Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Communication

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Communication is at the heart of what we do. I’m communicating with you right now, and you’ll probably communicate in several ways today without even thinking about it. Whether you’re replying to that email, accepting a LinkedIn invitation from someone that you’re desperately trying to remember, or making a call to organise an appointment, you’re communicating.

It’s ironic that in today’s age of multiple communication platforms, where news is immediate and everyone can share their opinions in an instant, poor communication is still a massive problem. Ask any employee, middle manager or company executive and they’ll likely agree that poor communication is always high up on the list of gripes. It sounds completely obvious, but communication is a two-way street.

If you’re not interested in using that article I pitched to you, just tell me. Communicate with me. I won’t be offended, because I know you get loads of submissions. Just let me know where I am, so I can ask someone else. And if you can’t get round to doing that job on my house, communicate with me – I understand that work can get on top of you. If you’ve decided you’d rather edit your book  yourself, I get it. Money’s tight – just let me know. OK, so you can’t meet up next week, just communicate with me. I won’t be angry (for long, anyway). We can do it another time. Just let me know a little earlier than the night before.

You get the idea. It’s really nothing more than common sense and the same logic can apply to everything from a simple get-together with friends to a make-or-break meeting. So, whether you’re wading through a sea of freelance submissions or really don’t think a job’s worth taking on, communicate. Everyone will be better off for it.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Communication, Editing, Life, Uncategorized, Writing

The Fall (a short story)

Now…
Danny felt like shit, for two reasons. The first was the recurring dream he’d had last night, which had allowed him about 3 hours’ sleep. The second was the prospect of facing his boss, Westward, who was quite simply a textbook sonofabitch. Danny tried to ignore his craving for sleep, thoughts dwelling on his boss a while longer, then surveyed the scene before him. The subway always played host to the same array of commuter stereotypes. There was the kid with the headphones, decked out in designer leisure wear, blissfully unaware of the torment his music was causing the ancient lady sat in the seat next to him. Then there was the overweight middle-aged executive, all flabby jowls, plump hands and acrid cologne.

Looking out of the window, Danny saw an unusual splash of colour, surprised that he’d never noticed it before. As the subway train slowed a little, he found he could read the graffiti artist’s seemingly endless message, daubed on the brickwork along the side of the track: ‘WORK-SUB-TV-SLEEP-SUB-WORK-SUB-TV-SLEEP-SUB-WORK-SUB-TV-SLEEP-SUB….HOW MUCH MORE CAN YOU TAKE???’ Danny realised he was looking at his life. The point hit home, which only made him feel worse.

The train lurched to a standstill, creaking and groaning from the strains of its daily duties. As Danny slowly rose, he imagined that if it could feel, it would feel like he did right now – same stop, same routine, same New York. As he ascended into the gloomy morning, leaving the hustle-bustle of the subway to join the daily rat race, Danny could already see Westward Electronics’ office building looming menacingly overhead. A testament to modern architecture’s persistence to be the biggest, its lofty point seemed to lacerate the clouds, releasing the relentless drizzle of Fall.

As he walked towards the building, Danny noticed a group of people gathered beneath it. They were standing in a rough circle, each making their own contribution to a cacophony of raised voices, shouts and gasps. A police officer who happened to be nearby had noticed the commotion and was trying to cut his way through the throng, who remained unaware of his efforts and were eagerly searching for something that would break the monotony of their morning routine.

As Danny got closer, he could make out some of what was being said:

“Come on folks, let me through!”
“Oh my God!”
Looks like a leaper, man.”
Holy shit, what a mess.”
“Jeeesus”
“Goddamn sidewalk pizza!”
“It definitely looks like a suicide…”

Almost everyone had something to say. Danny cursed himself for being just like the rest of them, an eager witness to death. He muscled in beside a young woman – “Hey, watch it mister!” – and eventually found himself at the front of the group, struggling to keep his place and to avoid stepping in the slowly spreading pool of blood. There was lots of the stuff and the boy’s – was it a boy? – the boy’s clothes looked…Jesus Christ, his face!

