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Gilly Smith

On the trail of the lonesome pine

I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for when I promised my father that I would take the family to Penang for my 50th birthday. The last thing we did before he died in November was to put together the family photo album of our posting in Malaysia from 1963 to 1966, and it was his last chance to tell me – again – stories of snake temples and…

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The Ghosts of Georgetown

Georgetown, Penang, a place so full of the ghosts of my past. From Chinatown to LittleIndia, Love Lane to Rope Walk, the travellers may look the same as they did – and I did – 28 years ago when I was last here to try to remember the Penang of my early Army childhood here, but hard as I try, I can’t find my town. For a little girl of…

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A Eulogy

And then he was gone, my giant of a father who filled our lives with his stories and his energy for life. He left with everything said, everything sorted and as I watched him pass away, it was with the easiest of breaths, no pain, no struggle. He had an amazing life and an amazing death. He was an amazing man. My dad believed in legacy and his stories of…

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Five days in the desert. Chapter three

The old storyteller sat up tall. He touched a thumb to his own chest. ‘It’s in there waiting’, he said. ‘What is?’ ‘Your story’. ‘Waiting for what?’ Mrabet closed his eyes. ‘It’s waiting for you to close your eyes and wake up.’ Tahir Shah, ‘In Arabian Nights’. It’s a bit like buying a Hawaiian shirt when you’re on holiday making observations of another culture, but while I’m here in the…

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Five Days in the Desert. Chapter two

Yesterday evening the mood changed as we headed off to the desert to watch the sun set over Erg Chebbe, the longest dune in the Sahara. It was still a party spirit as Jess and Vago, our intrepid fellow artists and ex pats from Fez climbed atop the land rover as it headed across the sands, the whoops and ululations mounting as everyone turbaned up for photos against the imposing…

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