Thursday, November 23, 2017


Congratulations, Mickey

Monday, November 20, 2017


Robert Mugabe not 'smelling the coffee' but refusing to stand down. Angela Merkel not able to put together a viable coalition government. Herr Drumpf not reducing his output of inane Tweets. Theresa may not veering from her efforts to impoverish both the United Kingdom and the European Union.

In comparison, the stubborn post-democratic self-confidence of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping is almost reassuring.


More encouraging, our Platinum Anniversary pair.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


The Guardian has named Munich as the fourth best of the 'Christmas shopping cities' in Europe, which I suppose is an accolade not without significance.

The newspaper item allows me to segue smoothly to a related matter, the Christmas Tree itself, for so long central to the seasonal festivities as the charming mezzotint below shows.

Evergreens chopped down and then decorated (seen above cheering war wounded Germans) are simply part of the rituals of Yuletide. In early January the sad remains of the trees are piled high on the pavements until removed by the sanitation department.

Although I have learned that there is now an environmentally friendly, politically correct alternative on offer.

We are told that we should rent our Christmas Tree! It is to be ordered online. It will be delivered to the home of the customer who will note that it arrives in a pot; it is a living plant, roots and all, temporarily relocated.  For the appropriate duration, it will carry all the usual embellishments and be much admired in the living room. 

When the 'twelfth-day' dawns there is no dead tree to be dealt with as cumbersome refuse. The rental service includes the pick-up of the tree in its pot. And then it will be re-planted and permitted to grow further, as if uninterrupted by its outing.

I admit to finding this idea absolutely charming. Not that there's room for a Christbaum of any kind in my tiny flat. But as I celebrate the holidays by gobbling inordinate amounts of delicious Christmas Stollen, I shall be hoping that the rent-a-tree idea catches on.    

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Armistice Day, blood-red poppies are ubiquitous and there is an atmosphere of solemnity as the fallen of the Great War are remembered. It has, however, come to my attention that a memorial in my native Scotland, commemorating around ten thousand combatants killed and wounded in the 1992-1993 war between Abkhazia and Georgia, has been recently dismantled.
We are currently, in the autumn of 2017,  inclined to view fervent independentist passions in the context of Catalunya. It was in 2014 that Caledonia was the example of a nation dealing with the issue of ‘home rule’. Then the efforts of Scotland to become a free and sovereign nation had resonated with the Abkhaz.
"We have a Scotland Street, Shotlandaa Rimüa, in Abkhazia and a Sukhumi Street in Scotland," the Abkhaz Georgy Gabuniya was quoted as saying, referring to a ‘twin city’ link between Abkhazia and the small East Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock, the site of a stone memorial to the victims of the Georgia-Abkhazia war erected in 1995.
But Tamar Beruchashvili, Georgia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, became aware of the monument through the internet and persuaded Scottish authorities to ‘handle’ the issue during her visit to Scotland in September this year. “They fully accepted the information provided and agreed with the approach by the British state regarding Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. And the local council decided to dismantle this monument a few days ago,” Beruchashvili said.

My interest in all this? I find any ‘rewriting of history’ abhorrent; living in Munich for ten years I have become well aware of what this means. I am also dismayed by the readiness of officials in Scotland to accede to demands coming from the country most intransigently opposed to any international recognition of an independent Abkhazia.

Not that I have ever visited the shores of the Black Sea. But over the past year and a half I have developed an instinctive sympathy for Abkhazia, as it gradually took on a virtual reality for me when, as a writer of popular fiction, I set the action of a novel in a country I wish I had visited as a much younger man.

"On the very eve of the war a delegation from Abkhazia, including its then-mayor, was hosted by Kilmarnock’s Town Council. Now, with impeccably inappropriate timing on the very eve of Armistice Day, we learnt of this move to dishonour the fallen in Abkhazia’s war of survival." 

So writes Profesor George Hewitt, Honorary Consul for Abkhazia in the United Kingdom. I find it worth quoting...

Lest we forget

Thursday, November 09, 2017


 I know, I know, my sleeping partner is a colossal joke, a wheeze played out by a mischievous Morpheus on my semi-somnolent subconscious. Last night in the dark silence what I thought I heard was Zeiss Enquart. A vintage camera, maybe?

Googling at dawn brought the correction. Arthur Seyß-Inquart was an Austrian Nazi politician who served as Chancellor of Austria for two days, from 11 to 13 March 1938, before the Anschluss annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. This time it's a contribution I can use. 

When I start on Promise of Reign (the sequel to Chance of Reign) next year, this villainous figure could indeed make an appearance.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


I have a mischievous sleeping partner, inveigling himself into my efforts as a storyteller. When I awaken in the middle of the night (as ageing men are wont to do) I find that a totally unexpected word or phrase demands my attention. Last night it was Boat of Garten. I was unable to write it off completely, for there was the vaguest hint of familiarity. As I slowly fell asleep again, I considered whether 'Garten' (that's 'Garden' in German) was perhaps the key to the matter, as 'Boat' might be the German 'Boot'.

Come the dawn, my computer booted up, I turned to Google in my quest for understanding. And, lo and behold, my sleeping partner had named an improbably named village in the Scottish highlands where once a ferryboat had provided transport across the River Spey.

Not that this was particularly helpful, for the Cairngorm mountains feature in Kickeroh and Co, now completed as a first draft manuscript and not in need of a new village setting!

Now if my nocturnal assistant could come up with something related to the sunken city of Vineta, below the waters of the Baltic, I would be most appreciative.


Saturday, November 04, 2017


Harold Pendleton, the founder of London’s legendary Marquee Club, where The WhoJimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones first made their names in the 1960s, has died at the age of 93, after a short illness.

"In 1958 he launched the Marquee Club in London, and ran it during its most momentous years, when it hosted the first gigs of The Rolling Stones and the Who, early performances by Pink Floyd, Cream, Jimi HendrixLed Zeppelin and David Bowie, and subsequently early punk, heavy metal and prog rock.

The Yardbirds recorded their debut album on the opening night at Wardour Street, the keyboardist Manfred Mann co-led one of the UK’s most popular R&B / modern jazz crossover groups there, and The Who’s 22-week Tuesday-night residency in 1964-65 took the quartet from obscurity to stardom."

The obituary in The Guardian is worth reading for anyone intrigued by the role that place (recording studio, club or concert venue) plays in the history of popular music.

My own association with the Marquee Club started in 1964, when I was handling publicity for Manfred Mann. Whenever the Manfreds were booked for a residency, even when I had no current work pretext, I could be found at 90 Wardour Street. 

In 1971 on the eve of my final goodbye to London before moving the the Continent, I spent the day at the Marquee where The Rolling Stones were taping performances for an American television network.