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An Albanian Summer

23 Jul

I’m on holiday this month, but as a self-employed writer it’s very much a busman’s holiday, of course. I’ve been researching an article on Albanian vineyards, working on part two of The Sarcophagus Scroll (called Daughters of Fire, since you asked), and editing a booklet called How to Get Published, which will be available free to newsletter subscribers in September.

But I have also found time to have fun and enjoy the beauty of Albania (as if touring vineyards wasn’t fun!). So here’s a nice photo post for you.

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Beautiful Bute

7 Feb

I’m just back from what my sister called my “overseas tour” – speaking to a literary society on the Isle of Bute. Continue reading

The Story of Robin Hood in Pictures

21 Nov

When I was preparing my new book, Why Everything You Know about Robin Hood Is Wrong for publication, I initially intended to have an accompanying image in each chapter. I ditched the idea, mostly because it would make the book to expensive (always thinking of you, my dear readers) but I thought you might like to see them anyway.

So in this blog you will see the pictures that would have been in the colour edition of the book, in order, along with their original captions. They may not make total sense out of context. To fill in the blanks, you will have to read my book – which is released tomorrow! (22nd November 2018, that is.)

(By the way, most of the images in this post are licensed for resuse, but not all. Check the caption for the origin if you plan to reuse them.)
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The Beauty of Tunisa

24 Oct

A lovely photo post, and a good reason for posting it: at the start of the month I was visiting a friend in Tunisia – a new country for me, and a whole new continent, as I had never been to Africa.

I can’t say I fell for Tunisia the way I did for Albania and, to a lesser extent, Greece, but it was fun, and had some beautiful sights. And the Roman ruins! Oh my word! I’ve never seen such well-preserved Roman buildings. And there was even pre-Roman stuff! So from that point of view, I was in my element, even if my Arabic is a little less polished than my Latin 😉

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See Paris and Diet

1 Mar

The other weekend, hubbie and I went to Paris for the first time, to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Paris in the springtime is supposed to be very romantic. Of course, we are still in the Never Ending Winter® so it wasn’t really like that, but despite the gloves and big coats, we had a good time. Here are a collection of impressions and musings about Paris, for you to be enlightened by or disagree with, interspersed with random photos of Paris Metro signs, because I just really liked them. (My husband didn’t. In one of the photos you can see him hiding his face in embarrassment at my touristy snapping.)

You can get surprisingly far with schoolgirl French

In fact, I topped up my half-forgotten French with a quick Memrise course, but even so, I was astonished how much of it I was able to use. I had heard that people in Paris just take one sniffy look at you trying to speak French and then reply in English, and there were a couple of those, but mostly people were perfectly happy, even pleased, that I was trying to speak their language. And at least two people we dealt with didn’t actually speak English. Yes, even in Paris.

Paris is not as lovely as I had hoped

Probably most of the top tourist destinations are over-hyped (except Rome – Rome is amazing), but it was still a bit of a disappointment to find at the end of the trip that I didn’t really like Paris. I was disappointed in the city and also kind of disappointed in myself because I really wanted to like it. But…

  • it was pretty dirty and smelly;
  • lots of people were rude and pushy – literally, in the context of public transport;
  • waiting staff take your drinks when you’re not finished. Just because I’ve asked for the wine list, that doesn’t mean I’ve finished with my champagne. It’s called planning;
  • waiting staff make you move seats for no reason at all. Seriously, in an empty cafe they will come up and tell you that you must move one chair to the left, or you must sit facing your date instead of beside him. In one case my coffee ended up all over the floor because of an unnecessary move and I was fumingIf I’m in Paris again and asked to move, I may just say ‘non’ and see what they do about it.

It’s not all waiters, waitresses and shop staff who are condescending and pushy, but enough to leave a bad taste in the mouth. I should say, though, that most of the time we received decent, friendly service. Just keep a firm hold on your drink.

The food was amazing

Whatever we may have disliked about the weekend, the food was definitely the bit we liked best. From a seriously stuffed bagel, eaten at a grubby outdoor table, to a cosy little restaurant (Un Air de Famille – strongly recommended), to the various chocolate shops peppered around central Paris, we scoffed with abandon. The coffee was also uniformly good. I discovered that the way I take my coffee (with a splash of milk) is called noisette  in Paris (maybe the rest of France too), which saved time. The length of the coffee varied from barely more than espresso to proper coffee-cupful, but the quality was unfailing. A place with good coffee and good food can’t be all bad 🙂

But now I’m back in Glasgow, where we’re no slouch at metro signs ourselves (okay, it’s the subway, but you know what I mean), so here’s a lovely picture of Cessnock Underground. And my husband thinks I’m weird…

Cessnock Underground Station

Get my books for free!

