Sunday, March 30, 2014

Music & Lyrics (But Without Hugh Grant)

No, not that Music & Lyrics ...
Music plays a huge part in my writing, even if it never appears on the page. I’m not just talking about having the characters sitting around listening to blues, or jazz—or country and western, come to that. My characters very rarely get the opportunity to relax enough to do so. I’m talking about the actual business of writing.

For me, nothing creates mood or atmosphere faster than music and I exploit this phenomenon to its fullest extent whenever I sit down to write. I used to have a huge collection of CDs—everything from Gregorian chants to Zydeco, via Philip Glass, Linkin Park and Goldfrapp. Since moving, however, finding room for all those CDs was going to be a problem, so I uploaded them all onto an external hard drive and some onto my smartphone. It’s been an operation of partial success, but I’m working on it.

The prospect of being able to take most of my music with me when I’m travelling is a very tempting one. To me, it’s like poetry that plugs straight into your nervous system, with added visceral effect. The hairs are up on the back of your neck, the lump is in your throat, before the poet opens their mouth and delivers that first line.

In my youth I played guitar—classical mainly, and none too well. But I was always trying to write songs. Now, these were usually the kind of angst-filled dirges, the equivalent of teenage poetry, and I cringe to think of them now. But I find the music that lingers, the artists I keep coming back to, are the ones where the lyrics are as evocative as the melody. Examples? Here are just a few, and I apologise if I’ve only listed the singer, rather than the lyricist.

“I am breathless from the mercy of a smile” Jann Arden, ‘Saved’

“Oh, I really should have known ... by the vagueness in your eyes ... by the chill in your embrace” Jann Arden, ‘Insensitive’ words by Anne Loree

“Do you keep the receipts / for the friends that you buy?” Oasis, ‘Where Did It All Go Wrong?’
“If you were to kill me now ... I would burn myself / into your memory ... I would live inside you / I’d make you wear me / like a scar” Suzanne Vega, ‘In The Eye’

“Just three miles from the rest stop / And she slams on the brakes ... She said, ‘While you were sleeping / I was listening to the radio / And wondering what you’re dreaming when / it came to mind that I didn’t care’” Matchbox Twenty, ‘Rest Stop’, words by Rob Thomas

“The night is my companion / solitude my guide / would I spend forever here and not be satisfied” Sarah McLachlan, ‘Obsession’

“You know if I leave you now / it doesn’t mean I love you any less” Sarah McLachlan, ‘Wait’

In fact, just about any song by Sarah McLachlan has the most fabulous lyrics.

“I’ve felt the fire and I’ve been burned / but I wouldn’t trade the pain for what I’ve learned” Pink, ‘Crystal Ball’
“Step out the front door like a ghost / into the fog where no one notices / the contrast of white on white” Counting Crows, ‘Round Here’, words by Adam Duritz

“In the middle of the night, there’s an old man threading his toes through a bucket of rain” Counting Crows, ‘Omaha’, words by Adam Duritz

“A struck match faded like a nervous laugh / beyond the halo of a naked bulb ... eventually your world will shrink within four walls / of neglected debts and stolen stereos” Del Amitri, ‘Move Away Jimmy Blue’

“I turned on a TV station and / lip-read with the sound turned down / it was pro-celeb mouth-to-mouth resuscitation / with Esther Rantzen / playing the one who’s drowned” Del Amitri, ‘You’re Gone’

Country singers are a whole different ball game when it comes to clever lyrics, and Brad Paisley is among the best, IMHO, showing quiet wit and a sharp insight:

“I work down at The Pizza Pit / And I drive an old Hyundai / I still live with my mom and dad / I’m five foot three and overweight / I’m a sci-fi fanatic mild asthmatic / never been to second base / but there’s a whole ‘nother me / that you need to see / go check out MySpace” Brad Paisley, ‘Online’

“She put that bottle to her head / and pulled the trigger” Brad Paisley, ‘Whiskey Lullaby’

I’m sure everyone has their own examples of lyrics that get inside their head and won’t let go. I happened to catch a snippet of a Take That reunion concert on the TV in a hotel over the weekend, and even their popcorn fare contained the words, “In the twist of separation / you excelled in being free” and I thought, what a great line! That’s a lesson to me never to dismiss anything, isn’t it?

The Brad Paisley lyrics are a great example, though, of telling a story in a very sparse number of words. You know everything about the guy in ‘Online’ from those few lines. Pages of description seem very unnecessary in the face of that honed little character sketch.

