James Jeffrey

James Jeffrey is a freelance journalist, writer and Camino guide who splits his time between the US, the UK, the Iberian Peninsula and further afield.

In praise of the späti, Berlin’s late-night corner shops

The späti is a Berlin institution. These late-night corner shops began popping up in the former German Democratic Republic for workers clocking off from their evening shifts. Serving as a mixture of mini-supermarket and meeting place, spätis have outdoor seating, often wobbly wooden tables and benches on which locals sit and drink cheap bottles of

Gaza and the terror of tank warfare

As Israel encircles Gaza City, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is conducting what we in the British Army call Fibua, or Fighting In Built-Up Areas. Less ceremoniously, it’s known as Fish – fighting in someone’s house – or Fish and Chips – fighting in someone’s house and causing havoc in people’s streets. But the flippant name

Poppy day is about more than remembrance

Every Remembrance Day, the anti-poppy naysayers pop up to criticise those who commemorate our war dead. As a former soldier, you might think you can guess my view on these people. But, in fact, I do have some sympathy with those who are uncomfortable about the way we mark 11 November. Some years ago, shortly

On the death of a pilgrim

John Brierley, who died last month, was a legendary pilgrim that you’ve probably never heard of. Admittedly, these days most people aren’t familiar with any pilgrims. Just going to Sunday mass is unorthodox. The vast majority of us who respected Brierley never met him and probably, like me, never saw a video clip of him

What to pack for a walking holiday

I know it’s a tad warmer than usual in southern Europe but let’s not lose our heads. That holiday in stunning Andalusia is still worth it. Admittedly, some mitigating measures are probably worth taking. With the passion of model railway enthusiasts, we’d discuss what contents should go in the optimal med kit Since I started

Are gamers becoming a national security risk?

Once again gamers appear to be behind a dramatic leak of classified military intelligence. Documents originally emanating from the Pentagon appear to have been shared on the video game chat platform Discord by a 21-year-old air national guardsman – in an effort to win an esoteric argument involving the highly popular video game Minecraft Maps and

I miss the Cold War

Berliner Luft is a popular peppermint-flavoured shot downed in the city’s bars. It also means Berlin Air and is a colloquialism for the city’s spirit of unfettered freedom and rebellious abandon. Given what this city went through, reduced to rubble by the furious Russians at the end of world war two, and then rent in

The other side of flamenco

When you hear the word flamenco you probably think of a lady dancing in a polka-dot dress, stomping her feet, accompanied by guitars and singing. And in the fair capital of Andalucía, Seville, you would have no problem finding such a sight. All across the old town, around the cathedral and in the lee of

The unique style of Seville

If you want to feel scruffy, head to Seville, the outrageously attractive capital city of southern Spain’s Andalucia region. It’s not just the abundant exquisite architecture – the city has one of the largest historic ‘old towns’ in Europe, with every bar, café and restaurant looking tiptop – but also the sartorial elegance that abounds

Ukraine is lucky to have Britain’s Challenger 2 tanks

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. So wrote William Shakespeare in Henry V. He could well have been writing about the British Army’s main battle tank, the mighty 62-tonne behemoth that is Challenger 2, which is now being sent to Ukraine.  The Challenger 2 is a weighty sort of

In defence of Harry’s Taliban comments

Let’s just simmer down about Prince Harry, at least when it comes to his comments about the Taliban. In his memoir Spare, released this week, the Prince writes that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan and thought of ‘Taliban fighters not as people but as chess pieces.’  This wasn’t the best choice of words. He shouldn’t have

You’re never too old to stay in a youth hostel

No disrespect to the hotel industry: staying in a hotel room, especially when there is someone nice with you, can be exciting and sexy. Staying in a hotel room on your own, though, can be exceedingly sad, boring and unsexy. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced more of the latter type of hotel stopover (a squalid hotel room

The joys of combat food

Combat food seems to prove particularly divisive. It is the Marmite of culinary preparation:you either love it or loathe it. I’m firmly in the former camp. Combat food isn’t specifically military, though there is a link. It refers to simple, no-nonsense, hearty fare, whose ingredients – typically from tins – can easily be thrown into

The pagan pleasures of Spain’s Finisterre

It was starting to feel rather spooky on the pathway to Finisterre. Only two days before I’d been in the celebratory environs of Santiago de Compostela with its endless arrivals of jubilant pilgrims. Now dark clouds were scudding across the Galician hills in the distance and the only sound I could hear was the wind

The secret holiday spots beloved by the Spanish

Ask a Spaniard where they vacation, and you may get a touch of the Matador effect in response. The chest lifts, the head is tilted up with the bottom lip pushed out accompanied by the reply: ‘España! My country.’ For like the Greeks, when you have so many domestic splendours to choose from, why would

The lost art of drinking wine with Coca-Cola

Mixing red wine with Coca-Cola would have the great Roger Scruton turning in his grave. He wrote the wonderful book I Drink Therefore I am: A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine about the purity and life-enhancing joy of drinking wine properly. ‘It enacts for us the primal unity of soul and body—the heart-warming liquid stirs us to meditation,

The tragic loss of Somaliland’s epic Waaheen market

On the eve of Ramadan at the start of this month, the epic Waaheen market at the centre of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, caught fire. The flames engulfed the entire market and took 12 hours to put out. There were no fatalities—it was Friday, the holy day of prayer for Muslims, and the market

How freewheeling Austin drew in Covid-weary Californians

One of Austin’s monikers is the City of the Violet Crown. It comes from the beguiling atmospheric shenanigans known as the Belt of Venus that casts a bar of pinkish, purplish haze above the horizon at sunrise and sunset when the city’s Mexican free-tailed bats — about 750,000 of them — are either returning to or leaving from hanging