When grand plans come true
For more than a year I'd planned a big trip to celebrate my 50th birthday. This was me, in my stunning villa in Marrakech living it and celebrating the success of my voyage.
Picture perfect summer Sunday nights
Walking the labradoodles, Kona & Magic, on a picture perfect, Sunday summer night.Not a cloud in the sky, not a mosquito in the air, our freshly bailed acreage in sight.
Walking the dog
With Kona on the Casa Rio acreage. Before her younger half-sister Magic joined us about a year later.
Walking & thinking.
Visiting the home of the Singapore Sling
The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, Singapore, is where the Singapore Sling was invented. The cocktail was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon between 1910 and 1915.
Visiting hell. Stutthof Concentration Camp.
Gdansk, Poland. I had never been to a concentration camp before. I don't know that I will do it again. But I am ever thankful to have taken the opportunity to do it then. Nothing I can say can communicate what I saw there.
Time on your hands
Taking time to simply sit and soak up sun in the middle of the day, middle of the week, rarely occurs in normal daily life. Too bad.
Three Times a Charm
I was trying to utilize the auto timer function on our camera to capture our time in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Twice, just as the photo was taken, someone walked in front of us. Then this. Captured something fun.
The Perfect Party.
Big tent in the garden. Guests donned in white and leis. 7-course gourmet meal with wine pairings. Birthday cake made to look like my books. Utterly fantastic guests.
The Lammies and NYC with The Moms
We planned for months about doing a big trip with both our mothers. And this was one of the highlights. Being in New York City (my mother's first time, Herb's mother on her X4th birthday), at the Lambda Literary Awards, where I was a presenter. The entire trip was an unqulaified success. And having them at the Lammies, all gussied up, was a real treat.
Tasting the first grapes of harvest
This was fall, just outside Grimaud, France. The harvest on this vineyard had just begun the day before.
Tapas on the Ramblas Celebration
It was the Cake-makers versus the Fondue-makers at this dinner party celebrating the launch of Tapas on the Ramblas with friends Kelly, Rhonda, Rob, Jill, Herb & Dori.
Taking the cake
I've seen some weird food. This took the cake. This guy (in a Beijing late night outdoor food market) was impaling LIVE scorpions on a kebab.
Sundowner Ubuntu Celebration Dinner-Kelly, Jan, Paul and Herb
We had a wonderful celebration dinner the Saturday after the release of Sundowner Ubuntu. Our caterers extraordinaire, Jordan and Dan, created an African feast in honour of the book, and I'd discovered an Ubuntu Shiraz which I was able to get shipped in just in time for the night.
Sundowner Ubuntu Celebration Dinner Part Deux
Here are Catherine, Dori, Rob and Jill at the Sundowner Ubuntu celebration dinner. That night Dori described her favourite way to spend time as having a good meal, good wine, good talk and good laughs with friends. I couldn't agree more.
Sun will Shine
After two days of solid rain, the glorious sun arrived and suddenly our rented house in South of France became the paradise we'd been looking for.
Succeeding against odds
One of my last days in Marrakech, feeling-finally-like I belonged and made this adventure work for me. Instead of hiding in my beautiful villa, I kept at it, pushing my way into that city and culture and figuring it out.
Strolls at Dusk
The lighting, The charming narrow streets. The distinct European smells and sounds and atmosphere. Nothing like it.
Strolling through The Hermitage
It was arranged for us to have the place to ourselves after hours. Truly astounding.
Stepping out of comfort zone
When no one else stepped forward, I volunteered to take a tai chi lesson while visiting a spa (ish) facility in Qingdao, China.
Stain of the Berry Launch Celebration Dinner
It is the weekend of the Saskatoon launch of Stain of the Berry. And this is a celebratory dinner party with some of my greatest pals: Rhonda, Rob, Jill, Shelley, Kelly, Herb, Pat, Lynne, and Marv.
As a wonderful surprise, Herb arranged for then to come prepared to read their favourite excerpt from any of the Russell Quant books. Thats what I call very cool experience with very cool people.
Sometimes a glorious chill
Every so often, a cool wind, warm blanket, and setting sun make the perfect trio.
Shopping in St. Tropez
Not for the faint hearted!
Sharing Laughter - with Dori and Herb, on La Playa beach - Zihuatanejo, Mexico - Feb 2009
Many years ago, on my first visit to Nice, I was vaguely intimidated by this French Riviera Beach & the people there, this time I made it mine.
Sailing beneath London's Tower Bridge
The draw bridge rose as we approached, Rule Britannia and Pomp & Circumstance blaring over the ship's speakers, hundreds gathered on the embankments to watch the spectacle - fantastic!
Returning to the scene of a book.
