The coolest jobs

“Greenlanders love ice-cream!” Maik Carretero enthused as he showed me round his ice-cream factory in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk.

Maik was just one of the inspirational characters I met in Greenland. There was also Sara, a dog musher; Nivikka, headmistress of the maritime school and Edvard, an ice boat captain. All of them had a great story to tell for my BBC piece on what I reckon are the coolest jobs in the world.

DCIM101GOPRO

DCIM101GOPRO

Gold, it’s in your soul

In February, a small crew and I were asked to go to Dubai airport to collect travellers’ stories. It was part of the BBC’s Identity Season and we’d be staying there for five days. As well as managing to cobble together this documentary the brief was to come up with a totally original online story. We’d met camel racing trainers from Oman, a trio of Saudi soap opera actors, a family on their first Umrah pilgrimage… you get the picture. But in the end a single sentence won the contest.

At the gate to Lagos I spotted an uber cool young Nigerian family, the Esochaghis. Chatting to mum, Ugochi, it turned out they were coming back from holiday but that wasn’t the only reason for their trip.

“We come here to melt our gold,” she told me. Bingo.

Was it a ‘thing’ or just one family’s tradition? That detail would make the difference between a good story and a fun footnote. On arriving back to the UK, I started my research and it turned out that it’s popular for Nigerians to take their old gold to Dubai and get it made into new pieces. The BBC magazine commissioned me to write this piece on it and the day it went live, it was the most popular feature on the BBC website; it seems that gold still has the power to get into the soul. Ironically I’m allergic to it myself.

The Swedish Coffee Catalyst

The coffee industry has changed immeasurably in the last 20 years. Whilst the west coast of America and Australia can take a lot of credit for this, a big Swede with an even bigger moustache, played a huge part.

A self-taught roaster from Gothenburg he was co-founder of the World Barista Championships. It’s been the industry’s standard setter since its inception at the turn of the millennium and is in a large part responsible for the burgeoning coffee festival scene and the trend for celebrating coffee in a similar way to beer or wine.

When I visited Matts in Gothenburg he was too modest to big himself up, so I’ve done it for him in Fresh Cup magazine

Petra, Jewel of Jordan

It’s a tough time for the wonders of the world. In an age where everyone’s been everywhere, seen everything and got the t-shirt, how do you stand out? You’ve got great weather, beguiling scenery and unique architecture, but you need something extra. How about a film role, a vehicle to show off your best assets? I’m thinking Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Mummy Returns and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen…. Step forward Petra, star of all of the above and a hell of a lot more. The ancient site in South West Jordan is a darling of film and TV location scouts and it’s not hard to see why…. To read on, this is the full article in TNT magazine

 

 

Real life Sherlocks

It’s been an ambition of mine since the age of 11 to step inside the mysterious world of Spymaster in London. So when I was commissioned to write this BBC online piece on real life private detectives, that legendary shop was first on the list.  You want a bugging device? They sell it. How about a safe disguised as a Fanta can? No problem. My favourite piece of spy gear however fits firmly into the miscellaneous category – a one man submarine. They’re the kind of items Sherlock Holmes would salivate over but they’re also very present in the real world of private investigators. James Harrison-Griffiths who I interviewed for the piece uses a variety of gadgets to help in his work of re-investigating suicides and following wayward spouses. But any old member of the public can go into the shop for a snoop. I only wish I’d done it earlier.

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Caffeine-fuelled careers

You won’t be earning an investment banker’s salary but making – or rather crafting the perfect coffee can be a career . I interviewed baristas around Fitzrovia in London for this BBC Capital piece and they were really positive about the coffee making scene.

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Toys top 12

On Wednesday I visited the lovely 19th century St Mary’s Church in Marylebone to witness the unveiling of the hallowed list of top 12 “dream toys” as decided on by The Toy Retailers Association. Here’s my BBC online write up and BBC World Service and Radio 4 audio report

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Being Bond

Ever dreamed of being James Bond? Well now you can. For a price. Secret.me offers immersive spy training experiences which are as realistic as they come. The catch? You’ll probably have to be an oligarch to afford it. Here’s my Radio 4 and World Service report featuring an an ex MI6 undercover agent and a surprisingly realistic hostage taking scenario.

Bond

Beguiling & barren, Britain’s only ‘desert’ for sale.

The other week I went to Dungeness to do a BBC World Service and Radio 4 report on the sale of land, houses and miscellany by the Dungeness Estate. There are lots of unique things about what’s often called ‘Britain’s Only Desert’. The landscape is bizarre; shingle with a smattering of fishing boat skeletons, railway carriages and expensive architect-designed houses. My favourite person was Carol who’s been holidaying in an ex fruit and milk wagon for 60 years; before the nuclear power station came. She doesn’t mind the power station, she can just look the other way. I hope that whoever buys the estate will treat it withthe respect that its barren yet beguiling beauty deserves .dungeness small

Bank holiday bubbles

When I got the commission to do a report on the sparkling wine industry my immediate response was “I suppose someone has to do it.” And what a joy it was.

With Prosecco sales overtaking those of champagne for the first time, I wanted to see how the industry was reacting to changing tastes. The report turned into something of a tour round some of England’s most idyllic/iconic locations, including the legendary Gordon’s wine bar, The Hush Heath vineyard in Kent and Searcy’s champagne bar, sleekly partitioning the Eurostar platforms at St Pancras train station.

My personal highlight was trying some English made red fizz at Hush Heath. And Prosecco amongst the 13th Century foundations of Gordon’s. And ice cold champagne three metres away from the 13.13 to Paris. If you’re in the mood to listen to some bubble action, click here for the report which went out on BBC World Service and Radio 4.champagne poppers