Saturday, April 30, 2011

Word of the day: Crinkle-crankle

Crinkle-crankle - great word isn't it? And here's a picture of one:
A crinkle-crankle is basically a wobbly wall - one that undulates along its length. They were originally designed to grow fruit trees on. The waves increase the length of wall that faces the right way to have maximum sunlight.  The bends also make the wall stronger so they don't need buttressing.

They were common features of 18th century gardens but fell out of fashion and are rarely seen on modern developments. So I was delighted to find this one along the back of a Tesco car park in Beeston, Nottinghamshire.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Another public holiday

Apparently someone’s getting married. It happens every day, but for some reason they’re giving us a day off work for this couple. A William and Kate somebody. Not sure why it’s so special but I’ll enjoy a rest in the sun and a break from the office.
As long as they don’t expect a present!

FFF55 is a weekly challenge to write something in exactly 55 words. If you'd like to see more, hop over to the G-Man's blog at Mr Knowitall, where you'll find lots of goodies!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I heart NY

"So what's New York like?" she asked.
"It's exactly what you expect," he replied in his wonky East Side accent, "It's weird, noisy, smelly, hectic, bright, brash, bold, energetic, classy, crappy," the words came out in a rush but then he stopped short, as if he was ashamed of including the crappy.
"Tall. It's tall. There's lots of tall stuff. Not just the buildings but statues and things too, you know?"
She nodded, thinking of the photos of the Statue of Liberty she had seen.
"And it's full of yellow cabs and honking horns and people. LOTS of people. And food stands. You can get food anywhere any time. You must go there some day."
And she agreed, though she knew she would never have the courage to leave her own shores and travel to anywhere exciting.

Inspired by an unexpected conversation.

On the subject of names again

We went for a walk over the Easter break to enjoy the sunshine and see some of our local area. The route took us through a church yard a couple of villages down the way where I took the chance to photograph some of the gravestones.

Names are a real problem for me. I can make them up but they never seem real enough somehow, so I gather them wherever I can.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: Theme for a Summer by Sandra Davies

Theme for a Summer by Sandra Davies is a story of a time long gone, but handles questions that are still relevant fifty years on.

The book explores the changing moral standards of the 1960s through the eyes of a group of teenage girls. They are all reaching an age where they must choose where they stand on the question of sexual mores.

When their comfortable associations with, and long-term crushes on, the local lads are disturbed by the arrival of a clan of Irish brothers, they are soon embroiled in the consequences of their choices.

The story starts innocently enough with a little under-age drinking. A smoothly operated cover-up, launched by the single word 'plod', expels the girls onto the village streets. Here we learn of the challenge that the group have set themselves for the coming school holiday. They must all try to 'get off with' as many of the boys as they can before September arrives and ends the summer break.

Central to the plot is the relationship between Bridie Burdock and Sean Donovan, but there are many other associations within the potentially disastrous realms of the summer challenge.

To be fair, there are so many characters involved in the story that the names are a little confusing at first and it takes a few chapters to get the hang of everyone's familial relationships. But persevere.

Along the way there is plenty of opportunity to observe the effects of the emergence of the hippy generation on small town life. We also discover that the idea of 'free love' was not all that new, and that it was never truly free of all costs. We also encounter the double standards that parents can operate in rules for their children.

Theme for a Summer is nicely evocative of the time and regular mention of the hits of the era helps to recreate a vivid picture for anyone who lived through those years.

The plot appears predictable at first but takes some sharp turns away from the expected direction. At the end the reader is left wanting to know more, which is a good thing for the first in a series of books that follow Bridie and Sean's progress across a couple of decades.

The book is available by clicking the link at Sandra's blog Lines of Communication.  She completed another section of the tale for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year and is currently working on the latest volume of the tale.

A printmaker, Sandra also designed the covers for all the Bridie books.

