Sunday, 29 March 2015


One thing that life always - or should always - bring with the passing of the years is the gaining of knowledge. It's not necessarily the same thing as 'wisdom' but it can certainly be a step or two in that direction.

My own life has seen me constantly drawn into the mystical world of information technology, although never as the 'It man' unless you count my twenties when the nickname 'cousin It' was bandied about occasionally. I used to have hair then, you know...

Anyway, my point is that all things computer-related seem so much simpler these days - and not just as a result of my long exposure to the underlying technologies. The days of computers being the size of a large room, water-cooled and programmed with punch cards is long past (thankfully), and these days virtually everyone I know carries a tiny computer in their pocket - the modern mobile phone. And that includes most pre-teens.

Some of us even write things like this blog post and receive comments (mostly nice ones) from like-minded or converted individuals from all around the globe. There are millions of websites available to us at the touch of a few buttons (and not every one of them displays the naked charms of young women. Or men. Or other animals...) and we are able to research the most esoteric topics if we so wish at next to zero charge. We can sell our unwanted possessions to people we never see let alone meet, and can buy almost anything and have it delivered to our door (something that is an immense blessing to this MS sufferer who finds carrying anything both tiring and downright dangerous).

These days we can chat face-to-face with relatives and friends on the other side of the world - even while we are travelling on a train, I noticed recently. We can buy and play music of all forms (apparently, that applies especially to the tinny garbage that appeals so much to those who can afford £500 for a phone but only 10p for headphones). We can carry a library of fiction and non-fiction in our pockets and add the very latest titles without moving from the comfort of our armchairs.

All of which progress and my IT background makes it seem a tad odd that it was only last month when I finally launched my own website (John Money Writes).

It is probably a place where I can focus in years to come - the only real future that I can look forward to as the MS progresses, and one that I can (and will) build gradually as writing becomes an ever more important part of my life.

It already holds all of my blog posts (almost 50 of them!) an is split into various topics (which has told me just where my true interests lie) and has pages for contacting me, the services I plan to offer (along with some friends), a tiny bit about me, and some samples of the stories I have already written or am writing.

It was high time that I embraced the interweb thingy properly, and now I find myself planning all sorts of extensions to my nice, shiny new site; there will very shortly be a submissions page where I will display the talents (so to speak) of other writers, many of whom will help with my planned services, and a news-y type page with latest information from around the writing-related world and details of where to find people who are buying or selling literature of all sorts. There may even be a page which displays, almost live, my latest fiction writing - the ultimate preview page.

Most of all though, it has helped me get organised like never before. My actual work has dominated my time and my life recently (well always, really - I'm just that sort of person) but in my 'own' time, I've been busy sorting everything out, raking through my old tales, planning new services and stories, and working on three pieces of fiction more or less simultaneously. Or rather, four now that one particular back-story has developed a life of its own and has provided me with enough ideas for a separate novella - or maybe even novel, given my rambling ways.

One new concept that fascinates me most is a feedback form. The opinion of others fascinates me - and sometimes even educates me (please, don't actually let me hear you say something about new tricks and old dogs...). It's amazing how much you can learn from the comments and views of others, and even though we tend - as humans - to pass over a lot of what people say to us in that respect, we will often take much closer note of what people write to us about. Well, I do, anyway.

I guess this post is something of a plug for my new website - and yes, I acknowledge that - but it's also meant to give us all a little pause for thought. We've come a very long way since our childhoods - even the teens among us - and I have little but praise for the leaps and bounds technology has cantered through during the past couple of decades.

Oh, and when/if you visit the site, yes, there's a very good reason for quoting Edgar Allen Poe (or ta least his Raven poem). Quite apart from the fact that the late lamented Terry Pratchett made me laugh aloud on a crowded train once when I saw that he'd named a raven character 'Quoth' (quoth the raven, indeed) - I find the 'Nevermore' theme so very appropriate to me these days. MS robs people of so many things - things that they will see 'never more' - but the term also provides me with a focus for the future. That which is taken is normally replaced by something else - and in my case that will be story-telling in all its many guises,

And I'm going to have it tattooed somewhere this summer. Any suggestions? I'll re-phrase that. Any polite suggestions?