So, what are your favourites? Do you listen to music while you write, or do you have to have silence? Do you have your characters listen? Does it work for you when writers mention what their characters are listening to?

After all, someone’s choice of music can be made to say a lot about them, both good and bad.  I remember seeing a drama about SS General Reinhard Heydrich, who was one of the masterminds of Hitler’s Final Solution, showed the man calmly discussing the practicalities of genocide, but becoming strangely sentimental about the Adagio of Schubert’s Quintet in C major.

Sometimes it seems to be those little touches of humanity, as evinced by their taste in music, that can really give a character depth and texture. Villains don’t have to lack culture in order to be truly nasty pieces of work, and it can be that refined edge, that appreciation of the arts perhaps, that brings the depravity of their actions into sharper focus. It makes them jump off the page, all the more shocking, and turns them from men into murderers.

This week’s Word of the Week is anomie, which is a useful word to know if you’re stuck with a load of vowels in a game of Scrabble. It means social instability or resulting from a breakdown of standards and values; personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals; general lawlessness.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A New Test of Courage

This has been quite a week. It started off with a terrific time at Left Coast Crime and is ending up with the joy of visiting my (almost) seven- and five-year-old Texan grandchildren.  Yes, I did not win the 2014 Calamari Award for Best Mystery in a Foreign Setting but, as I told the winner, the gracious and delightful Louise Penny, I took great solace in being the top male writer in that category. :-)  And then there’s that great plaque.

Louise Penny, Catriona McPherson, ?, Lisa

It’s also a big week for the Greeks.  March 25th was a two-for-one holiday in Greece: Annunciation and Greek Independence Day.  The former celebrates Mary learning from Archangel Gabriel that she was with child, and the later marks the day in 1821 when Greek Orthodox Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra in Greece’s Peloponnese and inspired a more than eight-year struggle (1821-1829) to throw off nearly 400 years of Ottoman rule.  Though there are those who claim the Revolution actually began a week earlier in another part of the Peloponnese when the ruler of its Mani region, Petros Mavromichalis (his statue at top of post), raised his war flag in Mani’s capital city of Areopoli and marched his troops off against the Turks. 

Bishop Germanos

In towns and villages across Greece school children proudly paraded the country’s blue and white flag.  Aflutter, the flag is reminiscent of Greek seas but it holds a deeper meaning.  The white cross honors the contribution of the church to the country’s enduring battle for freedom and its nine blue and white bars honor the nine syllable rallying call shouted across the land during Greece’s struggle for Independence: Eleftheria i Thanatos—Freedom or Death.  (Though some say they represent the nine letters of ελευθερια in the Greek word for freedom, the idea is the same.).

And this week there’s a new test of courage coming to the Greeks.  At least to its elected Members of Parliament.

Greece’s image in the eyes of world finance has been improving.  A week ago Standard & Poor’s greeted with praise an agreement reached after six month’s of haggling between Greece and the Troika over the terms for the release of the next round of bailout funds.  S&P reported it believed Greece’s economy “had started to rebalance.”  “Although we consider Greece's domestic political environment to be fluid, our forecasts assume that, regardless of composition, the Greek government will adhere broadly to the current policy framework.”

A now potentially rising sun

That was a week ago yesterday. Tomorrow, Parliament votes on whether or not to go along with the deal negotiated by its coalition leaders.  The outcome is far from a foregone conclusion.

Greek politics is all about kabuki-like drama playing out to the very last second­—do we have a deal or don’t we.  It’s a tried and true technique in labor negotiations, where both sides have agreed in advance to the settlement but take vigorously different public positions right up until the last minute. Otherwise the representatives risk their constituencies thinking they didn’t fight hard enough for their clients’ interests.  That’s been the plot line for past bailout votes.

It all seems to be playing out the same way this time.  There is a slim three (maybe two) vote majority held by the governing coalition in Greece’s 300-member Parliament, and eight members of that coalition have indicated they will vote against the agreement.  That’s prompted the normal Armageddon sort of pronouncements from coalition leadership.  The choice is between “continuing the painful path of reforms [or one] of disaster,” declared one minister. Another warned that rejecting the deal could force Greece “to leave the Eurozone.”

Inquiring minds are asking, “This time, is it real or is it just more bluster?"

Some fear politicians are not crying wolf this time, because the eight aligned against the terms are committed to constituencies whose sacred cows are being badly gored by this round of austerity measures. We’re talking about the milk and pharmacy industries, two formidable lobbies even in the US.

