Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Friday, 14 November 2008
I think it's because I feel close to my father there. He went to school in Redruth, when it still had a grammar school whose headmaster felt it his God-given duty to plead with parents to keep their boys out of the mines by letting them stay into the Sixth Form, after which 'there were many scholarships available to bright boys to study at the University' (my father got one to Imperial College, London). In those days, after the War, the town was probably far less grim than it is now, because it would still, then, have been a town with hope. The tin mines were open still, after all. There was still a kind of (if limited) future in farming and fishing.
And there were no signs in Cornish anywhere (I have that on my father's authority - although, since he's been dead these last ten years, he can't corroborate it). They didn't need signs in Cornish, no more, really, than they do now. Redruth people have that air of always knowing who they are - and were.
Friday, 7 November 2008
When I first watched Brideshead on TV, it was during its first airing in 1981, when I was myself an undergraduate in London, though with plenty of friends (and consequent week ends) up amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford and the slightly more puritanical cloisters of Cambridge (always the more radical of the two). That fey, floppy hair and languid manner of the 'boys' irritated me then, and still does now, although I now see the series (and indeed the novel) less as a nostalgia trip about toffs than as an excellent narrative study about the disintegration of a character-type and his place in a changing world, represented by Sebastian Flyte, a deserving BAFTA-winning role for Anthony Andrews. (What has he done since? Has he ended up like Flyte through playing Flyte?). Brideshead, though slightly fading round the edges, is a sumptuous production, redolent of Eighties excess, although, curiously, it was almost stymied by the strikes of 1979, which interfered with its shooting. There are, of course, too many undeserving 'haves' in it, and too many hapless, forleock-tugging 'have-nots'; but to get fixated on a Marxist-socialist reading of the drama is to miss the point - not to mention the fun. Anyway, at my age (middle age...), I'd far rather watch old re-runs of intelligent dramas like this - even less intelligent, but hardly less entertaining ones, such as Upstairs Downstairs (which makes the class divide into family viewing) than the disjointed programmes we get today in which narrative continuity seems a forgotten art.
In The Telegraph last Saturday, Charles Moore challenged the BBC's latest mess-up (the Brand-Ross-Sachs-Sachs's granddaughter affair) by refusing to pay his TV licence until Jonathan Ross is sacked, rather than simply penalised to the tune of a million quidsworth of licence-payers' money during his period of suspension. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I am seriously thinking of not renewing my TV set when the switch to digital goes through in Cornwall next year. Why pay to watch broadcasts of crap-TV (I put it in lumpen and vulgar terms because it IS lumpen and vulgar..) when quality 'old' TV is freely available via the internet? Looking forward now to a week end of Jewel in the Crown, Cracker, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, to name but a few, not to mention the eight episodes or so of Brideshead still to go. Just the thing on a November evening with nothing much going on outside here either!
Saturday, 1 November 2008
Saturday, 25 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Monday, 29 September 2008
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Thursday, 4 September 2008
6th September – PINCUSHION by Anne Morgellyn.
The latest in a series of psychological thrillers that chart the adventures of Louise Moon and her precarious love affair with brilliant but unconventional pathologist, Chas Androssoff.
Performance artist August Stockyard, attention-seeking heir to a media and property empire, dies in typically theatrical fashion, after making the bequest of adjoining houses to his pregnant girlfriend, Cressida, and to his former comrade-in-arms, Louise Moon.
But was August's demise simple suicide or was it the result of a kinky sex game that went wrong? Had he cleverly planned to shame his distant father and take revenge on his ruthless uncle, the obese and grasping millionaire who now had his eye on Louise?
Or was it a game from the grave, pitting Cressida and Louisa in a fight to the death as reluctant and mismatched neighbours?
About the Author: http://www.bewrite.net/authors/anne_morgellyn.htm
All BeWrite Books are available from: BeWrite Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Angus & Robertson and other online booksellers and to order from high street bookshops.
Print ISBN: 978-1-905202-82-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-905202-83-6
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Anyway, the link below takes you straight to John's John.
