For Kevin. Rest in Peace my friend.

Tuesday 5 March 2019 – London.

This is a tricky one, not sure how to start this or even if it will be finished, though I am guessing if it has been posted then finish it I did.

I have been thinking about death a bit this year. My friend Kevin getting ill last year and being a few years younger than me opened this door, and subsequent events never allowed it to fully close.

Visiting the spot where we scattered dad’s ashes in 2007 with Mum, El and my sister when we were in New Zealand in January naturally makes me remember Dad. Fond memories; he was a good and gentle man and a great father and granddad to my children. If I had turned out to be more like him, I would probably be a better person. I am lucky that I have fond memories of him, not everyone is so lucky.

As I noted four of five posts ago, when we were in New Zealand I was reading about eligibility for Superannuation, the NZ version of state pension and was horrified to find that I may no longer qualify for it unless I go back to live there for five year between now and 65. 65 is not far away, retirement is for old people, old people eventually die. There always seems to be too much to do, and now there is less time, and who really knows how much there is. It made me think of wasted time, unfinished things and unvisited friends; then money and all that tiresome stuff I shouldn’t dwell on.

Mark Hollis, a musician, and the singer and song writer of the band Talk Talk, passed away on Monday 25th Feb. I was a little shocked, he was only 62, not much more than five years older than me. 62 used to be so old. Now, as I close in on 60, 62 seems so young. I was not a massive fan of Talk Talk when they first arrived deep in my punk/post-punk phase in 1982, I discarded their pretentious poppiness as a far too clever Duran Duran. Ten years ago I rediscovered them and the final two of their five LPs. The two LPs are considered post-rock masterpieces, the genesis of the genre, and the genre that has dominated my listening for those ten years. Tracks from 1988’s ‘Spirit of Eden’ and their last LP, 1991’s ‘Laughing Stock’ are always on an active playlist, and I have been listening to them almost exclusively since Mark passed away. They are broody and dark, vocally almost indecipherable; but the music is wonderful and complex and in its way, uplifting. It started me brooding on life’s shortness again.

On Monday it was announced that Keith Flynn, the singer from the band The Prodigy, had died. I was never a fan of the band, but was familiar with them. As it was announced on the TV news they showed a clip from one of their hits, ‘Firestarter’, a song I actually liked. I could see the clip was filmed in the tunnels under Euston Station, a place I had the pleasure of photographing last weekend. It was going to be next blog post. Seeing the video connected me to Keith, via the location, and on to thinking about people dying too young again. He was 49.

This finally brings me to Kev

I met Kevin in Da Nang, Vietnam on the 4th April 2012. Kevin and I were both there, along with a small group of Kiwis and Aussies, for the wedding of our mutual friend Dan. Kevin was there with his partner Phil and was a seasoned traveller, way more comfortable with life somewhere alien than me; and I had been on the road for three months. Kevin is a big personality, very much a life three quarters full guy, genuinely fun, nice, open and friendly. A few years younger than me he is a Kiwi, but has been living in London for a long time. After the wedding, as we went our separate ways, Kevin and I agreed to catch up when I got to the UK. Me on the left, looking leaner and browner than I am now, and Kevin on the far right, with Leonie who joined me on my Africa adventures later that year.

Hoi An

I was fortunate to arrive in London just before Kevin and Phil went away for a few weeks over Christmas and into 2013. I was offered Phil’s flat in She Bu (Shepherds Bush) as a place to stay while they were gone, an offer I took up. It was while I was staying at Phil’s that I met El. I absolutely believe that without that opportunity we never would have met, life would be totally different, and not in a good way.

Not long after Kevin and Phil returned to the UK, I disappeared for a few weeks travelling. Backpacking in wonderful Sri Lanka, boat diving off the coast of Malaysia and visiting my family in New Zealand. I arrived back in the UK in late May 2013, with no job and no home. While I was looking for a job and while El and my relationship slowly bloomed I stayed in Kevin’s spare room in, as he called it, ‘Fairy Towers’; a twenty floor council tower in London Bridge. I ended up staying there for a year.