If the agreement is voted down, it’s anyone’s guess what happens next in these days of the Russian Bear coming out of hibernation and roaring in the direction of Greece’s Balkan/Mediterranean neighborhood.  Will the Troika back off in a game of chicken that could send Greece’s economy and political situation spinning off to only the gods know where, or will Greece back down when the reality hits home as to what a rejecting vote in Parliament wrought?

There’s no telling.

But hopefully it won’t be cast as a choice between Freedom and Death, for there is a middle ground.  But in order to find it, people of good will, dedicated to doing what is best for their country, will have to stand up with courage.

We shall see.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Cast and Crew Of The Writers Group

How come there’s no other name for a thesaurus? – Wright Stevens

For the last ten years or so I have been involved in local writers groups, and more involved with other writers who ‘sit in the chair’, trying to rule with a pointy pencil instead of a rod of iron.

No author is a man of genius to his publisher. - Heinrich, German Poet

 Our own writers group has gone from official (funded by the council with a paid writer in residence) to unofficial and homeless. Then rehomed but driven by ‘committee people’ who had to have 'a committee' and 'minutes' and 'rules' and all that nonsense. Might as well herd cats. Obviously that fell apart and now we meet in the pub.


When  I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer. – Polish born American writer Isaac Bashevis.

Somebody has a list in front of them.
We go from there and see what happens. 
Anybody can turn up, anybody can read. The only rule we have is no ‘journalism’- travel logs and witty observational stuff we like – but no thanks to the 2000 words on the intricate workings of the Frankel Rotary Engine. We have a fantastic group at the moment – just off the top of my head - three ex teachers, an osteopath, one professor who translates German texts to English, two ex-manual workers, one maxillary facial surgeon, a lawyer, an ex-farmer from South Africa, one housewife, a psychiatric nurse, two retired farmers, a minister, a cookery school owner,  a local politician and an IT person.

I know of only one rule: style cannot be too clear, too simple.  – Stendhal, letter to Balzac, 30 October 1840

Poetry is not the most important thing in life… I’d much rather lie in a hot bath reading Agatha Chritsie and sucking sweets. – Dylan Thomas.

Amongst them are a published crime writer, a published film archivist who has just signed a huge book deal in the USA, a nationally award winning poet (two of these actually) and a published kiddies author.  A great mix at the moment and totally clear of some of the personalities that can bring a writers group to its knees. Although these folk can give you great storylines for all the novels you will ever want to write and a character list for all the victims you will ever want to kill (depends if you are a glass half full or glass half empty type of person).

A writer wastes nothing. – F.Scott Fitzgerald.

About six years ago, at a workshop a few writers were talking about groups they had been associated with. We floated off to the bar and the chat got quite animated. Writers groups suffer from universal troublesome types. We started making a list – from memory it went something like this.

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as our headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – US writer E.L. Doctorow.

Mr Never ending story.
These are often great writers who for some reason – never finish a thing. They are like children attracted to the new shiny thing, their attention is diverted and they start a new story. Not really sure what that is about. Is it when they hit the soggy bit in the middle of an novel? Is that when the new novel seems the easier option? But it does make you think that much of the talent of writing is perseverance.

A good novel tells us the truth about it’s hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about it’s author. – G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)

Mr Straight to e book.
An ever growing phenomenon I suspect.  They say, correctly, that they are a published author. And stick it on Kindle. And I’ve heard more than once, ‘I don’t see the point of reading it over, I’m just going to publish it now I have written it.’   One co ‘pen holder’ said it really made her head bleed, as if they took a bit more time/advice/ edit time it could really be a good piece of work. I guess it’s that perseverance thing again.

An editor is one who separates the wheat from the chaff and prints the chaff. – Adlai Stevenson, The Stevenson Wit (1966)

The weirdo.
Anoraks, saliva stained jumper,  wild hair, writes porno type stuff. Difficult to listen to. Impossible to read, impossible to publish.  When they read the older ladies always shuffle with discomfort. I recall one where a naked lady with large breasts was frying bacon. He said it was a children’s book.

To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man. - Aristotle

Mr My Way or No Way.
(You know the type). I think the best talent a published author can have is to take a telling, to hear that ‘it’ does not work. To Mr ‘My way or no way,’ you can explain until the cows come home, so can the group as a collective but they will not budge. They often say 'yeah but it’s my story.' Then we say but it needs to communicate the story… and it doesn’t. Trying to explain that the story in the head doesn't always make it to the page. One co ‘pencil holder’ said a writer had claimed that if the group wasn’t clever enough to get the story, that was not the fault of the author.