Then…
It was the summer of 1981. For two carefree kids of 15, it was a summer that seemed to last forever. Danny had been overjoyed when his parents had allowed him to stay in Denver with Richie’s aunt and uncle. Both families knew each other well and as a result, Danny and Richie Arnold were best friends. The holiday was going great and five days in, Richie’s uncle had suggested a trip out to the Rockies. The boys had been thrilled. The trip was planned for the weekend and the idea was that they’d camp out – “rough it” –as Richie’s uncle had explained to the boys earlier.

Danny was born in Topeka, Kansas, and had never seen so much of his country’s natural wonders in one go. He eagerly drank in his surroundings, enjoying the sights and sounds as he looked around in awe. His parents tried to get out with him whenever they could, but the Rockies were something else. On the Saturday, after a long hike, they’d all sat down to rest, a good distance from a ravine which gave way to a stunning view. Danny had gazed intently at the opposite rock face, the distant horizon, and the mountains. He could even see a section of the Arkansas river, glistening in the distance.

It had all happened so fast. When Richie’s uncle’s back was turned, Danny had suggested they go to the edge of the ravine, to look straight down. The drop was huge. Richie, who had always been the more careless of the two boys, started fooling around, balancing on one foot close to the edge. Danny shouted a warning to his friend to be careful, to which he replied:

“What’s the matter Danny, chicken or somethin’?”

Richie didn’t listen of course. How was he to know that what he thought was firm earth beneath him was loose rocks? Danny could see his friend’s expression for an instant – a strange mixture of terror and confusion – then he was gone. He rushed to the edge, shouting Richie’s name, and just had time to see a flash of his friend’s red and black shirt, then nothing.

Danny returned home in sorrow. He didn’t stop crying for a week and every night he would dream. Only it wasn’t a dream. He was awake in his room. His model spaceship hung from the ceiling, his wardrobe was a tall, dark shadow, while his desk lurked squat in the corner. Then, Richie would appear. His red and black shirt was stained with gore, his left arm a shattered ruin, bone jutting from a rent in his sleeve. His face was the worst of all. His left eye was completely missing, an ugly bare socket gazing out vacantly, endlessly, while his skull was crushed madly inward on one side, like a collapsed eggshell. Richie would always hold his hand out in the same beckoning way and Danny would scream as loudly as he had ever screamed in his life. Yet, above the sound of his own terrified voice, he would hear Richie’s, through shattered teeth and burst lips:

“What’s the matter Danny, chicken or somethin’?”

It would always end there and Danny would wake up, still screaming, as his mother rushed in to comfort him. Mom wasn’t there last night though. Last night, Danny had experienced his childhood recurring dream for the first time in 15 years.

Now…
He suddenly felt faint. The people seemed to be looming over him and all he could do was stare at the shattered 15-year-old face of Richie Arnold. As he began to sway, an office worker grabbed Danny’s arm to support him, saying:

“What a waste…I dunno, he just fell out of the sky.”

Then, someone else, the headphones kid from the subway train, added:

“Fell out of the 80s too…just look at those threads.”

Now, Danny felt sick and light-headed, the nausea rising from the pit of his stomach as unconsciousness beckoned. Before he passed out though, he swore he could hear Richie’s voice:

“What’s the matter Danny, chicken or somethin’?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors, Books, horror, Science Fiction, Uncategorized

Remember your memories

black and white photos of toddlers

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

This week’s poignant D-Day commemorations reminded me of how fortunate we are to still have first-hand accounts to relate to.

This isn’t just important for hugely significant moments in history, but in our own lives as well. It’s often said that we should cherish our precious memories, but what does that actually mean? Are they merely a mental treasure-trove that gradually fades over time, sitting around for us to dip into when things get tough?

Well, they can be, but there’s no reason for them to stay that way, because we can write them down. Whether that’s an account of a fantastic family day, or something crazy that just happened, make a note of it. That’s because, before too long, life gets in the way. If you’ve read my blog on procrastination, you’ll know what I mean.