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Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Sunday, 22 June 2008
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Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Paris to me now is more familiar (and therefore infinitely less exotic) than Prescot, the uninspiring Lancashire town where I was born but haven't set foot in for nearly forty years. I suppose, once you start becoming jaded with and cynical about Paris, you are sliding dangerously into a state where you are royally pissed off with life in general. I'm not quite there yet . For instance, I don't feel like that about London. But London has an energy, a buzz, a sense of moving forward. Paris seems stuck in a time-warp, which, I suppose, is part of its eternal charm. It is beautiful, yes. Who could sit on the quais on the Isle Saint-Louis on a balmy April afternoon and begrudge the overwhelming beauty of Paris? But for me, this time, the real beauty was in the unexpected and unfamiliar sight of the Canal Saint-Martin, a newly boho-ed (or Bo-Bobo-ed, as the French say - an amalgamation of bon chic bon genre (posh) and boho (bohemian) gentrification. Walking a few blocks east from the seedy Boulevard de Strasbourg, where we were staying (conveniently close to the Gare du Nord), we came across a newly landscaped city park bearing the sign, 'Paris respire'. And this was certainly the case, with the evening sunshine playing on the cleaned-up waters of the canal, beside which young people, purposeful and energised, were sitting and drinking. If I lived in Paris again (and I have lived there three times in my current limited lifetime), I would seek out a base near the Canal Saint-Martin in what used to be the horribly un-chic tenth district. My daughter, of course (bless her), is still captivated by the sights of the fourth, fifth, seventh and first - Notre Dame and the Pyramid du Louvre and the blocks around the Jardin de Luxembourg and University. The joy for me, this time, was seeing Paris through her eyes, my own having lost the rose-tinted specs. I hope she gets to live there too one day. Everyone should have a shot at living in Paris, even if it's only for a month, even the month of August when they surely must place a restriction on the number of tourists entering the museums. It is still only April, and still we would have queued at least an hour for tickets to clock the Impressionist jewels in the Musee d'Orsay. When I first visited Paris, some forty years ago (God!), the big tourist groups crowding out the Mona Lisa were mostly Americans and Japanese; now they are Eastern Europeans, Russians and Poles and Romanians, all having their shot at Paris. And best of luck to them, too.
The only real downer was the lack of hot water in the hotel on the evening we arrived. But were offered a free breakfast (not much of a compensation, given the bread and jam nature of the French petit dejeuner), and the water was hot again the following evening. I made do with boiling water in my trusty travel kettle (a must in France - in fact, France is the only country it gets to visit these days) and splashing my muckiest bits, my irritation with the antiquarian plumbing and the rubber ham and croissant quickly dispelling as soon as we were out on the boulevard where there was an utterly surprising and captivating number of wig shops. (Why? For the Afro-French ladies living in the district? For the filles de joie of Saint-Denis? ) Sod the hot water - we were in Paris.
From Terry Webb, a cautionary tale about getting lost, locked out, and legless in the Bulgarian capital. This makes travelling abroad with Saga (for which the BAD boys - all officially 'retired' - should qualify) look like a trip to the garden centre. It also gives Stanley and the rest of the Barmy Army on their eternal cricketing junkets a very fair run for their money!
"The apartment was splendid. A generous size with all that
could be wished including a bar, DVD player, satellite TV and splendid views to
the snow covered mountains.. Very warm and comfortable on the fourth floor
of a block built in about 1920. The lift proclaimed: “I am 73 years old.
Please treat me with respect.”
We did our shopping in the little local store just across the
road. No one spoke English but mime worked quite well until we ran out
of toilet paper. To avoid an international incident, at this point, Brian
did resort to providing an (unused) sample. The couple who ran the store
were most helpful. The request for tea produced an armful of speciality teas
from which to choose.
On the first day we did what we normally do. Set out to find the
Tourist information office which was listed in our guide. We spent all
day from 10.00 am ‘till 6.00 pm but failed. The map we were given showed
the English translation of the street names. The street' signs were in
Bulgarian Cyrillic text. Even the locals could not show us where we were on our
map. Asking at up market hotels where we were fairly sure there would be
English speakers failed to help with all saying that there was no tourist
information office in Sofia. Even when we showed them a picture in our
guide! However the efforts were rewarded by our working up a ravenous
We resorted to sampling the local beers. The evening
passed pleasantly enough visiting the local bars. Back at the ranch we watched a
DVD of Blot on the Landscape which I had brought with me. It ran for almost
an hour before breaking down. Still, this allowed us extra drinking
time for which we must be grateful.
We woke up to the fabulous views from our windows gradually disappearing.
Scaffolding was being erected around the building. By lunch
time the view had disappeared completely as the typical sheeting with
pictures, common on the continent, was hung all around. However, this
saved us having to draw the curtains for the remainder of our stay.
The following day we resolved not to be beaten and set off
once again on a mission… to find the T. I. office. Yet another day of
failure. Resorted to bars and beer to raise our spirits. A good meal at the
Irish bar. Good to feel at home for an hour or so !
Day three. Off to find … yes.. the T I office. Determined not to
be bested. This time with the benefit of transport on the trams and
buses as we had at last managed to find out how and where to buy tickets.
Also we decide to try to arrange a train or bus trip to Plodiv, the second city
of Bulgaria. By lunch time we had still not found the T I but we knew we
were very close. Gerry and Brain decided that the impressive building nearby
would house someone important - English speaking and intelligent. Ten
minutes later they returned having been held at gun point, X-rayed, frisked
and searched. The impressive building turned out to be the National Courts
of Justice ! However as predicted there was intelligent life there and
they directed them to small office half hidden by scaffolding and the
ubiquitous sheeting with pictures and … success the tourist information office!
It wasn't worth the three-day search. They were of little
use to us but very keen to give us enough guide books to fill a coffin.
Clearly they had had not customers for a month and had to reach
targets, which they did in just ten minutes with us. Amazingly they even
objected to us taking photographs of the office to prove that it did exist. We took
Flushed with success, we decided to push the boat out and eat
in “The Russian” restaurant that evening. However we upset the head waiter
by refusing his suggestion that we should start the meal with a vodka AT £20 a shot!
“But is the Russian tradition," he insisted.” Not aT £20 a shot we explained politely.
The meal turned out to be less than memorable after that rejection, with noticeably poor attention from the
waiter, who then proceeded to remove one glass of wine from our bottle,
“because it was next to the cork”, and placed it on a table across the
room. Brian succeeded in retrieving it, without getting caught, so we had
the full bottle in the end and free entertainment (Cossack dancers). A good value experience, in the end.
Next day we set out to find the main rail and bus station which we
had been told shared the same site. We took the tram no12 as instructed
and found ourselves about ten miles from the city in a rubbish ridden
derelict factory site having missed the correct stop. It was good to see the
other side of Sofia.
We retraced our steps and arrived at the main train and bus station
turned out to be a massive new build but empty. The result of European
cash without the local infrastructure to man or service it. The old stations
nearby were still in use. Confronted with twenty queues all headed by
indecipherable place names we headed for the “Information Desk” only to
be greeted by No English! No English” Nearby two American students with
back packs were similarly bemused. “We have travelled all over the world and
nowhere has it been so difficult to find our way around” they said.
We were relieved that that it was not just us. - We were beginning to think that we should not
be let out on our own. We gave up on getting to Plodiv which would not
have been very exciting anyway and decided to book a taxi to take us to the
mountains and a ski resort on Sunday our last day and something really
exciting to look forward to.
The following day we did touristy things like looking at the
national centre for culture, which turned out to be an indoor market,
and some churches . We also found a real ale pub with its own brewery.
Things were really beginning to shape up!
That evening on the way out the lights on our staircase had
failed so I went back for a torch. There were very loud knocking sounds coming
from the lift, but it was 73 years old, so we were not unduly concerned. On
the first landing there was a head of a young lady at about floor level in
the lift and she seemed to be quite friendly and was shouting greetings in
Bulgarian and waving us goodbye. On the next landing were some feet at
about ceiling level, so we discretely averted our gaze. Most impressive
just how friendly some of the Bulgarians seemed to be.
