I have travelled extensively during my 26 years as a journalist, with and without my son. I’ve presented and produced award-winning TV, radio and print journalism and been rewarded with a lifetime of adventure and experiences, meeting interesting and unique people. I’ve even won some awards.
I have written so many articles and produced so many TV and radio reports, but the best have always been taking and sharing the experiences with my son, such as taking him to New York for the first time presenting a TV report for the now-defunct BBC Holiday Programme. He was four and every time we were being filmed I was carrying him in my arms – so much so that many thought I carried Tom all the way round New York for the duration!
Then, when he was sixteen, to Antarctica for Christmas and for his birthday on Desolation Beach, walking with three penguins like Wise Men following in our footsteps, as we stepped along the beach of snow as icebergs drifted past like Henry Moore sculptures.
To India, to see as 12-year-old Tom stared into the eyes of a young tiger when we were on safari and for the tiger stare right back. For him to present food to monks in Thailand, and be interviewed sitting next to them, for the Holiday Programme – his first speaking part on TV – excited by meeting the ‘chipmunks’ as he called them throughout the take.
Travel is best when it is shared with those you love and I have been blessed to share my experiences with my son Tom since he was very young. As a journalist I am privileged but being with him made the experience even more magical.
Sometimes, travel is so powerful. The emotion became so strong that I ended up writing poetry. Of course, it rarely was published but occasionally, just occasionally it made the grade. This one about an African safari, on the Garden Route in South Africa, with Tom, did.
The heartbeat of life echoes in the darkness
as primal dancers taste the air
Their rainbow of raw passion fails to move
Still white men colourblind to the nature of the beast
Who have no sense
And no sense of what they see
Holding their breath and closing their heart
To the seduction and wisdom of the moment
In case they might feel the tightening chains of their own making.
Africa is a place more evolving and deep and immense
Than they bear to believe exists outside their boxed little world
And expired imagination
They click impatiently through a tiny camera lens
but a tick on the dinner party ‘have done’s before the port and wine
Destroying everything they approach by admiring too closely
below and above the ground.
The lions sleep and cheetahs yawn unable to camouflage how
Weary and bored and disinterested they are at our ignorant curiosity
These pussy cats always one eye open, waiting for us to make the fatal mistake that they are our friends
Hoping one day they will get the chance to eat us alive as we are now devouring them
but less humanely.
I see monkeys born to kill and be killed
Now sick inside, not wanting pity but getting it, waiting to die, damaged by jelly beans and TV
As we all are.
Over loaded by the burden and emptiness of being arm candy
To stupid men who want to control and tame them as obedient pets as they do their wives.
I absorb and breathe in the pain and anger and wonder
As I skim through by train and car and foot this place
And cry and laugh inside by turn
At the violent magnificent contrast of mountain and plain
And rumbling discontent
Of a land that screams out to deaf ears to be left alone
And I sense again that primal rhythm I heard on my first day
As I watched the dancers
And I start to move to a beat I find infectious
And overwhelmingly humbling
Of a proud people far smarter than our own
Still treated despite the Lighthouse Man
Like cute animals allowed to live like organ grinders
To perform for greedy men
who don’t tolerate any rhythm that isn’t their own
Not realising it’s not theirs at all.
Every single living thing in this vital and raw and important land
Dances to the rhythm of Original Life
A rhythm I know, until I came here I had almost forgotten
And only to it’s echo my Game Boy son may one day learn to dance to again.
Multi - award winning journalist, TV and radio broadcaster, and best selling novelist of seven titles, as well as author of travel books Have Toddler Will Travel and A to Zen of Travel. Former presenter of Jazz FM Travel Guide, reporter for Classic Fm Travel Guide, presenter BBC Holiday Programme and presenter Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed for Sky TV, and anchor for I Want That House Revisited for ITV.