Sugar And Snails

I was completing a questionnaire the other day and one on the list was who inspired me to take up blogging. That would be Anne Goodwin who I met on a writer’s course a couple of years before. We bonded over long late night chats, the absurdities of our respective professions and our mutual determination to write that book that had been itching to emerge. Later she began her blogging odyssey, I subscribed and wondered at the confidence and quality of her contents. It was inspiring but could I…? Little me..?

‘Get on with it,’ was essentially her message and so, six years ago, off I went. And I’ve really not looked back.

Neither of us have. She wrote that book, me too. Hers remains a stellar debut and was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Sugar and Snails is tremendous, both character and plot driven and a compelling read. Not an easy one; the subject matter is one that strikes at the emotions at so many levels, but you won’t regret joining Diana on her journey.

I was lucky; I got to see it during several iterations, from the merely good to the distinguished and delightful work it is today. And the good news is you can enjoy it to by joining in during Freebie February (I made that up).

Basically sign up to her newsletter below and you can have it free during February. Truly you won’t regret it. If you’d like a taste this is the blurb:

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

Anne is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her next novel will be out later in the year. Meanwhile to read for free her debut novel, Sugar and Snails about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years you must subscribe to her newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book 

Go on, you know it makes sense!

And here are the social media linkies for you. Try her blog, too.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnJ5pbhSLho&feature=youtu.be

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Twitter @Annecdotist.

Link tree https://linktr.ee/annecdotist

Amazon author page: viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin

YouTube: Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Ars Poetica #poem #poetry

A poem is an erotic pass the parcel with words,

Seductively shedding its millefeuille of meanings to tease you with its deceits.

You climb up through its stanzas, in search of the rhythms on the next horizon

Which may leave you, if bereft of inspiration, fractured on its beguiling carapace.

Sometimes, the poem sneaks an idea past your guarded eye with some keyhole trickery;

At others, it blasts its revelations from your heart with a dum-dum of apt metaphors.

At best, a poem can take you by the hand and lead you gently, and with small, ecstatic steps,

To the edge of a chasm of thought, that leaves you breathless at its ineffable depths.

You may hate a poem for showing you that long covered two-way mirror,

Which shines a black light on the inner reaches of your craven self.

Or you may love it for providing you with a periscope to a world,

Which contains a truth about nothing, other than your previously unknowable self.

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Posthumously #poem #poetry

The older that I get

I do regret

Another daybreak

Such a butt ache.

Time speeds past

Another breakfast

More eggs on toast

Less me, more ghost.

A beardy old fool

Splattered with drool

Filled with tea

Needing a pee.

But I’ll be fine

The joke’s all mine

When all is said

And I am dead

They’ll not share it

Dog will inherit.

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged | 11 Comments

December; The Garden Poised #wintergarden #garden

December and into January in the garden is a pause in all the action. Images repeat with hope pricking slowly through the cold hard soil.

This poem I hope captures some of that pent up energy, twitching on the start line, awaiting the gun

Wherever we place our faith, in God or nature or another’s face

Once verdant boughs now sad skinned wraiths begrudge permissive youth its place

December’s death has gripped the land, once luscious leaves just left to rot

Brittle skeletal, hope’s becalmed in our lost Eden that God forgot

We fight the urge to hurry past, desert cold Earth under pleated sky

 And turn away from its last gasp, all dry and seer where no cloud will cry.

Yet stop we must, hope’s always there in amongst this season’s dying

It draws us close, it makes us care as life prepares for a new year’s living.

Spring forecloses on Winter’s debt, enough to pay for Summer’s lease

Succour comes borne on a breath that turns the key for each year’s release.

mind you, Dog doesn’t care…

Posted in gardening, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Complaining #poetry #poem

What is it about complaining?

You approach the counter

Already rehearsing your clever, witty rejoinder.

Then, confronted by the hapless helper

With a smile and a ‘can I help you?’

All leant during role play

On the training away day

Where they forgot to hand out contacts

That hide the fear in his eyes,

You explain your dilemma.

Soberly, clearly, beginning to give some lee way.

This could be your son.

But

He slips and lets go a ‘who told you that, sir?’