And why stop there? If you’re one of those people who can still remember things that happened when you were four or five, write them down:

“I remember being frightened as my mum let go of my hand. I was led to a table next to another boy and when I sat down, I looked up just in time to see her wave as she left. Our first task was to copy a sentence, or something like that. It was word-related anyway. I think that was the first time I realised how much words can capture your imagination, because for a minute, I forgot I was in a room full of strangers without my mother.”

That’s pretty much all I can remember from my first day at school and it’s the first time I’ve written it down.

It’s important to make a note of the sad times too. Why? You may ask. I’d sooner forget all that stuff! That’s true, but it was the act of writing things down that helped me to grieve.

So, get typing and bring those memories to life. Start with today.

Leave a comment

Filed under D-Day, Family, history, Life, mental health, Uncategorized, Writing

Run out of ideas? Go for a run!

Free-Download-Running-Wallpaper

Healthy body, healthy mind may be a cliché but there’s certainly a lot of truth in it.

The older I get, the more I realise how important it is to stay in shape.  I’ve recently completed my second 10K, and this time round, I was a little more prepared. This wasn’t just down to a more regular training schedule, but finding the right headspace too.

Whether you’ve got a specific problem that you need to chew over, want to prioritise your daily to-do list, or just need a little me-time for some good-old contemplation, running is great for tackling stress and clearing the mind.

In fact, if you’re struggling to get motivated, there’s another way to look at it. Think of running as something you can be doing while thinking things over. Not only are you guaranteed to be free from the distractions of screens and devices, but you’ll be improving your fitness too. Keep at it, and you’ll start to feel healthier. Feel healthier and you’ll start to feel more positive. Feel more positive, and your mental health will improve. It’s a simple symbiotic relationship that works.

So, whether you don’t know where to take your book’s plot or are struggling to even get started, go for a run. It’ll help, I promise.

Leave a comment

Filed under fitness, mental health, running, Uncategorized, Writing

On Procrastination

Ah, procrastination. We’re all guilty of it to different degrees.

For me, it’s actually knuckling down to some serious story writing. My procrastinating has spanned several years and though I’ve written loads of things in that time, it was all ‘work’. Way back when, I’d originally come up with the germ of a good idea, sketched out a plot and made a start. But where would it go? Would it be long enough? What would I do with it? Would anyone want to read it? All these questions, as well as good old life getting in the way, prevented me from getting any further. However, with a little more time on my hands of late, I decided to get stuck in.

As an editor, I’ve been my own worst enemy in some ways. It’s been tough to let the words flow without constantly editing them! I’ve been continuing to fight against this though and a flurry of activity (well, for me) over the last few weeks has brought me to a place where I know how my story ends. I’m filling in some detail and developing some areas of the plot, but after that, well, at least I’ll have a tale to tell.

That’s the thing. There’s tons of ways you’ll try and tell yourself it’s not the right time to start your book. You don’t know how it ends. You don’t have all your characters. Your  grammar is a little shaky. The list goes on, but none of it matters. Just write. After all, nobody ever published their first draft.

And, when you’ve got your story to a stage where you think it’s worth reading, you can always send it to me to edit. After all, I feel your pain!

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing, Uncategorized, Writing

The inevitable travel blog

Why a travel blog on here?

One of the most popular holiday pastimes is reading. It’s a time when we can really lose ourselves in a book. More than just the 20-minute read before bed to help us fight-off the deadly blue screen threat, or satisfy ourselves that we’ve at least read something today.

Of course, if you like to get a little more out of your holiday than beach-basking and pool lounging, you’ll be wanting to explore some of a city’s most popular places. I ideally like to do a bit of both, so with no other reason than to write something and share my experiences, here we go.

In Bruges

Clearly, Colin Farrell had it wrong. Whether or not you’ve seen the quirky yet brilliant film which recently came up in a conversation with friends, you’ll certain find plenty to do if you ever find yourself In Bruges. So with Easter just around the corner and our thoughts turning to tasty treats, I thought I’d take you on a little tour around Belgium’s daddy of confection.

bruge travel copy

Chocolate…all of the chocolate
108_0740If there’s one thing Belgium is more famous for than anything else, it’s chocolate and a visit to Bruges gives you one of the best chances to stock up and get your fill. More than just your usual sweet-toothed tourist trap, this is the centre of the area’s industry and a stroll down the old town’s cobbled streets presents one outlet after another. From high-end confectioners to quaint traditional shops, there’s something to suit every taste and budget, from classy to tacky. Serious cocoa scholars should pay a visit to the town’s chocolate museum where you can find out more about the processes involved, the history of chocolate making and much more besides. As is always the way with these things, you exit through the gift shop but you may find yourself lingering longer than normal, with plenty of tasty treats on offer.

