Read more books!

This time last year I sat down with a pen and notepad and wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve in 2018.

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One of those things was to read more books - replacing idle time on my phone, wasting away hours scrolling through feeds - with words on a page. No glare and no distractions. I set an ambitious target of 30 books, having read 16 in 2017. 

“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” – Roald Dahl

One year on and that 30-book target now feels conservative. I read 47. 

With just a small shift in behaviour, I was amazed at how quickly I’d work my way through the pages. Those few minutes you have waiting for a train, that 10 minute Uber ride, the 15 minutes you spend in the morning drinking coffee and having breakfast. Last year I’d be a sucker to the dopamine hit served up so readily by the apps on my phone, but while there’s nothing wrong with that, I needed to change - and so I opened up a book instead.  

From the biographies of Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin, to the wonderful worlds created by Enid Blyton and C.S Lewis, my 2018 reading list has taken me from Florence in 1452 to Narnia via Oxford and Hogwarts. Midway through the year I started writing a story for my little nephew, and so to get some inspiration I unearthed a few books from my childhood, as well as taking in some popular titles from the modern day. I also wanted to learn more about the craft of writing stories, and so that influenced my reading list too. 

Here’s what I read: 

Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Alex Cross’s Trial - James Patterson 

Dead Simple - Peter James

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

Beyond Harvard - Mark H. McCormack 

A Place Called Winter - Patrick Gale 

Deal Breaker - Harlan Coben

Into the Woods - John Yorke

Poetry In The Making - Ted Hughes

Friend Request - Laura Marshall

Leonardo da Vinci - Walter Isaacson 

Where Good Ideas Come From - Steven Johnson 

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

The Power - Naomi Alderman

On Writing - Stephen King

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - JK Rowling

The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe - C.S Lewis

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline 

Good Strategy Bad Strategy - Richard Rumelt

Drop Shot - Harlan Coben

Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott

Understanding Comics - Scott McCloud

Camino Island - John Grisham 

The Cuckoo’s Calling - Robert Galbraith

61 Hours - Lee Child

The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris

Looking Good Dead - Peter James 

The Enchanted Wood - Enid Blyton

Legacy - James Kerr

The Midnight Line - Lee Child

The Midnight Gang - David Walliams

Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl - Donald Sturrock

Don’t Let Go - Harlan Coben

Bear Town - Fredrik Backman

Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

I Am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes 

Fantastic Mr Fox - Roald Dahl

The Explorer - Katherine Rundell 

Benjamin Franklin - Walter Isaacson 

Charmed Life - Dianne Wynne Jones

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling

A Far Cry From Kensington - Muriel Spark 

The Pelican Brief - John Grisham 

JRR Tolkien biography - Humphrey Carpenter 

Daemon Voices - Sir Phillip Pullman 

Say Cheese and Die - R.L Stine 

Here’s to more reading in 2019…

Wes Anderson x SXSW

Wes Anderson is hands down my favourite director. His unique aesthetic and attention to detail just blows my mind with every movie, adding to what is consistently a compelling narrative. While strolling through Austin, Texas  last week I passed these stunning posters for his new film Isle of Dogs - and it got me wondering whether he also picks and chooses the walls his marketing agency flypost these onto... I wouldn’t put it past him! 

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Treehouse adventures!

A weekend off. A treehouse tucked away in Dorset. A log fire. Perfect!  

Ok so it's more of a tree-sphere  

Ok so it's more of a tree-sphere  

Having cooked our dinner on the fire, it was time to sit back with a glass of wine and watch nature's very own television.  

Wes Anderson style gods-eye shot of the fire

Wes Anderson style gods-eye shot of the fire

Good times.  

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24 hours in Paris

A few snaps from an early morning run on a quick work trip to Paris, shot on iPhone.  What a beautiful city. 

 

Eiffel Tower  

Eiffel Tower  

Arc de Triomphe glowing in the morning traffic  

Arc de Triomphe glowing in the morning traffic  

Cool staircase in my hotel!  

Cool staircase in my hotel!  

LA - Michigan - Minneapolis

Some highlights from a recent two-week trip to the States. 

