WP 10th Anniversary

Whilst laboriously checking through all the WordPress notifications that had accumulated in my absence, I came across one informing me that I have now clocked up a decade on this platform, most of which is due to this blog, est. 2011.  Although it shouldn’t have, that milestone still came as a bit of a shock.

Plenty of things have changed in the preceding decade.  My writing and my taste in books in a personal level, but also the blogger generation that I first started with, sadly few are still writing after all these years.  I often wonder what the ones who left are up to, in my more melancholy moments.

My life has changed immensely thanks to this humble platform.  Travels abroad, new friends met from all over the world – some face to face – introductions to many new books and different ways of experiencing life, forays into the book publishing scene,  and those rectangular packages that sometimes arrive in the post.  And of course, most recently meeting my wife Crissy and subsequent move abroad. Continue reading “WP 10th Anniversary”

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Time for a Change

Take That once sing that ‘everything changes but you’.  Aside from the inaccuracy of that statement, I am choosing to agree with the inevitability of it, (as if it’s a choice) and making a few alterations accordingly.

Photo taken by Crissy when we accidentally got invited for a tour of a new resort that had opened locally.   Happy accidents are a regular occurrence, of late.

After years with the old ‘Choco’ blog theme, it’s finally time to retire it and opt for something new.  I kept the old theme purely because I like the snow effect that comes along near Christmas and white doesn’t show it up.

Having spent a lot of time making an effort to fiddle with the various templates and settings, it becomes apparent that a lot of the free templates are basically just the same thing.  Still the illusion of a big selection isn’t to bothersome, when finally coming across one that can be tailored sufficiently to my needs. And is free, of course.

This, then is the result. Continue reading “Time for a Change”

Music to Write By #7 I Believe in a Thing Called Love/Love is Only a Feeling

Recently I have started a new job as a manuscript editor so this month has been busy especially as my ARC pile is significant, with reviews coming soon.  I’ve also been concerned with reading other books for fun, as well as being inducted as a member to the Kiwanis International charity. There has been less writing and more reading this month, making the title for this post a little inaccurate but I am a maverick like that.

My usual reading soundtrack is ambient music from the game Skyrim (usually the rainy nights video) but I did have to take a few minutes out  when the next random,surprising given my last choice, YouTube video came on. Heading back in time, as I so often do, with ridiculous, rock band – although still not on a level with Steel Panther – The Darkness.  After their hit, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, came Love is Only a Feeling, underlining the band’s frivolity, if ever it were in doubt (there was also an album track called Love on the Rocks With No Ice, as well).

Memories of Monday’s in Wetherspoons aside, the video is over the top rock, with an ostentatious setting and replete with circling helicopter shots, that are usually only found in a martial arts films where people inexplicably scale such mountains to punch air.

I couldn’t resist looking at the ludicrously fun video for I Believe in a Thing Called Love as well, which pays homage to Queen, general campness, old Sci-Fi and giant Crabs which are always a favourite of this blog.

To those who wish to point out mistakes in the blog and ask why an editor missed them, I will claim all such mistakes are ironic, or that I only edit when I am getting paid, so there.

Catching Up on Things

Every morning I feel extremely privileged to wake up in The Philippines.  Now in my tenth month of living here, it really is ‘more fun in The Philippines’, as the saying goes.  Despite its status as a third world country, there is so much more to this archipelago than that label. Here people deal with life in such a positive way, day-to-day living here can be hard, the early morning commutes to an ever busier Manila for example, the fight to get on the transport, the endless queueing, and everyone (except me and – thankfully – the driver) grabbing a nap whilst they can.  Yet despite all that people are happier here, perhaps the sunlight is a factor but whatever the reason, despite the challenges people endure, they love life and will make any excuse for a gathering, with more food than its physically possible to eat.

Standing at the door armed with a cup of coffee, usually around 6am (when the temperature has yet to hit thirty degrees but is almost there), I love to look at the palm trees and hear people catching up, sweeping their house fronts, and doing regular people-in-the-morning things.  As I settle down to my own work, the sun usually shines relentlessly, the ebb and flow of passersby changes with the waxing and waning of that fiery ball in the sky, and I get lost in words, and ideas for the future.  Today I realised that, apart from neglecting the blog  -due to other important things that needed doing – I haven’t really mentioned a lot about where we have gone in recent months, so in no particular order and without further ado:

Whilst Summer was still with us we took a trip to Laguna for a day at the hot springs – situated halfway up a mountain – and the most important thing to do was to find a good vantage point and take a photo of the great view spread out below us. That done we rushed down the hill to have a go on the slides!  The so-called express way we took to get there has frequent toll gates which was a new and surprising detail, this of course meant more queueing (an unsurprising detail) but it was worth it for this view alone.

