Ryan Murdock

Writer, Traveller, Reader of Books

Latest stories

The inconstant gardener 

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Palazzo oranges from the tree in our courtyard “The gardener will come at 8am to trim the fruit trees,” our landlord Marian said. “Please make sure you’re there to let him in.”  As with most local tradesmen, he insisted on starting as early as possible, and so I set my alarm and struggled out of bed a few hours after I’d settled comfortably into it. Bougainvillea climb the stair to the tower...

Guy Kennaway on life in a Jamaican village 

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Guy Kennaway Guy Kennaway’s Jamaica is “a little Eden made more interesting by the Fall”. His book One People is a comic novel, but Cousins Cove is a real village, and the stories he tells were gathered during his first ten years as an idle British expat. It’s a world populated by wannabe drug dealers, resourceful beach prostitutes and rental dreads who nurse warm bottles of Red Stripe beer and...

A phantom lodger

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The dining room in the palazzo We inherited a cleaning lady when we rented the palazzo, and she became our main contact with the village.  Josephine’s Day was always a struggle because she preferred to arrive much earlier than we preferred to wake up.  She was kind and reliable, but I never knew what to say to her, and so I barricaded myself in my study all morning and stayed there...

A deluded awakening 

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Not from that vicious old lady Insects could be defeated through the miracle of science and chemistry, in spite of their overwhelming numbers, but I never succeeded in my six year campaign to resist the rhythms of an island inhabited by larks.  I was a night person trapped in a dawn person’s world. The mismatch became apparent very early in our stay. I experienced a sudden reunion with...

The wars I waged

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Nothing can harm me now (except stingers) As I immersed myself in books about the island’s past, I started seeing the small events of my life as stages in a larger military campaign. Living in Malta was giving me a siege mentality. My conflicts were fought, not with Turks, but with the Genus insect. Where other places have seasons of weather, Malta had seasons of insects: enormous springtime...

One people

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One People by Guy Kennaway Cousins Cove is a real village, but the stories in Guy Kennaway’s comic novel are fiction, gathered during his first ten years as an idle British expat in Jamaica. “If you travel to the parishes of St James, Hanover and Westmoreland,” he writes, “you will not find the characters in these pages, but will find their joy, friendliness, strength and defiance in the people...

Nescafe baristas

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Zejtun church from my roof It was just 6am when I slipped out the door for the first time, jet-lagged, pale and squinting in the harsh island sun.  A cacophony of tiny birds chattered in the morning cafe of a tree. Pigeons circled the village in a cloud that sounded like bedsheets flapping on a clothesline. One of their number insisted on occupying the toilet off our courtyard, and for a week I...

Does a palazzo buy happiness?

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Looking across the courtyard to the tower – the door of my study straight ahead Nighttime in the palazzo held its own magic. We often took a nightcap in the living room, after the day’s work and reading was done: gin to slake the summer heat, or a winter whiskey to drive the damp from our bones.  I liked to take my glass up to the roof at those times — down that cavernous arched hallway and...

That time I lived in a palazzo 

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That time I lived in a palazzo For several years I lived a secluded life on the island of Malta. The house we took was a sprawling palazzo where the walls had a chalky tang, as yellow as aged cheese. It was the first thing I noticed when I walked in the door, and I noticed it again every time I returned from a trip. It was the dry dusty scent of time. Time passed slowly, and in silence.  An old...

Sophie Haydock: Egon Schiele and fin de siècle Vienna 

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Sophie Haydock In the waning decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, fin de siècle Vienna became a crucible of creativity. Many of the artistic movements which shaped Western thought in the 20th century began in this remarkable melting pot of cultures and influences. Austro-Germans, Czechs, Ruthenians, Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and Slovenians rubbed shoulders in the streets, and the coffee houses...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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