People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise. – W Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage (1915)

Mr Activist.
Every word is a cause – every crit, every suggestion that a comma might be better elsewhere? They say well that is the fault of the Tory government. I’ve heard that Costello ( my female cop)  is nothing but a puppet of the state. Costello is just a beacon for the feminist cause. Costello is indicative of how women are abused in the racist, fascist, sexist police force. (!)  I don’t think they can grasp the concept that some books are written to amuse folk at airports. Nothing else.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. – Blaise Pascal, Pensees (1670)

Mr Going Nowhere.
Great writing, read out in five page bursts but there’s no story line. No start. No ending. Nothing happens. To anybody. It just goes on and on and on in lovely little snippets. Like a book of pretty pictures.  

My way is to begin with the beginning. – Lord Byron, Don Juan (1819-24)

Mr I know everything. About Everything
An expert on all things, no matter what others say, they know better – not peculiar to writers groups methinks. I have a friend like that, if she has done all the degrees she says she has, she’s 105 years old. Looking good for it I must say.

To become a great writer, whatever you do – avoid piles.. – T.S. Eliot


Mr Confused Kiddywriter
They often start confused, and get more confused. Writing a story about ponies who go into space.  Are they ponies? Yes. Do they talk? Yes? Do they eat hamburgers? Do they have hands? So are they animals or are they animals in human form? And where do they draw the line, if they can be invisible on page 200 they wouldn’t have got caught by the baddies on page 57! It’s very confusing…
A room without books is a body without a soul. - Cicero

Mr It's warm in here and raining outside
We used to have an old guy who just popped in out the rain while he waited for the bus, he has no interest in anything but liked to listen and commented (often  with great insight) like a wise old sage. No idea who he was. No idea what happened to him.

If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research. – Wilson Mizner, American playwright


Mr Creative Writing Class
Been everywhere, knows everything.…. Again not solely in writers groups…. Often spout the much learned law of writing which makes me glad I’ve never attended a creative writing course in my puff. Usually unpublished. Usually bitter.

Details fascinate me. I love to pile up details. They create an atmosphere. – Muriel Spark, Curriculum Vitae

To be in charge of the pencil, it often helps to quote other writers they might have heard of. Have you noticed ?

I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking. – Detective fiction writer Dorothy L Sayers, in Have His Carcase (1932)

Caro Ramsay GB 28th March 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Murder is Everywhere - Including at Cape Three Points

It's a pleasure to welcome back Kwei Quartey who has done a couple of guest posts for us in the past about the adventures he's had in Ghana while researching his mysteries.  His first book - Wife of the Gods - introduced his memorable detective, Darko Dawson, and went on to be an LA Times best seller.  Children of the Street followed, and then there was a bit of a gap.  But last week saw the release of the new mystery - Murder at Cape Three Points - set in the unspoiled south of the country, but in view of the oil rigs.  It was worth waiting for!  Kwei had some choices for his murder scene - as we discover today - but he came up with a ripper!

Kwei is a medical doctor and lives in Los Angeles.  Somehow he manages to divide his life between his medical work, his writing, and his family.  I doubt he sleeps much!

Michael - Thursday

Cape Three Points (CTP) is the southernmost tip of Ghana on the west coast of Africa and has been called the “land nearest nowhere,” because it is the landmass closest to zero longitude (the Greenwich Meridian), zero latitude (the Equator) and zero sea level.

Substantial oil reserves have been found in the Gulf of Guinea south of Cape Three Points

An area of wild beauty and rich, verdant forest, CTP is home to a multitude of bird species and land animals, and dolphins and humpbacked whales move through the waters of the Gulf of Guinea off Ghana’s coast.

A lovely and wild scene. The forested peninsula in the background is one of the trio of fingerlike projections that give the region its name.
Photo: Kwei Quartey

I must confess that I didn’t know that humpbacks moved through this region until the tragic occurrence of a number of whales washing up on Ghana’s western beaches during 2013. Because offshore oil production started in Ghana in 2007, the petroleum industry has been accused of causing these deaths through alleged pollution of the ocean, something oil company officials have firmly denied. Whatever the case, Ghana’s new oil industry has added a new dimension to political and social life in the country.

