I've been missed!

It's always nice to be missed. I had a manuscript to get out, and of course I got tangled up with displacement activities. Now I have a rewrite to do.

First came Geographing - the project to photograph every 1km square on the Ordnance Survey. First it's a matter of going through my archive to see what I can find, like this one from Willaston on the Wirral:

Hadlow Road station

And then it's down to traipsing around Reading for the unglamorous places others dare not go, like the Park Lane reservoir in Tilehurst:

Park Lane water tower, Tilehurst

From there I got into the allied activity of Geocaching

You can see all my Geographs here. It's a form of treasure hunt with dead letter boxes. I make no excuses - it got me to dubbin my boots and get out into the country again. A cross between Treasure Island and Smiley's People

Which brings us back to writing, and the fact that I have to put my nose to the grindstone once more. Hey ho!


Photographing the nation

Here's an admirable project - a website that aims to photograph every one of the 1 km squares on the Ordnance Survey of the British Isles.

It's been going for a little over a month, and already fifty or so photographers have submitted 2,000 images. That's barely scratched the surface, but I don't doubt that soon there will be an unprecedented photographic record of the country.

I have, of course, contributed my own two penn'orth!

A Writer's Work

After all the excitement of earlier in the week, I'm now quiet because I'm up to my eyeballs in revision and editing.

The 1% of inspiration is behind me. The 99% of tedious sweat and burning the midnight oil is ahead. One day I'll look back on this and laugh. But for now...

Ho hum!


Ooo errrr....

There I was, this afternoon, reading a book. That's strange in itself, because it's the same book - The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid, that I was devouring on Saturday night. She writes a gripping thriller, does our Val, even if she does have an unhealthy appetite for the gruesome, so you can understand how it felt when i discovered that in the copy I was reading, page 132 was followed by page 213. In other words, the printers had put this together clumsily so that one batch of pages was missing and another batch was repeated twice. Bummer! So anyway, my Bookcrossing friends rallied round and a fresh copy hit my doormat this morning. Thank you Maureen!

But I digress. This afternoon I was sitting there reading it, and let's put it on the record that I was listening to Jethro Tull's By Kind Permission of..., when the phone rang.

Which outstanding bill was being chased this time, I thought. Which excuse do I have to follow up? I had to fiddle with the music so I could hear and be heard.

It was Teresa Chris, of the Teresa Chris Literary Agency. She liked the sample chapters of Cuckoo. She liked them a lot. She wants to see the whole manuscript. Exclusively. By next week.

I can't remember much else. I'm in a daze. I can't concentrate. I'm gibbering.


Pope Still Dead Shock Horror!

He reigned for a long time and was a significant figure of his age. We know that. Now, do we have to be told this over and over again? He was getting on. He'd been ill for several years. He'd had a good innings. Surely his death wasn't unexpected?

Perhaps the media are still waiting to see if he rises again on the third day!

Still, it reminds me to get back on topic (but wasn't last night fun? Nothing I can add to that, really, those people are so good at debunking themselves). It also reminds me that for a couple of years now I've been wary of returning to Kraków for fear of being trapped there by the demise of Karol Wojtyła, the local lad made good and national hero. Now I can plan my return to the city I fell in love with some years ago.

Naturally, there are some photographs!

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They say that Poland missed out on the twentieth century and is now rushing headlong from the nineteenth into the twenty-first. Kraków is getting there more sedately however; unlike its neighbour Katowice, an hour's drive away, which is sprouting shiny new office towers. The ancient religious and academic capital of Poland is hanging on to its roots. The old centre - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - has banished traffic from the old centre, surrounded by a garden called the Planty where the city walls and moat once stood. Along Florianska, the main shopping street, western shops are springing up under the watchful eye of the famous lop-sided church of St Mary. The shops are for show though, and feeling good - they charge western prices which most Poles can't afford!

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Right in the middle is the Rynek Głowny, the largest market square in Europe, and in the middle of that the Sukiennice, the old Cloth Hall. After the fall of communism, McDonalds wanted to take over the Sukiennice for triumphalist purposes. The city authorities, bless them, would have none of it. Not only could McDonalds not have the Sukiennice but they weren't permitted to set up in the Rynek either. They were banished to the side streets and denied the scarlet background to the golden arches. The Sukiennice now has an art gallery on the first floor and a craft market - from which I bought the green amber and silver earrings I'm wearing right now - on the ground.

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They haven't been able to stop all the usual suspects - McDonalds, Burger King, KFC - moving in, even though you can get excellent vernacular food embarrassingly cheaply. Still, the Poles are resourceful people and it was never going to be long before they came up with their own (rather pricier) chain of peasant-themed eateries for the tourists. They claimed that this was a kind of black puddding, but it seemed to me to be a close relative of haggis. With kiszona kapusta (sauerkraut) of course. Best not ask what's in the white pots (one of them is lard). The beer is Okocim from Katowice, which after extensive research I deemed to be inferior to the excellent Żywiec which can hold its own with the great beers of Europe!

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It's always worth looking up - dig the spider on this gable in Karmelicka!

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A sombre place - this is the ulica Jozefa in the Kazimierz district. This was the Jewish quarter, dating from the days when Kazimierz, a separate city in the mediaeval period, was granted to the Jewish people who had been evicted from elsewhere in Europe. In the 1940s they were evicted again - those who have seen the film Schindler's List will recognise this area as it was filmed there.

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Kazimierz was home to a number of synagogues of course. Only one is still in use, but several others like this one stand as a solemn memorial to the fate of the Jews of Kazimierz. The walls and doors remain scarred by bullets to this day.

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The Poles know they were not entirely innocent of the massacre of the Jews. Afterwards they erected a memorial fountain in Kazimierz.

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Still, the Jews are returning to Kraków in numbers now, after the population had fallen from 60,000 before the war to fewer than 100 only ten years ago. Jewish food is readily available in Kazimierz, and the sound of klezmer music echoes in the streets of the awakening quarter.

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There's even a café called the Four Shops, which from the outside looks like a row of Jewish shops and inside has been knocked together into one room, with the shop accoutrements on show. This is the tailor's.

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No set of Kraków pictures would be complete without a shot of the Wawel, the ancient royal castle. This isn't the usual tourist view though, it's the locals' view from the park by the Wisła (Vistula) where few tourists venture.

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In this most catholic of countries it's not hard to find a shrine, even out in the Las Walski forest to the east of the city. Not sure who this represents. I keep thinking of Jonah in the whale but that's just being fanciful.

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I'm just very fond of this chap, even if he's not particularly Polish. I call him Jerzy and he lives in the Kraków zoo in Las Walski.


We have guests!

Oh my! All those frootloops dropping in to see little ol' me!

Come in! Take your shoes off (it's the carpet, you understand!) Sit down and make yourselves confortable.
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Don't mind Tosca - she only being playful, it's just that she likes visitors, especially minced up with a little Marmite mixed in. I know her jaws are poweful and her teeth and claws are sharp, but she's only nine months old.

Now, what can I offer you? There's some Duvel and some Chimay, and some kriek beer. I do like Belgian beer - best in the world. Same with the chocolate - would you like some? Laphroaig? Old Pulteney? No, I think this calls for some Champagne. There's some cheese too - a nice ripe Munster? Pont l'Eveque? That would be topical.

Who do you fancy for the new pope? I like that guy from Honduras - Oscar Maradiaga. What do you mean, he's an idiotarian moonbat?

Leaving already? Such a shame. Well, it was nice to see you. I hope you'll buy my novel when it comes out! Oh, and I lurvvve your country - so quaint! ;)

Much ado about nothing

My favourite frootloops at Little Green Footballs are getting into a tiswas about a "terrorist incident" at Heathrow Airport

They don't get it, do they? We have been used to incidents for many years and we don't go for hysteria - just quietly defuse the situation (or any bomb that may be involved). Most of the time you'd never know it was happening. Why give these guys publicity and scare the population, after all? Unless, of course, you had a motive for keeping the population fearful.

The Provisional IRA, after all, were at it for years. Brought to us by Noraid, who have not yet appeared on any list of proscribed terrorist-supporting organisations in the US. Many's the time a London journey was disrupted in the 70s and 80s because of a 'bomb scare'. We took it in our stride, along with the Bishopsgate bomb of 1993, which rattled my bedroom windows ten kilometres away.

Tonight's incident sounds like somebody being removed from the plane for questioning to me but you never know. It's not deemed worthy of a mention on the BBC radio news anyway - not because the BBC is biased but because this sort of thing happens more than you think and it simply isn't news.

In other news - I know I haven't posted for a couple of weeks but I've been busy preparing manuscripts to send out to agents, and I've been working on a new story which may turn out to be a new novel. I'll let you know what materialises.


Across the Atlantic - 1985

I went to get married - to a real live American - in Verona, New York. Apart from skipping across a bridge over the Saint John River from St Stephen, New Brunswick to Calais (pronounced 'Callous'), Maine just to be able to say I'd been there, I'd never visited the USA before and there was lots to record. Not least the general store with a dusty forecourt and a kerosene pump, just like in all those movies!

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And then there was another problem - not only stores like Bobby's here, but also the big ones like J C Penney at the mall and the drug store in Oneida with the counter and the cherry coke floats (oh bliss!) didn't seem to want to sell me transparency film. So it was in the US where I started shooting prints rather than slides.

There was so much to photograph too, like the wonderful paddle steamer on Lake George in the Adirondacks.

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It was returning at Christmas when Verona came into its own though. Real snow, like we get in England once in a generation, only there's more of it and it comes every year.

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The locals whinge like mad about it, and some are so disgusted that they flit off to Florida every winter to avoid it, but that's their loss - what's a bit of shovelling in exchange for riding around on a ski-doo! And it's so beautiful.

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Lights Under Bushels

Ceres Wunderkind, aka Peter Kendell, is a seriously talented writer, in my humble opinion. The trouble is, he doesn't know his own strength. So far he has mainly and modestly confined himself to writing fan fiction, but I keep telling him he should write original material for publication. He can do it - have a look at this wonderful fragment in his Live Journal