I loved my time in Fairy Towers. Kevin was rarely there, spending a lot of time with Phil so I pretty much had a central London flat all to myself. It was such a cool place to live. I took a lot of photos from the balcony.

View from the flatIMG_8668P1030019View from the flat 2

When Kevin was staying, often after a row with Phil, we spent a lot of time walking (and talking) around the south side of the Thames;  to Greenwich, the Elephant, along the river,. All over central south London. They were great walks and talks, discussing love and leisure, travel and home. Family a lot. I eventually left in 2014 when I moved to El’s house in Walthamstow, where I am now.

Tragically Phil passed away in mid 2015, from a heart related illness. It was very sudden, I hadn’t seen Phil in quite a while, though had kept in frequent contact with Kevin, continuing walks and cheap meals in a favourite mixed Asian cafe on the fringes of Soho and Chinatown. Our catch-ups became less regular after Phil passed, though picked up again for a while after Kevin met Adrian later that year.

I received a very excited call in summer 2018 and Kevin told me that he and Adrian were going to get married this year, and they had some big plans for travelling in the interim. It was great news and I was glad Kevin had a new partner and opportunities to continue doing what he loved so much.

I received another call in early autumn and had lunch with Kevin in Brixton. He told me had been feeling unwell and had finally gotten round to going to the doctor,  to discover he had stage 4 stomach and oesophagus cancer. It was terrible news, though in his normal highly optimistic way it was all going to be fine; bit of chemo, maybe some surgery after and all will be well. Sadly that was not to be the case.

Kevin and Adrian moved the wedding to December, I hadn’t seen Kevin in a couple of months and was frankly shocked at how frail he looked, he had lost a lot of weight as he had not been able to eat. It was  great to see him, and see how happy he was, knowing he was being well looked after by his mum and his sister’s family and Adrian. Kevin and Adrian entered the ceremony to the sound of a waiata, a Maori song which was utterly beautiful and made me cry. It was a wonderful occasion, made more poignant with Kevin’s illness and prognosis.


I met Kevin travelling, and travelling is where Kevin was truly happy, he has seen far more of the world than I. He developed a number of friendships in his travels. Kevin managed to get a final trip in this year, visiting his beloved India, Australia and NZ. He arrived back in London on 22nd February, was admitted into hospital and passed away with his family a week later.

I had been meaning to visit him in hospital that week, but like so many things, I didn’t get around to it.

Rest in peace, Kevin. Without your enthusiasm for travel I would not have seen as much as I have, and would not yearn to do more. Without your friendship I would not have stayed in London, I would not have met El and I would not be as happy with life as I am. xx

Phil and Kev Dec 2018

Singapore. Part 3.

Saturday 26 January 2019 – Singapore. Part 3.

With Chinatown visited yesterday it would have been rude to not visit Little India and Kampong Glam, the historic Malay Muslim section of Singapore. After eating our body weight in hotel breakfast we were back down to the metro and off to Little India. Just after rush hour it was still quiet early in the day, particularly for Little India, and even more so for Kampong Glam.

Our first stop was the Tekka Centre, a must for anyone visiting Singapore. I always take a walk though here, often stopping to buy a snack, though not today after the amount I hoovered down during breakfast. The ground floor of the building is all about food, the outer ring being well patroned food courts and the centre a large fresh food market. The upper level is pretty much all about the sari, lots and lots, and lots of saris. With the occasional tailor tossed in to balance things out. The middle of the ground floor is a large fresh food market, selling everything from live (short lived) chickens, to fish and seafood and on to that wonderful range of Asian vegetables and fruit. Including the dreaded durian. It wa very quiet.


We did not stay long in Little India, there was not a lot open and not many people out and about, way too early. We crossed over towards Bugis and walked past the Kwan Im Thon Hood Temple. 