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Spring has Sprung

Spring has finally arrived!

It was a mild winter by British standards, I guess, and following last week's sad news about Sir Terry P it ended on a very low note for me. But there was a man who wanted nothing more than for the likes of you and I to smile - and to think.

That's what spring does to me - moreso as time passes (which is its unfailing wont, of course) - and this year in particular I am thinking more than ever. And whoever said 'coo, he means twice' should be shot. Slowly.

It really has got my brain buzzing though and all I seem to have been able to do this last week is think and plan (and work, but that's not exactly unusual). On a practical note, I'm busy restructuring the house here in readiness for a move to downstairs-only living - not exactly something that fills me with joy, but a process that will help me avoid the pitfalls of stairs in the early morning, with the emphasis on the syllable 'falls'.

Then there's my new website which holds, for me, the key to a distant, near-immobile, future - and one that will help bring emphasis to what I want to be doing with the spare time that is already beginning to fill my diary, so to speak.John MoneyWrites will be where I gather my stories (both long and short) when they start to be published later this year, and where I will showcase the services that I will offer. Perhaps age and a fascination with the English language, coupled with a necessarily sedentary lifestyle, will capture my interest in a far more public way than before.

But Spring.... I was always under the impression that MS sufferers tried to avoid warmth because it worsened the condition and I seem to recall horror stories about victims being stranded in hot baths and similar. Not true. Or at least not for me. And that's NOT because I haven't taken a bath for months...

I have found that cold conditions worsen my primary symptoms no end - and I'm not just referring to frequent visits to a sitting position while attempting to negotiate icy paths. Cold weather seems to weaken my already faltering sense of balance to a point where I have more chance of winning the lottery than I do of getting from house to car without discovering what concrete impacting with flesh actually feels like. Warmth on the other hand (hands and feet, to be more precise) seems to offer a tiny tiny fleck of additional feeling - and believe me, any addition is gratefully received.

The fact that I can't travel easily means that I am limited to the British climate, though, so Spring or not, the chances of warm days are remote. But at least there is the promise of warmer days.

As ever, I seek my 'Reasons to be Cheerful' (which includes listening to old Ian Dury recordings) and Spring offers me one in my condition, Spring cleaning is hardly an activity I can any longer indulge in. Oh dear, what a pity. Never mind. Don't let my smile dazzle you.

Mostly though, Spring brings the understanding that, temperature-wise, things are going to improve for a few months. And I like the extra daylight hours. Driving in the dark I find tiresome and dull, but somehow bright sunlight changes my perspective. I don't see myself as the new Lewis Hamilton exactly, but a car begins to feel more natural to me in the daylight hours (and yes I was something of a boy-racer type back in the day, although I was more of a mind to be James Hunt, such was the distant time - and not Fangio or Moss before anyone suggests that).

I have the distinct impression I'm something of a sun-bunny these days and that's got to mean that Spring is full of promise for the likes of me. Plus there's a few Bank Holidays coming up soon now.

Life's not so dull when the sun starts to shine and the frosts disappear - so long live Spring and its glorious green shoots.

Now... is it Summer yet?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Our Terry... RIP

This is a tough one. Maybe the toughest yet - and that includes anything I wrote after my diagnosis.

I finished work here at home on Thursday afternoon, happy that I had achieved all I'd set out to do, and content in the knowledge that even if I can't run (or dance) any more, at least the brain is still working well enough in other ways. I play music while I work at home, but never bother myself with the news channels or social media sites - those are things I open browser sessions for whenever I'm done with the work of the day.