108_0673Take a trip up the Belfry of Bruges
It’s not difficult to see why this fantastic structure is the town’s most famous landmark, towering over the old town square since 1240 when it was first built. It’s had a bit of a tough time since then, catching fire after a lightning strike in 1493 and again in 1741. After subsequent tweaks and re-builds, it was decided, quite wisely, that a wooden spire was perhaps not the best choice and the gothic-stone rooftop was added in 1822. You need to buy a ticket to tour the tower, but it’s AT reasonable cost and the view from the top is worth the entry price alone. Before you get up there though, you can explore it in depth, learn more about its history and have a laugh spotting the odd bit of In Bruges-inspired graffiti on the steep spiral climb to the top. Make sure you time your visit to be up there one the hour when the bells sound – it’s quite an experience!

View from the canal
A great way to take in some of this charming place’s fantastic buildings, including two architecturally impressive churches, is by taking a canal boat ride. It’s the usual set-up you’ll no doubt be familiar with if you’ve taken a boat trip anywhere – departures at certain times and a route designed to showcase the best of Bruges. Needless to say, the camera is once again a must – just make sure you keep tight hold of it – the canals are pretty deep!

108_0719

Market Day
If you’re one of life’s browsers, barterers or hagglers, then you’ll love exploring the myriad market stalls. There’s something instantly more pleasing and authentic about buying fresh local produce from a local stall and here you’ll be able to find everything from fruit and vegetables to fresh bread and all manner of cheeses – and of course, more chocolate.

Toronto

As a person with Canadian family connections and a massive Rush fan to boot, my visit to this fantastic country was always going to be a bit of pilgrimage of sorts. Unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of time in perhaps its best-known city and it was every bit as rewarding as I hoped it would be.

Toronto, travel, tourism

It’s like a friendly New York…
This is how an Englishman in Toronto who I met described the city to me. I’ve been to both and though I did indeed love the Big Apple, I have to agree! You may or may not have heard that Canadian’s are friendly and will do anything to help and it’s certainly true! I thought I was doing a great job of not looking like a tourist or looking lost generally, but nevertheless, there was always someone offering help – but never in a pushy way.

Toronto, CN Tower, travel,

A tower you really can’t miss
Yes, in every sense of the word, the world-famous CN Tower is unmissable. Get there early if you want to avoid the queues because they start outside and continue inside. It’s worth it though! To ease your passage, there’s information films displayed inventively along the way, before you finally arrive at your designated lift. Sorry, elevator. The attendant is on hand to share a few tower-related factoids with you as you ascend and it’s quite an experience to see the ground falling away as you rise. You can spend as much time as you want at the top and needless to say, the view is incredible. It’ll cost you a little more to go one stage higher and even more if you want to indulge in a hair-raising exterior tower walk, but the main viewing area is more than enough if this is your first visit. (Don’t miss the glass floor – if you can see it for the crowds getting their pictures taken!)

A Streetcar named Day Pass
The street cars are Toronto landmarks in their own right and a great way to get about. You simply hop on and off and they’re a good way to soak up a little scenery as you travel. The Toronto underground is almost as famous and is a speedier way to travel. It’s like another city down there and it’s possible to walk a mile without ever resurfacing, exploring different districts and shopping malls as you go. A TTC day pass is a cheap and effective way to travel around the city. It’s valid on streetcars, buses and the underground and gives you unlimited journeys. There are a number of squares and public places in the city where there’s always something going on, from food festivals to live music performances and a pass is a great way to help you see a little of everything.

