Frontline Club bloggers

July 20, 2007

Fleeing Darfur

We had been sitting in the tiny, twin-engined aircraft for three hours when I first caught sight of the rugged green peaks of the Nuba Mountains. The plane fell abruptly through a hole in the black sky.  Mike the pilot jabbed a finger through the left-hand window. ‘It’s your lucky day! There’s cloud all around, […]

July 19, 2007

Heatwaves and Hailstones – 19/07/07

Whoever said that living in paradise was going to be easy? The year began with an onslaught of thick, white powder snow that crept up over our sundecks to the lower reaches of the windows and then up, up and up steadily towards the roof. When that melted – and locals say that even in […]

June 23, 2007

A wedding by the river – 23/06/07

It was, in the end, a notable event on the social calendar of our small, quiet valley. Journalists and cowboys, farmers and photographers, crooners, lawyers, professors, biologists, bikers, loggers, carpenters and former soldiers all came together earlier this month as Kristin and I got married at the end of our garden. For those of you […]

June 19, 2007

Reporter’s diary

Lungi International Airport is a sight better than it was. It’s not long since livestock wandered across the runway. Now it has its international airlines back: BA three times a week. An independent called Astraeus operates an excellent service out of Gatwick and has understood something important about its market: its baggage allowance is a […]

June 1, 2007

Rumsfeld: An American disaster

Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Cockburn remarks in this critical biography, is “one of history’s greatest courtiers.” Rumsfeld’s sly performance at the courts of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and the Searle family (who helped him make his financial fortune) prepared him for his final role in George Bush Jr’s White House. Rumsfeld’s flaws emerged early in life. He […]

May 25, 2007

Ukraine unravels

Just over two years ago it seemed Ukraine was firmly headed on a democratic path after its bloodless “Orange Revolution”. But for the last several months the country has been in political crisis and opposing demonstrators have crowded onto its streets. The crisis has revealed the ugly and deep-seated problems which endanger Ukraine’s very existence […]

May 19, 2007

Dying to get the news

Last year was undoubtedly one of the worst on record for deaths in our profession. Figures from the International News Safety Institute (INSI) show that the shocking total reached 167 and this enabled the organization to remind us that so many of our colleagues and those who worked with them had perished doing their jobs. […]

April 23, 2007

Glaciers and Gravel Strips 23/04/07

It’s been something of an obsession of mine ever since we first arrived at the ranch. Even before we moved in I was already pacing out the yard to see where I might put a small plane down. Every angle seemed to come with a different set of problems: one took me too close to […]

March 19, 2007

Fires of Helmand

I had often wondered what it would be like to be pitched from the warm, sleep inducing sightless world of an armoured personnel carrier straight out the door into a fire fight. The moment arrived on the west bank of the River Helmand in early March with almost no warning. “Fucking hell,” a Marine corporal’s […]

March 19, 2007


Jonathan Ledgard’s first novel, Giraffe, is a strange and compelling tale set in the communist Czechoslovakia of the 1970s. The story, with its savage climax, about a herd of giraffes captured in Africa and transported to a Czechoslovak zoo is all the more haunting because it is rooted in real events. This is not a […]

March 8, 2007

More Moosery 08/03/07

Living as we do deep in the Canadian wilderness, we thought that – at least when it came to local wildlife – we had seen it all. We found a deer in our garage one morning, a black bear staring at us from just outside the kitchen window and had a grizzly mum with three […]

March 4, 2007

Afghanistan diary

In a ten day combat reconnaissance mission last week the Royal Marines of ‘J’ Company, 42 Commando, pushed into the Pashtun heartland of northern Helmand, the traditional bastion of the Taliban insurgency. Weaving between the towns of Sangin, Naw Zad and Musa Qala the marines conducted operations on a mobile patrol that covered more than […]

January 31, 2007

Winter Roads and War Stories – Jan 07

It was not an auspicious beginning. The day we were to leave our beautiful BC home and set out on a 2,000 mile winter odyssey across the frozen north we could barely open our front door. Three feet of snow had fallen overnight onto an already well-laden garden. Even reaching the snowplough was a manly […]

December 8, 2006

Snow ploughs and Santa Claus – 8/12/06

It looked wonderful in the catalogue. Yellow, gleaming, metallic – and all for a very reasonable thousand dollars or so. With funds dwindling but the first snowfall already upon us we decided to bite the bullet. Perhaps nothing defines a Canadian homesteader quite as well as the means he uses to get rid of his […]

