All posts by Marc Latham

About Marc Latham

The Folding Mirror poetry form emerged from the haiku structure in 2007, and the first published poem by Marc Latham was in January 2008. Caroline Gill clarified the form in 2010, while Wendy Webb and the Norfolk Poets have been very supportive in publishing and publicising the form. Claire Knight and Sarah James have also been instrumental in the form's evolution.

Advocating a Diet Fitness Book Kickstarter Project

While my early travels were inspired by desires for freedom and discovery, my later trips were more about sports and seeing specific places. My marathons and hiking have led me to some great places and special experiences.

Tromso Marathon Article

One of the highlights was completing the 2007 Tromso Midnight Sun Marathon amongst stupendous natural scenery in the Norwegian Arctic.

Then one of my writing career highlights was having an article about my trip and marathon published in Running Free magazine by the then editor Julia Buckley.

Fitness Diet Book

Julia was running longer distances than me then, taking part in ultra-marathons. She has since focused on getting lean and fit with her Fat Burn routines, and had her first book published last year.

The Fat Burn Revolution book was a best-seller, and Julia is now trying to self-publish her second book, with a focus on diet this time.

Julia has a kickstarter webpage trying to raise funds for it, and I’m happy to recommend her as a dedicated, experienced, friendly and honest fitness coach and writer.

Saint-Malo, France and Dolomites, Italy Articles

Hope you’re enjoying autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere, and spring/summer in the southern. Sorry I haven’t posted any new poems on here for a while, but I’ve been focusing on a two-years X Files comedy parody prose and poetry fantasy travel around Europe by Google Maps project I’m serialising over at the Writing and Poetry greenYgrey blog.

Plus the photos from my earlier travel are old disposable camera standard, and need to be scanned, so it’ll be quite a lot of work, and the quality won’t be great.

Saint-Malo, Brittany and Normandy, France Article

My Saint-Malo to Mont-Saint-Michel, Brittany and Normandy, France travel article remembering the D-Day landings in their seventieth anniversary year is now up on Go Nomad. It has a sacrifice theme inspired by this video’s contents:

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Italy Dolomites Article and Photos

I last posted on this blog about Tromso, Norway in 2007, and was recently reminded that I’d written an article for TravelThruHistory about my previous travelling trip to that, which was to the Dolomites, Italy in 2005. I reunited with a platonic friend met in Uganda’s Kibale Forest in 1998.

Here’s the article with most of the photos:

DEATH AND DOLCE IN THE DOLOMITES

Before I ascended into the Dolomites, if somebody mentioned Great War (World War One) stalemates I would only have thought of the Somme, Ypres and other mud and blood filled fields of northern Europe; if someone talked about Great War weather-induced injuries I would presume they were referring to trench-foot; and if they recounted the horrors of Great War winters my mind would visualise soldiers crawling through freezing rain or knee-deep in stagnant water.

Yet here I was, in a cramped machine-gun post 8,000 feet up on Lagazuoi in the Italian Dolomites, where ninety years previously the Austrians had defended their Alps front line against Italians who had joined the war on the side of the Entente Powers (led by Britain and Commonwealth countries, Russia and France) against the Central Powers (mainly Germany and Austria-Hungary). The gun was pointed across at what had then been Italian positions; they only seemed a stone-throw away, although there was a hundred foot drop in-between.

Lagazuoi could be enjoyed in the summer sun, but temperatures were still cool to say the least, and in winter it can drop to -30c (-22f); so in the trenches of the Dolomites it was blizzards and frostbite that were the main weather concerns for the Italian and Austrian troops fighting doggedly in the tunnels and peaks of the southern Alps.

The Dolomites were formed 200 million years ago out of the primeval ocean, and the highest peaks now reach 12,000 feet. They take their name from French mineralogist, Déodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801), who discovered and defined the unique composition of the stone which gives it a lighter colour than most mountains.

I had travelled up to the Dolomites from Reggio Emilia with a local friend I’d met in Africa seven years before. Reggio is the main town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and is a bastion of socialism in a country divided between politically polarised regions; streets are named after left-wing legends such as Lenin, Marx and Che Guevara, and there is a statue in the town celebrating the partisans who fought against Mussolini in World War Two.

We travelled north by train, via Bologna and Verona to Brunico. The Bologna train had been packed with people heading to the coast at Rimini; I’d apparently picked an inconvenient time to visit Italy, as the country largely shuts down in August for a national holiday.

Sun-kissed vineyards and farmland provided the vista until Verona, and then mountains began to dominate the horizon after that; many featured majestic medieval castles that offer clues to the region’s importance as a trading route, and the wealth and prestige it has brought. The temperature had been about 40c (110f) in Reggio, but as we started winding up into the Alpine landscape temperature figures halved and there was more cloud.

When we arrived in Brunico it looked and sounded as if we’d crossed into another country: red and white flags abound, the architecture is typical of the central Alps, and German is the primary language as it is in Austria. This is because the region, South Tyrol, was Austrian until the Italian push into the Dolomites during the Great War. As part of the 1915 treaty that brought neutral Italy into the war it was agreed that they should have some Austro-Hungarian regions after the conflict. Although parts of the treaty could not be kept, South Tyrol did become Italian in 1919.

From Brunico we took a comfortable bus along country roads that provided great views of lush green valleys and high mountain peaks to the village of Pedraces in the Badia valley for a couple of Euros. We stayed at the Pension Armalia, which was clean and friendly, although the staff didn’t speak English; luckily, my friend provided translation and did all the organising. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price, and provided enough for the day; they were not used to catering for vegetarians so it was mostly egg and cheese dishes for me, but they were always nice and filling.

On the first day we bussed it into the bigger village of La Villa, where there is a good tourist office. It was there that I first saw the leaflet for the mountain-top Great War Museum: it looked intriguing and declared itself unique. Three days of hiking amongst impressive peaks and Sound of the Music style meadows later it was time to take a trip back in time to the Great War.

We took a bus into La Villa again at about 9am, and then another bus to the ski lift station at the Falzarego Pass. The second bus journey took us to the end of the mountain range that framed one flank of the valley, and when I realised where we were going I was overjoyed; I’d wondered what lay beyond the high natural wall that dominated that side of the panorama, and now I was about to find out. As we wound our way through mountains, forests and Lake Valparola to the 6000 feet Falzarego there were magnificent views down the valley all the way to Pedraces.

The ski-lift carried us up an additional 2000 feet in altitude, and combined with the wind chill from being on top of an exposed peak it made a noticeable difference to the temperature. I didn’t think there would be much natural life at that altitude, and was therefore surprised to see a flock of birds fly high above us before turning en-masse and heading back down towards the valley below. We made our way over to one of the many crosses that appear on prominent peaks across the mountains in the region, and could see a couple of small lakes further into the range; mountains dominated the horizon for as far as the eye could see.

Leaving the exposed peak and passing the 360 degree reception centre we started to view the open air museum as we descended on a steep and narrow path. The path seems to be the one used during the Great War, as the preserved living quarters and positions of the Austrian troops defending the Lagazuoi Peak are accessible from it as you walk.

The soldiers spent two winters guarding the rock in the freezing cold, and it was easy to imagine how relieved the soldiers must have been to escape a third. There were separate quarters for the officers and men, with neither looking comfortable; the only preferential benefits for the officers seemed to be a little more room and a desk. The machine-gun post was claustrophobic and cold, and if you add on the freezing temperatures of winter and being fired at by snipers and heavy artillery then it must have been quite close to what I’d imagine hell would be like if it did ever freeze over.

After leaving Lagazuoi we made our way down a track at the bottom of no-man’s-land; looking back up at the Austrian positions we could view them almost as the Italians must have done. All of a sudden the Austrian experience didn’t seem quite as bad, as I’d have preferred to be looking and firing down than up. However, the Italians did have the advantage of launching surprise attacks at the Austrians by tunnelling into the mountain.

The closest I came to relating to the sound of explosions that had disrupted the harmony of the Dolomites ninety years before was being awoken one night by the loudest thunderstorm I’ve ever heard. Before that I’d been thinking how easy it looked to just hike up one of the beautiful peaks. Like war, mountains can look easier to survive than in reality; and when you combine them together, they can provide one of the toughest tests of all.

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Tromso, Norway Midnight Sun Marathon Photo

I just found this photo of me running over the bridge after passing the Arctic Cathedral in the 2007 Tromso Midnight Sun Marathon in time to finish off the Norway travel of this blog:

msm photo2

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Oslo, Norway after Leaving Tromso

I left the Tromso – Tromsdalen campsite, and flew to Oslo.

Oslo, Norway Photos

With four or five hours to spare between flights on another sunny warm day in the south of Norway I took the bus into Oslo. A friendly bus driver gave me a map after dropping us off in the north of the centre.

So I walked down through the central sights to the bus station and got the bus from there back to the airport to fly out. I think I saw most of the big attractions from the outside.

I didn’t have much camera battery life after taking the Tromsdalen videos, so it was a case of taking a photo and waiting for the batteries to charge enough to take another one. I managed these two:

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Tromsdalen Valley Photos and Videos

I walked up one side of the Tromsdalen Valley. I saw some grey berries on the floor and tried them, thinking they were the cloudberries I’d read about before leaving Britain. I sat down to eat a fruit and milk lunch on the mountain top, and the cloud lifted for a little while on the other side of the valley. I saw a large bird that looked like the sea eagles we’d seen on the edge of land before sailing into open sea for whale-watching.

Tromsdalen Valley Photos

I took a couple of photos, one of me using a self-timer, and another looking back down the valley. I also took a last video, having taken two before.

Selfie before Fashionable

Looking Back Towards Tromsoyo Island

Tromsdalen Valley Videos

I also filmed three videos in the Tromsdalen Valley. The first was about half way along the path, looking back to Tromsoyo Island, and ahead to Tromsdalstinden:

The second was at the end of the valley, under Tromsdalstinden:

The third was up in the clouds:

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The next day I left Tromso, but extended my Norway holiday a little by taking advantage of a half-day between flights to bus into Oslo…

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Tromsdalen Valley, Tromso, Norway Photos

The marathon went well overall: running amongst beautiful natural scenery to the south alongside the Tromsøysundet fjord on the mainland; and out to the airport on Tromso island. We started and finished at Tromso city centre’s Storgata, and also ran through it on the way to the airport.

There was great support from people throughout the marathon, with people staying out past midnight in the countryside, and others just going out at the end on Storgata! My time was eleven minutes over 4 hours, which was a little disappointing, but okay.

Tromsdalen Valley Photos

I walked back to the campsite and slept, before going whale-watching again in the evening. On the Monday, my last full day in Tromso, I walked left from the campsite and Tromsdalen centre into the Tromsdalen Valley. There was nobody else there (really, I didn’t see anyone inside the park at all), and it was nice to savour the marathon achievement and end of its training amongst lush nature.

It was a cloudy overcast day, but I really didn’t care. Would it have looked nicer under clear sky and sunshine, I don’t know. It would have looked different, but the brooding atmosphere seemed to suit the valley, and my reflective Monday morning mood.

Here’s some photos:

Tromsdalen Valley Waterfalls

Dog-walking Sign

Tromsdalen Valley

Looking back down the valley, with Tromso island in the distance.

Isolated House

Tromsdalstinden End of Valley

Reaching Tromsdalstinden I stood in awe on the marshy ground. I watched a few birds fly onto the water, and imagined the people who’d stood there before; and wondered what they imagined.

There was no way up Tromsdalstinden, but the valley hill looked inviting, so I walked upwards, into the clouds…

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Tromso Whale-Watching Photos

On the 2007 Tromso Midnight Sun marathon eve I went whale watching. The streets of Tromso were flying marathon flags. The Cetacea was a nice boat, with seating inside and plenty of room on the deck for viewing. We passed some musk oxen living on Ryoya island and saw sea eagles, before leaving the fjord and sheer cliffs of Senja behind to sail out to sea. Puffins flew low alongside the ship.

The first time we only saw a distant whale (referring to distance rather than mental attitude), so they offered us another voyage for free. So I sailed again after the marathon. The second time we saw a sperm whale’s tailfin up close, as it dove to the depths, which was both thrilling and touching. So, all in all, it was certainly worth the money.

Tromso Whale-Watching Photos

Here’s some photos. Not many wildlife ones I’m afraid!:

 

Drinking Mack Beer in Tromso, Norway

On my second day in Tromso for the 2007 Midnight Sun Marathon I returned to Tromsoya island over the bridge, and looked back at the cathedral, Tromsdalen and Tromsdalstinden mountain [1,238 metres (4,062 ft)]. at its eastern end. At the end of my time in Tromso I would walk to the foot of the mountain, and stand with awe under its quiet natural beauty.

Tromso Bridge, Cathedral and Tromsdalstinden Photo

I took this photo from Tromso bridge, sticking my right arm out as far as possible to get the curve of the bridge leading to the Arctic Cathedral.

Drinking Mack Beer in Tromso

With the beer a little expensive and my marathon looming I only had the one Mack beer in the historic old bar Olhallen, which was also the cheapest place to drink I think. Mack does say it is the most northern brewery in the world, so it was a good excuse to drink a nice beer.

Tromso Docks Waterfront

Tromso docks waterfront offers great views of the Tromsdalen mainland from jetties backed by colourful buildings.

On and Under Tromso Bridge

There are great views north (first photo below) and south (second photo) of the Tromsøysundet waterway and mountains from Tromso bridge. In the first photo the mountains are on Kvaloya island, and in the second they are on Senja island. The Tromso municipality’s main island of Tromsoya is in the middle of the two.

On the Tromsdalen side the E8 road runs underneath. It reminded me of the Pink Floyd marching hammers.

Gerald Scarfe artwork

Returning to Nature

Returning to the campsite, these trees reminded me of the grey bridge structure. Between the trees is one of the Tromsdalen valley’s many waterfalls, surrounded by pristine forest.

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Tromso Norway Arrival for Midnight Sun Marathon

My previous trip to Cuba in 2009 was to Tromso in Norway to run in the 2007 Midnight Sun Marathon.

Tromso, Norway

I had clear sky for my June flight to Oslo and then a couple of hours later another one up over the Arctic Circle boundary to Tromso on Norway’s wild rugged west coast.

The blue sky provided great views of the southern Norway coast, and then up over forests and lakes above Oslo to the snow-capped peaks in the north of Norway and Sweden… as we flew over both countries.

Then we veered west, and I was glad I took online advice to sit on the left for the flight to Tromso, as there were great views of the coast, islands and fjords around the airport.

I walked the 7km (4-5 miles) from the airport to the campsite on the Tromsdalen mainland, passing Lake Prestvannet in the middle of the island on the way. I set my tent up just across from a stream, with lots of trees all around, and mountains rising up behind.

Tromso Photos

I also passed the award-winning architecture of the Tromso cathedral, just across the bridge on the mainland:

This photo is from the mainland looking back at Tromso island and the vertiginous peaks of the Senja coastline in the distance:

The campsite is situated the other side of this water inlet, at the entrance to the Tromsdalen Valley:

Looking back at Tromso island from the bridge across the water:

The never-setting sun over Tromso island:

I walked north on the mainland, and this was looking back at the bridge linking Tromso island with the mainland, with the Senja island mountains in the distance:

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).