A day at the beach
Really? In Toronto? Well, I was surprised too. Fact is, beach life is very much alive and well in the, yes you’ve guessed it, Beach Area, with a boardwalk which runs along a large section of the colossal Lake Ontario. Multiple dog-walkers, surfers, bathers, kids on summer camp and ice cream shops – it’s all here, along with some great coastal views. Venture inland and there’s plenty of cafes and clothes shops to discover, so you can shop at your leisure and take a load off with a coffee.

20160809_123016

A day at the Market
I’d heard about Kensington Market and perhaps because of the London-centric name connection, was expecting a Camden market vibe. Merging with the city’s China Town, Kensington offers a little of that but it’s very much its own neighbourhood, where bicycles are lined up row on row and three story houses have become shops selling all manner of wares, from vintage army surplus to beach bum chic and of course, health-conscious eating. Buy an iced tea, sit back and drink it all in. And don’t miss the wall murals!

 

Dubrovnik

Winter may be coming for the last time as Game of Thrones gears up for its final season, but you’ll pleased to know you can visit Westeros anytime, with a trip to none other than King’s Landing. OK, that would in fact be Dubrovnik, but read on to find out more about why this is such a cool place to explore, whether you’re a ‘Thrones fan or not!

Known whimsically as the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is a hugely popular destination on the Croatian coast – an area which has as much history to its name as it has bountiful beaches. More and more people are choosing a Croatian beach break for their summer escape, as it’s still a relatively cheap country when it comes to holiday spends. Sun worshipper or sightseer, if you’re spending time in the Croatian coast, you really should take a trip to Dubrovnik during your stay.

dubrov2

 

Fit for a king
The first thing you need to know when visiting Dubrovnik is that you need to head for the old town. Dubrovnik’s more than the atmospheric stone-walled city brought to our screens as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones but to be honest, this is the bit everyone wants to see and with good reason. Just follow the crowds through the archway and already, you start to feel the history of the place and despite the relentless hustle-bustle of tourists, you won’t fail to get caught up in the atmosphere. You may not even have to get as far as the tourist information office before a themed GOT tour leaflet is thrust into your palm by a suitably-garbed guide. You don’t have to pay for a tour though, and Dubrovnik’s old town is so small and compact that you won’t have any problem finding your way around.

Take a walk on the wall side
One thing you simply must do during you visit is take a trip along the city walls. Aside from offering you the best view of Dubrovnik’s streets and its splendid architecture, you’ll also enjoy a crow’s-eye view of the beautiful Adriatic coast and there’s also a good chance you’ll spot a millionaire’s yacht or two. It costs to scale the walls but it’s certainly worth the money, as you cross ramparts, explore turrets and treat yourself to a much-needed drink in a conveniently-placed café bar. One thing Dubrovnik is known for is its distinct red-roofed buildings, many of which have been faithfully restored following the damage they suffered during the Serb-Croat War. You can do the full circuit or leave the walls at one of a number of convenient points but whatever you decide to do, don’t forget the camera, and with your phone fully charged.

Dubrov1

Sampling the wares
There’s no walk of shame when it comes to exploring Dubrovnik’s busy streets. Everyone’s at it and it’s best just to embrace the heavy tourist nature of the place, whether that’s by picking up an authentic souvenir or seeking out some of the summer fashions. One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of shops and every street and alleyway reveals something different, whether that’s a historical book store, an art gallery or a tucked-away bar where the only seats are in the alley outside (but where the Wi-Fi’s still free!)

Scale the heights
If you’re the kind of tourist who feels that they haven’t really visited a place until they’ve climbed the highest point, then don’t miss the chance to take a cable car ride up Srdj. There’s more than one mountain in King’s Landing and aside from offering you a walk-free way to scale this lofty leviathan which towers over Dubrovnik, the cable car is an amazing experience in itself and there are some truly incredible views over city and sea to enjoy. There’s a choice of restaurants at the top too, so if you time your visit right, you can accompany the stunning views with a spot of lunch.

 

Venice

 

The City on the Water is a natural place to start this blog, being such a timeless influence on a host of authors, poets and playwrights. It’s also one of those places that everyone’s heard of, conjuring up images of gondolas and their associated gondoliers gliding romantically along the canals. Lots of places get called ‘the Venice of somewhere or other’ but there’s only one Venice and though it’s undeniably a huge tourist hub, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it for yourself. Here’s just a few of the must-sees and a few tips on how to do Venice a little cheaper, too.