And ‘it’s not company policy, sir’

And off I go

Skywards

Fuelled by

Justified indignation

And a righteous grievance.

Pontificating,

Gesticulating

Oscillating

Humiliating

Me.

It gets me nowhere

All humanity gone and

We’re back to role play.

Bugger it.

The smug pacifying but immovable shop assistant in polyester and gel

Versus

The grumpy old man in anorak and incoherence.

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged , | 15 Comments

When I’m Cleaning Windows #writephotorevisited #suevincent

A return to one of Sue’s Prompt for #writephoto back in January 2018

Serge readied himself to knock on the door. It was an impressive piece of oak. ‘Just nod and smile, ok? She’s not keen on anyone new.’

Darren shuffled his feet. Serge thought him an odd lad. Sometimes he seemed shy and nervy, like now; at others he was full of himself.

‘If she asks you a question, let me answer it.’

He knocked.

Somewhere inside the house a dog barked and was stilled. Then a door could be heard to open and close and finally, after what seemed an age, the door itself began to move. It was on a chain and Darren could see a rheumy eye appear in the gap, stare at him, then at Serge, before the door closed again. Another pause and then the door opened fully.  A short ancient lady, in thick grey cardigan and woolen slippers peered out.

Serge smiled broadly. ‘Morning Mrs P. Come to do yer windows.’

‘Of course. Who is this, Serge?’

‘Darren. Me apprentice. Good lad. Hard working. Always…’

‘He knows the rules?’

‘Course. First thing I explained. Don’t yer Darren?’

Darren looked confused; he’d been told not to speak, hadn’t he? After what seemed like an age, the old lady nodded. ‘Your money is in the tin.’ She turned and pushed the door shut.

Serge let out a breath and then smiled at Darren. ‘Ok, let’s get this place done. All these bloody crittel windows take a bloody age.’

The two men unloaded the ladders. As the stood by the outside tap for the first bucket to fill, Serge said, ‘Rules. One, clear the sills with a separate cloth; she doesn’t like soap on the sandstone, says it stains. Two, don’t use a squeegee as it doesn’t get into the corners of each little pane of glass. Three, the two windows at the top, round the back, are outside our arrangement so leave them.’

‘She do them herself?’

‘No idea but I doubt it. You’ll see they’re all grown over anyway so you’ll get scratched to pieces if you try.’

Darren picked up the bucket and looked up at the front façade. ‘How many windows does this place have?’

’47.’

‘Geez. Better get on with it.’

‘You do the side and start on the back and I’ll get these sorted. She likes these especially clear as they are the best view.’

Darren pulled a face. ‘Pretty crap if you ask me. A school and shops.’

Serge smiled. ‘No, the view in; she likes people to admire the house.’

Darren lent his ladder against the back wall and looked up. The gable at the top had a double window, which, as Serge said, was covered in rose stalks and creeper. A lovely large red rose grew out in front of the left side. His Mel would like that rose.  He could just pop up and slip it in the bucket when they left. The work of a moment.

When Serge heard the short scream and the thud he feared the worst. Hurrying round the back, he found Darren lying on his back on the grass, a rose in one hand and a look on his face that spoke of surprise and bewilderment and, yes, terror.

He looked up; it was clear from the placement of the ladder and the height it had been extended to that Darren had been at the topmost window; the forbidden window.

Carefully he bent to his colleague. ‘Anything broken?’

Darren shook his head.

‘What did you see?’

‘It was awful. Hideous.’

‘A body?’

He nodded.

‘Dead?’ He’d often feared what might be up there.

‘No, worse.’

‘Oh god. A prisoner? Were they tied up? Chained?’

Darren shook his head. ‘Far worse.’

Serge frowned. ‘What? Tortured? Mutilated?’

‘Dancing.’

‘Dancing?’

‘Mrs P. Dancing. Naked.’

Serge patted Darren’s shoulder. ‘There are some views no one should see.’

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

There’s Still Time #blogbattle

This was written as a response to the latest #blogbattle monthly prompt which can be found here.

So many of man’s innovations have their roots in accidents. Penicillin for instance. One, however arose from a circularity, an accidental glimpse of a future that became its own self fulfilling prophesy.