And so it was on Thursday, but far from more news about the woes of the England cricket team or increasingly desperate politicians, my screen filled with the most horrific news. Sir Terry Pratchett, OBE, had died at the age of just 66,

Twitter feeds confirmed it in the most moving, simple and Pratchett-esque way:

Sir Terry - Terry - had been my authorial hero since my twenties when, in 1986 I stumbled across a copy of The Light Fantastic - before almost sprinting back to the bookstore to pick up a copy of The Colour of Magic when I realised that I had started reading a 'sequel'. Little did I realise that the sequel was merely the first of almost forty further Discworld novels. Not one has disappointed me, some have made me laugh aloud in the most inappropriate of places (although you are always forgiven when people see what you're chuckling about).

But on Thursday I was facing the most chilling news imaginable. As Terry himself said in an early Discworld installment, Sourcery, "Death isn't cruel, merely terribly, terribly good at his job." - but I really hadn't wanted that proved to me.

I had, thanks to Terry, grown used to the character of Death, an 'anthropomorphic personification' who spoke in capital letters and who even 'starred' in a couple of the novels, appearing in all but one recent one. He was a character who amused and infuriated, but who never angered - until Thursday that is. Death even appeared in Terry's collaborative work, Good Omens, with Neil Gaiman when the character states that the passing of life is natural and normal - "DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING," said Death, "JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO  AVOID THE RUSH."

Like all Discworld afficionados, I grew to adore many of his quirky, complex, fully-defined characters. In the early days there was Death, of course, Rincewind the hapless 'wizzard' and his luggage on its little legs. Then came the witches - the quietly powerful Esme Weatherwax, the fun-loving family witch, Nanny Ogg and her remarkable cat, Greebo, and... Magrat (spelling checked). There was the cast of the Unseen University's wizards, all of whom were born to rune, and Gaspode the Wonder Dog (and his friend Laddie). There were the beggars, many of whom you sincerely hoped would stay vagrant and pass you by - Coffin Henry, most certainly, Bugg'rit. Oh, and the Guards, of course. Corporal/Captain Carrot a six-foot plus dwarf, Angua who hid more than womanly wiles behind her breast-plate, Nobby Nobbs who was technically (only) human, Fred Colon a career-cop (or more accurately a careering cop). All lead by the indomitable Vimes, a real man.

Oh and then there's the dragons and of course, Lady Sybil. Cohen the barbarian, the Hogfather, Mister Teatime, Guilds full of clowns and assassins - easily confused, and mysterious monks. More recently there was Moist von Lipwig, and then there is Vetinari going back forever. And the trolls - who could forget the trolls, especially if Detritus came knocking?

And so it goes on. On gloriously on.

A wealth of rich, vibrant, often hilarious characters inhabiting a most fabulous world, a Disc perched on the back of four elephants, themselves standing on the back of the Great A'Tuin, a star turtle. And there are turtles all the way down, you know?

Terry was seldom annoyed by anyone or anything, although the lack of regard he received, or rather, failed to receive, from some members of the 'literati' could upset him - "Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one", as he put it. He described fantasy fiction as "An exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can."

His wit was ever apparent in the seemingly endless supply of quotes that have become almost as much a part of the pantheon of the English language as the words of Wilde and even Shakespeare before him. It was Terry, in Mort back in 1987, who first coined the observation that "Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten."

He had a highly appropriate quote for such things of course, which he exercised in Hogfather - "Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time."

Terry wrote more than forty novels based on (or in) the Discworld - and assisted with countless works associated with his novels such as maps (Mappes), diaries, jigsaw puzzles and even figurines and stamps. But he wrote much more. Aside from the collaboration with Neil Gaiman, he was recently co-authoring the Long Earth series of novels with Stephen Baxter and had even written the ultimate cat bible (The Unadulterated Cat, 1989) - the latter no doubt having been inspired by his observation that "In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this."

He was more than an author, though, taking a more than keen interest in the plight of Orangutans and more recently, those suffering from his own 'embuggerance', Alzheimer's. An early onset version of the disease was diagnosed as affecting him eight years ago and he fought it with a passion.