Editor copywriter travel Venice

Just one gondola…
While a gondola ride is a tourist must, it can be a costly affair, but there are some ways to avoid paying over the odds. Which brings me on to the inevitable gondola ride. If you’re arriving off a cruise ship, negotiate the parade of street sellers plying all manner of bags, hats, trinkets and plastic junk for the kids and it won’t be long before you happen upon a gondolier or 20. In truth, these guys on the expansive Main Canal offer rides at a premium price and yes, though they often guarantee ‘that’ stripy top and some seriously ornate gondolas, it’s always better to venture a little off the beaten …er canal, and pick one of the smaller ones deeper into the city. You won’t have to search for long until you see one and it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll work out cheaper.

A big attraction
St Mark’s Square, once famously called ‘the drawing room of Europe’ by Napoleon, is of course a must. He was right. It’s pretty big. This ornate gathering spot is the cultural hub of the city, and it’s from here that you can visit St Marks Basilica, the Doges Palace and the Tower of St Mark, among other things. Here’s another tip though. NEVER eat or drink here. Sure, you’ll enjoy an amazing atmosphere and the food will be good but you’ll pay way over the odds for a premium spot, and extra also for the music, the service…pretty much the only thing you won’t pay more for is the air. Still, it’s enough to walk about and soak up the atmosphere of this incredible place.

st mark's square venice

Patience of a Saint
The Basilica is, as you would imagine, brimming with ornate artworks and architecture and whether you’re an aficionado of the arts or not, you won’t fail to be impressed by what’s on show. Everything from the huge horses which used to adorn the building’s facia to all manner of goblets, garbs and reliquaries. A tip though, if you are planning on visiting, get there early or purchase a fast-track pass. In the space of minutes the square will fill up with tourists, many of them forming a queue to this building.

Game of Doges
If the basilica is Venice’s religious heart, the Doges Palace is its political mind. The Doges were kind of a big deal back in the day and throughout history, Doge after Doge resided in this incredible building and ruled over the city. The Sistine Chapel isn’t the only artist in town when it comes to ceiling frescos, as the Doges is brimming with them, each room more impressive than the last. You’ll see portraits of each Doge, numerous artworks and some seriously impressive suits of armour and enough pikes and halberds to fill King’s Landing several times over. It’s also from here that you can cross the famous Bridge of Sighs, so-called because it led to the palace’s prison, and those crossing it to their cell would catch their last glimpse of the city through its small square windows as they were incarcerated within.

Glass act
Venice is famously made up of 118 islands and if you’re in the city for a few days, be sure to take a water taxi out to Murano. This is the home of the famous glass of the same name and the place to go if you want to take home a transparent trinket or two. Practically every other shop sells glass here and you can even take a visit to the glassmaking factory. It’s a thoroughly pleasant place to just chill out with a delicious Italian ice cream and take a stroll though, with some eye-catching glassworks to spot in the streets, too.

Food for thought
Then there’s the food. Italian cuisine has a knack of being cheap on price and rich on the palate, with a huge choice of dishes on offer and an even wider choice of eateries. Again, stay away from the square if you want to keep hold of some of your holiday Euros and take a trip down an alley or three and you’ll soon stumble across a restaurant. Trip Advisor and Google maps are a winning combination when it comes to finding a good place to take a load off.

 

Rome

Well, since we’re already in Italy, let’s head south a little, to the country’s legendary capital. Always bustling and full of things to see any time of the year, it’s one of the world’s most famous cities and even if you’ve been before, there’s always something new to discover. If you haven’t, tourist tickets including access to a combination of attractions are a great way to see some of the most popular landmarks.