In an effort to fly off the end of the orange slide as far as possible, I threw myself down with reckless abandon and as a burnt my back but to balance that out, I did get a cheer from the people at the bottom of the green slide when I exploded off that one, my nose felt like it had been smashed with a concrete slab, it was brilliant!  There was even some really good reception to Skype with my parents later on, as we munched on our squid dinner.

I was lucky enough to be invited once again to Join the Kiwanis crew for more work in the community. If you missed my first adventures with this wonderful charity, you can read about it here, I’ve lost a lot of weight since then.  This time it was a colouring competition and the kids were really talented, I’ll bring you more about the charity soon.

One of my favourite places to go is Tagaytay, The view from up on high at Sky Ranch, with a glimpse of Taal Lake and the many trees, is always a welcome thing to see.  The breeze was lovely and gazing out with the other impressed visitors really brings home the beauty of this country and also the worrying spread of building which threatens places like this.

Further around the lake at Charito’s, there is another beautiful scenic view, with fishing boats, small villages and on the right of the island is Taal Volcano, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes and was active as recently as 2011.  Food and drink is always abundant and full of seasoning, as well as the obligatory rice, but it tastes even better with this sort of scenic vista for company.  When we were in Bali, I really missed the food of the Philippines, and I am eager for you all to hunt out a Filipino restaurant and go sample some of the delights.
Continue reading “Catching Up on Things”

Music to Write By #6 – This is England

How YouTube comes up with its recommendations based on what you are listening to, I cannot fathom but this week after plenty of upbeat music, I was suddenly plunged back in time to 1980’s England with this wonderfully moving piece from Ludovico Einaudi.  Then surfaced memories of first watching this film – with all its impact – and the accompanying series, including a second three series binge watch with Tom over a weekend.

I was once in a queue, three people back from the lady on the right of the gang, loaded with alcohol and one packet of plain rice, I am glad she didn’t turn round and wonder at what my night was going to be like.  Anyway, if anybody is wanting to watch some powerful drama with great characters, this is truly a film (and series) to make you laugh and hit with you some challenging story lines.

On the writing front, this week has involved doing a lot of varying things including thinking of actually trying to focus on one thing at a time, which is hard to do with a lot of books that need reviewing and more being sent every day it seems.  I, of course remain grateful but what with all the other future plans, I need to start clearing the backlog whilst pursuing my own goals.  To that end I am currently fighting the urge to binge watch The is England again…

Perhaps I will just play this music and pity myself for so much good fortune.

Music to Write By #5 – Consideration

It’s been a while since the last post and in between various things – including a fever and cough that took ages to shake – there has been little in the way of movement with my reading and writing.  This musical choice popped into my head a few hours ago, having thought about the process to which I arrived at this forgotten 1997 piece of tuneage, I think it was something to do with the woman on the news singing an Aretha Franklin song very badly.  The thought of high-pitched voices brought this straight to mind, thanks to the end of this song.  It was a welcome blast from the past, as Reef were always an underrated band, anyway normal writing service will be resumed shortly.

The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver

Mexico, 1935.  Harrison Shepherd is working in the household of famed muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo.  Sometimes cook, sometimes secretary, Shepherd is always an observer, recording his experiences in diaries and notebooks.  When exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky arrives, Shepherd inadvertently casts in his lot with art and revolution and his aim for an invisible life is thwarted forever.

This has been on my to read pile ever since I read Cuban writer, Leonardo Padura’s excellent novel, The Man Who Loved Dogs. The title, The Lacuna alludes to much in the text, the gaps in the reader’s knowledge of Shepherd’s life, his feelings of not fitting in, and of the other characters stories and in part their motivations.

Like a game of football, this is a book of two halves. The latter part I found to be a lot more engaging, partly because it allows the narrator more room to speak, and also as it helps fill in another gap in history that I hadn’t really much knowledge about.  Perhaps that is excusable as most of European literature and history is focusing on the rebuilding of the continent after WWII and our own part in the Cold War.

The past is all we know of the future

To begin with I wasn’t overly blown away by the writing, more annoying was that certain themes were alluded to and then outright brought to my attention through the narrator. It would have been much more subtle, if left hanging in the background, for the reader to discover, even if on a second or third read through.

I didn’t get much of a sense of Diego Rivera as a character either, he is fairly peripheral, his wife Frida is more interesting and remains pleasingly enigmatic, although she is seen as faultless, precisely because of her faults. Trotsky is mainly seen as a hero/saint type of figure, lacking some of the complexity that could have made him more interesting, as in Padura’s book.  Shepherd himself is detached in this first part, as he struggles to discover his place, and true self. Continue reading “The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver”