I’ll Know My Song Well Before I Start Singing

For the last few months I have lived with Patti Smith. I have carried her non-fiction book “M Train” around with me wherever I have gone – to work, on a day trip, on a bus journey, on a trip to the pub with friends and to bed. When I have found a “reading space,” I have opened the book to look at the pictures and to read a few lines. So far I am on page 128 and will keep reading.

This morning I read the postscript to the paperback version of the book and lived with her those few moments in her favourite cafe. I feel her loss at a place which was so central to her life and work in New York. She describes sitting on her bed waiting for a TV programme called “Luther,” and realises she is a day too soon. Instead she watches a episode of “Murder She Wrote.” Like Patti I look forward to detective programmes. “Murder She Wrote” was a staple of my teenage years along with “Cagney and Lacey.” I recently saw a back episode of Sharon Gless on a BBC book programme discussing her taste in literature and the books which has formed her. I remembered Cagney and Lacey with affection and felt a loss for those earlier days of crime fiction. Sharon Gless and Tyne Daley were the precursors of the modern female crime detective and are still a role model.

With Cafe Ino closed and “The Killing” cancelled mid-series Patti writes to the show’s producer, Veena Sud. This letter leads to an exchange and an offer for Patti to take part in an episode of the show. For Patti, a great fan of detective thrillers, this is a stellar event and a fitting tribute to her status as an icon, writer, artist and television fan. She also starred in the final season of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” which I think is a wonderful tribute.

I am reminded of another great idol of mine who loves television: Fran Lebowitz. Fran also starred in “Law and Order.” I remember her performances well and glad she shared it with us.

In the New Yorker of October 6th 2016, Anwen Crawford notes that Smith’s new book M Train is a ramble through her mind, her life, her experiences, her present and her past. Smith has left the bright “young woman of “Just Kids” was at one with the city’s pulse, but in this book Smith seems out of time: she longs for subway tokens instead of a MetroCard; she observes New Year’s Eve from her stoop, not venturing farther. She wants to leave New York, and does so frequently, only to return again, from force of habit, if nothing else. There is an indelible sadness to “M Train,” borne of bereavement, ageing, and isolation.” I feel the same spirit when listening to current talks by Fran Lebowitz.


Their currently melancholy is, I feel, fitting to the age in which we live.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?


Border crossing

The headline is a quote from leadership and  inspiration guru John C. Maxwell.

Here’s some more inspiration:

“Seven Steps to Success
1) Make a commitment to grow daily.
2) Value the process more than events.
3) Don’t wait for inspiration.
4) Be willing to sacrifice pleasure for opportunity.
5) Dream big.
6) Plan your priorities.
7) Give up to go up.”
John C. Maxwell

I guess I am following some of those steps right now. How?

  1. Interacting more with social media and using my Instagram and Tumblr accounts to promote my work and ideas.
  2. Checking social media more to see what other people are doing and to get inspiration.
  3. Updating my website with background images and text which really reflect my writing and photography. It is all about focus.
  4. I am dreaming big – I am going to format and publish my Riga novel and then approach some independent bookshops to see if they are will to stock a copy or two.
  5. Living in a changing world as we do, it is no longer enough to keep going with the flow and letting life wash over. It is time to be pro-active. I am going to start running my own writing workshops NOW!
  6. I am accepting that in order to move forward I have to give up on projects which are not working. So I am shelving that Estonian crime novel I keep coming back to until I have a really good idea.
  7. My upcoming trip to Belarus must lead to something not just a big adventure. Photobook? Guidebook? Travel video? Novel? Journal? Who knows?
  8. Decluttering. Without clutter I am free to think and dream and produce.
  9. Getting up and going first thing in the morning to take advantage of the peace and quiet in the house.


Image source:https://i.ytimg.com/vi/qDH3ddNUuaU/maxresdefault.jpg

Solo Travel

Sometimes I travel alone and sometimes with friends. It all depends on the reason for the trip. My last few trips over the past 18 months (Copenhagen, Riga, Warsaw and Budapest) have been with friends and I have enjoyed planning the trips and sharing experiences with them. Copenhagen would not have been quite so much fun on my own; Riga I know like the back of my hand and I have set a novel there, so it was good to share; Warsaw was a research trip but the two friends who came with me made it less work-orientated than it would usually be. I certainly spent a lot more time sitting around drinking coffee and having breakfast than I ever do on my own. It was pleasant but I did not do as much work as I would have liked. Now, I have to return to Warsaw to do the research I went to do in the first place, Sigh.

I went to Lublin, Poland, on my own last summer and enjoyed the freedom of going where I wanted but it would have been nice to share the experiences with someone. Even I got tired of sitting in pubs drinking beer on my own. Strangely, it was one of the few trips where I did not get talking to anyone. Maybe it was the weather or the hotel I stayed at (a business-type place).

I have just returned from a weekend in Paignton, Devon, where I got chatting to quite a few people. It made the trip a little more interesting and I learnt something about lives different to my own.

Next month, I am on a research trip to the Czech Republic and Poland – alone. It is part research and part nostalgia as I am researching my new novel and revisited old haunts from 24 years ago. I have created a schedule so that a) I don’t get bored and b) I don’t miss anything. I am looking forward to my action-packed days and mad travel schedule and hoping I will get to talk to some interesting people. That, after all, is the purpose of travel: to have new experiences and widen one’s horizons.


train ticket Ostrava to Prerov

Original train ticket April 1991