UPDATE from Sandra. June 2012:  Can I please update this by saying that 'Theme for a summer' is now available from Lulu, in a combined volume with Book 2, 'Reunion'. Also the two that follow that, 'Holding steady' (my first NaNoWriMo novel) and 'Damage limitation' in print and as ebooks.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Keeping Bad Company

Sore throat, aching arms, tired legs, headache. No, it's not a hangover, or even the 'flu. It's the after effects of a rock concert. I sang and clapped and stomped my way through familiar songs, enjoying the sense of cameraderie with the crowd until someone asked innocently: "So how long have you been a fan?"

Forty years.  Yes, forty years.

Which means I probably do look as old as all the aging rockers who surrounded me, sporting too-tight t-shirts and pony tails around balding pates. But I hope I am faring better than the lead singer of the support band, who used to be a hunk but now has man boobs!

Top picture is Paul Rodgers, who is every bit as awesome as he was when I first saw him in 1973 with the newly-formed Bad Company, set up after the total collapse of Free. He's not called The Voice for nothing. He can still belt them out like he always did back in the heady days of All Right Now and Can't Get Enough.

Bottom one is Joe Elliott, former sex symbol of Def Leppard - still trying, but I doubt if he'll manage 40-plus years of rocking.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Hot cross buns all dripping golden butter.
Decorated chocolate eggs and sugar flowers.
Rich Simnel cake with little balls of marzipan.
Fluffy marshmallow chicks and bunny biscuits.
Cupcakes made like birds’ nests.
Roast spring lamb with all the trimmings.  
Four day weekend and day trips to the seaside.

Remind me what Easter’s all about again?

OK. You all know it's not my religion, but don't go thinking that I'm having a go at anyone. I'm not.

FFF55 is a weekly challenge to write something in exactly 55 words.  For more examples take a trip to see the G-Man at Mr Knowitall.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I have morons at the bottom of my garden

I have morons at the bottom of my garden.
There used to be a tree, but the idiots who live there have cut it down, you see. It was getting rather lanky and its branches were quite long but there wasn't any need to chop, they've really got it wrong.
The outer bits were pushing past the shed roof quite a lot so we said to them that they should trim it up and take a shot at making it more tidy; just a bit off at the back. But they hacked off all its branches just like that: hack hack hack hack!
The jackdaw was complaining cos it used to like it there. It would sit up on the tree top and try to sing an air. Although jackdaws aren't melodic, they tend to croak and caw, but it did its best and it was nicer than the sound of the hacksaw.
I know it was quite dark below the branches of the tree and on sunny days it blocked out light and overshadowed me, but I miss it;  miss the birds who sang within its leafy green, and the cats who tried to catch them by remaining there unseen.
I miss the gentle rustle of its leaves upon the breeze and the fact it blocked the view of all of those TVs' aerials, and washing lines and broken window panes that clutter up the back of homes along the village lanes.
Perhaps I'll plant another, though I'll have to wait awhile until a new tree manages to have the sort of style that the old tree had.
I have morons at the bottom of my garden.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On the subject of names......

I've just read a news story that featured "Lt. Troy Dangerfield of the San Francisco Police Department".
You wouldn't make it up, would you?

Big fat bully

All I wanted was to join in,
Have fun, be like the rest.
Some kind of ball game,
Chasing, throwing, laughing.
But you don't play nice.
You snigger when I run
And call me names.
Pick me last out of the group
Even after the spotty kid with glasses,
Make me feel stupid. And alone.
So I'll go home instead,
Where I can't hear you play,
And I'll read a book
And eat biscuits
And die young
From a broken heart.

My job requires a lot of reading around science news and research developments. One of the stories I've read this week is about how the stigma of being fat and being constantly reminded (by colleagues, well-meaning friends, advertising, medics etc.) actually contributes to the person's poor health.  The story is here if you want to read more. That's where this poem came from.

So lay off the fat kid - OK?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In need of a good editor

I'm going to have a short rant. And if I offend anyone, I'm sorry. But I'm feeling in need of a pressure valve this morning.