The advent of technology that captured moving images had changed the world in many ways, from the earliest forms of film, through television to live broadcasts. As the twenty first century gradually moved towards its second half the superspeeds used to capture those images increased exponentially.

Desmond Halloran worked for a small start up, in a dusty corner of southern Oregon that had once been green and pleasant but, since the ravages of climate change bit had become brown and desiccated. Des had two passions: old TV footage of historic events and designing new ways to improve the images seen on the latest screens, especially the personal air monitors that created plasma-effect images for the user in the air which could both be seen and seen through. Having sent a piece of thought to his co-mind, he pulled up a problem he’d been working on. ‘Deli, have a look.’

‘What’s up, man?’ Des?’ co-worker, Deli Signirina shifted in her seat to peer at the grainy image floating in front of Des. ‘You not enhancing?’

Des smiled. No one looked at old original film anymore, not now they were capable of reint – or ‘reinterpretation’ – to show how they would look had modern panreal techniques been used. ‘See, I needed to revista (or go back to source), otherwise all the edges are gone. Look, see.’

‘Geez, man, that’s guts!’ (Guts = disgusting).

The black and white film showed the moment when John F Kennedy’s head exploded with the assassin’s bullet. ‘I was trying to see if I could capture the bullet. This is…’

‘Yeah man, that dude Kennedy. Why’d you want to do that?’ Deli peered closer.

‘Conspiracy yeah? If I can slow it, I may be able to work back, track it and prove where it came from. But then…’ he swiped the air, vortexing the image so the scene expanded into a series of stills. ‘See these are the original individual captures. I then decouple the ones around the bullet’s journey and…’

As Deli’s jaw hung open the frame that caught the moment of the bullet’s impact laminated into a series of separate images. The genius of the programme Des used meant that the single image broke into all the images that ran between the previous still and the next one, fracturing the time.

Deli raised her hand and moved the line of pictures back and forth. ‘I’ve never seen that.’

‘Me neither.’

The ‘that’ in question was a sequence that sat between the previous capture as the bullet entered the frame and before it hit the right side of the President’s head. Instead of a string of consistent frames there were interspersed fifteen blank screens.

‘How can they be void? That never happens with laminates.’

‘They’re not.’

Deli looked even more confused. ‘But…’

Des shook his head and pulled the first blank into the centre of his imaging. He then swiped it as he had the original. ‘This is the highest res we can achieve here.’ The blank fully laminated into a set of blurred images.

‘Is it corrupted? I’m what’s it showing?’

‘I’ve been through them all and eventually I got to this.’ Des wiped across a blur of dozens of individual laminates, stopped and backed up. The selected image was still blurred but this one had a shape. A figure in some sort of white suit or overalls appeared to be holding something.

Deli met Des’s gaze. ‘Is that person… thing holding the President’s head?’

Des nodded. ‘If I had to make a guess, he’s holding it in place so the bullet hits.’

Deli ogled at Des and then laughed. ‘Hey, you shopped me?’ (Shopped – used a fake image to confuse).

‘Nope. This is as is. No fixes. Something super fast, like faster than anything we can comprehend ensured that John F Kennedy was hit by that bullet.’

‘But what… no, that’s madness.’

Des agreed. But he’d lived long enough to see enough improbables become commonplace. He shut down the images, letting his imagination do its thing, a form of mediation used by creatives to pull ideas into the brain’s cortex. Something nagged and he went hunting through other famous dramatic live action films. Later that evening he pulled up film of the tank man in Tiananmen Square and narrowed his eyes. A similar set of blank images came into focus and while the laminates were similarly blurred, he managed to discern what looked like similar white suited figures around the tank driver. In the end he reviewed dozens of iconic moments that had been captured live over the previous eighty years and in several his efforts revealed similar blank inserts. He took them to his cohort. Piers offered the suggestion that the security sector had access to even faster resolution lamination and what became an historic investigation commenced.

A few hours later the head of the CIA called an emergency meeting of the security council. As the group assembled via their virtual meeting spaces, the presence of three strangers clad in white coverings and shimmering oddly raised some expected surprise. Crank Johnson called the group to order. ‘I’m not sure I can explain this but these gentlemen have come with a proposition.’

