WHITTLING OUR NICHE

Some years ago I wrote a poem - Whittling our Niche - which attempted to explore the concept of our singular, but miniscule existence on this Mother Earth. Seen through a galactic microscope, each of us has a unique mountain to climb, a discrete rock-wall to scale, on our track from cot to coffin. This portfolio of stories and poems, photographs and sketches, along with comments on contemporary issues, is a reflection of my own minute presence on our eternal globe. 

Reading for me is not a hobby, it's a way of discovering how others have scaled their rock-walls ... fact or fiction. And so to writing: the other side of the yin and yang. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens 'If I had known I was going to read so much, I would have done more writing to match'. Now I begin to even up the kaleidoscope.

I hope this site can inspire others to do the same.

Duncan Gregory




JOURNEY INTO BANGLADESH

When offered an assignment which allowed free licence to write about life in Bangladesh, I jumped at the chance: this was what my dreams were made of. At the time I was working with schools in India and was asked to make a side trip to Dhaka, to study, write and photograph the workings of development projects, within the capital and in rural areas to the South, West and North of the city. My February-March stay was to last for a month, before temperatures began to hit oven-like proportions.

BECOMING A VETERAN WAFFLER

I had stumbled on Waffles - the best backpacker’s in Singapore – and after a few weeks graduated to a room with a scenic view of Bugis Mall. The place was a comfort zone after a hot day’s work, and the long-stay inmates became my family. They belonged to one of two clans: teachers or deep-sea divers. Each night teachers swapped stories of classroom mayhem, while divers weighed in with near escapes from the deep; always with their early-model mobiles close by, waiting for the call out, to some distant oil rig.

REPUBLIC DAY IN INDIA

So here I sit, not long after the crack of dawn, astride an old wooden chair, positioned dead-centre, with a microphone on a tall metal stand in front of me. To my left, with jet-black hair and dressed like a queen in a beautiful azure and white, sequined saree, sits the school’s director and principal, Dr Mabel Aranha; a somewhat formidable figure, attending her final Republic Day parade, before retirement. To my right a considerably more jovial character, the white-mustachioed Mister Mirchandani .....

TERRORISM HELPS KENYA FIGHT CORONAVIRUS

I am a Brit who has lived and worked in Kenya for more than two decades, first arriving in 1998, a few months after the devastating bombing of the US embassy by Al-Qaeda. As luck would have it, Al-Shabaab - the Al-Qaeda spin-off, based in Somalia – had me at their mercy fifteen years later, when they carried out their 2013 assault on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. I had a narrow escape which left me shocked, but otherwise unscathed. How does this connect to coronavirus? ... (read more)

TRAVELS WITH A TALKATIVE LADY

My first wife was a fantastic lady. She talked a lot! Not quite sure why we parted, though talking may have tipped the scales. Other people were often amazed, not only by the number of words that could be aired in one or two minutes, but also the variety of topics that would often be tackled. As years went by, she honed her ability for both speed and subject range: delivered together, mixed all in one pot. I grew used to it, but newcomers would quite often stagger away, in a head-spinning aura of dizziness!

BANGLADESH: SHEFALI, THE DOCTOR FROM DHAKA!

I was seated on a slim wooden bench inside a hot, sweaty, bamboo shed, with what seemed like 100 eyes gazing at me: this strange-looking creature from the West! Once things settled back to what I judged might be almost normal, I uncased my camera and began to photograph proceedings, which in turn set of another round of bubbling interchange. After things settled again, my eye – and my camera lens - were drawn to a particularly attentive young girl, seated towards the rear ...

A MINI IN PIAZZA SAN MARCO

I remember sitting near the Rialto Bridge, with my younger daughter, eating calzone and quaffing numerous glasses of red wine. The month was January - middle of winter - yet we managed to find a sun-blessed spot on the South side of the Grand Canal; placing alternate orders for food, with the sole purpose of retaining the best table in town. They were magical hours: vibrant, yet relaxed, with ferries docking then powering away and gondolas gliding by. We stayed until we ran out of sun and the month became January again.
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