There are an awful lot of bloggers who want to be writers. Some of them have even set themselves up as sources of advice to other potential writers. Some are published, some are hopeful, but the thing that many of them have in common is their apparent inability to use English correctly. Their posts are frequently full of errors.

I'm not talking about an occasional typo. I'm not talking about the UK/US variations in spelling. I'm talking about using incorrect vocabulary (malapropism), apostrophes in plurals, confusion of homophones (their, there, they're etc), the kind of mistake that should have been corrected at school.

I understand that not everyone was lucky enough to have an education as good as the one that I had. I appreciate that some people have battled with learning difficulties.

But surely, if you want to be a writer you should make an effort to improve your basic skills, shouldn't you?

You wouldn't set yourself up as a carpenter if you couldn't saw a straight line. Why on earth would you think you can be a writer if you can't follow some simple grammar rules?

Friday, April 15, 2011

FFF55 April 15: A memory

Some high streets are full of homes
And others are for shopping.
Some for strolling aimlessly
Or traffic never stopping
This one’s prettier than most,
Its stone-lined walls are blooming
With yellow blossoms piled up high
Their petals are perfuming.
It’s Hastings town, where I’ve just been
And a nicer sight I have never seen!

That's some of the worst poetry I've ever written, but making it an exact number of words and finding rhymes makes it tricky!

You can find better 55s at The G-Man's Blog!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How do you like your science fiction?

I've recently been reading more science fiction than I normally do. I used to read lots of it back when I was in my late teens and could recognise the covers almost by instinct. (Back then they used to arrange everything alphabetically by author under 'fiction' in libraries so you couldn't ignore almost everything and head straight for your favourite genre. It also meant that you didn't have to fight past a gang of spotty, spoddy oiks next to the Sci-Fi section to get to crime novels!)

However, just lately the science press (the serious science press) have started commenting on science fiction and the way it is headed. Thirty or forty years ago most sci-fi was based around space, because that was the big news, and any terrifying potential disasters took the form of aliens. Shortly after that (when the world realised that actually we weren't too good at space travel and we managed to kill a lot of people trying it) there were the 'lump of space debris/comet/abandoned atomic-powered rocket engine is falling towards earth and will hit it with such force that it'll dislodge the planet/wipe it out completely/kill everyone in an atomic-bomb-like explosion' stories.
Then there were the post-Apocalypse tales where humans prove to be a bit sh*t at maintaining civilisation once the balance of power shifts.

Now, apparently, it's all to do with genes. And scientists are getting worried that ordinary, non-scientific folk are believing the horror stories, so that's why we're all scared of genetically modified plants/animals/food etc. They want more 'realistic' stories - aka hard science fiction - where the outcomes are actually scientifically possible.

What do you think? Do you want your science real? Or do you want true fantasy?

Photo details:
The photo is the National Space Centre in Leicester. It's quite a cool place to visit. There's a full-size rocket inside that pod. Thor - the largest rocket ever built in the UK.  (You might just be able to make it out in the photo)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Succinctly yours: Airport

This challenge is hosted at Grandma's Goulash and you can write either 140 characters or 140 words, based on a photo provided by Grandma. You also have the option to include a Word of the Week.

Word of the Week: PROCRASTINATE

It’s always the same with airlines. Rush us down to the departure gate then procrastinate for hours before take-off! Travel Scrabble anyone?

(140 characters on the dot)

What's in a name?

As you all know we've been on our holidays. So this morning I've come back to work to face a mountain of emails. I appear to have had a large number from people I don't know, all offering me little blue pills or a way to 'lengthen your man rod'. I'm pleased to say that I don't need either.

However, one benefit of all this is that I now have a wonderful store of names. I can never think of names for my characters when I write so I am always looking for new places to find them. And here they are. For anyone else who has difficulty naming their characters feel free to help yourselves from the list who 'wrote' to me while I was away!