November 24, 2006

The Kremlin and its critics – 24/11/06

For those of you who read our blog for updates on the ranch and a whiff of wilderness escape, my apologies. The recent shooting of Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce Putin critic in Russia, has left me musing on the future of that great country and a small incident shortly before I left Russia last year. […]

November 8, 2006

Journalists Under Fire:The Psychological Hazards of Covering War

Like most journalists I blow hot and cold on this question on the straightforward grounds that those who can’t stand the heat should not venture into the kitchen. I have taken part in more than one public discussion on how repeated and prolonged exposure to war affects the mental and emotional state of journalists and […]

November 5, 2006

Al-Jazeera English (2)

Let’s start with the good things. The graphics (bought in from the same company that supplied CNN International’s new makeover) looked sprightly. In the first week, two of the flagship programmes did well.  David Frost managed to get an uncharacteristic slip out of Tony Blair on Iraq (he seemed to admit that the Iraq adventure […]

October 17, 2006

Chainsaws and Capuccinos – 17/10/06

I stood there facing our latest purchase. A logging truck load of timber. That’s maybe 20 chords of wood. A huge amount. Even with our three greedy woodstoves it might last us two or three years. The logs lay silently, almost solemnly, on a forgotten edge of our property, hard on the mountainside. Now all […]

September 26, 2006

On Release

You just know when the Head of News for the company your husband freelances for tracks you down at a Damascus hotel late in the evening that he’s not ringing to offer you a job. You know as the unfamiliar TV executive hastily introduces himself that he’s calling you with extremely bad news. Probably to […]

September 24, 2006

Convergent Lines

Revolutions aren’t unusual subjects for the Frontline Club. The walls are thick with them. Though while we nurse our drinks under the portrait of Pinochet, we might not notice the revolution happening around us, borne on the club’s wifi signal. The internet revolution is back on and this time it’s for real: based on genuine […]

July 22, 2006

Teutons and Moosery – 22/07/06

It was an unexpected start to our first season. Last month, returning to the ranch one sunny afternoon, Kristin came upon three over-sized red-headed German tourists spread out comfortably in our garden around one of our refurbished picnic tables. They had unloaded their lunch onto its pristine olive-green surface – I know it was pristine […]

July 12, 2006

Look who’s listening

Among the momentous developments that marked the close of the 20th Century one that received less attention than most was the revelation of a new international spy ring unparalleled in its scope. This operation, known as Echelon, gave participating governments access to all the phone calls, emails,  satellite communications and cell phones around the world. […]

June 30, 2006

Shotguns and Stallions – June 06

I really never thought it would come to this. It all began back in the distant snowbound days of March when one of our closest neighbours – wearing what look like a goat-skin – turned up on our doorstep. “Dick shot my horse,” he declared by way of introduction. After some plodding around the subject […]

June 6, 2006

Not so Great Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has to be the only country in the world where helping the aged is a clandestine activity. One March morning in Bulawayo I received a cryptic SMS announcing “washing up liquid will arrive at 10.30am”. This was code for meeting the man who delivers food parcels to white pensioners. Everyone in Zimbabwe is terrified […]

April 30, 2006

Between the Rockies and a hard place – April 06

It had been a truly awful week. As I was driving through northern Bosnia on a routine assignment several days before the voice of my brother came through on a crackly satellite phone. He told me how RUF rebels had overrun the camps he was working at in the Sierra Leone jungle and he was […]

March 31, 2006

War Zones to the Wilderness – Mar 06

It was an intimidating sight. A wall of snow on both sides with one tiny path down the middle – part ice, part mud. We squeezed our new pick-up truck with it’s trailer and the little Golf diesel Kristin was driving through the gap and inched our way towards the front door. This was our […]

March 20, 2006

Avalanches and Amateurs – 20/03/06

It had to happen – it was all going far too smoothly. There we were smugly driving home through the Rocky mountains last night congratulating each other on the choice we had made with our lives and waffling on about the beauty of our new surroundings. We got to Revelstoke on the Trans Canada turned […]

March 14, 2006

From War Zones to the Wilderness – 14/03/06

It was an intimidating sight. A wall of snow on both sides with one tiny path down the middle – part ice, part mud. We squeezed our new pick-up truck with it’s trailer and the little Golf diesel Kristin was driving through the gap and inched our way towards the front door. This was our […]

February 27, 2006

Get out claws

It’s been a little lonely in the hotel of late. For the last three weeks I have been the only guest. Not the only ‘foreign’ guest – the ‘only’ guest. Over the weekend a citywide 24-hour curfew exacerbated the sense of solitude by preventing my four Iraqi staff from reaching me even during daylight hours. […]