Steve Premberton, head of Homeland Security growled in his usual blunt way demanding to know when it was within protocol to allow strangers to join one of their meet ups.

Crank nodded at the truth of Steve’s interjection. ‘Noted, Steve, but the thing is we can’t stop them. I tried. My cohort are all…’ his face gave away his struggles, ‘suspended. As in they’re in some sort of suspended animation.’

‘Are you nuts, Crank? That’s a…’

Audible gasps gripped the feed as one of the figures disappeared out of shot and instantly reappeared alongside Pemberton who barely had time to begin to stand before he froze and sat down, staring ahead.

A voice at once smooth and toneless filled the audio. ‘Mr Johnson, if I may. Earlier today an individual uncovered time line manipulation which we had hoped would never occur. He doesn’t yet know what it is he has discovered but even as we speak his discovery is disseminating, including to your organisations. Unchecked the wild speculation will cause a crises of the sort you have never seen.’

Another voice interrupted. ‘How can you say that? Who are you?’

‘We can say it because it’s a scenario we’ve modelled extensively since the original and egregious timeline manipulations were made. Even as we speak the future is unpicking and in less time that you can conceive all your and particular our futures will be different. We considered merely ‘redirecting’ Mr Halloran’s researches but he has proved that our attempts at realignment have not worked and we are therefore implementing plan B. Openness. And you all are to be at the centre of this change.’

Crank leant forward. ‘What he means is we have a lot of work ahead of us.’

Raina Sparks emerged from the group. ‘Who they hell are you to tell us what to do?’

The white clad figure replaced Raina. ‘It happens I’m your descendant, fifteen great granddaughter, but my task is to explain a little about the future and what’s happened.’

‘You’re a time traveller?’

‘In effect, yes. And a previous visitor decided to play god with certain previous events causing chaos, so…’

‘What events?’

‘The proximate cause was the reinstallation of President Kennedy’s time line.’

‘You’ll need to explain.’

The picture of the meeting cleared, causing each attendee to check their connection. In its place a speed up distillation of Des’s discoveries played out, with a commentary from the visitor. ‘What you’re seeing is exactly what Mr Halloran predicted. The figure is ensuring the President’s death. The previous visitor had saved his life.’

Raina’s voice cut in. ‘Why the hell would you do that, if someone saved him?’

‘Because by allowing the President to live, the history manipulator ensured a nuclear conflagration, the desolation of most of Europe, an economic collapse and the virtual destruction of democracy. It almost ruined the space time programme that unraveled the mysteries of time travel.’

Crank pinched his nose. ‘But if that change changed world history, how did you know there was an alternate version?’

The white clad figure turned back to him. ‘There’s a lot to explain and not a lot of time to do it.’

Posted in #blogbattle, creative writing, miscellany, sci-fi | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Blog Battle, One Heck Of A Prompt

I try and do some short fiction pieces on this blog and for that, often rely on the stimulus that prompt’s give me. I still take part in Charli Mills’ weekly offerings at the carrot ranch but one of the others I enjoy is Rachael Ritchey’s blog battle, here. This year she and Gary have relaunched the concept and there will be the ability to craft longer pieces and, hopefully a certain amount of reader feedback. While that can sound intimidatingly it can also be incredibly useful. So pop over and enjoy

I will post my attempt in response to the January prompt above, sometime tomorrow. It’s sci-fi which is a departure. In the meantime, this is my first ever blog battle piece, from January 2017…

Rachael Ritchey has a prompt/challenge at her Blog Battle blog and this week it is to use the word ‘Thorn’ and a genre of fan fiction. No idea if I’m even close to complying with the rules but here goes 

The Whinging of  Odysseus 

Athena sighed. Bloody hell, would he ever get a move on? ‘Come on Odysseus, you’ve a home to get to.’ She tried cheery but in all honesty even her enthusiasm for this hulking sulking lump was dulling by the second.

Odysseus pointedly turned his back. ‘Go away. I’m not moving.’

‘Oh come off it, Odi, after all we’ve been through. You just need to cross the mountains and…’

‘Oh stop it, Pallas. I’m done with your ‘just one more horizon’ crap. I’m not moving an inch.’

