Thursday, 22 July 2010

Equine Therapy: Horse Boy Camps

In May my brother Ashley and I went on an equine therapy camp inspired by Rupert Isaacson's Horse Boy adventures. It was a wonderful experience, and I wrote it up for the Daily Telegraph. Here is a link:


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Flight from the Enchanter

Here is a link to an excellent review of The Liberators by Robert Dunbar on Books for Keeps. He is the only reviewer so far to have noticed the Iris Murdochian sub-currents running through the book. Murdoch was an enormous influence on me - The Flight from the Enchanter I read at the age of fourteen. I stumbled upon it in the 'modern fiction' section of my school library. It wasn't a first edition, but it had that marvellous cover, of the young heroine peeping through a fish tank. In the novel a group of people revolve around the mysterious Mischa Fox, who brings them all close to crisis. In the same way, Julius and Strawbones Luther-Ross exert a charismatic influence on the people around them. Although their power is much more sinister, of course...


Thursday, 15 July 2010

That Naughty Verres, and A Certain Mr Satoshi

I was reading some Cicero the other day, in particular his superlatively nasty speech against the general Verres, on trial for extortion and being the worst possible governor of Sicily ever. He used to swan around in a litter filled with rose petals, and set up an enormous tent to which were brought various ladies of ill (and worse) repute. Here is a description of one of his parties:

'itaque erant exitus eius modi ut alius inter manus e convivio tamquam e proelio auferretur, alius tamquam occisus relinqueretur, plerique ut fusi sine mente ac sine ullo sensu iacerent.'

Which translates (in rather bad English, but you get the drift) as:

'And so, there were exits (to the party) of such a kind that some would be carried out in the arms (of the other guests) as if from a battle; others would be left as if for dead; most would sprawl on the ground without any idea or sense of where they lay.'

Now I don't know about you, but all this sounds like it could be rather fun. It looks like Verres was heartily enjoining the worship of Bacchus. I wonder if Cicero was just jealous because he never got invited and was too busy writing epic poems about himself?

I attended a party (which didn't end like that) for the launch of Jonathan Lee's Who is Mr Satoshi?, which is his debut novel and looks intriguing. The party was in a pub in Islington; as far as I know nobody was carried out as if from a battle, but it was certainly enormously enjoyable.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Sonic Youth

Here is a link to a piece I've written for children's author Philip Reeve's new web-log, The Solitary Bee:


Sunday, 4 July 2010

Times Summer Reading

More good news: The Liberators has been chosen as one of Amanda Craig's books for the Summer in the Times newspaper. Hurrah and huzzah!

The Times is now under a paywall, which I strongly suggest that one ought to subscribe to, out of principle.


Friday, 2 July 2010

A Celebration - And A Lament

Last night the gardens of the Victoria and Albert museum become a whirling flash of cocktails and gossip. A band rose up out of the lake and played; there were rivers of Pimms and it was all but raining champagne. It was the HarperCollins summer party. I and a friend, Dan Jones, were chatting when we spotted Peter Mandelson talking to Helen Ellis, one of the Harper people. She smiled and motioned us over: in trepidation we approached. Almost immediately my eyelashes froze and fell to the ground. When he shook my hand it snapped from frostbite. 'This is Dan Jones,' said Helen, 'who wrote a book about the Peasant's Revolt.' 'Hello,' said Dan. 'Wasn't there a backbench coup quite recently called the Peasant's Revolt?' Silence pooled out around us. Time froze. 'is Lordship raised an eyebrow, which took half a century. I quaked. 'I don't think so,' he said, rolling his eyes. He took Helen by the arm. 'We're going to go over here now.' The crowd parted. Dan and I stood, battered and bloodied, in his wake. The rest of the party was enormous fun. Thankfully, JLS and NDubz did not dignify the party with their presence.

Some sad news is that Beryl Bainbridge has died, after an illness. She was tiny, bird-like and sprightly. She would come to lunches at Literary Review, where we would keep a bottle of whisky especially for her. 'Oh, if my mother knew...' she would say, before sipping at her glass, delicately. I remember sitting opposite her. She got up as the piano was playing, grabbed the nearest man, and danced. She was full of fire and light.