Holding Tapas on the Ramblas...on the Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain. This was a particularly cool moment for me because it was sitting and drinking sangria on the Ramblas on my first visit to Barcelona many years earlier that inspired a scene in and title of the third Russell Quant book, Tapas on the Ramblas.
Reflections of yourself
There was something odd about this. A picture taken by us of a reflection of us. Even sitting there seeing ourselves was like seeing ourselves through other's eyes through our own.
We celebrated our 20th anniversary aboard the Silver Shadow cruiseship, Singapore to Seoul.
This was another one of those unexpected moments that could have been kinda so-so, but ended up great. We were in the Bahamas for a conference (with benefits) and the weather was simply not cooperating. So I sat down in front of our balcony, with a gorgeous view, lovely wind, some pretty fair rum, and got some great writing done.
Being on water in small boats is not my favourite thing. But, as is my way, I'll do it if the payoff is worth it. This unforgettable ride in the Mekong Delta qualified.
Private concert in The Hermitage
Taken from a camera in my lap - a 25-piece orchestra played for us in one the museum's beautiful galleries - this was really a special moment
Preparing to Elope
Preparing to Elope - Calgary, AB - within minutes of this photo, I was married. Can I even remember what was going through my head?
Planet S Cover
Let me tell you, when you're an accountant, you never really believe that a day will come where you'll be on the cover of magazine with a jaunty scarf around your neck and the wind blowing through your hair. So, yup, this was a pretty cool moment for me.
Picking your own grapes - in Saskatchewan!
First time picking coffee cherries
At a plantation in Guatemala. Very interesting to see the whole process from picking the cherry bean to letting them roast in the sun. I still like the drinking part best.
This was towards the end of my 50th birthday party. I was overwhelmed already and then they bring out the perfect cake, a replica of my my eight books in two stacks. Astounding. Happy happy boy.
One of lifes great simple pleasures walking the dogs.
Our acreage on a beautiful August Friday night with Magic & Kona (the best part of their day). And one of my favourites too!
On the Land Where the Grape is Grown
I don't exactly know why vineyards hold such appeal for me. Perhaps its because we have none in Saskatchewan. Strolling in this French vineyard was like walking on air for me.
Nigel Lake as Russell Quant
My long time editor, Cathering Lake, brought her 11-year-old son, Nigel, along with her from Toronto for the Saskatoon launch of Sundowner Ubuntu, October 2007. During the weekend of many celebrations, I was surprised one night when Herb, Catherine, and Nigel staged a play depicting a scene from the second Russell Quant book, Flight of Aquavit. Nigel donned my leather jacket and sunglasses and made a dashing Russell Quant.
My first Headdress
My first Headdress - Salalah, Oman - I was kind of forced into by an aggressive souk keeper in Salalah - but it turned out to be kind of cool - and I wore it out to dinner that night.
Being surrounded by friends
We asked everyone to dress in white for my 50th birthday garden party. Most did and it looked great. Somehow added a bit of a Gatsby-ish feeling to the day. Croquet anyone?
Meant to Meet
Surprisingly, and with no planning, we have found ourselves on the same cruise with Bob and Polly three times.
MCing the 2011 Arthur Ellis Awards
Victoria, BC - Always a special moment when you don a tuxedo and step in front of your peers to help celebrate their accomplishments.
Making Memories - Eldeen, Moo, Herb - Waikoloa Beach, Kona, HI - March 2009
Luxuriating in the the sea breeze
Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico - this is the human version of a dog sticking his head out the window of a speeding car, ears and tongue flapping in the wind.
Luxuriating in Being at Sea
Luxuriating in Being at Sea - we were leaving Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt and heading into the Suez Canal - the world seemed very big at that moment
Lunch in Athens - What a World Moment
Lunch in Athens - this was a particularly cool moment because as we sat there in the Athens sunshine, eating dolmades and greek salad and moussaka, drinking a cheap Greek white wine, we were blown away by the shear number of contrasting cultures we'd visited in the immediately preceding month - from Paris to the Middle East to Greece - it seemed almost impossible that even though we'd been riding camels and been dune crashing a couple weeks ago, and walked through the Valley of Kings a few days ago, that we could simply be sitting here in the shadow of the Acropolis having lunch
Lunch in a Swiss garden
With Marianne & Moritz at their home in Gahwil, Switzerland. It was like living on the Sound of Music set. Everything perfection and green.
Quirks of Fate
By a quirk of fate, I was upgraded to this $1,500 a night Villa in Marrakech, with my own pool and butler. I couldn't believe my good fortune. And made sure to take advantage of it.
Living That Dreamed Of Moment
When I thought about taking my mom on this cruise, I had this dream about the perfect day at sea, where we'd sit on a sun-drenched balcony, play a game, laugh, and enjoy a sea-going afternoon together.
Learning how a cashew is born.
