Having just traipsed the jungle tracks and villages of Sierra Leone and Liberia, with a wee touch of Guinea, in the company of Tim Butcher as he followed the trail of Graham Greene, my next journey took me just along the West African coast to what is now Benin. Bruce Chatwin carved a tale from the days of slavery and its abolishment, mingling the mulattos from Dahomey, as it then was, through ancestry derived from the local negroes and the Brazilians from Bahia, as the trade linked the two continents. Chatwin was a genius and every reading emphasises the tragedy of his early death.
Next up I remain on the Dark Continent, bearing in mind all the troubles currently rampaging along the Mediteranean coast and beyond. The Diairies of an Egyptian Princess, by Nevine Abbas Halim, will take me back to previous troubles flowing with the Nile. Halim was born in 1930, and had to leave her home country in 1961. Egyptian history is a mystery to me, and so it should prove to be an interesting read. A mention is due of my friends at Eland who made a limited number of this book available in the UK, following publication in 2009. In these days of the e-reader the role of the independent publisher remains vital, though deeply threatened.
Writing has brought somewhat less in the way of joy. This week I have seen the prizewinners from the competition run by the British Guild of Travel Writers. It is no great surprise to finf my name absent, or not to have received a call to attend the ceremony, but it is a disappointment. My trip to Gdansk had been with this article in mind, and I had real hopes of putting together an article tailored for the Portrait of a City slot in the world’s best travel magazine, Traveller, from the Wexas club.
So it was not to be, though my effort can be found through the Writing pages on this blog, now that I am free from competition rules to publish elsewhere. This outlet will have to do, though it remains private at the time of writing. And so clearly I must do better. The theme for the annual Bradt competiton should be released early this month, and that is usually a real challenge. Having been commended in 2010, after a long-listing in 2008, perhaps I can again improve this time round, if the theme is right for me.
The day dawns damp and dreich and hopes of a comfortable run on the bike are receding. Whilst the wind remains a stranger even a wet cycle is not unattractive, but the clouds seem to be persisting in shedding their load for the moment. We shall see. Time now to catch up on developments amongst our politicians as the election moves into the 50 day countdown. How many ludicrous u-turns will Labour have made this week, deciding now that the various policies which they have continually opposed may now be vital in the race for votes. They become ever more ridiculous, and that should be highlighted in the penultimate FMQs of this parliament. Tune in live at 12.00.