Part 7. Audrey

Architect of Taiwan’s pandemic strategy is the extraordinary Audrey Tang. In 1996, aged 15, Tang convinced her teachers that she’d be better off learning from the internet, quit school and started teaching herself online. A year later Tang launched her first start-up. Many more followed, in diverse fields, but they all featured open-source software and sought to empower ordinary people. In 2016, aged 35, Tang became Taiwan’s youngest cabinet minister, when she was named Digital Minister.

It may be true that intelligence isn’t a useful or meaningful measure of ability in leading or governing. Some experience of…

Part 4. Cry Freedom, or, ‘Look, What You Don’t Understand…’

Funny thing, freedom, innit? We can all agree that its opposite is a bad thing. In my years as a journalist, and as a lifelong news junkie, I can’t think of any demonstrations, rallies or protests involving people explicitly fighting for tyranny, and the right not to protest (though I’ve seen a few where this was implicit). So, we can all agree that Liberty is Good Thing.

Black-and-white turns a bit grey, however, when we’re forced to trade off one kind of liberty against another, which is always. As teenagers…

Part 2: Covid in Taiwan or The Hundred And Twenty Four Points

Taipei, Taiwan

My wife is from Taiwan, we still have family there, and one of our daughters happened to be studying in Taipei when the pandemic broke, so I’ve been following the response there with particular interest. And growing awe and envy. Taiwan’s handling of Covid rarely gets a mention in our media, and hardly ever in much detail, yet its results are so spectacular I’m finding it hard to understand why.

So, in a spirit of scientific enquiry, let’s compare notes with Taiwan, our fellow tea-drinking island nation, whose nearest islets lie no more than a challenging swim from southeast mainland…

Chapter 3: The Boardwalk Fairies

Before Mr. Rolf and I head up the Boardwalk to check on Fragile Sally, I thought I’d just say that when I read my chapter titles, I often reckon they could be recycled as band names. The Boardwalk Fairies is a terrific name for a band. So, if you’re an embryonic Salisbury band, like one of the frogspawn we’ll soon spot nestling in the eddy-free nooks offering safe haven from the Avon, inches from the edge of the Boardwalk, and you’re struggling to come up with a name, help yourselves. Think of The Story of…

Chapter 1: Meet Sally

Here’s a photo of a tree that’s fallen over into a river (ignore Mr. Rolf, he’s just seeking attention). As every Salisbury dog-owner this side of St. Paul’s roundabout knows, this crack willow has miraculously clung to life for years now. Against the odds, it even thrives. Every spring its bisected bough somehow summons the energy to conjure forth chandeliers of elegantly tapered leaves. Each winter, it turns into V-shaped fingers, defiantly warning off creeping death, branches vibrating in the rain-swollen flow. …

Online Influencing isn’t just for kids anymore.

Today I received an unsolicited email, Subject ‘Reaching Out’. I copy it in its entirety below, but first, my response.


Is this what it’s come to?

Is this, at last, the big payoff, after 30 years of ups, downs, and further downs as an international journalist and filmmaker, a career where I’ve earned less in every decade than the one before?

Is this why I spent the ’90s being handsomely paid by ABC News in Tokyo, CNBC in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and CNN in Beijing?

Is this why I spent the ‘00’s just about doing OK as an…

Lessons From a Maverick Belgian Virologist


A Bolt From The Blue

One Sunday morning a few weeks back an old mate got in touch, asking my opinion on something he’d just heard, and couldn’t work out.

Let’s call him X — the reason why will become apparent later, and is pretty much the point of this article.

X and I met in the 90s, when we were both working for major international news networks in the Far East. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and he’s now one of the most senior foreign correspondents for one of the most trusted international news brands you can think of. …

And Dare We Mention Atmospheric Physics Too?

Never gets dull, watching 1Bn years of tectonic plate movement in 40".

Humbling though.

It’s clear why it took us anthropocentric humans so long to accept the evidence that’s always been around us in the form of fossils. It was (and for many, still is) quite a challenge to what we think we ‘know’.

Such ‘knowledge’ derived either from ‘Common Sense’ (e.g. the Sun rotating around the Earth) or ‘Belief’ (e.g. any religion’s origin story).

Common Sense errors can be excused by technology not yet being available (the telescope).

Belief errors are the result of Blind Faith’s hegemony over Bald…

What do a spanking new Mac and Jimmy Lai have in common?

As some of you may be aware, the Apple Daily recently shut itself down. It concluded it could no longer operate as a newspaper under the Hong Kong government’s current interpretation of the law.

As none of you will be aware, I recently ordered a Mac Mini from Apple, with a couple of optional hardware upgrades. Within 48 hours it had been dispatched from a factory in Shenzhen and delivered to my door in the UK, 9,714km away.

Q: What, apart from fruity branding, do these two events…

Is or Ain’t Water What it Used to Be?

I just started up a Facebook Group called ‘How to Live Without Plastic’. The idea is really simple — instead of trying to imagine what a world without plastic would look like, just ask an old person and they’ll tell you.

I’ve put a couple of pilot videos up there, made from interviews with the first two old people I met after walking out of my front door in Salisbury, UK. I was back home within half an hour, and the Facebook Group has very simple instructions on how you can participate wherever you are in the world. I do…


Writer, documentarian, nuance warrior, tolerance fanatic, balance extremist, human civilisation nut (the planet‘s fine). Specialist in eclecticism. Punny guy.

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