While in Costa Rica we learned that the cashew 'nut' is outside of the fruit, and this makes it different from other tree nuts.
The cashew apple is an edible artificial fruit, joined to the externally born nut by a stem.
Lambda Literary Awards 2005
I was so certain I would not win the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men's Mystery, that we did not even take a camera to the ceremonies. This photo was taken in our hotel room later that evening. Which may be why I'm looking a little deer-in-the-headlights.
New York City
A stolen moment during a trip to Switzerland, where I'm journalling about our adventures to date. Some of this stuff may very well end up in a book some day.
Joining Wall of Honour
In 2011, the College of Education, UofS inducted me on their Wall of Honour (BEd '91). It was a surreal moment, remembering being a student there, figuring out life.
I was having a ball at Book Expo Canada, June 2006, signing books and kibbitzing with conference delegates, when who comes by but a photographer from the literary magazine, Quill & Quire. Now, I have no false illusions that they were seeking a photo of the famed author Anthony Bidulka (when there were about a zillion other writers at this thing); it was the jacket that done it! Lesson learned - always wear a good jacket.
In the pool with best friends.
It was a hot Saturday, late July, we were celebrating a couple of birthdays, just the four of us, cocktails in the pool followed by roasting hotdogs over an open fire. Great night.
Learning I Can Never be a Monk
This restaurant in Seoul specialized in "Temple" food - as eaten by Buddhist monks. No meat. No dairy. No spices. Certainly creative...but it was kind of like grazing.
Beholding the collection
The Russell Quant collection - seeing this display for the first time, I was momentarily stunned - I don't know that I'd ever before seen my collection of books publicly displayed in such a way that made me say - wow - I did all this? These are all my books? Maybe having that sixth book was the tipping point.
Honeymoon Celebrations with the Moms
One of the reasons we decided to get married at all once it became legal, was to have the opportunity to share the special occasion with our two moms. I think they enjoyed it as much if not more than we did!
Honeymoon Address by The Queen & Her Beefeater
I took this photo, at arms length. We're visiting the Anne of Green Gables house on PEI. The day was invigoratingly cool, and sunny. We were just happy to be there. Looking forward to a lobster lunch. It was perfect.
Golden dusk at sea, wind in our hair, feeling fine...
In the Pacific, near Manzanillo, Mexico
Who says you can never go back? We stayed at this Hong Kong Grand Hyatt 15-20 years earlier, long before we could actually afford it. I remember the place blowing my mind with how elegant it was. Our bathroom had a black marble tub and the bobby had a champagne bar.
Getting fleeced in Acapulco
I wanted the ridiculously huge sombrero for an event I was attending and my price haggling skills apparently need some work! This guy was a good sport and the hat was a hit.
Gathering of Family & Friends in Celebration
Having so many of our close friends and family share in this day - our honeymoon brunch immediately following our return from eloping and subsequent Arabian cruise - was powerful and felt like a love-fest.
Flight of Aquavit Celebration Dinner
Only good friends would put up with wearing pointy witch's hats to sit down for dinner to celebrate the launch of Flight of Aquavit. The witches (which are visible) are: Karen, Rhonda, Herb, Pat and Catherine.
First time in South America
Our actual first visit to South America was to have been to Santiago, Chile, but only days before we were to depart, they suffered a massive earthquake.
This was a sometimes harrowing, always exhilirating ride through downtown Ho Chi Mihn.
I'm off to the side, waiting to do my first ever reading from Amuse Bouche. I am being introduced, first by the McNally Robinson events coordinator and then by Catherine Lake, my editor, who'd flown in from Toronto for the occassion. A million things were going through my head. The support of the huge crowd was palpable in the room. This was truly a great moment.
First earthquake drill
Lima, Peru - Sirens were blaring, everyone emptied into the centre square, the region was on heightened alert because of a recent earthquake in neighboring Chile, and Peru is like earthquake central.
First Contact - Vietnam
We had sailed for two days out of Singapore, headed for Ho Chi Mihn (Saigon). Getting up early, the morning was shrouded in fog. As we approached land this small vessel appeared, and I knew we were there
First Camel Ride
First Camel Ride - one of those 'things I want to do before I die' - checked off in the desert just outside Dubai, UAE - tip - always lean waaaaaay back when getting on and off
First Books on Shelf
This was my first view of a book I'd written on a shelf, at the McNally Robinson Bookstore in Saskatoon. My writing career could have ended right then and I'd have been a happy man. Although I'm quite ecstatic it didn't.
The perfect combination
Marseilles, France-I love finding that perfect sunny spot for lunch, serving just what you were looking for - in this case: moules and frites and cold rosé wine. A perfect combination making a special moment.
Immortalized in the novels of Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling, Raffles Hotel, Singapore’s colonial-styled architecture and lush tropical gardens exude an atmosphere of timeless elegance. Just sitting there made me feel like I was living in a different time.