Dorothea Burch
Terrell Wilder
Glenda Stevenson
Joyce Eaton
Herscel Brandt
Charlene Mooney
Jan Ritchie
Henry McCallion
Toby Covington
Art Hester
Darryl Anaya
Clark Christian
Errol Hahn
Darwin Woodward
Leslie Hartman
Ashley Keat
Tricia Cohen
Danny Terrell
Norris Stroud
Faith Lacey
Josef Nunez
Caroline Smart
Eric Eden

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Back from our holidays

HASTINGS - an ode

We went on vacation to ‘Astings
And stayed at the top of the cliff
Ate seafood and saw lots of places,
And walked till our knees had gone stiff.

The journey down South was a long one
And seemed like a heck of a way
With a stop-off at Tunbridge for sarnies
It really took most of the day.

The town was once famous for water.
Kal-ee-bee-at Spring it was called.
They reckoned its power could cure ‘owt
And even stop men going bald!

The cottage was clean and quite pretty
With a wonderful view of the sea
The edge of the cliff’s in the garden.
As close as you’d want it to be.

In Hastings they have lots of cafés
With plenty of shopping at hand
But remember to take lots of money
Cos the use of bank plastic is banned.

The fishing fleet works off the beach front
And offers fresh shellfish for sale
Cos they go out each morning to fetch it
Except when it’s blowing a gale.

They store all their gear in tall net huts
That stand on the sand by the quay.
Unique – but they’re having to move some
Cos that’s where the gallery will be.

Hastings  is one of the Cinque Ports,
They say it so it sounds like ‘sink’
But there isn’t a danger of sinking.
It’s to do with the Normans, I think.

The old town of Rye is real ancient
With cobbles in every street.
They make it all look quite attractive
But they’re terribly hard on the feet!

The towns are all full of French students
Who can’t understand what you say
But they all get the message quite quickly
When you tell them to ‘Get out the way’.

At Brighton, Prince George was a peacock
He built a fun palace right there
Where he took all his mates for big parties
And sometimes a breath of sea air.

A wonderful place is the palace
Reminds you of China a lot
On account of the bamboo and dragons
And turnip-shaped domes that it’s got.

Victoria (Queen) didn’t like it
And sold it as soon as she could.
She couldn’t see sea from her bedroom
So she reckoned it wasn’t much good.

We spent the week walking on beaches
And staring out over the bay
We had a great time down in Hastings
We really must go back some day.

Just a few of my photos from the holidays. And a quick ode - with apologies to Marriott Edgar

Friday, April 08, 2011

FFF55 April 8. Time flies

Fifty five! I’m sure last time I looked I was thirty-something with a great job, the future all ahead of me and ambitions to meet. And before that I was just 19, setting out expectantly in the world. It doesn’t really seem so long since I was starting high school. Where did the time go?


Apologies everyone if I don't get to your blogs to comment in the near future. I'm on holiday (vacation) and I might not be able to get to the Internet. The reason I'm away is because Wednesday was my birthday and so this week's 55 has a special significance, because I am now the ripe old age of .......21 again!

You can find more 55s at The G-Man's Blog.

Thanks everyone who's turned up without a reminder - and special thanks to Brian for linking me in my absence! 

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chinese Whispers

The wheels on the Enigma machine waltzed their slow dance, around and around, and clicked their heels as each letter fell into place. Recovering the code books meant that the Allies could understand the enemy’s messages and would be able to anticipate their future moves.

The interpreter handed him the slip of flimsy paper. Would this be the one that brought about the end of this terrible war? His hand shaking, he looked down at the words in front of him and read:

Send three and fourpence we’re going to a dance.

The photo is a statue of Alan Turing, the man who broke the Enigma code at Bletchley (The UK Government’s secrets HQ) during WWII. Bletchley Park is now a museum of computing, code breaking and wartime life and the statue is on show there.