The battle between environmentalists and big oil is the type of conflict that drew me to oil as a background to my novel Murder at Cape Three Points. There are other salient clashes: traditional fishermen and oilrig personnel are always at loggerheads with each other. The fishermen claim the rig “steals” fish from them because the fish are drawn to the rig, and the oil installation managers say fishermen’s nets get tangled with valuable underwater equipment. Then there are the real estate developers who want the land the indigenous people are sitting on. All these tiffs could potentially engender motives for murder.

Once I’d decided on the backdrop, I had to make a decision exactly where, of a number of places, I should place the murder. I like interesting murder sites for my novels. I considered the beautiful cliffs at CTP, over which someone could be tossed.

It would be easy to plunge to one’s death here
Photo: Kwei Quartey
In fact I saw a young, solitary man fishing from rocks that looked very precarious to me.

Just one little push…
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Another crime location I considered was the lighthouse at CTP:

I went up inside this working lighthouse and considered putting a dead body in the lamp housing—in my novel, I mean
Photo: Kwei Quartey
But it was this scene at Cape Three Points village that got me thinking about a canoe as part of a crime scene:
Something soothing about this scene
Photo: Kwei Quartey
I also wanted to tie the murder in some way to a deep-sea oil rig location like this one at Tullow Oil’s Jubilee Field, which is almost thirty-eight miles from shore.

Eirik Raude (“Eric the Red” in Norwegian) deep-sea oil rig at Ghana’s Jubilee Field
Photo: Tullow Oil
I wondered if it was possible to have a canoe containing dead bodies floating around a rig, but how would the canoe get there? Pulled by a motorboat? Dropped from a cargo ship? There’s no way you could paddle a canoe out thirty-eight miles from shore, is there? I was both surprised and glad to learn from Cape Three Points fishermen that it was not only possible for fishermen to paddle out that far, it was common. So that setup would be quite credible. Now all I had to do is build up the background to a scene like that.

Another location featured in MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS is Ezile Bay a small, lovely self-sustaining resort with a million-dollar view of the beach.

Afternoon at Ezile Bay
Photo: Kwei Quartey

Co-owner with her husband Olivier, Danielle Funfschilling was happy to give me permission to use the real name of her resort in the novel, so in many ways, Ezile is a major star in the story, and would be ideal for a cinematic feature as well.

At one side of the bay is a village called Akwidaa, also featured in MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS
Photo: Kwei Quartey

Sitting on the beach, you can watch fishermen return to the village of Akwidaa. Fishing excursions can start in the afternoon and end the following morning. During this time, fishermen may venture many miles from shore. By tradition, women do not fish—only trade in fish.

Crews of fishermen returning to shore
Photo: Kwei Quartey

The surfing is respectable. I did a little boogey boarding, but there was only one board, so after a while I handed it over to some guys who were waiting for it.

Boogey boarders
Photo: Kwei Quartey

In MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS, Darko stays in Takoradi, Ghana’s third largest city that I’m very fond of. (Accra, the capital, is a little too much stimulation of the senses for my taste.) Darko arrives to find a Takoradi in transformation and already suffering from increasingly dense traffic as a result of influx of people drawn to the oil boom.

Traffic along Liberation Road
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Nevertheless, not that far out from Takoradi proper, there is still a lot of undeveloped land as well as irresistible vistas such as this one near Africa Beach Hotel.

Rocky beach outside Africa Beach Hotel
Photo: Kwei Quartey

One of the areas mentioned in the novel is New Amanful, a suburb of Takoradi.

In suburbs of Takoradi like New Amanful, residential construction is proceeding at a staggering rate.

Some homes are large and may be intended as rental units
Photo: Kwei Quartey
A house may be in the process of being built in the midst of uncleared land and/or unpaved roads. One such kind of a house features in Murder at Cape Three Points when Darko comes across an important clue.

Construction sometimes stalls if the builder runs out of money, and the structure may lie fallow for a while
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Rather unique and of great curiosity to Darko, who comes from the concrete jungle of Accra, Takoradi has a lush simian sanctuary called Monkey Hill right in the midst of the city.

Monkey Hill: Monkeys can be seen playing in the forest canopy
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Eventually, Darko must take a trip to the deep-sea oil rig like the Eirik Raude. He flies from Takoradi Airport in an NHV helicopter as shown here:

Tullow Oil NHV Helicopters parked at Takoradi Airport
Photo: Tullow Oil
In February 2014, I followed Darko’s example and flew by helicopter to the West Leo offshore rig, a new and exciting experience for me as well. The helicopter landed at this helipad with the delicacy of a butterfly.

