Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Insider | Tim Moore

Anything to declare?

Executive summary by darmansjah

The travel writer reveals the only thing worse than a bat in a hotel room – a ‘Teesside parmo’

What is your favourite travel book?
As an account of a mid-Victorian Arctic journey penned by the future viceroy and governor-general of India, Lord Dufferin’s Letters From High Latitudes, written in 1856, should have been a study in plodding pomposity. Yet just a few pages in – with contest, in Latin – I found my self embroiled in a quite brilliant comic travelogue. The day I finished it, I chucked in my job and went off to follow in his footsteps.

What has been your scariest moment when travelling?
I nurture a phobia of large insects. I visited a hypnotherapist, hoping to be cured, then went off to the Costa Rican rainforest to see if it had worked. Just before the final leg of my outward journey, I stayed at a hotel in San Jose. A huge bat somehow got into my room and sent berserk in a way that I thought bats weren’t  supposed to, hurling itself at the curtains and furnishings. I made a dash for the bathroom and spent the rest of the night in there. Just before dawn, I spotted a tiny spider in the bidet and burst into tears.

Where in the world did you eat your most memorable meal?
A restorative Mars bar, forced into my mouth at what I though was the summit of Kilimanjaro by sympathetic climbing companions who knew that it wasn’t Kilimanjaro at all. Most recently, the cheese-fried poultry apocalypse that is a ‘parmo’ – Teeside’s outrage against nutritional decency.

Which destination has surprised you the most?
Dubai. I thought I’d be enthralled by the scale of it all, but when I looked at the yawning forest of cranes and half-built blocks, it just the felt sickening wrong. There were armies of immigrant construction workers kept like slaves in portable compounds, and the traffic was so crazy, I once had to get a cab just to cross the road. It was as if Dubai’s elders had sat down and considered every civic mistake that mankind has ever made, then decided to make them all in one place.

Window seat or aisle seat?
The first time I heard myself ask for an aisle seat I thought: ‘Oh, I’m a grown-up’. That giddy young thrill of gazing down in awe at the magical, miniature-scale world beneath supplanted by a humdrum preoccupation with toilet logistics. Mind you, that was only about five years ago, and I’m now 47.

Where do you always return to?
Iceland, land of fire, ice and my in-laws. Christmas there is always a winner – snow, relentless festivity and none of the cynicism that is becoming the seasonal mood in Britain.

What’s your biggest travelling annoyance?
It’s hard to see beyond airport security, with all  those queues and the degradation of removing your shoes. Air travel used to be glamorous. Now it feels like visiting someone in prison.

What’s the best thing you’ve found on your travels?
A Native American obsidian arrowhead in a Kentucky forest and a 50,000-lire mote floating down the Grand Canal in Venice.

Do you send postcards?
I haven’t for a long time – though I suppose they’re how I started travel writing. I went inter Railing after my A-levels and sent my parents incredibly detailed postcard updates in tiny handwriting. Everytime, I wedged in a desperate-sounding ‘PS’ in the top-right-hand corner, with the stamp positioned to obscure all salient details: ‘Just been arrested for…without water or…weeping sore and a huge..please urgently..’

Which passport stamp are you most proud of?
Kazakhtstan -  full-page visa in the national colours. Nothing to match my granfather's passport, though. He was a foreign correspondent for The Daily Telegraph from the Twenties to the Fifties, and every page is a multilingual, around-the-world adventure fro mthe golden age of jounalism.

What do you always take with you?
My granfather's portable typewritter and 100 sheets of airmail Foolscap paper is what I want to say, but in truth it's earplugs and Tabasco sauce, which blot out the worst sensory horrors that the world might throw at you. Parmos excepted.

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