There is a lot happening in the streets here, and towards Bugis with quite a few market stalls selling all the tat you would ever need for Chinese New Year. There was a good mix of European tourists and Chinese here, probably the most diverse crowd we have been in since we arrived.


I like Kampong Glam, it is my favourite part of Singapore, mainly because it is the most hipster-ish east London area. It has changed massively since I last came here seven years ago. There are a lot more bars and cafes and a lot more street art. I still liked it, and if I wasn’t so tired all the time we should have come here one evening to experience it more fully. We found a Scandinavian coffee shop and stopped for the first flat white since we left NZ. It was good.


I like the contrast between the older shop houses and the ultra-modern glass towers, along with the very un-Singaporean awning on the sandwich shop. Public profanity! Outrageous!


Leaving Kampong Glam we started a walk down to the City Hall metro station, it was getting quite warm, and time again to think about getting off the open streets. On the way we passed by the magnificent Parkview Square building. Being a sucker for Gotham Gothic architecture this is one of my favourite tall buildings anywhere. Straight out of a Batman movie. Belying its 1930s art deco look the tower is entirely modern, being completed in 2002.


There is a small art gallery on the third floor, showing a collection of Chinese prints; we had a look but it was not really my thing. The ground floor lobby was pretty stunning!


Continuing on the journey we happened to come across Raffles Hotel next to City Hall station.


It seemed to be very rude to not complete the ultimate Singapore tourist task and go to the Long Room and have a Singapore Sling cocktail. Not being rude people, that is exactly what we did. All the tables in the Long Room bar have a large bag of peanuts for customers to graze on with their drinks. Shelling the nuts and discarding the empty shells on the floor is all part of the pleasure of visiting. The nuts were so wonderfully fresh, I ate quite a few, leaving a decent size sea of mess around me.



Today is the sixth anniversary of El and I meeting, so El had booked dinner in one of the restaurants in Marina Bay Sand Hotel. After an after of relaxing and writing back at the hotel we headed down to the metro and out again in to the late afternoon. We arrived early so had a bit of a walk around the marina.


Walking through the mall to the hotel we passeda  very large and impressive DC comics shop. we were tempted to buy a little something to take back as gifts, but decided not too.


Dinner was early, it was the only table we could get at such short notice. The restaurant was an all you can eat buffet and was pretty amazing. There was a terrific array of foods, and it is fair to say I ate a lot. Including things I do not normally eat, like crab and lobster. I also got to have what turned out to be only laksa I had during the stay. It was very nice, I love laksa. nooodle soups in general. This will be another thing I will endeavour to cook at home. 


There is a night time light trail here, I was really looking forward to seeing some of the installations, but found it all a little uninteresting, though there are works over quite a large area of downtown Singapore and all around the marina. I was expecting BIG, but big was not the thing.


Saturday was our final day in the city, we had a whole day to kill before our evening flight back to London. We lingered in the hotel for a while, making the most of breakfast again, and the air conditioning. We had decided to take one of the city bus tours. I don’t normally do them, but found the one I did do in Dubai to be quite a good time killer, and we had a lot of time to kill today. The weather foreacast was not brilliant either, so this really made sense.

We jumped on one near the hotel and it took us to the massive Suntec Plaza where we had to wait for a different tour. The bus was not that interesting, there was a huge amount of traffic and it moved very slowly, mainly past the places we had already been. After consulting the map and we jumped off one bus and on to another heading in a different direction and ended up by the riverside. Something I wanted to do today anyway.

We found a riverside, and touristy, Vietnamese place and sat down for a drink and a couple of Vietnamese snacks and just enjoyed sitting by the river in the warmth, no work to do and no real cares. The last until our next holiday. It was a pleasant end to the afternoon, and to the trip.


Soon enough it was back to the hotel, a shower and a change in the gym bathroom before a final glass of wine on the rooftop bar and then the airport and home.

It was a good few days, I am glad I got to share one of my favourite cities with El. We will come back to Singapore, it is an easy place to visit.