Santa Monica 

Lets go Dodgers! 

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It was about 33 degrees in LA at this point, and this guy was working his arse off tidying up the garden of a mansion at the top end of Beverly Hills.  

On to Ann Arbor in Michigan. 105k people taking in a game of 'soccer' at the Big House, home of the University of Michigan's American Football team. 

Up next - Minneapolis, and more baseball. This time - Go Twins! 

Golden hour. The view from the 12th floor in my hotel. 

Just a tram, but I liked the colours! 

The retro signage caught my eye on this... 

Tate Britain

As you'd expect from a Tate gallery there are some incredible works of art on display and the Tate Britain boasts everything from Constaple to Gainsborough, but it was some impromptu ballet dancing that caught my eye upon a recent visit...

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Roy - 83 years young

In 1957, aged 24, Roy had just completed his national service in the RAF and was encouraged by a friend to join him for a swim at the local Lido – an open-air fresh water swimming pool.

Tooting born and bred, Roy lived just a short distance from Tooting Bec Lido – the UK’s second largest swimming pool at an exhausting 93m long and 33m wide.

 

Roy has been swimming there almost every day since, come rain or shine. Now aged 83, there is plenty of evidence to suggest he really hasn't slowed down much since his early twenties! A remarkable portrayal of youthfulness. I joined him one morning as he went about his routine. The water, a mere 12 degrees… 

Roy is a stalwart of the South London Swimming Club. Here he is taking me through some photos inside the club's cabin by the side of the pool .

All set for a swim. 

In go the ear plugs. 

Due to the temperature of the water, many swimmers at the Lido wear a wetsuit. Not Roy... 

There's no easing your way into the pool and climatising before breaking into stroke. It's all in for Roy. 

93 metres to go. 

There is much to be admired about Roy's speed and technique. You wouldn't know he was an 83 year old charging through the water. 

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Just another day at the office for Roy. He'll be back tomorrow... 

A massive thank you to Roy for allowing me to photograph him, and hear his story. 

Majorca part one

Sun, sea and backflips. 

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After school, the local kids would go cliff jumping right by our hotel. As terrifying as it was entertaining...  

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If you survive the drop, there are no easy negotiations with the tide at the bottom...  

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Tooting Bec Lido - how to freeze first thing in the morning

I have lived a short walk from Tooting Bec Lido for four years now and I've shamefully never been. Boasting Britain's second largest open-air fresh water swimming pool with over 100 years of history, the Lido is a popular choice for the hardy local early morning swimmer. 

I thought it was time to give it a go. So I set my alarm for 5.45 am this morning with my swim shorts at the ready.  

 

 

Looks inviting... 

Looks inviting... 

I made it down, despite the efforts of the snooze button, and the first thing that grabbed me when I entered the Lido was the sheer size of it - some 92 metres long and 30 metres wide.  

 

I got changed in one of those funky little booths and walked over to the stairs to get in the pool. I dilly dallied for a good 10 minutes while scoping out my pool entry strategy. A man noticed my reluctance and came over with some words of wisdom. He advised not just jumping straight in and instead easing your way in using the stairs. I took his advice.  

It was good advice. I was underway.  

The cold really knocks the wind out of you, and I choked and spluttered my way down for the first two lengths, making a real splash. I managed another two lengths after this before the cold got the better of me.

It was certainly an experience. I can imagine this being the perfect hangover cure! 

 

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Flying high in the Austrian Alps

Our annual pilgrimage to the Austrian Alps continued in February this year as we swapped the daily routine in London for some mountain action. 

There wasn't a huge amount of snow, but nevertheless we had a fantastic time. The scenery is quite breathtaking... 

It's very difficult to make it down the mountain without pulling my iPhone out to take pictures! 

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When you almost fall over while heading towards a fence, just take a moment for a photograph...  

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And the award for winning at life goes to...  

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Kitchen stories

When I was very little, I would come home from school and my grandad or mum would have made our dinners in the shape of a smiley face. It was a creative attempt at getting my brother and I to eat our greens. A lasting memory from my childhood. 

Using what food I had in my house at the time, I thought I'd create a photo series inspired by this childhood memory...