Just last year he pointed out that "It is possible to live well with dementia and write best-sellers - 'like wot I do'." But for all his light words, the condition affected him greatly - as far back as 2008 he was quoted as saying about the disease: "A cure? I would gnaw a dead mole if there was any science behind it."

A year after the mole he said something which made a lot of people start to think. "If I had been Terry Pratchett the farmer or Terry Pratchett the dentist, nobody would have paid any attention if I had announced I had Alzheimer's. But there is something fascinating about an author losing the power over words."

Terry, though, wasn't 'just' a brilliant author and a humanitarian who cared for more than just humans. He was a loving husband to wife Lynn and father to a real 'chip off the block', his daughter Rhianna, In fact, according to Rhianna "it was like having a full-sized hobbit for a father." Grab a tissue and read her own words about him:

"Dad was like a druid; he taught me how to build watermills in the stream, the names of plants and flowers, and what was edible in nature. It was like growing up in Middle Earth and having a full-sized hobbit for a father."

She recalls when she was very young being woken by him in the middle of the night, wrapped in a blanket and taken outside to see the glow-worms in the hedge. 

(that being with rare thanks to the Telegraph -

But for the vast majority of us, Terry was 'simply' the genius behind some of our most-loved characters and the foundation of so many compelling - and often educational - stories. As he said himself in Going Postal, "... a man is not dead while his name is still spoken", but that doesn't stop me being grudgingly annoyed by the truism behind another of his quotes, this one from Small Gods - "Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you."

I wasn't expecting his demise, no matter that the Alzheimer's made it inevitable at some point. I loved his books and always will - always first(ish) in the queue back in the day when bookshops were the only recourse, always pre-ordering online these days. I've exchanged a thousand quips and quotes with hundreds of other 'TP' fans over the years and that one man is probably responsible for more of my smiles than any other. Than all the others combined, in fact.

An aside which sounds slightly preposterous but is true despite the million-to-one chance (or perhaps because of it). I currently have a loan car while mine is being fixed. It's ancient, even by my standards, built cheaply in '94 and it doesn't have a CD player, but a cassette tape device, something I noticed when I drove it on Wednesday. Knowing that I had to travel in it to the office on Friday, on the Wednesday night I  rooted through the bits and pieces regular readers will know I recently got back from storage in Luxembourg, finally locating a couple of 'books on tape'. I put them in my bag ready for Friday morning. They are Mort and Reaper Man.

I could write so much more about my adoration of Sir Terry, of specific times with specific people or specific places, made memorable by him or his works... but I just can't. This hurts.

I'll leave you with the words of one Nick Mogavero, a member of one of the seemingly countless Facebook sites dedicated to the works of the genius. Cue more tissues.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Jive Talking

Talking is good, right?

Well, up to a point - or more specifically, it's good when it tells the whole story. A little learning, though, really can be a dangerous thing.

This past week has been a case in point, and one that's very much true to my own heart. It's no big news to many, if any, of my regular readers when I say I have MS (Multiple Sclerosis), but for many of them their impression of the condition was changed this week by a television programme.

It isn't a programme about the condition itself - heaven forbid that such a wide-ranging topic affecting so many people would ever be considered for mainstream coverage - but rather it's one of the seemingly endless spin-offs related to the upcoming Red Nose Day (next Friday's worthy charity day , the 30th year we will have witnessed it).

Rather, it's The People's Strictly - itself a spin-off from the hugely successful BBC Strictly Come Dancing show (Dancing Charitably). One of the six 'lucky' contestants is Trishna Bharadia and, as has been pointed out rather loudly on the show, she suffers from MS, I've heard a lot of knee-jerk reaction about how good that must be for 'the rest' of us fellow MS sufferers - finally, some publicity on mainstream TV in the UK that does not involve a certain Swiss clinic. Good, yes?

No. Not if the true impact of the condition is not addressed. Not if it leaves the watching public with the opinion that all of us MSers could jive like Trishna is about to do. And most definitely not if it leaves others thinking that this nasty, evil disease is nowhere near as bad as they have heard us lead them to believe.

