenter. Narrator in the style of the Gerritt Van Gelderen 'To the Waters and the Wild' vintage.

Think of the sales around Europe and possibly even the US. This time next year, compatriots dear, we'll all be flipping luxury mansions at each other like mad financial hamsters in sawdust and seeds.


I first learned to ride back around thirty years ago. Her name was Larinsky, a twenty-two year old who was as gentle and kind as a horse could be. No big schpiel: teacher told me to stick my foot in the stirrups, throw the other leg over and pat her on the neck and let her smell my hands and feel my feet in the stirrups.

After that it was 'let's go' and out of the stable we walked, which was when I realised how big she was: I was up seven or eight feet off the ground in the cold light of dawn. Then a canter over to the fence while explaining to me that they had a friendly 'hunt' they did once a month with their other horsey set friends. Grand, but then we're running and I'm not even doing anything, Larinsky just followed her Mam and the four of us disappeared off into the forests.

It was great, exhilarating, and exhausting - but that was nothing compared to the pains in my thighs the next morning. I was helpfully informed that this was natural and the best way to deal with it was to go out again for another few hours. It fucking hurt. But she was right, by the time we came back to the stables, the pain was there but not as strong.

Great hobby, if you can afford it.
Yep. Fish. Wooden Houses. Then snow happens. Quite funny, yer Norwegians, even though they are never sure why themselves. They are very direct the ones I met and if you click into their sense of humour and wonder at the world they can be hugely amusing.

Mad as a window, mind. Every damn one of them.

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