A good hour was spent trying to find bar listed in the guide
book as having nine different beers on tap. But it was packed smoky when we got there, and both Brian
and myself decided to give it a miss and return home without Gerry, who was determined to stick it out.
On our return, we found that we had both sets of keys and
Gerry was left with none, but given that there was a door entry phone at
street level did not concern ourselves unduly until around 11.30, when there was a knocking
on our door. An angry Gerry had been out side in the street for over an
hour. The door entry phone was not working as it was on the same
circuit as the stairway lights! He had rung my mobile but it was in a jacket
pocket in my wardrobe. Brian’s was, as usual, switched off to save the battery.
Next day a Saturday, I gave my keys to Gerry as if anyone was
going to stay out it would be him. I reported this to Brian as we left
the apartment. Gerry locked up and followed us to the street. On his
arrival he reported that he could not double lock the door. However, as Gerry had
not used the keys before we decided not to trudge back uo four floors to
check as we knew the door was self locking.
We arrived back at the flat at about 7.30 that evening and
found that we were unable to get into the flat. The keys which Gerry had did
not seem to work. I asked Brian for his keys to try. But he had not brought
them with him ! Only one thing to do in these circumstances. Have a beer! No
Passports. Very little cash. No flight tickets for the return early on
Monday morning and just a Sunday to sort things out. While Gerry and
Brian checked out the beer I walked to the office of the rental company only,
not unexpectedly, as it was Saturday evening, closed. Plan A, B, C, D and
E were discussed and all rejected as they all involved a considerable
degree of discomfort. We decided to place ourselves in the hands of anyone who
a) spoke English and b)was sympathetic to three grumpy old men. Not
something we felt too confident of finding. Most unusually, we were wrong ! Our
saviour came in the form of a restaurateur we stumbled upon in just 5
minutes only yards from the bar.
We found ourselves in pleasant hotel 2 miles from the centre
and had a splendid meal (I think) and plenty of beer and
wine. Much phoning back to Hazel at back at HQ and with her very able (what
would we have done without her?), help made arrangements for a locksmith to
meet us on the following day. (How sensible of Brian to save his
phone batteries for emergencies.)
Sunday arrived and so did the locksmith only an hour or so
after the promised time; and he took just two hours to get in. Brian had left
the other set of keys in the door. This is a common problem in Bulgaria we
were told. So not our fault after all.
This delay resulted in the planned trip to the mountains by
taxi being aborted. However it was very hot and sunny, so it would not have
been a good day for a long taxi ride. Also the ski resort would have
probably been crowded!
Monday, 31 March 2008
by Penwith-based artist, Sarah Vivian. It certainly
conjures the spirit of West Cornwall, being the image
of a standing stone that is, well, more than just a stone.
From certain angles, it's a shape-shifter, a sprite
(or Piskey, since we're in Penwith) with a
honey-coloured face. Cleverly done. It reminds me of
Turner's Colossus, although the images and style are
very different: it's all about perception - now you
see it, now you don't. Is it a giant in the sky, or is
it clouds? Is it a sprite in the grass, or just a hunk
of Cornish granite? But granite radiates. The land
down in Penwith crackles with a most peculiar energy.
The following link to Sarah Vivian's website with
details of the exhibition she is holding jointly with
Japanese painter of 'a fey other world' (in Amber's
words), Izumio Mori. I shall check them out. It will
be good to drive down to Morvah in early April, when
the sea wind is sharp and the light clear. My old
friend, Jackie Blackthorn, who lost her life to cancer
some fourteen years ago now, used to say she could
hear the ghosts of the Old Ones at night sometimes in
the ancient Celtic fields above Penwith. Maybe she is
with them now.