20150821_150520

Ridley Scott for real
One of the world’s most iconic structures, the mighty Colosseum is of course a must-see and no matter how many pictures you’ve seen, documentaries you’ve watched or sword and sandal epics you’ve enjoyed, nothing can prepare you for it. The Romans of course built numerous structures like this throughout the course of their imperial expansion but firmly on home turf, this one was, and still is, the daddy. It’s a humbling thing to step inside and take in the scale of the place, and if you close your eyes you can almost hear the clash of gladiators’ steel. There are various levels to explore and all around, statues and treasures unearthed in the continuous excavation work are proudly on display. Paying a little extra for a special tour gets you access to the lower levels, where you can learn more about the ahead-of-their time mechanics of the Colosseum. Whatever you choose, book online first to jump the always epic queues.

Visit another country (kinda)
The other enormous tourist draw is of course the sprawling city within a city, the Vatican. It’s a hugely popular pilgrimage for people of all faiths and none and is in fact its own state, with its own post office and stamps. It’s almost like visiting another country, complete with airport-like security to get you inside. There’s so much to see that you’ll struggle to do everything in a day but not surprisingly, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are the most popular areas. It’s important to plan ahead, because there are different queues and tickets to get you in the Basilica, the chapel and the rest of the complex, so plan in advance. The Vatican Museums are of course more than a few shelves of dusty chalices and the wealth of art on display is truly breathtaking. There are gardens to stroll through, cafés to sit in and of course, gifts shops to peruse, so plan your day well and again, book in advance – the queues are colossal.

108_1905

The Forum rules
If you really want to get a feel for the layout of how the city was back in the day, be sure to stroll through the Forum. You’ll need to buy a ticket and there are numerous entrances but once inside, you’re free to roam around. This incredible place was once the beating heart of the Eternal City and even today as you walk along the avenues past columns and colonnades, you can imagine dignitaries strolling in the sun and discussing the weighty issues of the day. There’s archways, artworks and a host of individual buildings to explore, each with their own unique features, including the famous Roman Baths. Exploring the Forum is also a great way to get across the city and if you plan your route carefully, you’ll be able to see a lot more in a day.

A tomb with a view
This is one you may not have explored even if you’ve visited the city before but you should certainly make time for it, even if you’re there for the first time. The Mausoleum of Hadrian, locally known as Castel Sant’Angelo, is pretty impressive when it comes to burial chambers. It’s hard to imagine that this was its only purpose but as you explore, you’ll discover about how it wasn’t too long before the defensive properties of this lofty cylindrical structure soon became clear to the Romans. There are some fantastic views of the city to enjoy as you walk around, not just from the rooftop but also through the stone arch windows on the floor below, where a thoughtfully placed café gives you the opportunity to take in a tipple as well as the scenery.

Do drink the water!
I’ve touched on just a few of the many things you can see in Rome, but though it can get really hot in the summer, don’t worry about getting dehydrated or paying over the odds to stop yourself being so. The numerous water fountains (Not the Trevi, that’s strictly out of bounds for helping yourself but of course, well worth seeing!) contain cool, fresh drinking water and are clearly marked as such. Take an empty bottle and fill it up as you go. This way, you’ll avoid the costly tourist trap of the omnipresent water-seller and have enough money to buy your Colosseum key ring and Vatican fridge magnet!

 

Leave a comment

January 24, 2019 · 1:07 pm

What Harper meant to me

harper-lee-tease-today-160219Like many people all over the world, I was saddened to hear the news of Harper Lee’s death recently.

Every time I hear her name I’m transported back to the classroom, which was the place where I was introduced to this remarkable story of courage, prejudice and human nature. Of course, the race message will always be the novel’s strongest voice but we should not forget that it speaks with many. The sense of mystery when I first heard the children talk of Boo Radley was one that I identified with only too well. I think many of us will have memories of ‘that wierd bloke who skulked around the town’ when we were kids, or the neighbourhood recluse next door but three.

I already knew that prejudice was bad when I read the book, but it brought home to me the hypocrisy of people who, on the surface, appear honest and upstanding yet project their paranoia and insecurities so they manifest themselves in disrupting and harmful ways. To Kill a Mockingbird was of course a lesson within an English lesson. One of human nature and the inexorable presence that it is. Above all though, it was and will always be a damned good story, which in the end is the most important thing.

So, thanks Harper Lee for opening all our eyes. Rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on What Harper meant to me

Filed under Authors, Uncategorized