Photo by Tullow Oil
A staff member and drilling engineer supervisor gave me a wonderful tour of the rig. The flight there and back and the tour are duplicated quite faithfully in Murder at Cape Three Points, as well as the somewhat harrowing underwater training that Darko (and I) had to go through to be allowed on the helicopter.

That’s me on the helipad, which is a lot bigger than it appears as you approach from the air
Photo: Nick Howell
In the end, research for MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS was the richest and most eventful of all the Darko Dawson novels in the series. My next novel, Gold of the Fathers, promises to take me on similar adventures.

Find more about Kwei Quartey and his Ghanaian mystery series at

Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

South Africa - the outsider's take

I once went to Chile, expecting to be greeted by a llama in a poncho. In its place I found a very modern Santiago, no llamas, few ponchos. This was after having been delayed at immigration as the officials there believed Iceland to be a made up country. Turned out that Chile had recently experienced a bout of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the country with false passports from make believe places. Luckily for me the misunderstanding was cleared up, very much so thanks to Google. Another eleven hour no smoking flights back to the States would have really made my day.

Yet again I am in a place that does not cease to surprise and amaze me. The misconceptions I took along are now laughable.

I am in South Africa, a place so well described by Michael and Stanley that I cannot even hope to add anything to their colorful and descriptive narrative. Instead I am going to mention a few of my touristic and unknowledgeable observations. Sort of a South Africa guide by an idiot. 

In South Africa one needs not worry about snakes if not wandering around in grass or foliage. Except for the lazy snake. The lazy snake is big and fat and does not scuttle away when you approach. It just lies there, in parking lots and on walkways – too slothful to move. In the dark it is easy to step on the lazy snake by mistake and then it bites. And it hurts.

South Africa is home to the most beautiful trees you can imagine.

They have wild penguins here. A bird one usually associates with ice and snow. Not lively green and endless foliage. Here is a picture of me very surprised to see a penguin. Note that the angle of the photo is the result of some odd inclination of my husband to lean the camera to about 45 degrees. I do not have the heart to tell him this is not artistic. Simply strange.

A road sign reading “Robot Ahead” does not warrant the excited anticipation that it gives rise to. A robot is a traffic light.

Baboons have learned that a refrigerator is where it is at. Given any opportunity, they will break in and raid it. Once done they will wreck everything else. Here is a baboon stopping traffic. If you would like audio with the image get someone to scream loudly in your ear in a shrill female voice (mine): "Óli! Shut the window. Shut the window!" We had just passed a sign saying that baboons are dangerous. Then get a man in a more relaxed, yet serious voice (Stan) to say calmly: "Óli, you should shut the window now." Then you imitate a window closing.

The craftsmanship of the handicraft for sale is extremely good. As my husband is obsessed with the notion that we have everything, he filled our suitcases with stuff as we were not going to buy anything. Little did he know. I am going to throw away our clothes to make space.

Prices here are the lowest I have seen a very long time and the quality of the food is exemplary, as is that of the wine. Reading a menu makes you want to laugh. I can only hope I have the correct exchange rate. If not the last laugh will not be mine.

Stan and I outside of a winery - we are very matching sizes for a photograph (as long as I stand in the front)
An Icelandic credit card does not carry much clout here at ATMs. We have once been able to withdraw money. Aside from this one attempt all we get are slips saying that the transaction could not be carried out. We could open up a paper recycling company. Thankfully the stores have no problem.

On Friday we go to the bush, courtesy of Michael and Stanley. We are not guaranteed to see any of the big five. Does not matter. A single lazy snake will be enough to make us happy. Even if we only see trees. South Africa is a wonderland.

Yrsa - Wednesday

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Repost: Paris Fountains

Let’s talk l'eau pronounced 'loow' water.

On Paris streets you'll find many types of fountains: les Wallace, les Bornes, les Millénaire, fontaines de l'Albien and fontaines eau pétillante. That's not counting the fountains in the squares or in the 14 Paris cemetaries which hold 81 fountains. 

But Les fontaines Wallace were named after the British philanthropist and art collector  Sir Richard Wallace, who financed the installation of 50 fountains throughout Paris after the Franco-Prussian war left the city with almost no clean drinking water. Designed by a French man, these iconic fountains of the Paris streetscape. They are uniformly painted a deep emerald green.

The largest model, nicknamed the 'Brasserie des quatre femmes'  (brewery of the four women), sports four caryatides each symbolizing kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety.

Cara - Tuesday