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Introducing dark comedy Hurricane Betty

My spec dark comedy feature script Hurricane Betty started out as I'm sure many great ideas for a film do – with a drunken, almost unbelievable dinner party anecdote. A friend-of-mine shared his childhood memory of a journey to France that turned into a farcical road trip. That night lying in bed wired on espresso martinis, I fell in and out of dreamtime, all the while I was living out the story as a film. I knew then I had to write the script and from there on in, the words have just rolled onto the page. I’ve been obsessed with road movies since I watched a mild-mannered commuter stuck behind a wheel in Spielberg’s surreal cult road movie Duel. All my favourite films seems to involve a car journey at some point; The Straight Story, Little Miss Sunshine, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Wild at Heart… I could go on and on!  Nothing beats the adventure of a road trip. Travelling seems to draw out the best and worst in people, and in my opinion a car i
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The alternative side to the Italian Riviera

For a classic introduction to Italy, cross over the French border into the Riviera di Ponente in north-west Italy, and head up its mountains into the unspoilt Ligurian countryside.  As the mountain road rises up from the coast – through hillsides covered with glasshouses, olive groves and steeply terraced vineyards – you turn a bend and suddenly sight the ancient medieval town of Ceriana, perched 1,211ft up high, its lanky stone houses huddled together on a hilltop. A former Roman fort, the small town of around 1000 inhabitants is built in concentric rings around the hill, following the contours of the land and forming a collection of tall houses and narrow Genoa-style ‘caruggi’ alleyways connected by arches and vaulted passages, oratories and votive chapels. The spot to stop for an aperitivo is the Star Pub on Corso Italia, where all the friendly Cerianaschi gather early evening to mull over their day.  Continue up further through chestnut and oak woods popula

Live it up like a local in Pangrati

For a completely different take on Athens may I suggest you visit or stay in Pangrati, a residential neighbourhood set behind the Panathenaic Stadium. Known to the locals as Kallimarmaro, it’s an often-overlooked area that is now full of great restaurants, shops and bars, all at non touristy prices. Less obvious than Kolonaki or Monastiraki, Pangrati is close enough to the city centre yet far enough away to give you a local flavour of the daily rhythm of everyday life in Athens. Start-ups are slowly adding a much needed boost to Athens as it emerges from its decade-long economic crisis. No more so than in Pangrati, whose low business rates attract small businesses keen to make a mark. You can eat and drink to your heart’s content around the three main squares of Varnava, Proskopon and Plastira, with new places popping up each month. You’ll find most of the action on Empedokleous Street – which essentially cuts through the heart of the neighborhood –  or in one of Pangrati’s m

In praise of gilda, the quintessential bar snack

On a recent city break to Bilbao I discovered the perfect bar snack: the gilda. Allegedly invented at Bar Casa Vallés in San Sebastián and named after Rita Hayworth's character Gilda in the eponymous film, it’s been a star of the pintxo bar for over 70 years. Equal portions of pickled guindilla pepper, salted anchovy fillet and tangy green olive neatly stacked onto a cocktail stick: a perfect mouthful of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and piquant that awakens the tastebuds. In the same way that a club sandwich is the mark of a good hotel bar, the test of any good pinxto bar, is the quality of its gildas. Making a tasty gilda at home is easy, as long as you have the best quality ingredients to hand: a pickled Guindilla pepper, a Cantabrian salted anchovy fillet, and a juicy Manzanilla olive. Carefully add each layer onto a cocktail stick and in seconds you have an exquisite mouthful of pintxo. Partner with a house-made vermut or a crisp txokoli and you’ve got the perfect a

Pintxos in the Bizkaia capital

If I’m offered a drink, I’m looking around for a snack. I simply hate knocking back the booze on an empty stomach.  Why in England is a measly bag of crisps or pork scratchings deemed an extravagance? For  me  the perfect bar crawl involves eating and drinking in equal measure. Which is why my heart and stomach fell so deeply for Bilbao, a city that embraces the art of picoteo or ‘bar crawling with intent to snack’.  For foodies that hate to share their carefully sought out culinary treats, pintxos win hands-down. These tasty bite-sized mouthfuls on sticks or bread topped with anything from crispy seafood to tortilla de patatas hit the spot every time.   Although you can find good pintxos anywhere in Bilbao, one of the most atmospheric places to wander is the busy narrow old town streets of the Casco Viejo . Commonly known as ‘ Siete Calles ’ or ‘Zazpi Kaleak’ in Basque, these seven streets formed the original medieval town and it’s here you can sample some of the best pintxos

Dog-friendly Cornwall

With a new addition to the family, 2018 has been all about discovering great places in the UK to visit with our lovable cockerjack Django in tow. We presumed our summer holiday to Cornwall would involve a lot less days out at local attractions. I was wrong; it just involves a little more research and planning. So when I discovered that The Eden Project has been named the best dog-walking destination in the world I knew I had to return.  One of my last memorable trips with my adventurous nana (before true old age got the better of her) was to Eden, when it had only just opened to the public. An avid gardener, she was blown away by the sheer potential of the site – the size of 30 football pitches – I only wish she was still around to see what it’s become. While everyone talks about the tropical and temperate plant-filled domes, known as biomes, it’s just as exhilarating to wander the now mature and well established outdoor gardens that nestle in this huge crater. Back in 199

Stress-free guide to rug shopping in Morocco

Buying a rug in Morocco is a fun yet often daunting experience for the uninitiated.  Here's some tips to help you enjoy a stress-free rug shopping trip.  Measure up Don’t make the mistake of spending all your holiday money on a rug that’s too big to fit in your room. Write down your minimum and maximum sizes before you do and think about colours that will complement the room it’s intended for. Whittle it down Go in with a definitive idea of what style you want. It will save you time and narrow down the amount of rugs you need to look at in each shop. Have a budget And stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away in the moment but remember you still have to pay for shipping and customs. Prices vary depending on age and rarity of design. Remember to do a currency conversion before you agree the final price, you don’t want the shock when you return home! Go in clear-headed While I don’t advocate heavy drinking the night before, I once did my best deal with a