Athena snapped her fingers and a warming fire started; a sumptuous piece of boar meat began roasting while succulent root vegetables peeled themselves and rolled into the ashes. She watched as Odysseus glanced at the feast, dribble appearing on his chin. Typical bloke, she thought, a sucker for a good meal and… She took the disguise of Calypso and nibbled his ear. ‘There’s afters too, you know.’

Odysseus pushed the God away. ‘It’s not about the meat or the, you know, other. I’m hurt.’

Athena stepped back and the fire and food vanished. He’d never rejected the Chomping-Romping combo before. ‘Hurt? You? You’re as tough as teak. You escaped prison with that tart, made a raft, swam for two days, dodged a bullet when Poseidon whipped up a storm, avoided Scylla and Ch…’

‘That was you, though, wasn’t it? It’s always you. One of you gods tell me ‘Oh Odi, you’ll be fine’ so I believe you and off I go and then I’m drowning or being chased by storms or snakes…’

‘Snakes? What snakes?’

‘Sorry, that was a different Odyssey. The point is, you lot put me in harms way and then don the old silver cape and rescue me. I bet you all go to that mountain retreat, sip a flagon of ambrosia and swap stories about how clever you are while muggins here is lying on a beach, spitting out a ton of sand and wondering when I’ll next eat.’

The fire and food reappeared. He waved it away. ‘I’m not eating, ok?’

‘You trying to starve yourself? Because suicide’s not in the contract.’

‘I know, I know. I’ll live on berries and stuff.’

‘Sure you will. Like you’ll survive without the meat fix.’

‘I’m not moving so get used to it.’

‘But you need to get home.’

‘Why?’

‘Why? What do you mean, why?’ Athena rubbed her face, accidentally taking on the guises of Mentor, Zeus, a minor footman from Troy and Telemachus as she did so. ‘You’ve undertaken a journey lasting years, faced near death what?  A dozen times. And now you ask why?’

‘I was busy, okay? Trying to stay alive, your honour.’

She dropped an arm around his shoulders, tempted to curse him to Hades and back but resisting. ‘Odi, Penelope is waiting for you. Your son too. It’s time you were home.’

‘You say that but, see, it’s been a while. Will she, you know, be keen? Someone said she’s been knitting a shawl for ten years. Doesn’t sound like we have much in common any more.’

Athena held his gaze in her own. She never really got his attraction. Sure there were the tatts and the muscles and the old bit of charm but he was rather frayed and, in truth, not exactly your bundle of fun. A bit whiny really. Plaything of the gods? More like the Immortal’s Burden. ‘Come on, what is it? It can’t be worries about the missus and I know you want to see your lad.’

Odysseus broke the hold she had on him and looked down. ‘I can’t walk.’

‘Can’t walk? Whatever do you mean?’

‘I.. it’s…’

‘Stop gabbling man. What is the problem?’

‘I’ve got a thorn in my foot.’

‘You’re kidding me. Let me see.’

‘Noooo. Gerroff.’

‘Don’t be a baby. Show me your foot.’

‘No.’

Athena swelled to the size of ten mountains yet even her awesomeness didn’t change Odysseus’ defiant expression.

‘Shan’t.’

She reached out and he slapped her away. She goggled at him. No mortal had ever slapped away a god, well not and lived. ‘Odi…?’

He couldn’t stop the tears. ‘I’m ticklish, okay? It’s my Achilles heel. I never could stand anyone near my feet. Ever when Calypso wanted to do that massage with the divine oils thing, I couldn’t handle it. Beginning of the end for us, that moment. Nothing to do with Hermes and her pleading. We were drifting apart when I stopped her toe sucking…’

Athena sniggered. ‘Oh she’ll hate it when I tell the gods it wasn’t Hermes charm that got you out. She’s been boasting about freeing you, like she’s some kind of sorcerer.’

‘Anyway, I’m staying put. That or you can carry me.’

Athena wobbled her hand. ‘That’s a possibility but not very manly. The suitors aren’t exactly going to run away if you’re carried in to Ithaca on a bier.’

‘God, a beer. What wouldn’t I give…’

‘Do you want a lift?’