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Friday, 28 March 2008
cricket (and Rosie O'Grady's not so pukka pies):
"Matthew Hoggard opened the batting for the Barmy Army
against a Hawke Bay eleven in Nelson Park yesterday
and was bowled first ball by a well flighted off
spinner. The pavilion appeared to be the only place
selling beer in town, Good Friday meaning most places
remained closed for the day. However, if it's a beer
or three you want, Mr Guy is your man. You can sign
yourself in at the Retired Serviceman's Association
and then pints are available for only 4 dollars. You
all stand up when the bugle sounds at 6 pm to remember
the fallen comrades and then you get on with the
party. There's no point missing out just because it's
Good Friday, after all Friday is Women's Darts Night
and when the ladies came out with their arrows
sharpened, us lads scattered from the snooker tables
pretty quickly to the safety of the restaurant area.
There was even a band, though I'm certain the
Musician's Union might offer a different explanation
for the sound that was produced after 8 O'Clock.
Personally I reckon they were English chancers seeking
Political Asylum on the basis that they would be shot
if they ever returned to Blighty producing such a
terrible noise. Still they got Stan, the ever fresh 71
year old travelling marvel, shoes off and on the dance
floor, to rock around the clock and shake rattle and
roll. It was a strange way to spend the evening before
such a crucial Test Match for Michael Vaughan's
As the supporters took their seats in beautiful
sunshine before the toss, further stories emerged
about the Good Friday drinking regulations. Apparently
pubs were allowed to open in the evening, but you
could only buy a drink if you also paid for something
to eat. Hence at Rosie O'Grady's people were going up
to the bar and ordering three pints and a pie. By
10.30 pm there were so many piles of uneaten pies that
there was no space to put your glass down."
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Friday, 21 March 2008
My grandparents are buried on a gently sloping hillside, with an idyllic view of Easter lambs and golden daffodils in the Cornish valley below. In the row below theirs is a grave whose inscription always moves me to tears. ('You're not crying, are you?' my daughter asked, as the March wind reddened my cheeks.) It's for Gisela, born 1923, in Westphalen, Germany, and reads: Bis uns wiedersehen, mein Schatz. If someone put that on my headstone, I'd be resting happy.
The nuns in the communal grave at the top of the slope have the formal but beautiful requiem, 'Lux eterna luceat eis'. A little further up are two 'beloved children'. And how said this one is, for Alan died, aged 7, in 1963, his sister Lynn, aged 12, in 1978. I thought about their parents, getting over Alan's death and trying for another child, a daughter this time, who arrived some three years later, only to be taken from them before she reached the age my daughter is now. Then there are the 'reunited' couples and the man who drowned while bathing at Perran Porth (sic) in 1812.
Then come the 'of aboves'. My grandma one of these: 'Also Edith, Wife of the Above'. There are some infants from the mid 1800s, too young, I guess, for their parents to have risked a bond with them, who are brothers and sisters 'of the above'. It reminded me of orphaned Pip, from 'Great Expectations', explaining to the convict, Magwich, that his mother is 'also Georgiana', an unknown quantity buried in a windswept grave on Romney Marsh. Commissioning the tag 'of the above' on someone's headstone is testament either to the inscriber's gross failure of imagination - or to something much worse: a coldness far more morbid than the remains on which it stands. Please God don't let me be 'of an above'. Let me be 'reunited' or 'beloved', or, best of all, 'Mein Schatz'. With light perpetual shining on me.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Astrologer, Liz Hipkins, writes that Ponsanooth is a perfect name for a publishing house because:
'A bridge connects things and allows safe passage.'
'The goose is a totem to aid communication of the written word.'
'Goose stimulates the imagination and facilitates the process of writing.' (I like the idea of a goose - commonly used to signify dullness - being thought of as a muse.)
'The (goose) quill was once a standard writing implement.'
'Goose is the...symbol of fertility. The V formation of geese in flight symbolises an opening to new possibilities; its arrowhead shape new direction and an openness to new ideas.'
'It's crystal is quartz - a receiver and transmitter.'
