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Jon Wilks Posts

Into Wilfred Thesiger’s Empty Quarter

Good old Wilfred Thesiger. The explorer’s five years in the heat of the UAE desert have inspired countless expats to dip their toes in the shallows of the Rub’ Al Khali, and his books and artefacts have become a small tourist industry in their own right. You can head out to the museum in Al Ain to gaze upon the man’s engraved rifle, or you can flit down to Liwa and have a go at desert camping, trying to imagine what it was like to be the UAE’s first expat explorer. You’re never going to get close, of course.

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The Bob Geldof interview

This was one of the first interviews I did working for Time Out. Jeremy Lawrence, the editor of Time Out Dubai at the time, popped his head up over the computer screen and asked nonchalantly if I fancied interviewing Bob Geldof in, oooh, an hour? Cue 50 minutes of frenzied research on African policy, all of which led to nothing at all when it turned out he just fancied talking about his time as a music journalist.

I remember him being a bit curmudgeonly, but generally fairly gentle with me, perhaps sensing how green I was. I also recall that he left the conversation mid-sentence, pretty much hanging up the phone without even rounding off what he was saying. He was talking about Bono’s music taste at the time, though, so I didn’t feel I missed out on much.

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The Tom Jones interview

The snake hips have gone, but the charm is all intact. ‘Just call me Tom,’ he laughs down the phone as I fumble with his title. This, after all, is the original Mr Jones: celebrated lothario, knight of the realm, Hollywood Walk of Famer… He’s clocked up more Vegas appearances than Sinatra, talked fitness tips with Elvis and been the target of untold items of flying underwear. Why, then, does it feel like I’m chatting with some jovial old timer in a pub at the back end of Cardiff?

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