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Cheetahs Prosper

Cheetahs Prosper

One morning in the Serengeti a tawny eagle was sitting on an acacia tree. The sun had risen a few hours earlier and the bird had used most of the daylight for gathering twigs to assemble into a nest. The acacia’s wicked thorns were almost as sharp as the eagle’s talons –..
Made in China

Made in China

“We are outlaws now.” These are words that precisely no-one wants to hear, not in China, not with its hard labour sentences and fondness for the death penalty. Of all the Asian nations not to be an outlaw in, China is just about top of my list. Yet, according to..
Training Days

Training Days

I have always loved Indian-English and the way it clings to formality, dredging up archaic verbs and half-forgotten idioms. Indians don’t argue, they quarrel; they don’t think someone is nuts, but that they ‘have bats in their belfry’. It is a dialect that bathes in hyperbole, whether that’s a best..
The Scran Situation

The Scran Situation

“We fry in bronze deodorised beef dripping,” reads a laminated sign behind the counter at Stonehaven’s Carron Fish Bar. It’s unclear whether this is supposed to deter or encourage more custom, but on a bright Tuesday lunchtime, the place could hardly be busier. About half of the people in this..
The Deep South

The Deep South

We were just off Point Wild, fighting a savage wind and ugly swell when a leopard seal’s reptilian head appeared above the surface of the dark water. We had travelled three days across the infamous Drake Passage to get to Antarctica, the edge of the map, and the predator appeared..
The Start of Everything

The Start of Everything

The smartest animal in the savannah, at least in evolutionary terms, is the waterbuck. It doesn’t have the best eyesight, nor the quickest reactions; its horns are not particularly lethal, its muscles not especially well developed. But in nature’s endless game of who eats whom, billions of evolutionary choices and..
The Fall of the Wild

The Fall of the Wild

Seven months on from Nepal’s catastrophic earthquake, tourists remain uncertain about when to return. Summer or winter? Spring or autumn? Surely not during the monsoon? The answer is simply as soon as possible. Plainly the country needs the income – tourism makes up almost 10 percent of its GDP and its..
Totally Autumn

Totally Autumn

As it has grown apart from ye olde English, the American version of the language has lost much. Surely one of its most tragic casualties is that gentle waltz of a word, autumnal. Autumn, autumnal, autumnally… they are, to me, some of our most elegant words, evoking a far deeper..
The Boat to Mandalay

The Boat to Mandalay

Rudyard Kipling’s road to Mandalay, the mighty route memorialised in poem and song, that ancient byway conjuring images of Empire and the Orient, is not, in fact, a road. Instead it is a river, the humongous Irrawaddy (or Ayeyarwady) which leads from Himalayan glaciers, deep in the heart of northern..
Surviving the Rickshaw Challenge

Surviving the Rickshaw Challenge

The BMW that picks me up from Mumbai Airport to take me to the JW Marriott is an absurdly, unnecessarily luxurious machine. Little bottles of water gently perspire in its perfect air-conditioning; it has televisions in the backs of the seats, and a power-assisted boot, negating the need for manual..