Thursday, 13 March 2008
An American living in Paris since the time of the flower people (see www.jim-haynes.com), Jim keeps open house to like-minded souls on Sunday evenings almost every Sunday of the year (there's a modest charge for food and wine). That's a lot of Sundays, Jim, and a lot of guests have passed through the doors of that atelier. The last time I was there (which was before my daughter was born), I met two French actors, who tracked me to Cornwall, forcing me to pretend I was my 'mother in law' when I answered the phone. I don't like people dropping in unannounced, unless they are very old and very intimate friends, and these comedians were neither.
This makes me, I suppose, the world's worst networker. I have never been any good at it which, for a writer, or anyone working in the media, or any other profession, I guess, for that matter, is pretty disastrous. I remember standing like a lost soul at The London Film Festival premiere, to which I was first invited as an award-winning writer in 1989. The man I went with promptly abandoned me to talk to a famous Italian director; completely lacking in gumption, I hadn't the nerve to push out on my own into the sea of cocktail dresses and tuxes and network to save my life. Curious, really, since I had no problem asking people questions wearing my journalist's or teacher's hat. I just have a problem selling myself. There has always seemed to me to be something indecent in self promotion; I'm afraid of implying that I (not my skills) am for sale. I guess that's just a sort of self-defeating pride.
I was at an informal Society of Authors lunch today in a lovely hotel in Falmouth with misty moody views across the harbour (which, incidentally, is the third largest natural harbour in the world). I usually avoid writers' gatherings like the plague, since writers are the very worst - and most aggressive - sort of networkers (because the stakes are so low, because they have nothing to lose); but I went along at the invitation of a very old friend, who had sent me a copy of his book (It's A Dog's Life, by Noel Stuart - well worth getting hold of, too). No one networked. Everybody chatted and got along well; and, this being England, there was none of the smoking you get in Paris where delicious food is all too often ruined by the toxic atmosphere.
Cut back to Jim Haynes.
The atmosphere there is (or was) toxic enough to give you emphysema. But Jim's parties, networking meccas though they may be, are one of those experiences one comes across in life that are worth seeking out and trying - if only the once. Jim Haynes brings strangers (and strange folk) together in his own time and space -and it is very much a living space. He risks far more of himself, blase though he may be about it all now, than do the Facebookers and other instant internet companions. You open your laptop and no one sees who you are (unless, of course, you've got your webcam wired). But opening your front door, like Jim does, to let the world in, you have to show your bona fides. You have to open your mouth an show your heart.
Cheers, Jim. Maybe next time...
Saturday, 1 March 2008
And I also celebrate Valerie's mother, my Nana Betty, who inspired in me a love of singing. She sang in musicals, put on by a Mrs Lyon (Mrs Lyon's Shows), and I used to sing the best tunes in the car on the way to North Wales, numbers from Carousel and Show Boat and South Pacific and Oklahoma. Oh, and Desert Song. Betty was crippled when she was a child after slipping on soapsuds on the kitchen flags and injuring her arm. Because there was no National Health Service in those days, the bone was never set properly, leaving her with a bump on the forearm and a jutting out elbow joint. I always thought this was just cosmetic, and her preference for three quarter length sleeve blouses an attempt to disguise the disfigurement. It was only when she died that I found out she hadn't been able to move the arm at all - even though she always seemed to be doing things with it. She was always doing for somebody. Aunt Valerie will get a lift with her neighbour tomorrow to put flowers on Betty's grave. Betty wanted to be buried with her beloved mother - a tiny matriarch, known as 'Mick'; but Mick had nine other children and there was no room in the grave for Betty's body, so her ashes were put there instead.
And finally, I celebrate my awesome Grandma Edith, born in 1905. She got herself an education at a time when women weren't expected to be educated. She went to business school and spoke French and German and ended up as personal assistant to a Bradford wool millionaire, attending tennis parties and tea dances at his mansion in the 1920s. She was captain of Cornwall Ladies' Golf team although she always said her sport was tennis. When she was widowed and blind and deaf (she went deaf at 27, though never let it inhibit her), she took her friend's advice and stoically confided in the fire. 'I've been in every capital in Europe,' she told me. 'I can't complain. And I've always been lucky, dear, always lucky.' I celebrate her for being formidable. For Having a Go. I wished that she and Betty had been living when I was diagnosed because I know that they would have been there for me, unconditionally. I think they were there, really. They still are.