Featured in CA Magazine cover story
A full circle moment for me, with surreal qualities. As a practicing CA I never dared dream I'd one day be in the profession's national magazine for my writing.
When my second book came out, Shelley, my ex-boss from my days as a Chartered Accountant offered to throw a pre-launch party at a local club for a few of the people I used to work for. I thought there'd be three. There were many more than that, and she's now thrown a similar party once or twice more. I was surprised and, to be truthful, a little overwhelmed that these once co-workers would come out to celebrate this occasion with me. Awesome moment.
My grand 50th birthday adventure done, I made my way to Nice and again scored a fabulous suite with great views of the Promenade de Anglais and the sea. I remember feeling peculiar and realizing it was euphoria that I'd done it. I completed my Morroccan adventure.
Enjoying the world with my mom
This was on the thrillingly rough coast of Prince Edward Island, with the sea-salted air blowing through our hair, having a blast with my mom, showing her parts of the world she'd never seen before.
Enjoying Aquavit in its country of origin
Copenhagen, Denmark. This was special for me - taking me back to writing about Aquavit for the second Quant book.
Enjoying a 'blond' beer in Belgium
I must admit, not being much of a beer drinker, I'd not heard of blond beer before this afternoon. But sitting there, in the sun, sipping the local brew, having just bought some chocolate and about to hunt down some art. it was a perfect Belgian moment.
Eating breakfast at a Bedoin Camp
Eating breakfast at a Bedoin Camp - UAE
East Meets West
East truly meets West at his Starbucks in Dubai, UAE = and the coffee still tasted exactly the same!
Time for thinking
Herb caught me doing something I so love doing. Often on vacation (this was taken in Maui, on our second floor lanai on Kaanapali beach), but sometimes at home too. As the day comes to rest, settling in with a glass of wine, watching the sun set, thinking and being quiet.
Labour of Love
Every year, sometime in November, I reserve a weekend which I call Decorating weekend. I spend from Thursday night to Sunday decking the halls and decorating seven trees for the upcoming holiday season and especially for our annual Xmas Opener party. The trees, each year rotating through a series of about two dozen themes and colour combinations (to date), are a labour of love for me. I enjoy creating them, and sharing them with guests in our home. And for a couple of months its like living with a little bit of Christmas magic.
Nothing like hometown support
This is the book launch for the eighth Russell Quant book, Dos Equis. Hometowns never let you down. Yet again they came out in droves to show their support. Really an extraordinary feeling, always makes for a special memorable moment.
Simple joy of strolling
Sometimes there is nothing better than enjoying green space and the grandeur of being home.
Discovering a new favourite guilty read
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher - discovered on a warm summer night, with a lovely glass of wine.
Contemplating Life. Dark Sea. Stunning sunset.
Aboard the Silver Cloud in the Baltic Sea.
Contemplating life at sea
On the Pacific, in my private spot - for some reason no one came to this particular part of the ship, so every day I'd head here for a stretch of quiet contemplation, just me and the sea and my thoughts.
Conquering the Unknown
Taking on Marrakech on its own was a challenge. Language. Culture. Traditons. Agressive souk vendors. Extreme heat. Here I am in the El Fna Square late one evening, feeling for the first time I've figured out how to survive and eventually love the place.
Colliding Cultures - we were in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - the first western world cruise ship to dock there in five years - I was at first nervous about wearing the headdress a souk shopkeeper put on me - but the locals saw it as a sign of respect and acceptance of their culture and I was their instant friend wherever I went that day - truly an awesome experience
Getting a new painting signed by the artist, Josef Lootens, in Bruges.
Only recently have I started to describe myself as an art collector. I think the great number of canvases that grace our walls finally convinced me. For years now, when we travel, as souvenirs we try to find local art to bring home. When we meet the artist, as I did here, it is a special moment and especially nice mental keepsake.
Chilly summer night's walk with loved ones (and warmed Kahlua)
With one of our oldest friends. A simple night at home. We'd just had a filling dinner, and decided to put our after dinner drinks in to-go mugs and take the dogs for a walk. It was summer but the evening turned chilly with the setting sun, adding a bit of refreshing vigour to the experience.
Catherine Lake as Jane Cross
During the weekend of the Sundowner Ubuntu launch in Saskatoon, my editor Catherine Lake (who flew in for the event), took part in a Russell Quant play. She played a character that I must admit fits her very well - that of the wily, cantakerous, Regina PI, Jane Cross (kidding). She really got into character and did a fantastic job.
Being without a care in the world!
Acapulco with sister-in-law Eldeen, boarding the Silver Spirit - we were in a great mood having just spent the day in hot Acapulco and about to get ready for a party aboard ship.