Category: Europe

The Backstreet


Wandering the backstreet of time


No end, no beginning,

You can hear the echoes

Of the past, the conquerors come and gone,

The plagues, the wars, the famines,  

The cries of laughter, the tears of sorrow,

The prayers and confessions,

The good times and the bad.   


You can see the people, the generations of them,

Crammed into small apartments

Living their hopes, their dreams, their desperation,

Their resignation, their struggles

As the years, the centuries, pass.


In that narrow street

Where light and shadow pattern the walls

All is silence

Only my footsteps to be heard

Until they too reach the journey’s end.

Last Images of Europe

Tomorrow we depart Europe for Thailand and afterwards, Australia.

Amongst all the experiences and images from the last 8 months, it is the cultural diversity and the history of Europe – embodied by The Renaissance era – which are the domiant mental souvenirs I take with me – rather than the scenes of utter bruality from The Ukraine which have dominated European news outlets this year. 

The Renaissance has loomed large during my time in this part of the world: the rebirth of European culture, in which Northern Italy played a major role. Commencing in the 16th century, The Renaissance was a time when artists, writers, and philosophers broke free of the old norms inherited from the Middle Ages and a suffocating, dogmatic Christianity.

This cultural revolution produced a welter of new ideas in the arts and a spirit of humanism.  Ironically, although it presaged the modern era, it drew its inspiration from the past – and in particular from the artists and philosophers of ancient Greece. 

These three paintings, all of them done in the early 16th century, capture the spirit of The Renaissance and its subtle yet unequivocal challenge to the existing norms. 


Portrait of a Lady, Sandro Boticelli


The city states of Northern Italy produced a welter of brilliant artists.

Born in Florence, Sandro Boticelli’s Portrait of a Lady portrayed a woman in a way never seen before: not as a kind of surogate version of the Holy Virgian Mary – as was normal during the Middle Ages – but rather in terms of femine beauty with clear elements of feeling and sexuality. Here was a radical new idea of painting: of displaying human beings rather than symbolic images. The detail, linear outlines and colours also spelled a break with the past. 

This is a beautiful woman whose beauty is something which we modern human beings can recognise. 


Portrait of an African Man, Jan Mostaert


Jan Mostaert was a little known Dutch painter hailing from the city of Haarlem. He was an outstanding painter in the technical sense but was not known for any originality. 

Mostaert’s Portrait of an African Man, is one of the earliest and the only individual portraits of a black African that has survived.

We do not know who this man is.

His rich clothes, gloves, and sword indicate his important status. The insignia on his hat and bag allude to possible Spanish or Portuguese origins. 

Whatever the case, this is a portrayal of a black man as someone with humanity and dignity and not a slave, a servant, or a curiosity. This is a man of colour with dignity and presence.  

This is a human being like you and me. 


Giovanni Bellini ‘The Lamentation of Christ’.


Bellini was a Venetian painter and here is one of his great masterpieces in its unprecedented portrayal of one of the oldest religious scenes in the world. Jesus, Mary and John are portrayed as real human beings with emotions rather than icons of an institionalised religion. In the drama of Christ’s murder and the intense suffering of Mary and John is a powerful symbol of the sufferings of the human race at large. In this sense the painting was timeless, relevant to the sufferings of human beings from whatever time period, place, religion or ethnicity.

Christ is a man who has suffered a terrible injustice and been arbitrarily executed. His fate and that of Mary and John is just as applicable to the human lot in today’s world as the ancient.

Here is the basis for our modern western ideas about ‘universal human rights’ and compassion for the world’s poor and oppressed. 


In these three paintings, the break with the Middle Ages –  dominated by the Papacy and crusades against the Moslems in the Holy Land and Spain, as well as against heretics within Europe – is unmistakable. A society and religion which has imposed a straight jacket on humanity for centuries is now being challenged by non violent means: art and ideas. 

This is the baggage I take with me as I depart Europe. 

Nothing to check in. No passport required. 

Light as a bird.  


Autumn Days






The leaves changing colour, falling.

The trees soon to become skeletons, naked, silent.

Cool winds, short days. 

The sun, like candle light, casting long shadows; 

The feeling of life changing, time ticking away

On our lives. This time together


Winter on the way and in the nights, creeping in the darkness

The kiss of silence, eternal. 






Flags – Rotterdam, The Netherlands, October 2022

Central Station, Helsinki Finland


I’ve never been into flags.

National flags I mean.  

The way I see it, they  too often symbolise nationalism of the bad kind. Narrow. ‘My country right or wrong’. That sort of stuff.

Sure, you might have good reasons for wanting to live in a country but it when it moves into something more than that, something emotional, fanatical, that when I sign off….

I’ve never been into flags because I’ve never been into nationalism.  

But today I admit that I’m a flag waver, a person who would be prepared to hang a flag from the small balcony of his third story apartment – except for the fact that the balcony has been netted off to keep the pigeons out.

If it wasn’t for the pigeons, I’d be hanging out a flag alright.

The Ukrainian Flag.


What a turnaround!

Until 9 months ago, if you had shown me a Ukrainian flag, I would have had no idea to which country it belonged (even though I’d spent a month in The Ukraine in the autumn of 2018).

I wasn’t alone in my ignorance.

If identifying the Ukrainian flag been a question in a popular quiz show I reckon few contestants would have been able to answer it correctly.

Today everyone in Europe knows that flag.

We’re all Ukrainians now.

Their flag is my flag.

Anti-flag me is now a flag enthusiast.

A flag waver if he got the chance. {Those damn pigeons!)

And the flag of Europe is now the flag of a Europe united like never before.

And that even anti-flag people like me have become flag wavers.


A farm in Flanders, Belgium




Mass protest in Rome



We’re all Ukrainians and Europeans now