‘Promise you’ll leave my feet alone?’

‘Promise.’

‘You don’t keep promises, do you?’

‘Nope but do you have a choice?’

‘I suppose if I stay awake…’

‘You’ll need something to keep you amused.’

Odysseus sat up, looking perky for the first time that day. ‘I do have an idea, actually. I thought I’d write a book. A real mother of a tome. An epic. About my journey.’

‘Okay. Puts the mockers on the oral tradition of story telling but why not. What will you call it?’

‘The Odyssey.’

‘Bit close to your own name, don’t you think?’

‘Well it is about me and my journey.’

‘God what an ego.’ Athena heaved him onto her shoulders, conjuring a portable table, paper and two pens for him as she did so.’

He kissed the top of her head. ‘I’ll make you the real hero.’

‘I know you will. You don’t think I’m suddenly going to give you freewill, do you?’

Posted in #blogbattle | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Flapping Heck #carrotranch #shortfiction #morganandlogan

Charli Mills is back with a new carrot ranch prompt

January 7, 2021 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones. The two can be used in any way in your story. Go where the prompt leads!

‘Oh no, bloody buskers.’

‘We’re going home. Stop being a misery.’

‘I wouldn’t mind if they were any good. Less the Stones, more the Gravel. The

aural equivalent of grit in the ears.’

‘Didn’t you ever aspire to be something creative? Play an instrument, write a book?’

‘I painted a butterfly once.’

‘There you go, Logan. Yours could be a new school.’

‘Oh sure. My art teacher, Fosdyke, told me if it flapped its wings, the only wind it would whip up would be of the flatulent sort.’

‘You just needed encouragement.’

‘Or talent.’

‘That’s our flight being called…’

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Travel Challenge: A Reflection

Doing the travel challenge makes me appreciate, once again, my luck to be able to travel and see many wonderful places. My views don’t remain consistent and some changes to my favourites are inevitable. Back in April 2015, I did the A to Z blogging challenge, taking a different country or town for each letter of the alphabetuntil I reached X. Then I was stumped, until I decided on this post. I think it’s as good a summary of some of my favourite places around the world, in no particular order until the last.

Xanadu: an idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place. X was always going to be difficult so I thought I’d give you my top ten places that I’ve enjoyed more than most and which haven’t already appeared in the list to date (and won’t squeeze into the remainder).

Sydney:

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Iconic view of the Opera House, circa August 1998

We ended up here after touring Oz for 8 weeks back in 1998. Since then I’ve visited three times on business. It is beautiful. The Harbour bridge, the Opera House, the green and cream ferries ploughing the trade.

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The Lawyer, aged 8, demonstrating the best use of the Opera House

The hills aren’t ridiculous but give it the sort of topography that a city needs to have character. If a city is flat then it needs walls or canals to compensate.  The Rocks is (are) cool.

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A view of and from the Rocks

The cricket ground a true place of homage. Even its business district has a neat compact charm. I don’t go a bundle on the beaches, mind – Bondi feels like it is its own pastiche. The zoo is quaint and Darling Harbour is all you would expect from a tourist rap but well done none the less. And if I do have a gripe, Sydney goes on for bloody ever: its suburbs frankly take the piss in spreading so far – not so much a sub-urban as post-urban. But the people have always been friendly, the food superb and there are few better ways to sped a few days than strolling around Sydney enjoying another sight or another easy going bit of banter. Go. But have energy; it’s vibrant.

San Francisco:

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A classic view of the Golden Gate Bridge as the morning fog is gradually burnt off

This is beautiful. No, it is BEAUTIFUL. But that’s not the best thing. It has the best climate in the world. Stuck between the Bay and the Pacific is self regulates to 72 degrees every day (give or take). Cross the Bay Bridge, head through the mountains and watch the thermometer climb a degree a mile until your vital organs have melted. Ok, it gets chilly in the morning with the fog and it does rain a bit in January but for the rest I defy you not to enjoy it as a visitor.

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Pier 39, the sea lions. Boy does it stink!

