Saturday, November 01, 2014


As the month of November arrives it is impossible in Germany not to reflect on the days twenty-five years ago. On the 30th of October we had seen on television three hundred thousand take to the streets in Leipzig demanding reform, chanting "Wir sind das Volk". And they were not hindered by the East German police or security forces.

Less than a fortnight earlier, on the first birthday of our daughter Jessica, her parents were unable to remain seated when the newsreader announced that Erich Honecker had been replaced. With our baby in our arms we stood in a dazed embrace in the middle of the living room of our Munich aoartment. This was not the only 'group hug' in the amazing days which followed. 

The art installation of eight thousand illuminated balloons is to trace the path of the Berlin Wall. I like the fragility of the tethered inflatables, as fragile as our hopes twenty-five years ago for a peaceful outcome of the momentous events which had been set in motion.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tempus fugit

Mickey's mother and step-father
The only grandparents Jessi knew
My in-laws and wonderful friends


Not sure why, but in my dream last night I was whisked back to 1979... lucky me!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A canny Scot

This is not a health issue! In my attempt to match my outgoings to my income I simply feel the need to reduce the amount I spend on smoking, hence the above effort to self-impose an overdue economy measure.

A further similarly motivated initiative is the connection of the television set I recently inherited. It is now plugged in and operative! As a result I shall spend less on Kindle purchases and watch more of what the box has to offer... at no cost since my age and circumstances allow me to be free of the obligation to pay the German license fee. This need not be an awful fate, since currently there are some excellent documentaries devoted to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The review below posted to Goodreads makes mention of the fact that buying Kindle editions is not always an onerous matter. I envy the author who has no apparent need to make money from his writing. At the same time I must ask myself what kind of deluded fool I am to spend the working day (in the absence of paid translation jobs) scrupulously editing my latest manuscript. The earnings will be risible, I am sure. But I suppose it is a slightly less dire way of passing time than watching daytime television.

Chameleon (City of London, #2)Chameleon by J. Jackson Bentley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

JJ is assuredly having fun. In "The Chameleon"... he even allows himself a brief self-deprecating guest appearance within his story.

I am still enjoying his work, although now that I have downloaded "Fogarty" I realize that the three novels have to date cost a total of EUR 0.77. This is an unwelcome reminder that self-publishing should probably not be regarded as source of revenue, but best seen as a sideline, pastime or hobby.

The fun that JJ is having reminds me of the joy of telling stories to a child. I well remember my daughter insisting that the telling of the tale should not end... "What happens next, Daddy?"

JJ is never at a loss to come up with 'what happens next'... although the bonding between Emma Peel and Modesty Blaise (nor really, but the simile sprang to mind) came as a bit of a surprise. Never mind, the entertainment remains first rate. The writer also knows full well that if the reader has enjoyed ninety-five percent of the narrative he or she will settle for a preposterous final five percent.

I readily admit that I shall continue to demand from the author "What happens next?"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Festina lente

There now seems to be the prospect that the the rail journey between the cities of Leeds and Manchester may be reduced from about 55 to 30 minutes. That's the good news. The bad news is that this will at the soonest be achieved in 2038.

The distance involved is about 65 kilometres. This compares closely with the rail journey I used to make very often between Munich and Augsburg back in 2002. Then as now the trip took 32 minutes. 

Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reading matters

48 Hours (City of London, #1)48 Hours by J. Jackson Bentley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When so minded I can cavil with the best of them, nit-pick and chunter like a grumpy old git. It seems that "48 Hours" has attracted the attention of some who have these predilections.

They complain that the proof-reading has not been sufficiently thorough. Surely allowances must be made for the fact that self-publishers are on their own... self-editing one's text for the nth time borders on masochism. And so, yes, a scattering of typos must be reckoned with.

Then there are reviewers who seem to be sorely offended by the kind of ebook formatting oddities which make reading less comfortable than it might otherwise be. But in this respect surely the author is blameless.

It is easy to write off petty criticisms of this nature. It is more tricky when it comes to suggestions that "48 Hours" is fatally flawed by underlying plotting implausibility. The reader is invited to immerse himself or herself in a fictitious world in which protagonists who are 'civilians' enjoy a very close relationship with the forces of law and order. The relationship may not reflect 'real life' accurately, but it makes for gripping and highly entertaining storytelling.

And surely entertainment is what it is about here. Or do we spurn the writings of Ian Fleming because of unrealistic portrayal of the secret agent? Do we avoid the work of Dan Brown because of his frequent 'bloopers'?

"48 Hours" entertains wonderfully. This is a spiffing, almost old-fashioned yarn, the tale of a complex caper pulling the reader from chapter to chapter. It is also rich in contemporaneity... one recalls newspaper headlines and controversial issues when presented with some of the passages which are generous with well-researched information. There are sufficient action-adventure highlights, and yet in no instance are there stomach-churning descriptions of violence or suffering. There is a developing romance, but no cringe-worthy pages of inept description of sexual antics.

It is admittedly demanded of the reader that he or she suspend some measure of disbelief in order to enjoy the overall construct of the author's mischief making. And this goes beyond just the text on our Kindle screens. We are possibly inclined to assume that J Jackson Bentley is a descendant of the cynical American journalist, Jackson Bentley, who wrote for the Chicago Courier.

Then we finally smirk at the realization that this figure was imagined by Robert Bolt, the scriptwriter of "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962.

A tangled web, indeed, in which this reader will be happy to remain enmeshed.

Saturday, October 25, 2014



Chatting with my ex-wife yesterday evening the subject of Saul Steinberg's legendary New Yorker cover illustration cropped up. It has so often been parodied (as above centre) and we mused on the notion of an app which could parse data from Google Maps or StreetView and generate an image either in the style of Steinberg or of eBoy or SimCity (left and right above respectively. Call the idea far-fetched, but what huge fun it would be if the user could synthesize a 'view' from his or her own residence!

A tissue

During my long years in the Sandlands one of the things that struck me was the ubiquity in offices of boxes of tissues. I learned that their availability to guests had more to do with hospitality customs than any prevalence of the common cold. 

When I came back to Europe I brought with me a decorative dispenser box. It's not quite as elegant as the one illustrated, much more kitsch with scarlet velour and a filigree of plastic pretending to be gold mesh. Having tissues to hand is useful, given that in the evenings I tend to have bouts of sneezing and suffer from a runny nose... probably a sign that my little flat could be better ventilated than it is.

One by one, I pull a tissue from the box. And eventually I have pulled out the last one. Damn it... I have to put tissues back on the shopping list. In this time of impecunity I hate having to add any purchase to the few basics I regularly need to buy. That final tissue in the box takes on a symbolic significance. 

These gloomy thoughts are provoked by the frustration I feel, waiting still for payment for a job I did at the beginning of September. Under-employment sucks!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Further efforts

Another milestone, for what it's worth. A couple of the books listed are, of course, not mine but this will be corrected. I am pleased to have been able to post the video calling attention to my 'work in progress'.