Underground – The man who can taste the Tube map


Video journalist: Christian Parkinson made this film for the BBC about James Wannerton and his work.

Londoner James Wannerton can taste and smell words, images and sounds because he has synaesthesia, a condition which links senses that are usually separate.

Over the years he has built up a taste and or smell for every station on the London Underground, his very own Tube map. Some tastes are enjoyable; the English breakfast taste of sausage and eggs at Tottenham Court Road, others unpleasant like the choking smell and taste of hairspray at Bond Street. Interestingly when asked if he would want to be free of these sensations, James said he would not.

He hopes his map will help promote understanding about the condition.

Pianos in public places – St. Pancras station

DSCN3149There are two street pianos at St. Pancras International Station– one is located near the Eurostar arrivals gate and the other in the main shopping arcade. They may be part of UK artist Luke Jerram’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” ongoing artwork which has installed more than 700 pianos in public places in cities worldwide, but I don’t think they are because Jerram’s projects are temporary and these pianos are being regularly repaired and retuned courtesy of the station management. They are played by members of the public for a minute or an hour by day and in the evening. It’s lovely, even the occasional bum note!

On our way back home from the R.A. Australia exhibition and with 20 mins to spare before our train I managed to persuade my friend to play something on the blue piano in the main shopping arcade. She chose the  “alternative” Australian national anthem.“The Song of Australia” written by English born poet Caroline Carleton in 1859 with music composed by the German born Carl Linger.

Some people looked and smiled, some were too shy to look but were still listening. See the blue piano and listen to more playing in the station by clicking on the link below.


September’s Interview on Nomad Sprogg

The monthly interview for September is with fellow blogger Tania. Her family travelled widely because her father was a diplomat. They lived in Switzerland, France, Denmark, Kuwait, Nigeria, Sudan and the UK. Visit Tania’s blog at (www.frecklefaceblog.com).

How Green Was Our Valley


This was the view from our family house in Kenya for the three years we lived there. The Rift Valley eternally stretching into the distance and Lake Elementita shimmering in the background. When I saw it again many years later in 2006 I said  “That’s it, that’s the view.” But the words were only a tiny fraction of what I felt; something happened in my heart, a warmth, a great joy and contentment, like meeting a loved one that you thought you would never see again.

A week in Tuscany with baggage


A romantic wedding anniversary break in Tuscany; rolling countryside, medieval hill towns, cypress and olive trees, splashes of poppies by the roadside, wonderful food, fresh air, sunshine, wild cyclamen in the woods and the first fragrant strawberries.

So it was upsetting to find the stowaway grief goblin in my luggage a month before he was expected to turn up. Of course you don’t tell the grief goblin what to do, I should know that by now. All I could think of was the last time I had visited Italy with my brother Tim and how much he loved it, spending holidays with his family on the Italian coast and hoping to return in his retirement. It all felt so sad. I wasn’t feeling very creative but I was going to have to do something.

A couple of days into the holiday we drove to Rocca Sillana, an 11th century hill fortress designed by Giuliano da Sangallo. I like the fact the Italians credit the architect instead of saying which king commissioned it as the British would. It’s intimidating, 530m high and looking like a block of solid rock, it dominates Pisa, Siena and Grosseto provinces. It was restored for public access in 2009 and it feels more like a monument than a building. The steep climb to the top is rewarded by a cool breeze and stunning views of the Cecina valley.

I used a stone to write Tim’s name in the gravel next to the fort wall. This seemed right; we spent our childhood around military architecture of one sort or another, living in Army quarters and barracks and later making family visits to castles and Roman army sites at Vindolanda in Northumberland and Caerleon in Wales.

This was a way to make my thoughts physical and real, to have Tim with us and maybe even a small return for him to a country that he loved. I threw a couple of stones over the fort wall for the men of our family and a few more for the women from the path walking back down the hill.

I felt immediate relief, the grief goblin spontaneously combusted. Then I had a  holiday.


Susan Roberts 2013

Welcome to Nomad Sprogg

This blog is part travel diary and part discussion forum. I’m interested in people who had a mobile background because I did and so did my parents. I was brought up in the British Army until I was fifteen.

As an adult I have continued to make friends with people who travelled a lot as children; some were Services kids or children whose parents had worked for international companies as managers, engineers, accountants, teachers or nurses. Some were immigrants or the children of immigrants or from families who had moved around a lot in their own country. The uniting factor, even with such variety of backgrounds, seemed to be the shared experience of how mobility affects our perceptions of places and people and how we all cope with change.

I’m going to talk about places, people and events from my past and also write about present travels. And every month I’ll interview a Nomad Sprogg so that we build up different perspectives of the same situation. Experiences are as individual as fingerprints so I’m really looking forward to reading what each person has to say. It’s all interesting to me and I hope you enjoy it too!