I imagine every writer suffers from this affliction: wherever we go, whomever we meet, whatever we hear, see and read – we steal it. Whatever we touch turns into a story, which we write greedily and for which we claim sole ownership.
It’s called “copyright”.
We don’t want others to copy our work. We make them pay for it even though, in the first instance, we have stolen it.
I do it all the time. It has become a habit of which I am barely aware. Every person I ever got to know will sooner or later make it to my books. So, beware! Avoid me if you care for your privacy. Or your mortal right.
The same with places. I nick every place that I visit. At some point I will pull it out of my back pocket and it will become a setting for my story.
All writers do it.
On my recent trip to the Canary Islands I discovered that a lot of stories that I would like to write had already been stolen and written by others. Like so:
If you one of those history enthusiasts who would rather travel back (and forth) in time than into infinity and beyond, then Edinburgh is a place for you.
The moment you land at Edinburgh Airport you get the impression you arrived in Hogwarts – Harry Potter-styled wizardly outfits are scattered all over the place. You stand a good chance of bumping into J.K. Rowling at the grocer’s.
Even the contemporary Fringe Festival has the feel of a Victorian fayre: street performers, jugglers, comedians and all manner of things bizarre and freaky call out to you from every street corner.
The most modern building to visit is Hollyrood, the Scottish Parliament building, but from there it is only one-way street back in time.
Historical fireplaces took my fancy, maybe because I had overestimated the Scottish Summer average temperatures and felt slightly on the shivering side.
Edinburgh Castle oozes history, the blood shed in endless battles and sieges trickles from the castle walls, the ghosts of betrayed leaders and prisoners of war haunt even by daytime (the night must be seriously overcrowded) and battle cries can be heard over the cannon fire.
And if you are still not satisfied that you have travelled far enough, you can always descend underground to walk the ancient Mary King’s Close (not recommended for people with claustrophobia).
And finally, you can’t have Edinburgh without a bagpiper – so here is one for you:
Daughter and I embarked on a mother-child bonding adventure in Paris, France. It was a perfect setting for finding common ground for it took our joint breath away and it made us contemplate things greater in life than our daily squabbles.
Places to visit in mugshots for those wishing to soak in some culture, history and arts in one potent cocktail, shaken – and – stirred:
Basilique du Sacre Coeur
Chateau de Versailles
Jardin de Versailles
Cathedral of Notre Dame
The Eiffel Tower
Cruising on the River Seine
Palais du Luxembourg
We were swept off our feet, humbled, elevated and so very proud to be European. Admiring the wonders of architecture, sculpture, paintings and arts, wondering about the great minds – philosophers, writers and thinkers who laid the foundation of the unique European culture which shapes us today, remembering the history our ancestors built together, the blood they shed and the blood we share as it curses through our veins and makes us all one and same people, we couldn’t shake the sense of loss that is Brexit. Cutting Britain off the face of Europe is the proverbial cutting one’s nose off to spite the face, an act of self-harm.
A few snippets of what we are -metaphorically at least – leaving behind:
It was one of those London outings that I won’t forget in a hurry. It didn’t involve the West End theatre production or shopping, but it was 100% pure London: people’s power in action. We were marching with the estimated 1 Million ordinary people for peace, friendship and unity of our small continent, sending a clear message to Mr Putin and Mr Trump who are so keen to divide and conquer us.
It was crowded, it was hot, it was slow-going as the mass of people filled every nook and cranny of the main streets and every side alley. There were youngsters hanging from scaffolding and statutes, waving EU and British flags. There was a great sense of comaraderie and good humour all round. Husband brandished Danny Dyer’s famous quote about Cameron and his trotters up in Nice. I grabbed a photo with none other but the now iconic STOP-Brexit Man who camps on the doorstep of the House of Parliament day and night, rain or shine, to deliver his message.
Canada is brimming with all manner of creatures, large and small. But mainly large. They have the capacity to stop the traffic, and they often do. It is as if the entire effort of our human civilisation has passed unnoticed in this wild part of our planet. Quite rightly so!
God has created Canada in his image – no doubt about that. The Canadian mountains carry themselves with dignity. They are simply magnificent: ancient, rocky, covered with a thick blanket of impenetrable forests. They sit in splendid silence, letting Nature do her talking.
The Canadian Lakes are equally majestic. They are filled with spirits and dead souls, hiding dark secrets within their depths. Legends are told about them, passed from generation to generation. Some are sacred and you don’t have to be told to know that. You can sense it.
As mentioned previously, size matters in Canada. People there have big visions and they live in huge log cabins (you could carve a Titanic-type cruiser out of one of those logs!). Inside their enormous homes, they drink lots of spirits out of gigantic bottles (photographic evidence to follow in the slideshow below). They are also biiiig party animals. Every night they hold five-course meals for themselves and the legions of their many friends. Did I mention that Canadians are extremely sociable, chatty and generally great mixers?
But when in Canada one tends to go searching for the Last of the Mohicans. As did we. We tracked them down in the end and, although they didn’t resemble Daniel Day-Lewis closely, I felt like I caught up with the ghosts of the land. And I felt honoured to speak to those amazing – and elusive – people. That brought back memories of my childhood when I would always be an Indian when we played Cowboys & Indians. I even had a bow with arrows and a feather headdress!
Even at the height of summer, you can find a cool spot in Canada. You can go further than that and find a place that is frozen rock-solid. All you have to do is to catch a ride on a huge, Moon-buggy like vehicle with wheels the size of a house all the way up the mountain to a nice and shiny glacier. And there you are: freezing your backside off and sliding like a caterpillar on a wet leaf!
The glacier is sprawled on a side of the mountain like a giant knee cap on an ogre’s knee. It is slippery and treacherous, and if you set foot over the boundary, you may just slip into an icy tube that will take you all the way to nowhere.
When you decide to visit the glacier, remember to ditch the bikini and put on ear warmers, scarf and mittens. Bon voyage!