First impressions are often so telling. Minutes from the airport I sensed the scale of the mountainous peaks and craggy cliffs. I saw houses surrounded by blazing bougainvillea and banana leaves leaving me little clues as to what to expect. The high-rise buildings are mercifully few and every perch is roosted upon right up into the hills where I spotted villages with terracotta roofs dotted amongst the patchwork of the terraced cultivation carved out of the mountainside.

I never knew that Madeira, the Azores, the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde are known collectively as Macaronesia. Madeira herself is sub-tropical and neither Mediterranean nor on the equator and actually twice as close to Africa as Europe. It’s been a port of call for fleets heading towards the South Atlantic, acting as a gateway from Europe to the New World. In the 15th century, it became a cosmopolitan center for foreigners comprising German, Flemish, and Italian communities as they chased the sugar trade.
More… “Peaks and Gardens”

Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the television panel game QI. After leaving he began to investigate other languages, examining 280 dictionaries and 140 websites. This led to the creation of his first book of three in 2005, The Meaning of Tingo, featuring words that have no equivalent in the English language.

He is now a regular international travel writer and luxury hotel reviewer, having written for the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, and numerous travel print and website publications.


In a public park where families take their children to play on the swings, in what was, just a few decades ago, East Berlin, is a wall of relief sculptures. The sculptures date from the Communist days. They depict children who are happy and healthy, adults who are industrious and kind. There is work, play. There is life. Monuments like these — the remnants of the dreams and aspirations of a lost civilization — can stimulate that most disconcerting emotion amongst Germans: ostalgie (literally, east-stalgia, nostalgia for the old East Germany). It is not the first thing you expect to encounter in Berlin, ostalgie, until you realize that nothing in Berlin is settled, no aspect of the recent past has yet been laid to rest.


Just up the block from the park is a square, in the center… More…

“Lord, give me chastity and self-control — but not yet.” — Prayer of the young Saint Augustine, c.380 A.D.



The scandals may be coming thick and strong from the Vatican at the moment, but the Church has always waged a losing battle with its own vice-ridden staff. The problem was that transgressions from official policy often began at the top. Fellow priests put one of the first popes, Sixtus III (432-40), on trial for seducing a nun. He was acquitted after quoting from Christ in his defense: “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.” In the centuries to follow, political skullduggery and a corrupt election process thrust one improbable candidate after another into the position as god-fearing believers looked on in impotent horror. In fact, so many Vicars of Christ have been denounced as… More…



I spent an hour this morning on the flat roof of the church where I am the pastor with a can of tar, searching for a hole. It wasn’t an obvious hole otherwise I would have found it the last time I was on the roof. I’ve been on this crummy roof so many times I’ve created the La Brea Tar Pits up there. I continually ask God to heal my leaky roof, but God’s answer is, stick with the tar. I bet you are wondering why I do this. It’s really very simple: My church is small, I am the only employee, we struggle to pay our bills every month, and if I waited until a volunteer can make the time to do the work my Sunday School kids will experience Noah’s flood first hand. I… More…