The significance of the ‘message’ will probably be lost on anyone under about 40 but you can find some clues here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Dragged from the vaults

As it says on the picture to the left - I'm not likely to be close to a computer this week so I have prepared some posts in advance.  I've not gone overboard on it - some have been written specially for this week and others haven't. This one hasn't.

It's the opening chapter of a novel I started last year but abandoned when it took a severe swerve away from my original idea and left me a bit stunned; unsure where to go next.  I've never gone back to it but I still quite like it. Maybe I should give it another look.


It was a crazy idea but Judy Fry did not think she was crazy. She sat alone at a table in the city centre coffee house while she pondered the question. As she turned over the possibilities in her mind her body mirrored her thoughts and she turned over a gold-coloured metal disc in her left hand. It was heavy, shiny and covered with intricate patterns and it looked a lot like a £2 coin. In fact that was why she had bothered to bend down and pick it up in the street in the first place. She wasn’t desperate for £2 but any kind of lucky chance was worth taking and free cash was always welcome. It wasn’t even enough to pay for the coffee that was currently cooling on the table beside her. But £2 was £2. Or at least, she had thought it was.

She had put the find straight into her coat pocket without looking at it, confident that she was £2 richer, and it was not until she was sitting in the doctor’s reception lounge waiting for her appointment with her new psychiatrist that she even remembered it was there. The waiting room was sparsely furnished, taking minimalism to extremes, and nothing so untidy as a magazine was allowed to disturb its clean lines, so she had little choice but to think about her current situation.  Time was dragging slowly as she sat worrying about what the man would ask and how the meeting would go, and she was stressed. She realised she was tapping the chair arms as she waited, so she put her hands into her pockets to stop herself from fidgeting.  That was when she remembered the disc again as her fingers caught its coldness.  Something about its feel made her take the coin out and look at it again and that was how she realised that it was not what she first thought. If it was a coin it was certainly not legal tender in her high street and she was unsure which exotic location anywhere else in the world might accept it. At the time she had been deeply disappointed but, if what she was slowly being forced to accept was true, this medallion was worth far more than the £2 she had first believed.

In the café she weighed the disc in her hand and it felt heavy, just as it had on that first day. She looked closely at the markings on it to see if they made any more sense today than they had then. Try as she might she could never make them form into any definite pictures, but she could imagine shapes within the entwined swirls of gold. It was like looking at clouds or staring into a fire and seeing pictures form in them. The patterns did not move in any way but as she turned the coin the shapes suggested different images to her. It was clearly some optical illusion -  a trick of the light – but it was pretty. Perhaps that was one reason why she had kept the object. After all, it was of no use that she could see at the time. It was just a lump of goldish metal that looked a bit like a £2 coin. She wondered if she could use it in a slot machine, or if a parking meter or ticket machine would accept it in part payment. But she knew by now she was unwilling to part with it. After all, the day she found it was the day her life had changed.

Looking at the coin in the coffee shop she thought back to the afternoon in the waiting room and could remember the efficient lines and relaxing tones of the walls and furniture. It was no NHS clinic, although the man had agreed to see her without charge because her doctor said he was owed a favour. Her GP had told her that she was very depressed and they needed to try a new approach. All the treatments they had tried in the past were of little help and a succession of pills and talk therapies had made little impact on her overall state of mind. 

“I really think you need to see a specialist, a psychiatrist” he had said, “I know just the man.  You’ll like him. And he’s very good.”

She hadn’t wanted to see a stranger, to talk over her fears and the voice in her head that criticised and nagged at her throughout the day and in the dark hours of the night. Not that she heard voices or anything like that, oh no. This was no alien invader in her mind that fed her strange instructions about papering over the windows or wearing foil hats to keep the radio waves out. She knew whose voice it was. It was hers. And it really should speak to her more kindly than it did because she didn’t deserve some of the things it said even though her life was a bit of a mess and she had difficulty thinking of a single achievement she could be proud of in the last few years.  But somehow she could not silence it. Her. The other her. The voice had been there for as long as she could remember, with its sarcastic commentary on her life and its little hints about how much better she could be doing for herself if only she had a better job, concentrated more, spent less, lost weight, and all the hundreds of other great improvements she could make.