True, I prefer variety but, at a pinch, I’d take this.  And the BEAUTY? Did I mention the beauty? Well, ok it is sitting on a time bomb and one day it will disappear in a pudding of liquefaction so don’t be there then. But the fact it sits between various tectonic plates means the city is made up of small vertiginous rippling hills, best seen in the car chase in Bullitt.

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oh those beauteous hills…

They alone are worth the visit but drive down Lombard, cruise the Presidio, enjoy the museums. Sniff out a bargain in Chinatown or something retro in Haight Ashbury (it’s now so post post post modern it’s come back on itself); taste the chocolate splendours of Ghiradelli’s or the sourdough along the quay.

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December 2013: the Coit Tower in the distance

And do find time for the murals in the Coit Tower – America as a socialist paradise, discuss. And Alcatraz is worth a visit but book.

Tallinn:

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Up on the wall; it’s not as accessible as Dubrovnik but it has a more ramshackle charm

We ended one summer holiday here as a result of yet another example of dickhead tours in action. We planned to visit some Scandanavian capitals – Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki (we’d already seen Oslo some years ago) before ending in St Petersberg. Unfortunately I forgot to get visas to enter Russia and only realised in Stockholm. By then it was too late. However as readers will know, dickhead tours’ USP is that while  the original plans may crater there will always be an alternative. Tallinn.

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The place is full of churches

We caught a ferry across the Baltic – millpond calm it was – and spent three days in the walled city. It is medieval with Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, beautiful streets full of quaint and quirky buildings seemingly built one on top of the other with bars and restaurants at reasonable prices to suit any palate and pocket. Indeed a few too many booze tours and stag parties end up here so late nights are probably dreadful. But the daytime is a delight. One church, bombed out by the Luftwaffe in the 1940s was rebuilt by the atheist Russian backed government and is now a community centre and art space of much beauty.

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The winter palace – and me…

Outside Tallinn the Winter Palace tells of a time of a different Russian domination, under the Tsars. This is a fiercely independent country which has enjoyed a renaissance inside the EU and NATO. Try it before Putin tries to take it back.

Stockholm:

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Stockholm is water is Stockholm

As I said above Stockholm was on the same itinerary as Tallinn. By contrast it vaunts its many years of independence and liberalism openly and in Gamla Stan, the island housing the original settlement and the Royal Palace (with easily the most ridiculous household troop of any nation I’ve been to) it has a tiny jewel that warrants two days on its own. It had a Tintin shop, for goodness sake – the ultimate exemplar of civilisation at work.

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The model; if this is as it was, Wow!

Highlights include the modernist tapestry in the town hall, the exceptional Vasa, a ship that sank on its maiden voyage in the sixteenth century and lay buried in silt in 30 metres of water in the harbour until being discovered in the post war years and then, amazingly, brought to the surface and preserved. Stunning, gobsmacking. Oh, and do visit the Nobel museum. For a man who invented one of the most deadly of explosives, dynamite, Alfred Nobel has done a lot of good with his cash. The history of the peace prize made the visit for me.

Bristol:

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Brunel’s quite breath-taking suspension bridge

My alma mater, where I met the Textiliste, as I sold memberships of the law club during our freshers week in 1976. I remember the utterly beguiling blue eyes, full lip-bordered grin and a scarf that was twice as long as mine. We took our time falling in love but we didn’t stop once we started. You might say the same with Bristol. It is hilly and tiring and in places still shows off its scruffy history but it has corners of beauty and joy.

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You get some sense of the hilliness; a bane of an undergraduate who walks everywhere.

The university buildings, built with tobacco and slave money display the sort of grandiose splendour you would expect. The suspension bridge is completely stunning. The docks and the SS Great Britain tourist traps worth the time.

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There’s a lot of street art…

But wander Clifton, drink coffee, take in the Downs and the camera obscura, sniff out food and fashion in St Paul’s, find a Bansky stencilled on a wall and you will soon smoulder into a love affair that lasts a lifetime.

Cork:

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So old this is black and white… and the cheapest film at the time!

Ireland 1978. My degree done the Textiliste and I headed for Southern Ireland and a hitch hiking holiday from the ferry port at Rosslare to the  Ring of Beara and Bantry Bay. We camped; we shared cars with fussy Germans and wacky Norwegians; we stood at a bus stops and discoursed on the existence of God with a George Clooney lookalike, pissed to the point of grandiose articulacy.

