09 November 2020

Egyptian Romance: a novel about travel

Once again, many people are under lockdown.  Once again, travel is hard, or impossible.  During the first lockdown, I published my black notebooks recording most of my travels over the last thirty-odd years.  So I thought this second lockdown might be a good moment to publish some more travel-related writing.

"Egyptian Romance" is a novel, but one based on information I gathered during my own trip to Egypt in 1990, which I published as a series of four posts earlier this year.  It represents a re-working of my black books from that trip in a form that some may find easier to read.  It can therefore be seen as part of a series, which includes A Partial India - a re-working of my travel notebook for India, and Walks with Lorenzetti, which re-visits a 1988 trip I made to Venice

Empire's End


The Tale of a Tourist

03 August 2020

Introduction to Moody's Black Notebook Travels

I have two great regrets in my life.  One is eating a chicken sandwich in Varanasi, shortly before flying to Kathmandu.  This gave me the worst food poisoning I have ever experienced, nearly killed me, and meant that I missed a unique opportunity to visit Lhasa before it was turned into a Chinese Disneyland.  The other regret involves three Inter-rail trips that I made in 1979, 1980 and 1981.  They were extraordinarily rich in sights and experiences.  Stupidly, though, I did not keep a travel diary at that time, so all I have are vague, if important, memories of what I saw, thought and felt.

At least I was able to learn from these two huge blunders.  Afterwards, I no longer ate chicken sandwiches in exotic lands, and I kept travel diaries for all my major trips.  The latter took the form of black notebooks, bought from Ryman's, in two formats: one small enough to fit in a pocket, and another, slightly larger, that I kept in the travel bag I used for longer journeys. 

I now have dozens of these notebooks sitting behind me, filled with my illegible scrawl.  I have been meaning to turn them into digital texts for some years, and to bring them into the 21st century, but have never got around to it until now.  I am not transcribing them in any set order, but will place links to them below, as they go online, ordered chronologically.  There is no overall plan, no overall significance.  They are just what they are: quick thoughts jotted down in black notebooks, captured moments of a specific time and place.

01 August 2020

Walks with Lorenzetti: Venice, Memory, Tourism

Just as A Partial India was a re-working of my travel notebook for India, so Walks with Lorenzetti re-visits a 1988 trip I made to Venice.  A Partial India and the notes it is based on try to capture the unrepeatable impact of seeing India for the first time.  Walks with Lorenzetti is quite different.  Although it was a particularly intense few days in Venice, it was far from my first trip there.  I brought with me other memories of the city and elsewhere, as well as various kinds of relevant knowledge built up over the years before.

Walks with Lorenzetti therefore goes beyond simply re-working one of my travel notebooks.  It weaves in other major strands, including three of the city's greatest creators and their art: the music of Vivaldi, the paintings of Canaletto, and the writing of Goldoni.  Above all, it follows in the footsteps of another book: Guido Lorenzetti's Venice and its Lagoona forgotten masterpiece that deserves to be better-known.  I hope the following pages will help to achieve that.



Introductory Chapters

The book
The itineraries
The man

The Twelve Itineraries

I - First act: eighth itinerary
II - First night movement: Allegro più ch’è possible
III - First portrait: Antonio Vivaldi
IV - Second act: ninth itinerary
V - Second night movement: intermezzo
VI - Second portrait: Carlo Goldoni
VII - Third act: third itinerary
VIII - Third night movement: capriccio
IX - Third portrait: Antonio Canaletto
X - Fourth act: fourth itinerary
XI - Fourth night movement: finale
XII - Fourth portrait: itinerant biographies


The personal tempest

Venice and its Lagoon


20 July 2020

A Partial India

In October and November 1986, I went to India for the first time.  It was an important experience,  which I tried to capture as it happened in one of my black travel notebooks, now online as three blog posts.  They are essentially unedited transcriptions of what I wrote as I journeyed.  As such, I hope they possess a certain immediacy and freshness.  But they are also necessarily unstructured, other than by each day's itinerary, rather long, and therefore perhaps rather hard to read.

The experiences of those three weeks were so rich for me I decided to re-work my notes into shorter, more digestible pieces, which together form what I called A Partial India.  Partial, because they obviously captured only a tiny part of the vast land, its people and civilisation; partial, too, because it was born of my gratitude for the experiences India gave me.  

A third of a century later, it describes an India which no longer exists, if it ever did.  Given my inevitable lack of comprehension of India's subtleties during that first journey, perhaps this is the best I can now hope for: that the evident non-existence today of the land I described will make Partial India of mild historical interest to others.

For want of anything better, I organised my memories under arbitrary alphabetical headings, which are as follows:

A is for Agra
B is for Books
C is for Camels
D is for Delhi
E is for English
F is for Fatehpur Sikri
G is for Gandhi
H is for Horns
I is for Incense
J is for Jaipur
K is for Kashmir
L is for Large
M is for Mosques
N is for Nights
O is for Ochre
P is for Poverty
Q is for Queuing
R is for Raj
S is for Shangri-La
T is for Trains
U is for Udaipur
V is for Voyaging
W is for Work
X is for Xenophilia
Y is for Yamuna
Z is for Zenana