A politely smiling man came to the side of the room and called her name. “Judy? Hello, I’m Dr. Pandanista but everyone calls me Pan. Come through to my office.”  The face was brown, and creased and looked not unlike a small monkey with bright, dark eyes that looked intelligent, and sparkled as if they were planning something mischievous. His hair stood in spikes on top of his head, and he had a small beard around the end of his chin, that only added to the monkey illusion. In spite of her misgivings she felt she might be able to like him.  He guided her smoothly through the corridor to a small room with a desk and two arm chairs and gestured with an open palm and a broader smile that she should sit down in one of them.

“So. Judy. Your doctor says you need to see me. Why do you think he said that?” She began to tell him a prepared answer about how she had been crying a lot and unable to sleep and just needed a bit of space and time but somehow her carefully rehearsed speech turned into something unplanned. She realised as she continued to talk that her tale had taken on a more personal note and that she was telling this monkey man the truth.  How everything in her life went wrong and how she tried very hard to be a success but she didn’t seem to manage and she had very little to be depressed about actually because on the outside she appeared to have everything she needed but she didn’t think she could take much more and how why was the world out to get her and what on earth had she done to deserve all this chaos? The words she had tried so hard to keep in seemed to break through like the tide overcoming sea defences and flooded the office around her. She even took out the coin from her coat pocket and showed it to him. “I thought I’d made a lucky find but it turned out it wasn’t £2, it’s a worthless lump of shiny stuff.  All image and no substance, just like the rest of my life.”

He listened with a concerned expression and his head tilted slightly to one side and looked directly at her as she spoke. At the end she slowed and realised that she had been crying for some time. He handed her a tissue from a conveniently placed box on the desk and nodded slightly. For quite some time he was silent, just looked at her with a concerned and patient expression as if he was checking that she had nothing more to say before he began. 

“Well you can change that. You can change a lot of things,” he said eventually. 

He went on to explain a few ideas behind the latest theories in psychiatry. About how moods are affected by one’s thoughts and how, by taking control of those thoughts, depression can be overcome. He taught her some relaxation techniques to slow her breathing and release the tension in her neck and soon her hour-long appointment was over.

“It really is just a matter of changing your view. If you change your approach to life you’ll find that your life changes too,” he said as he escorted her back to the waiting room.

It was true. Her life had changed from that day, but she still had no idea how much it had to do with the psychiatrist’s theories. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the changes were little to do with her. In fact it seemed as if they were totally out of her control. She sipped at the coffee, not noticing that it was now completely cold, and considered what exactly had changed since then. It was nothing major, in fact it was very difficult to pinpoint exactly what was different. There had been no significant improvements in her life, but since that day at the psychiatrist’s office there had been a lot of small victories. At least she felt as though her daily life had fewer hiccups and challenges. Maybe it was just that she was noticing the good things and ignoring the bad, as Dr. Pandanista had suggested. He had also persuaded her to keep hold of the odd coin, as a symbol of her new approach to life. The object she had thought of as worthless was now an amulet that represented the possibilities in life, rather than the disasters.

“How do you know it’s worthless?” he had asked, “For all you know it could be the best thing that ever happened to you.” 

At the time she had no idea how that could be right. A piece of metal could not affect the world around it, and certainly could not affect the events around her. But sitting in the café with a cold coffee by her side she considered some of the incidents of the past few weeks and was increasingly facing a difficult conclusion. In spite of her doubts, it was slowly becoming more difficult to ignore the fact that the coin she had picked up in an ordinary shopping street held the power to grant wishes.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Succinctly Yours - Microfiction on a Monday (April 4)

This challenge is hosted at Grandma's Goulash and you can write either 140 characters or 140 words, based on a photo provided by Grandma. You also have the option to include a Word of the Week.

