I started this sketch of Dakar ten days ago.


I put in about an hour or two per day.


I’m still finishing the details. It’s a present. It’ll be done by Christmas.


Dakar and kipple is the vague idea.

kipple detail copy

Plenty of kipple in Dakar. Sketched with a 0.1 mm nib, black ink, Steadler pigment liner Fineliner pen.

voices from another star

A Day In The Afterlife – this is a very good BBC 2 Arena documentary on the life and work of Philip K. Dick. He wrote 42 novels. One of the interviewees calls his work “predictive science-fiction”,

“He’s one of the few writers who has the satisfaction of having got it right, in a complicated way.”

“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.” link

And, to listen to a great description of the plot to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? watch from here.

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.” link



I popped along to the Post Office in downtown Dakar last Friday. It’s nearly 20 km away from where we live. Dakar is huge.


The signed contract for my second book should be with the publisher in New York later today. A year and a half ago, I sent my first ever book contract from downtown Kigali.


I hope there’ll be many more of these to sign in the future.

galley giveaway


I offered a signed galley of Eating Việt Nam, delivered in a hand sketched envelope together with an airmail letter to Twitter users last weekend. These are the names of those who entered. Scroll down to see who won.








I sketched the front of the envelope just before the winner was revealed. I like the randomness of this kind of competition. I’ll do something like this again, when the book is published in March, 2015.

new horizon

new horizons sandstorm in dakar and a new book contract arrives from Harper Collins Ecco

My second book contract arrived this morning. It’s 19 pages long. It’s with a big publishing house. I sign it today. By this time next year, I will have written a total of three books. Back when I was a reporter, I never imagined writing even one book. So, you know, that’s really rather good news.

Photo of Dakar under sand by me.

make notes all day

various notebooks from rwanda vietnam and beyond

What about the practicality of writing, from taking notes through to finishing the manuscript? How do you keep notes? What is your writing process?

I have a small notebook and I make notes all day. I don’t have a tape recorder. I take notes. Then at night, I write up my notes, write up the day. I don’t dread it, but I do think ‘I’ve got to do this.’ I write up the notes very fully. On some days those notes are quite long, sometimes a couple of thousand words.

So, at the end of the trip, you’ve pretty much got the book written.

Pretty much. link

I am working on my second, soon to be announced, non-fiction book. And, in terms of approach, I’ve been thinking along the same lines Paul Theroux describes above. I worked in much the same way as him when I went back to Việt Nam in 2013; note taking all day, writing up at night. The hardest part is leaving the recorder at home, but I think I know where he’s coming from. These kind of books are not Reuters reports. Dialogue does not always have to be verbatim.

For this second book, I have the bones laid out; I know the places I have to visit, I have a vague idea of the route I want to take, I have quite a lot of contacts in the country and I know the key things I need to experience. However, I plan to leave the meat to fate. I have a feeling that this way of writing has largely gone out of fashion, but it has also produced many of the world’s most enduring travel books. It’s time for a resurgence.

Be bold, be truthful and leave everything behind. This idea of disconnecting yourself is very important to me. People going to a place and phoning home, blogging, checking their Facebook, leave that all behind. Take a leap in the dark is the best advice I can give. Things will happen. link

The only other thing I am certain I will be doing for this second book is more, and better, sketches. I will be taking photographs, with an eye on snapping the book’s cover. I’m also thinking of shooting 200+ images with the Instax 210 to… do… something with.

dakar psychedelic skyline senegal moleskine notebook

Photo of my notebooks and a page in a notebook by me.

wet markets of hà nội


Today, I sat down to look at this news story again. It discusses the disastrous 21st century renovation of a number of Hà Nội’s wet markets.

Hà Nội’s Municipal People’s Committee has admitted defeat in its attempts to drive traditional wet markets into purpose built modern facilities.

The authorities planned to convert,

39, often historically significant, markets into modern trading centres, of 132 markets by 2020.

So far, three markets have been “fully converted”. Some of those markets have remained “unused”. Others, have seen a “huge fall” in the number of customers.

According to Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, Deputy Chairman of the Hanoi Municipal People’s Committee, the strategy to convert wet markets into modern trading centres had been ‘halted’. However, he claimed the city would continue renovating and keeping wet markets in the basements of other traditional markets.

In the short term, Nga Tu So, Chau Long and Thanh Cong markets will be not squeezed into ill-suited trading centres, but will instead be renovated based on their current model.

I was going to slightly edit the final chapter in my book to reflect this news item, but on second reading I don’t think there’s anything I need to change. And the traders in these renovated markets are certainly not happy,

(Market trader) Son added that her sales at the new venue are only 10-20 percent compared to the old market.

“I received no customers after spending the whole day in that basement, so I decided to quit,” Nguyen Thi Vinh, who used to sell green produce at Cua Nam (market), said. link

And, it’s not much better further south,

The 23-year-old Han Market is expected to give way to a 26-story trade center; while the Con Market, constructed during the French colonial period, will be replaced by a 13,500-square-meter trade zone, the municipal Department of Construction announced on August 29. The demolition plans will affect around 1,000 small traders, who will be relocated to temporary markets while the new structures are built. link

In addition, this story from September, 2014, does not fill me with confidence that the planners have a clue as to what they’re doing.

At a recent conference, Hanoi’s authorities announced a plan to build a network of wholesale and retail markets in the capital city by 2020 with a vision toward 2030. According to the Hanoi People’s Committee, the city will build 23 large supermarkets; 42 trade centres and 595 markets.

However, economists have voiced concerns… Dr. Dang Dinh Dao, former head of the Institute of Economic Research and Development, under National Economics University, said that raising the number of supermarkets from 100 now to 1,000 in the next five years is too ambitious considering the city’s current limited infrastructure condition. link

I could go on, but the crux of it is – there’s nothing I need to change in the final chapter of my book.

Photo by me (and not of a market)