All in Culture

The Spanish Course and the Wonders of Cantabria

The essential difference between those who travel to a place and those who go on a holiday is their willingness to embrace the local lifestyle. That is what The Spanish Course is all about: a willingness to live like a local in the wondrous region of Cantabria learning about a new culture, sharing your own and taking advantage of the numerous experiences offered by the region while refining your Spanish language skills.

Dogtowns of the North East

Skateboarders look at the world around them differently. By using their skateboards, they interact with the urban environment in a more expressive way than the rest of us. Since the 1970s, they've been reimagining the possibilities of town centres, city streets, barren spaces and rundown neighbourhoods — the 'Dogtowns' of the world. The original inventiveness, brotherhood and fearlessness of these skateboarders crafted a new way of life. This unique skating culture spread out across the world and I recently ventured out to catch a glimpse of it here in the North East.

Durham Pride 2017 Through the Eyes of a Volunteer

Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Violet. June sets off another burst of rainbow-tinted Pride festivals. On the 29th of May, I volunteered to help out at Durham Pride 2017. As one of the smaller Pride events in the UK it still has all of the flamboyance and colour characteristic of these celebrations. And at its heart it exudes values that reach far beyond the LGBT community. Inclusivity. Acceptance. Love. Timeless values that we can all embrace.

Edinburgh: A Visit to the Athens of the North

Before the festive season started, I took a short break in Edinburgh: a Scottish world criss-crossed with mythological intrigue, Greek splendour, cosmopolitan diversity and natural beauty. You do not need much prior planning to discover its secrets. You simply need to walk and take it all in. Here is a possible travel plan: simple, spontaneous and filled with visual tasters.

Holi Festival of Colours — Drinking, Dancing and Smoking our way to Equality

On the thirteenth full moon day of the lunar month of August, Wembley Stadium’s Green Car Park turned a bright tarry violet as thousands gathered to take part in London’s Holi Festival of Colours. When I got invited to the festival I had no idea what to expect. I was just told to wear white — the whiter the better, the purer, the readier to being reborn.

What awaited me was a spiritual experience of dehydration in a large concrete parking lot in London.

Part I: Stockton Pirate Raid

A steady downpour fell on the riverbanks of the Tees on that seemingly ordinary Saturday morning. Townsfolk mingled in the streets of Stockton and went about their usual chores as Cat wondered from one market stall to the next until at last she found itself meandering alongside the river. Suddenly what looked like a rabbit appeared, a bandana tied around its head and a sabre hanging from a leather belt around its waist ... Before she knew it she was standing in the middle of a pirates' tea party, teacups overflowing with rum and Prosecco and plates stacked with fudge being passed between greedy hands, while the pirates swayed to rock 'n roll and techno-pop.

Ode to Summertime in England

There is something ethereal about summertime in England. A sun-drenched African cat watches with fascination as a whole country peels off its hibernation skin with triumph and runs outside to bask in the mild glow of one of their most treasured commodities: the Sun. Never before do Ella Fitzgerald’s words echo as strongly as when you’re outside passing dog-walkers in abundance, cyclists, joggers and people lounging in the fields and parks or sitting on their porch having a pint.

Snapshots of a Stray Cat in Macedonia

For reasons unknown but time will tell Cat disappeared. She fell into a watery portal and found her feet soaking in Lake Ohrid. As the sun rose over Macedonian fishermen catching their daily drinking allowance, she reflected upon labours left unfinished in the Tees Valley. Countless abandoned stories were floating down the River Tees. It was time to leave Macedonia behind.

A series of snapshots capturing something, if not nearly enough, of a mesmerising country: its exquisite landscapes, hospitable people and intriguing history. A must on any serious traveller’s list of destinations.

Dissolving the Boundaries of Theatre — Cat's First Play at the ARC

Most people have a strange relationship with theatre: some are fanatics — well, I’ve only met one of these so far — others have perhaps attended a handful of performances in their lives and will maybe attend another if a fanatical theatregoer invited them. Then there is the majority. Our everyday man — or should I say ‘young adult’? — thinks the word ‘play’ is a verb, has always been a verb and will always be a verb.

Here is a teasing view into the world of the Stockton Arts Centre — dare I say the least ‘run-down’ of all the buildings in town? — where you can attend experimental (and more traditional) high-quality theatre productions on a ‘Pay what you decide’ basis.

Cat Arrives in Teesside — is it really “the worst place to live in the UK…”?

“Location, Location, Location” — a TV show whose presenters apparently once claimed that Middlesbrough — my dear neighbour a.k.a. Smogland — was Britain’s worst city to live in. A much debated, outdated statement?

Well, here’s a snippet or two of how a lone cat, blown by an African heat wave across the Atlantic, almost straight into the River Tees, has experienced it so far. Snippets that might enlighten those still smothering in the heat of Southern Africa or might provide some amusement to better-knowing locals.