Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm Alive!

Poor blog, it's been sadly neglected these past few weeks. It's been an exciting and busy time for me, getting the almost-final copy of 24 Hours: London ready... and the small task of organizing a wedding!

In book news, we've decided to push the launch ahead to October to allow us more time to send out review copies, and to have an extra window to make sure everything is letter perfect (hopefully - I hate seeing grammatical errors in books!).

In wedding news, everything is almost set! The big day is 8th August, and The Man and I can't wait. It's a small group - about 12 people. I'm really looking forward to seeing friends and family, and really touched that people are crossing oceans to come! In fact, my maid of honour is arriving on Saturday and we'll lounge and drink it up!

The Man and I decided to get married on the South Bank. It seemed fitting, as that's where we first met and where he proposed. Given that we both love art, Dali Universe fit the bill. We'll tie the knot surrounded by beautiful artwork by Azam, with poetry by Harold Pinter and Carol Ann Duffy, then head over to Waterloo Pier right by the London Eye to a waiting boat, for our reception. We've chosen a great jazz duo called Smoke to pay some funk and jazz as we drift down the Thames (in hopefully good weather!).

Then off to Lopud on Croatia for a week, before returning to reality.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Swine Flu Nation

Want swine flu? Come to England, where the number of cases is said to be ballooning. Yes, that wonderful piggy virus is spreading at lightening speed -- apparently, pigs can fly. One of the reasons the UK seems to be a virus hot-spot is the wonderful Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in the world and a giant mixing pot for the world's infected.

I've never been that keen on germs and the like (who is?), but now I find myself suspecting every cough and snort beside me on the Tube as a carrier of swine flu. People of Britain, please - cover your mouth when you cough! As much as I like pigs, I have no desire to have their virus inside of me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Swap It!

There's more to Windsor than the Queen. The legendary Scott Pack is starting a new monthly literary event: The Book Swap. Here's his description:

Our first night is on Thursday August 20th at 8pm. Tickets are £5 and are on sale now! The Book Swap will be a regular monthly literary event taking place at The Firestation, a lovely arts venue in Windsor. Hosted by myself and novelist Marie Phillips, it will essentially involve us sitting down on a sofa with a bunch of guests from the world of books and chatting about, well pretty much anything. The emphasis is very much on getting to know the authors so rather than having them read from their books we will engage them in banter about all manner of other things - music, cake, gossip - and hopefully it will end up a rather endearing, if chaotic, night for all concerned.

Oh, and then we have the book swap bit. Everyone who comes along is required to bring a book with them, one they don't want any more. During the evening they will get to swap it for another book, ideally one they do want.

For more on location and directions, click here to go to Scott's original post. What a brilliant idea, and if I can entice myself out into the wilds beyond London, I'll be there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Days

I'm feeling lazy (yes, again -- well, it is summer after all!), so instead of exercising my brain I will leave you with these recent photos.

The new pavillion at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens.

Rogue piano plunked down at Portobello Market for all to play.

Veggies at Portobello Market.

Late-night dancing at the National Theatre, South Bank.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Art of Conversation

There's a great discussion over at Pond Parleys this week: Who's friendlier, Americans or Brits?

After interrogating many Brits at countless parties in an bid to get them to talk -- and then wondering why on earth they don't ask any questions back -- I'd have to say that overall, North Americans (I'm going to include Canada in this) are friendlier. Or at least chattier! I find it hard to let the 'awkward silence' lapse for too long and I always feel compelled to fill it in with a useless (and likely annoying) observation about the weather or such.

It is a mystery to me why people as erudite and articulate on everything from politics to philosophy seemingly have difficulties sharing anything personal other then 'I'm very well, thank you.'

Insert awkward pause here.

And that's all I have to say on that subject! And yes, I'm aware this whole post is a massive generalisation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Four Years On

Four years ago, 52 people were killed on Tubes and buses as they made their way into work. To remember the victims of the July 7 bombings, a memorial will be unveiled today in Hyde Park -- 52 pillars commemorating each Londoner killed.

I remember the shock I felt when I first heard about the bombings four years ago. I was teaching in a secondary school in Staines, just outside of Heathrow. I had a car at the time, so the Tube for me was just an unpleasant memory. I'd just finished teaching the first two lessons of the day and was in the computer room with some other teachers when we read online about the bombings.

