This week I’ve been reading Voltaire. So grand it sounds, to be reading his work — does that make me a pseud? And not only Voltaire, but Balzac and Zola, Torkington and Twain. That’s what a collection of short stories offers. One story every lunchtime, to aid the digestion, written by outstanding authors.
I don’t usually read short stories, nor works by these writers, but that’s the serendipity of life on a boat. Now they are my lunchtime companions, one at a time.
This particular collection deserves an essay of its own. Having been conceived in the mind of…
This short piece is about a true story I wrote some years ago.
“Ted, why is that man shaking?”
“It’s because they are pulsing 600 milliamps of current through his brain every six seconds.”
“It must be a Tuesday or a Thursday afternoon, then.”
“Yes, it’s Tuesday actually, Chris.”
For a young boy sectioned in an adult mental hospital, days of the week were relatively meaningless. There were more important things to worry about, confined in a ward with very seriously disturbed adult male patients, watching the twice weekly ECT sessions.
Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in the Nightingale wards at…
One day I was reviewing a press release for one of my books. If you’ve ever commissioned a ‘specialist’ to prepare one (or a series of releases) for you then you might have a feel for the embarassment that I felt when I read it. Many of these writers really do go way over the top with their prose.
Is my book really that good?
Really that explosive?
I mean, these writers rarely read the books they are hyping, that would not be economic and might even limit the range of adjectives they can in conscience deploy in…
Some years ago I spent a couple of winters in Sicily, living on my boat. It’s a wonderful Island with great wine and pizzas to die for. There’s plenty of history too with amazing Roman ruins, at Agrigento for example. Then there’s an active volcano, Mt. Etna if you fancy visiting a boiling crater.
‘And on the sixth day the Horses came’ — Edwin Muir.
The words of Edwin Muir, describing a post-apocalyptic world. Paraphrased by me, with apologies. There had been no apocalypse. We were six days out of Salvador in Brazil, on our way back to the UK, and for us, the spinners came. Not horses, spinners.
Where were we?
Our position was 20 miles to the east of the Brazilian archipelago known as ‘Fernando do Noronha’. Sailors were forbidden from landing there, but many did on their way south, citing ‘shortage of water’ as their force majeure.
We, though, were headed…
This story is based on an interview with a friend, a former British Army corporal who served in the Army Special Investigation Branch following service with the Royal Army Medical Corps in North Africa, Palestine and Suez during the period 1949–1957. I believe that the essence of what he told me is correct. He recently passed away.
The boy struggled and kicked with no sound coming out of his mouth. The rope was tight around his neck. Little more than eighteen years old, he hadn’t started shaving, hadn’t properly held a girl, yet he had no more than a few…
I don’t like Sudoku — that’s kind of ‘zero sum’ if you know what I mean. Sure, it works the brain, but always the same pathways and always the digits 0–9. I find them tiring to do, and ultimately pointless, in the way that going to the gym is pointless for me. There are other more interesting ways of keeping the body fit — cycling for instance. The treadmaster and weights don’t interest me. Nor does a monthly subscription for the privilege. Sudoku is like the treadmill of the mind. I know that others love Sudoku and similar number games…
A sunset marks the end of every day wherever you are on Earth.
No, not quite. If you are within the Artic or Antarctic Circles when it is local summer then there is no sunset, give or take a few degrees of latitude. But that discussion is for another day.
How many sunsets will you actually see in your life?
Most of your sunsets will be hidden by buildings, cloud, sheets of rain or even blizzards. Many will just pass you by because you busy are doing other things — looking at a computer screen, giving someone CPR, drinking beer…
The water is close to freezing as I hit it hard, but my body is in good condition and functions well, responding positively to regular exercise and careful maintenance. Still warm after recent exertion and the short, brisk walk in a ski jacket from the Union railroad station in the late evening, I know that my life is ending now. The South Branch of the Chicago River under the West Adams Street Bridge closes over me. My bulk sinks quickly through the water and reaches a layer of fine silt. Slowly my body settles through the silt passing, strangely, what…
An itinerant author of topical techno-thrillers, living and writing on my boat as I sail slowly around the world researching locations, people and cultures.