The fact - the unspoken fact - is that Trishna's version of the condition is, while debilitating to a degree, currently one of the milder forms of the condition. The fact that this condition has multiple symptoms that affect its six-figure suffering population was not even mentioned, and certainly not the crushing nature of the condition for so many people. It would be churlish, bordering on plain nasty, to suggest that Trishna has it easy, but the truth of the matter is that for a huge number of MSers, jiving isn't just impossible because they can no longer walk properly, let alone dance - the very memory of being able to strut on dance floors can itself hurt, a reminder of pre-MS days when life was so much better.

The biggest unspoken fact is that there are multiple versions of the condition ranging from occasional bouts of numbness and imbalance through to constant pain and a complete inability to so much as move unaided. And within those conditions, there are countless symptoms that assail sufferers at every turn - sometimes on a permanent basis. Even within the various sub-types, no two MSers will suffer the same symptoms in combination. Oh yes, MS is a very personal condition.

That the BBC has failed to address this issue is unsurprising - it would take several series just to list all of the potential issues that an MSer might face - but it's also damaging for those of us who face difficulties far more serious than the ones faced by Trishna.

No joke - one person contacted me to ask whether I shouldn't consider something like dancing to help me take my mind off things. Quite apart from the fact that back in the day when I could attempt such a thing I looked more like the horsey version of Nijinsky than the premier star of ballet, these days I have to pre-plan a trip to the television if I want to switch channels manually.

It's very fortunate for me that we live in such an accessible, digital age. Of course I took time to assure the person concerned that my condition was different from the young lady's - that there are multiple basic versions of MS, never mind a plethora of potential symptoms which may or may not impact any particular sufferer - but I could sense the doubt lingering there. After all the BBC had said... You get the drift.

Fortunately there is the wonderful MS Trust to call on with almost as much information on its quite brilliant website (yes, I'm biased - I wonder why?) - The MS Trust - as there are symptoms of the disease.

I make no bones about the fact that I am using my post this week to try to redress some of the balance after the BBC's People's Strictly coverage - the harm that incomplete picture painting can do. I don't want this damned condition, of course, but I certainly don't want people to misinterpret what I have. I'm going to use a series of posts here - most created by the very worthy and aforementioned Trust  - to try to let you all know what it is we're truly facing every day of our often miserable lives,

I want you all to read what's written here and try to understand why it's such a vile condition - and why it is do different for every one of us. Please, try to get the image of jiving MSers out of your mind and look at some of the broader truths.

I'll start with the basics, a guide to just what the condition really is. The link understanding ms takes you to a very useful page which shows just how varied and invasive the condition can be, and in many ways, this is the most important link of all. There are more sufferers than a football stadium - even Old Trafford or Wembley - could hold, and with so many variations on symptom sufferance there's probably close to as many combinations of the disease and its affects than there are people who have been simply diagnosed with MS.

After that, there's a real need to address the myths of the disease in another Trust link, the myths, in which you will find not only information that relates to misinformation (so to speak) but you will glean other truths about what the disease means for sufferers.

A quick look at one of the most common first symptoms, optic neuritis, is naturally useful at this point but it's also worthwhile visiting links that look into the most common symptoms of the bitch... sorry, of MS, which include fatigue, affecting pretty much all of us, and the misleadingly pleasant-sounding hug which can be an ever-present nightmare.

And that last link above also demonstrates how, even within a symptom of the wider MS condition, there are endless variants on what might help (loose clothing or tight, as an example in this case). And it's worth noting at that point that there is no cure - only assistance - available. And precious little effective assistance.

The link to a video variances should give some insight into why no two days are alike for most of us - which bitch is nastier - and that should help in explaining mood swings (which is, in itself, yet another symptom of the condition).

My final link, though, is to the Trust's quarterly newsletter - more appropriately, a magazine - Open Door, which offers invaluable support and news for all MS sufferers - and those around them.