Word of the Week: CULPRIT

This is the culprit! I found him in the wardrobe using one of your slippers as a litter tray!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

When in Rome

We are on holiday this week. Sadly, not in Rome. Although the ultimate subject of this little essay will be featured during the week!  Apologies if I don't get to anyone's blog to comment this week. These posts have been set up in advance.  


There was only one thing on my ‘absolute musts’ list when I went to Rome and I was determined not to go home without experiencing it. I was fitting in the Eternal City around commitments on a business trip and it was hard to make time for the glories that I knew to be around me. As a first timer in the city I had researched as much as I could before setting off so that I would not waste a minute. I had a notebook full of ideas but only one thing had a big red star by it. 

It would have been impossible to see everything in just a few days anyway, during snatched hours between report writing and emailing my office, but I managed to find a few of Rome’s gems.  In The Pantheon, with its miraculous concrete dome that demonstrates the building skills of the ancients who established the city, I sat on a wooden seat and craned my head back to see a tiny hole so far above me. The roof sweeps upwards in a glorious curve, ending in a circular gap where the light passes in a bright column to the floor. The dome forms a perfect half sphere and I was so delighted by its geometry that I forgot myself and sat transfixed for quite a while. I had to keep rubbing my neck after I left because it hurt to look around at ground level.

I encountered the towering Trajan’s column with its carved details of the emperor’s war victories as I wandered near the Forum, deciding whether to spend time among the ruined market area or to continue my exploration of the Baroque city. I opted for the latter.

Rome has fountains, hundreds of fountains, and many are world famous. The largest is the Trevi, which even starred in movies and had a song named after it. The sculpture from which the water flows is probably beautiful, but the throng of tourists who gathered there made it impossible to tell. Traditionally, if you want to ensure that you will return to Rome you should throw a coin into this fountain and it is said you are bound to come back.

The elegant beauty of St Peter’s Square brought me close to tears with its sweeping colonnade, patterned paving and the imposing buildings of the Vatican. The Basilica itself is huge and ornate and slightly confusing, as if several churches have been thrown together.   With other visitors I stood, pilgrim-like, before the Pieta, the wonderful sculpture of the Madonna weeping over the crucified body of her Son, in awe of the artist who created it, but ashamed that it now stands behind bullet-proof glass to protect it from vandals.

A restful stop along the way for a cool beer was chance to watch, while the well-dressed residents strolled by, or rode past on their ubiquitous little motor scooters. They ride, perfectly poised, with never a hair out of place. One woman rode pillion; side-saddle so she would not crease her immaculate skirt. On her lap was a small basket, from which peered a tiny dog, its hair tied up in an elegant ribbon bow.

The Colosseum has a Metro station right next to it, and I felt slightly off balance when I emerged from the dark tunnel and saw it ahead. It has such a familiar outline that it is somehow unreal when it is right in front of you. It is as if it should not actually exist except as a concept of Romanness.

Still I searched for what I believed to be the one essential thing in a trip to Rome, but it was not until my last night when I was lost in rambling, twisting streets that I spotted my goal. There it was, a small, hand-written sign, fixed to a batten on a crumbling brick wall. In front of it were two flimsy tables covered in red and white checked cloths. The paper was pinned up with a rusty thumb tack and many people would have passed it by without a second thought, but I knew I had found my holy grail. A broad smile spread across my face as I read: spaghetti vongole.  I took a seat and enjoyed the best of Rome.

Friday, April 01, 2011

FFF55 April 1: In need of a favour

Can you remember
Next weekend?
When you are posting up
Your 55s?
I shall be away from my computer
And Internetless.
So I can’t join in.
(Wipes tears)
My 55 words will appear
(as if by magic)
through blog autoload.
But links are not enabled
In advance.
Can you remember?
Visit me
Next weekend?

We're having a few days off and there is no sure link to the Internet. I shall pine. But there you go.
Don't miss me too much! And I shall see you back here in a week or so.