Saturday, 26 February 2011

Beautiful Durham

Yesterday I jumped on a train and headed off to my first book signing of 2011.
My destination: Durham.

It's been a few years since I had a wander around Durham, but the main shopping street is fantastic.  I'm not even talking about the shops.  I wasn't looking at them, I was looking at the winding cobbled roads, the wonderful River Wear and the architecture.

On my way to the bookshop, I walked down a short street and onto a bridge crossing the River Wear, where I saw this:

I love old buildings, particularly castles, and I certainly didn't expect to see this great stony dragon of a castle looming down over the riverside right where I was walking.  I will admit it... I stopped and stared and took this picture.

People were walking past, chatting, and acting like having such a wonderful piece of history watching over them was a perfectly normal everyday thing.  Which, of course, it is.  Two people I talked to at the signing admitted that they don't even 'see' the castle anymore.  It has become an invisible part of their everyday life.
I don't think I'd ever get used to seeing a view like that.

Once I remembered I actually had somewhere to go, I set off towards the market square and up Saddler Street where the bookshop sits.

The signing went brilliantly.  The staff in Durham Waterstones are lovely and I would recommend their shop to anyone wanting to pop in for a browse.  I spoke to lots of readers and writers, and even discussed Shakespeare with a lovely lady who put my knowledge to shame.

After that, I did a little book shopping of my own, and I was back in awed tourist mode.  Here a picture of Saddler Street looking back the way I came:


It is a steep and cobbled street with buildings that press in on both sides, making people look very small indeed.  (If you click on the photo you can just see someone walking beneath the black sign.  Doesn't he look small?)  There are lanterns, mismatched buildings and I even spotted a tiny lane - barely wide enough for someone to walk down - where two people were locked in whispered conversation.

My imagination runs wild in places like this.  It feels like walking through the past... and at the top of the street, was this:

Hello, Durham Cathedral.

Gemma at Waterstones told me that parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there, and I can see why.  It's a Norman cathedral and parts of it have been there since 1093.  Isn't it spectacular?

I wouldn't have even taken this next picture if I didn't see someone on the grass clicking away at something behind me.

It's part of Durham Castle, and it's huge! But I would have missed it - quietly sitting there watching time happen around it - if I hadn't turned around.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of Durham.  I only live a train ride away and I will have to go back soon.  Next time, however, I will be prepared.  I had forgotten how steep everything is... the sloping cobbles and the steps.  The countless steps!  People who walk them all the time must have thighs of steel.

I didn't take this photo, but here are just a few of the steps right outside the station, which I had to face after climbing at least five thousand* others just moments before.

Next time I visit Durham I will know what to expect.
I will be ready.
I will plan to spend more time exploring the wonderful old city, and I will attack those steps Rocky-style. 

*A slight exaggeration, but that's what it felt like to my weary legs.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Blackwatch Are Coming.

Last Thursday I received a wonderful surprise through the post...

A beautiful proof copy of Blackwatch!

Not long to go now...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Wintercraft In Portugal

In what is fast becoming a very busy month for Silas and Kate, Wintercraft is now available in Portugal!

Its new title is 'O Livro Dos Dons' or 'The Book Of Gifts'.

Olá to everyone in Portugal, and if you would like to see the book trailer in Portuguese, you can find it here.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Wintercraft Heads To Poland

Wintercraft celebrates a new book-birthday today.

The wardens' birds are settling over Poland as Wintercraft creeps onto the shelves for the first time.

I just want to say 'Witam' to any Polish readers, and if you would like to see the wonderful book trailer in Polish, you can watch it here!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Defending What Matters

Is it me?  Or is England going just a little bit crazy?

If you have read my older posts on this blog, you might remember the badger cull that was planned in Wales last year.  Not long after that, in September 2010, England decided that, hey, that sounds like a good idea, why don't we have a badger cull too?

Now, in 2011, there are proposals being put forward calling for a cull on crows, magpies and other corvids because they pose 'a threat' to songbird populations.  Crows etc. are such a tiny threat compared to human-based problems like, intensive farming, loss of natural habitat... but wait! Why not trap and shoot a group of birds that no one will really miss and call it wildlife conservation?  That will solve the problem, won't it?  Craziness.

The current government is planning to sell English forests into private hands and just last month a coniferous forest near me was sold to a consultancy firm based in London. If forests are sold off, who knows what this could mean for wildlife and plantlife in the long run?  Who will keep an eye upon what goes on within them?

Not that some local councils are much better.  In West Sussex, an oil company has discovered oil beneath the ancient woodland of Markwells Wood and they are being allowed to extract it, even though it is part of the South Downs National Park.
Elsewhere, this lady who runs an animal rescue is being evicted from her land near Maidstone because her home causes 'visual harm to the character and appearance of the area'.  Really? A little white house?  I wonder what Maidstone Council would think of oil drilling machinery being set up nearby?

It just feels like common sense is being thrown out of the window.

Yesterday was 'Save Our Libraries Day' across the UK in response to the threat of many public libraries being closed down in a bid to save council money at the cost of peoples' free access to books and information.

Not everyone has access to the internet, and not everything published on the internet is reliable.  If we take away libraries as a resource, we will be limiting peoples' access to real information. But, then again, if people don't learn, maybe they won't see anything wrong with destroying ancient woodland or killing creatures for no good reason.  We'll all just go along with whatever we are told... won't we?

The protests and petitions being set up against all of these events are proof that people are not stupid.  We can see what is happening, and we will stand up to protect what is important whenever it is under threat.
Libraries should not be allowed to die.  Wildlife should be protected, not killed, and ancient forests should be left alone.

Let's keep standing up for what matters.