This section is important to all of us with MS, in that it gives links to the broader truths that 'nice, charitable TV' doesn't seem to have time for. It's important to all MS sufferers that the condition is properly understood by all around us - and I haven't even mentioned the plethora of 'related' conditions that might arise as a result of having MS (Trigeminal Neuralgia anyone?) or the damage that falls and other MS-related accidents may cause.

Please don't get me wrong, though, when it comes to that misleading and potentially damaging television show. I wish Trishna every success - especially as she is a fellow MSer. And don't think that I consider her as 'having it easy' compared to me. I sincerely hope her condition does not deteriorate too much in years to come, but remember, as things stand right now it's a life-long condition and in all probability, she will be facing her symptoms for a whole lot longer than I will.

There are all sorts of us out there in the ether (and in here trying not to trip over level floorboards). and we might have MS, but that can only enhance our range of experience, Not necessarily nicely, but that's not our fault...

Remember, keeeeeep tolerating people and try to understand the wealth of struggles that they might be facing....

Sunday, 1 March 2015

It's A Small World

It used to be a phrase associated with unexpected and unlikely coincidences. We might meet a fellow explorer in the wilds of some far-flung, exotic outpost of the planet and it really would be a complete surprise because it was so remote a possibility.

For my generation it was often the case that our parents had, like most Americans today, never set foot outside of their native lands, Other than for the (normally) male members of the family, of course, who had served overseas in the armed forces during the bitter conflicts that marked the early and middle part of the last century. Although it's arguable whether visiting a distant country with the sole intention of killing off some of its population is really the same as 'travelling abroad'.

Of course, there are many today who would include our burgeoning population of travelling drunken teenagers as being just as threatening and dangerous to overseas indigenous populations.

Two things changed all that when I was barely a teenager. These things made travel abroad not only far easier, but also gave it the label of 'normal'.

I'm referring to the rise of the travel agent - which, put like that, sounds like something a horror author would write about - maybe not so unreasonably - and the start of the overseas school trip.

The former was the product of a type of benevolent greed mixed with the realisation that there was a whole wide marketplace that wasn't being exploited, and the latter was a way of getting those pesky kids out of the (often very few) hairs of teaching staff - widely supported by parents for the same reason.

Okay, to be fair the school thing was probably more a result of educational establishments wanting to expose children to other cultures and, perhaps more importantly, other languages.

When you couple those ideas with the rise of cheaper travel methods as boats and airplanes develop ever safer and ever easier means of getting from the miserable weather of the British Isles to the sun, sand and other s-words of foreign climes, then overseas travel becomes not just a possibility, but something closer to a necessity.

I work among a staff of some one thousand souls and I am constantly sampling snacks and treats brought back from all corners of the globe as a result of holiday travels. Even the youngest generation of staff members seem to have travelled more in their twenty years than many of my own generation have done in a lifetime (and I'm fairly sure that at least some members of the younger generation count our more senior age in 'dinosaur years').

When, around twenty years ago, I opted to work overseas (ok, over the English Channel) in the wilds of Luxembourg it was still considered something of an unusual life-choice.That there were around
a quarter of a million other 'foreign' workers in the country was neither here nor there to most Brits - I was still living an 'exotic' lifestyle.

But the nineties coincided with the rise of the 'resort traveller', and the likes of Ibiza and Majorca were already being viewed as perfect retreats for a couple of weeks of s-words and booze. That type of holiday-maker can scarcely refer to such places (they've even managed to create similar resort at the other end of the Mediterranean now) as 'overseas' when they insist on there being plenty of 'English-style' public houses for them to drink to excess and fall over in. And heaven forfend anyone who dares speak the 'foreign lingo', except to order more beers, vodka or 'that foreign ouzo/sangria crap'.

Generally, though, we Brits do see overseas destinations as places where we can go to see other cultures and the sites, sounds and lifestyles on offer. Methods of transport are plentiful, safer and cheaper these days, although language remains a sturdy barrier for many of us - no matter how many foreign exchange programmes our schools encourage us to take part in.