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was I really this skinny – the scenery is stunning too!

We encountered generosity and suspicion, good nature and outright hostility. We ate simply, slept when the sun went down until it came up and saw the greenest, most beautiful countryside imaginable. I was too young to enjoy it fully, too old to feel entirely at ease and I knew that I needed to go back and do it justice. One day soon.

Amsterdam:

Amstedam is canals and cannabis cafes, or so the theory has it. But it is also bicycles and book shops. It has an architecture that repeats but is never quite the same. It is slow and at ease with itself and tells you, as does Venice how to work a city without cars. The Dutch are a fabulous people, ireverant and generous. They don’t do shame in the way we do across the channel. Take the nipple: in England the nipple today has the status that a homosexual man had in the 1950s – anxious to stay hidden, unsure and if displayed in public liable to generate sniggers or trigger anger; in Amsterdam the nipple is out and proud – it knows it is both repected and loved and, best of all, broadly ignored. What is not to like about a city, a nation that can embrace the nipple and make it feel welcome?

Bruges:

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A happy family Christmas break 2007

Ah Belgium. Name ten famous Belgians? Old joke. In Bruges it has answers to any questions asking ‘what is the point of Belgium?’ Like Amsterdam it has canals, like Tallinn it has a vibrant core that has a historic integrity. It is home to the most fabulous of chocolate shops and cafes.

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Just love this scene – very Bruges

It serves 400 varieties of beer, many flavoured (‘your usual arrowroot and cardamom Pilsner sir?’).

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Er and you were 15? What on earth were your parents’ thinking?

Go at Christmas for the market – Europe does many a Christmas market but Bruges is excellent – and enjoy the crisp air and the ice show that is stunning; even Bill Murrray in Groundhog Day would struggle to learn these techniques.

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Just superb

And now, with Eurostar so efficient (mostly) it is a hop, skip and jump away.

Tobago:

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And when it rains…

We’ve been to several Carribean Islands over the years but Tobago takes a lot of beating. It has rainforest as well as beaches. I wasn’t expected to ride a bloody horse which, believe me, is a definite plus. And it stimulated a lot of poetry. Frankly apart from the Turks and Caicos which was a complete disappointment, each island we have been to – Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia and Trindad – has offered something for the visitor if you want relaxation, some sights and a lot of cocktails and time to read – which, coupled with kid’s club is all the incentive I needed for a holiday when the sprogs were d’un certain age. And here’s a poem – I feel like a Vogon, forcing this on you but, hey, who’s writing this?

Sonnet of Sand

The Disco Junk thrums past, a rainbow

On the puckered sea. Rock-like skulls,

Guano iced, are parliament to trilling gulls

Eyeing the coral fish, flashing their tarty show.

Cinnamon frosted babies, paint the beach

With plastic spades; eyeless parents, basted

For spit roasting; happy to have wasted

Their nurtured cash on dark staining their peach

White flesh. Seven days of frantic relaxation,

Spent anxiously checking for zebra stripes,

Are reward for a year’s dead-eyed toil. Gripes

Are banned; they have their compensation

In the form of a booze-induced coma

And the first stirrings of a melanoma.

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A Parliament of gulls

Sarf London:

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Brockwell Park; the pond, the walled garden where Shakespeare is performed in the summer and a community garden carries on the year round

Home. Heart. Peace. Safety. A bed that knows me. An oven that does my bidding. A space to write and a garden to grow. Streets that fit like worn slippers. Parks that envelope you in parental-like hugs. Nodding acquaintances. Easy access to the best, most culturally diverse place on the planet bar none (on yer bike, New York, you ain’t close).

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Me and my loyal companion – the much loved, now departed Blitz – we always enjoyed an ice cream

Weather rather than a climate. Tolerance in human form. If I could live anywhere at any time it would be here, now – unless the Textiliste wanted to move then I’d go.

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we do get snow; and when we do, the world becomes magical

Well, unless she wanted to move to North London. That would be intolerable.

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Multicultural moi! Sorry for the egregious appropriation (no, not really)
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