21 Jul

Much as I love being paid for my writing, I do occasionally take part in promotions like the Smashwords Summer Sale. That means you can currently get Leda, Office Life (and Death) and A New Year’s Trio for free as ebooks, as well as Running for Cover, a short story, which is always free.

See all the books, and my author interview, on my Smashwords profile.

By the way, I’ve just had my annual author photo taken, courtesy of Studio Genti, Lushnje, Albania. What do you think?

A-maze-ing Graffiti Art at SWG3

3 Jul

Another photo post – give the people what they want.

The story behind this is that I was at ‘Hypermarket’ this weekend at SWG3, an arts space behind the railway arches off the Expressway (if you know Glasgow at all). It wasn’t terribly ‘hyper’ – in fact it was a small-to-medium craft fair marooned in an over-large space, with a half-hearted selection of overpriced “street food” outside in the courtyard, under a dull grey sky.

I didn’t stay long, but while I was there I took the opportunity to photograph the one stand-out item of this whole setup: the graffiti art. There were walls and walls of it, freestanding, arranged into a sort of not-very-challenging maze, as you can probably see from this picture.

My favourite was this picture of ?vultures, painted on sheets of metal – appropriate for an old galvanizing yard.

I liked the joke on this Billy Connolly one. There’s a lot of Billy Connolly art around Glasgow at the moment, since he’s just turned 75.

This fish took me a wee moment to work out at first.

And I still haven’t worked this one out.

Or this. It really looks like a word, but I don’t know what it says. Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below).

There were others, if you want to pop along (check the SWG3 website for events) but these were my favourites.

And finally, the credits (I don’t know which name applies to which artwork, but I’m sure you know how search engines work.):

Glasgow Details

18 Sep

My previous photo post on Glasgow’s grafitti art proved rather popular. As a writer, this leaves me with mixed feelings: happy that people are reading my blog, perturbed that more people read it when there isn’t much actual writing. Hmm. However, stiffening my British lip and trying not to be offended, I have decided to post another lot of photos. (Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.)

Glasgow is, of course, swimming in great architecture. In fact you can barely tell one beautifully proportioned Georgian street from another when you’re in a hurry, and the looming, ornate Victorian piles have a tendancy to blend into one another after a while. (If you’re reading this thinking “Isn’t Glasgow a big industrial dump?”, do your research. Or better yet, come and visit.)

These photos are of some of the nice wee details in Glasgow city centre that often get overlooked – things we ought to appreciate more. For instance, there’s a lovely new piece of artwork in Buchanan Galleries that people don’t tend to see much of as they rush towards the escalators on their way to Boots.

divine rhythm, wholly at one With the earth, riding the Heavens with it, as the stones do, And all soon must.

…divine rhythm, wholly at one
With the earth, riding the Heavens with it, as the stones do,
And all soon must.

The central Post Office, on St Vincent Street, is rather impressive if you have the time to stop and appreciate it.

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Even Central Station’s not bad. A Dutch friend said it reminded her of Hogwarts! (An aside: Central’s not much like Hogwarts, actually, but the wood-panelled, stained glass dining room of St Salvators Hall in St Andrews really is. If it had been any closer, food would have appeared by magic. And tasted nice.)

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To be fair, you probably have noticed Central Station. It’s not exactly a detail (though I like the wrought iron working in this photo). But what about the giant metal peacock in the middle of Buchanan Street (above Princes Square)?

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And probably my favourite detail of all: baby dragons outside 200 St Vincent Street. Why? I don’t know, but they’re adorable.

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Do you have any favourite overlooked details of Glasgow? Please add a comment!

Art Attack

2 Aug

Unusually for me, a photo blog post. I’ve been meaning for a while to upload photos of the amazing graffiti art on the corner of Argyle Street and York Street in Glasgow city centre. There are billboards advertising shows, but they are surrounded by painted frames as if they are in an art gallery, and they share the walls with clever rip-offs of famous works of art. Below you can see The Great Wave off Kanagawa with an octopus escaping from it, along with The Scream and a Dali clock.Image

If you look carefully at the scene below you can see a thief trying to steal one of the paintings. If you look even more closely, you can see another one

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Round the corner, on York Street, a passer-by is startled by a girl climbing out of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, while the Mona Lisa of Glasgow gazes out complacently.

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Meanwhile, a tired businessman makes his way to work, ignoring all the mural goings on.

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If you liked that, there’s more of this kind of thing in a public Flickr gallery by someone called D7606. (I’m assuming that’s a sort of numerical username. It would be very hard on the person if it was a real name. You’d feel like you were in Les Miserables the whole time.)