During my near-decade in Luxembourg I did try to speak more of the locally used languages of choice. That these were, in order of popularity, French and German was neither here nor there - Luxembourgish does exist but even the indigenous locals found the 'foreign languages' more useful and to be totally honest, easier. The first Luxembourgish dictionary wasn't published until around 1990. My cause was not helped by the fact that the locals were more keen to brush up on their English-speaking skills using me as a reasonable example than they ever were to help me brush up on my non-English ones.

My French and German did improve over the years to the point where I could understand most requests made to me, and I even learned to tell one joke in French. The English translation: If someone speaks three languages they are called 'trilingual'. If they speak two then they are called 'bilingual' And if they speak one? Then they're called English....

When I went to work and live there I already had a degree of wanderlust about me, but there sheer fact that I was now an expatriate seemed to exaggerate the desire to travel and see more of the world. Germany, France and Belgium were all neighbours of the tiny country and my work often took me to Switzerland and Italy as well. But the Eastern European states were becoming potential destinations (for the first time for non-troops since the last World War) and there were countless more potential destinations crying out to the would-be traveller.

It didn't matter whether you were seeking the sun (and some or all of the other s-words) or the culture (for me it was always a combination of the former and latter), there was always somewhere available and an airport just down the road (literally). I travelled a lot, but less than maybe I should have done - mostly within the bounds of Europe but also to the North American continent (where English is almost spoken - what's that aboot?).

I always went with the intention of making it clear I was there to learn more about the local culture and never to put it at risk - either from weaponry or the contents of a booze-raddled stomach at three in the morning. I always meant to re-visit a couple of the more fascinating and/or relaxing outposts - Gozo and Squamish spring to mind (a small island near Malta and a tiny ex-logging township on the West Coast of Canada), but like most Brits, I've never got round to it. To be fair to myself, now I can afford to travel again sometimes, my MS does rather restrict my travel chances and overseas trips have been added to the list of things I can no longer achieve.

My point to this 'article', though (and yes, there is a point), is that the phrase 'it's a small world' probably wouldn't have seen the light of day in these enlightened, travel-rich times. When I was holidaying as a resident of Luxembourg, while I was overseas I genuinely and actually bumped into people I knew (one in Canada and one in Spain) and even back then it was less suprising than it would have been for my parents' generation. These days I imagine it happens with even greater regularity - the simple mathematics of more people travelling to more places on a more regular basis.

But that doesn't change the underlying truth of the phrase. We can travel to the other side of this small world in just a day - even if it takes that long to travel to the other end of this country thanks to the abysmal rail service we suffer.

Travel has become a norm in all corners of Europe (and similarly in the Asian Sub-Continent), and if Americans do not venture overseas so much, it is worth remembering that the USA is vast and contains so many different climates and cultures (including one of the largest Luxembourgish-speaking centres of population on the planet). New York city is actually a lot closer to London than it is to Los Angeles - by almost 1500 miles. I'm not sure even the most wanderlust-filled souls would find a need to travel beyond its mainland boundaries - and both Alaska and Hawaii are also part of their 'homeland'.

It's definitely a small world now, though. Emigration and immigration help by bringing cultures together and one thing I always find is that, small or not, this planet has so many diverse, wonderful cultures and behaviours. We are enriched in manners and ways that were simply not available to many of our predecessors - whether we choose to travel or not. Or even whether we are physically able to travel or not.

A final mention must go to the internet. It may only be a shade over twenty years old, but right from the start it has accomplished a bold and quite brilliant aim - to be a global phenomenon; to link cultures from every corner of the planet. It doesn't give exposure to all of the s-words (even if it seems to contain little more than one of them at times), but it does tell us where we can find the sun. And how to get there. And how much it will cost. And allow us to book the passage. And what other people think about the destination, and how it relates to their own cultural backgrounds.

And it makes the world even smaller because you can find pretty much anyone, wherever they may be. I even found a long-lost uncle and aunt living in Crete. Truly a small world.