To Lion Aunts and Grandmas everywhereI salute you.
Monday, 25 February 2008
It could not be more different to Budapest, where I was killing time last week before returning to Cornwall for what seems like interminable hospital treatment (someone here has been on it for six years, according to my oncologist...). And yet, and yet....In Lehel Ter market in Budapest District XIII (unlucky for some), people were selling the same kind of perfectly edible but, shall we say, aesthetically challenged veg as in the fruit shop in Redruth. Some of the Budapest carrots and turnips had been cut open lengthways - to show that they were good inside, my daughter said. Lehel Ter market is to the main market (Vasarcsarnok) on Szabasag (Freedom) Bridge) as Redruth is to Truro: a poor relation with a heart of gold - though Lehel Ter is extremely well patronised by locals with string bags. It's a sort of poor man's Pompidou Centre, modernist, with colourful struts, etc, but instead of peddling art or tourist tat, it sells useful things and Hungarian condiments - paprika and pickles and sour cream. The restored market arcade in Redruth is empty, maybe because the locals there find wool and dolls' houses less useful than knobbly carrots. They certainly saw off the sixty pound shoe shop. I suppose Pool Market (a sprawl of a covered market near the last working mine in Cornwall) is Redruth's Lehel Ter - its District Thirteen. Budapest is getting more expensive, now that Hungary is in the EU and seeking to join the Euro. Redruth wouldn't get in, of course, especially now that shoe shop has gone. Redruth is fast becoming what Budapest always refused to be: Eastern European. Shto dyelat? the Russians would say? What is to be done?
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
It is a stupendous waterfront, not just because of the iconic architecture, but because of what it symbolises in terms of coming and going. It has an almost tangible spiritual reach across the ocean to other ports like New York and Boston - and Dublin, of course. In fact, Dublin and Boston (Mass) reminded me so much of Liverpool, I could almost smell it. But Liverpool is unique, both within the UK and outside it. Someone termed it 'the capital of itself.' Yes, it can be irritatingly self-regarding and sentimental (can't we all - and look at London and New York for that. Look at Paris!); but its honesty and rawness override that mawkishness. Going to school there in the 1970s, when it was in near terminal decline, I thought the place and the people unspeakably romantic, and I too remember sailing out of the port on The Uganda (later requisitioned as a troop ship in the Falklands War). We didn't have streamers or a band playing then on the quay, but it was still a sight for sore eyes.
Years later, I had a romantic experience in Liverpool, kissed by a TV cameraman at the top of Bold Street after we had spent some of our per diem expenses at a Chinese restaurant before returning to the Adelphi. We kissed all the way back to the hotel, cheered by locals telling him to,' go at it, big man.' Then we stopped. It was just the spur of the moment. One of those things. We were making a film about the regeneration of the city post the anti-Thatcher riots of the 1980s, when the old Rialto cinema was burnt to the ground near Upper Parliament Street and Liverpool almost became a socialist republic. At least it stood up for itself. At least it shouted. Those few days I spent there filming showed me how far I had really travelled away from it ('which part of America are you from then?' asked a man I interviewed on the ferry), and how absolutely removed it was from London.
I could just about see the fireworks from my mother's hilltop window in Cheshire, but I wish I had been in the thick of the celebrations in Liverpool itself, fifteen miles away, along the Mersey. I thought it wasn't my party any more, but in a way, I suppose it was because Liverpool formed me more than any other city I have lived in (and I have lived in some great ones - London, Paris, Alexandria). It taught me to stick my head above the parapet, reach out to other worlds. And sail away.
Friday, 4 January 2008
'Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see - because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody' - why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth.
The name Pooter is much more apposite than 'blogger'. The World Wide Web could have been created with Pooter in mind - a global network of pooters.