It was hard to believe. But the horrific photos of twisted metal, and the shock and panic on the faces of commuter in business suits -- those more apt to be single-mindedly pushing you out of the way -- drove it home.

Back in class, students worried about parents in the city and what it all meant for their own safety as residents of one of the world's biggest cities. Unfortunately, there were no answers I could give them.

Driving back into central London that afternoon was surreal. The roads were empty; Tubes and buses had ground to a complete halt. Shops had closed and the streets were deserted. It was like the city was under siege.

But over the next few days, Londoners reclaimed their city with a vengeance. Tubes ran again and although fear and tension was palpable, there was also a sense of determination. London is a city with people from everywhere -- people who escaped fear and persecution in their homelands -- and we would not let such events destroy our home.

My thoughts are with the families of the victims of 7/7 and all Londoners who helped in the aftermath.

Monday, July 6, 2009

City Stories

I've just run across this great website, Hitotoki. It give snapshots of city life -- in words. Here's an example by Dylan Carline from the London section:

We were to meet outside the tube station in Brixton. She was an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. The premise: a date. Riding up the escalator into the night, my first time here, I noticed acute drops in temperature with each weary clunk, and a regular metallic grinding that quite clearly meant ‘please use the stairs’.

It was colder than I expected. A still night, but dry compared to what I had become used to. Trails of breath lingered, their form and meaning suspended in transient beauty, inexorably decaying from this fragile state. Once gone, they were replaced, in seamless exchange, by the heavily breathing procession of people around me. I wondered if I was the only person here without an imminent need to be in another place, and therefore the only one capable of appreciating this scene. I briefly entertained the notion that it was entirely for me. Abruptly, someone buffeted me from behind. Evidently I was in the way. Rousing myself with a deep, icy breath, I realised that I had begun to tingle slightly.

The dense ball of excitement in my stomach wouldn’t attribute itself specifically to either the forthcoming event or the fact that I was back in London. It probably comprised an amount of both. Where I live (the Lake District, in case you’re interested), you don’t see that many people, especially at night, and the ones you do see are generally all made in the same factory. I spent ten minutes waiting at the top of the escalator, but could have happily been there for an hour.

To read more, click here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Birth of a Book

Sorry for my absence for a few days, but the reality is that when it's sunny in England, you just gotta get out there and enjoy it. So, that's what I've been doing (when it's not too hot, anyway!). The weather here has been gorgeous, and after two rubbish summers I'm ready for it! But it's significantly cooler today, so I can finally line up my thought again.

A few days ago, I had a very exciting moment: I saw all my work come together in the shape of a book! OK, it's just a proof copy for reviewers -- and the cover needs a bit more work -- but it was still pretty exciting to see the stack of papers I'd been endlessly editing take a recognisable form. The glossy black-covered book felt so foreign that when I held it in my hands, I had to remind myself that I had written it. It'll be even stranger, I'm sure, once I see 24 Hours: London in a bookstore. I can't wait until that moment!

This is a baby step, but for me it felt like a giant leap forward on the road to publishing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

Yes, it's July 1, the one day Canadians feel it's actually OK to show we're proud to be Canadian. So what is Canadian?

I have pondered this question several times during my five years living in the UK, and my two years in Poland. What is it that makes us so different from our unforgettable neighbours to the south? And are we really that different?

I'm often mistaken for an American, due to my accent. I'm always quick to point out that I am, in fact, from a completely different country. But when people ask me what's the difference, I'm at pains to answer succinctly. Is it that we like hockey? No, Americans have that passion (obsession, some might say) as well. Tim Horton's? Nope, it's spread across the States. Crazy cold winters and lots of snow? Again, it's like that in the US, too. Perhaps it's the way we say 'about' (I've never understood that one, but apparently it's different!).

I'm not sure Canadian is something that can be defined. Perhaps it's in the way we react to events that find their way through to our little peaceful piece of the world. Like the 9-11 tragedy, when the people of Gander, Newfoundland -- a town of only 9,900 people -- took in 39 trans-Atlantic flights forced to land there, with over 6,600 passengers and crew, opening up their own homes and even organizing sight-seeing outings for those stranded.

Or, indeed, in the referendum of 1995, when the Quebecois voted on the possibility of Quebec independence. Over 100,000 Canadians from across the country travelled to Montreal to show their desire for Quebec to stay Canadian. And it did, with a narrow majority voting to remain in the country.

I don't know what it is but I do know this: I'm proud to be Canadian!