Tuesday, October 20, 2009

24 Hours: Horsham

My Friend Marsha wrote a book. (Okay, she’s not really my friend, but as a fellow expat from the Americas – when I say it that way I can include Canadians – and fellow writer, I feel like we’ve connected on a deeper than “exchanged-a-few-emails” level.) It’s called “24 Hours: London” and it goes through a diurnal cycle, listing what you can do, where you can go and how you can entertain yourself during that particular hour (e.g. naked disco dancing at 22:00 -- www.starkersclub.co.uk ).

To help her launch it, I thought I do a tribute post, in the best, “I know a good idea when I steal one” tradition:

24 Hours: Horsham – the Baby Boomer Edition

05:00: What are you doing up? Nothing is open. Go back to bed!

06:00: There’s still nothing open, but the kettle is on. Make yourself some toast and oatmeal.

07:00: Costa Coffee will be open in a while if you want a frothy coffee and a breakfast muffin. McDonalds and Starbucks will be open, too, but don’t go there, not unless you’re happy to feed the American corporate giants.

08:00: A nice morning stroll along the Causeway to St. Mary’s churchyard. Nothing stirs a bit of joie de vivre like spending half an hour or so communing with dead people.

09:00: Time to queue up outside the Royal Mail office with the pensioners. Or you can queue up outside of Waterstones and vie for a seat at the Santa Fe café.

10:00: Swan Walk Mall is in full swing now; time to do your bit to help Britain out of the recession.

11:00: Elevenses at the Black Olive. Try their bacon butty, it is to die for.

12:00: Have a walk around the Forum and admire the sundial, dedicated by her Majesty the Queen. While standing next to it, ask passers-by if they have the time and tell them that the sundial is broken and is stuck on 6:37 PM.

13:00: Wander through picturesque Horsham park; you can linger by the bandstand and have a light lunch at the Café in the Park or sit on a bench to watch the children in the playground.

14:00: Uh oh! Here comes PCSO Davenport. Someone has complained about a pervert sitting on a park bench leering at the children; time to move on.

15:00: There is still time to pick up a bale of toilet paper and a sack of crisps at Poundland. Bring lots of change.

16:00: Have a browse through Beales and stop off at Café Nova on the first floor, just to admire the look of exquisite boredom on the faces of the waitresses and marvel at how long it can take a coffee shop to produce a cup of coffee.

17:00: Five o’clock; time to roll up the sidewalks. If you haven’t bought it yet, it’s too late now.

18:00: You have your pick of restaurants on East Street—Horsham’s own Restaurant Row; from the plain to the posh, it’s there. And if you’re really feeling the pinch, you can find a bargain dinner at the chippie, Panda House Chinese Take-away or the KFC on the Bishopric. Dine early and you’ll beat the rush.

19:00: Just enough time for a quiet pint at the Stout House.

20:00: Thanks to the Nanny State, it’s back home for a Bolivar and brandy on the balcony.

21:00: If you have Freeview you can get channel Fiver and watch CSI, CSI, CSI, …

22:00: …and CSI…

23:00: A nice cup of tea and a good book in bed.

24:00: A comfy pillow and a warm duvet.

01:00: You may find you’ll need to get up for a wee about now.

02:00 – 04:00: What do you care? You should be asleep like a normal person!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Tour; a Reminiscence

The Tour is over, so now it’s time to sit back, relax, pour myself a big glass of Pinot Noir and reminisce about those halcyon days of travelling the world.

I have to say, The Tour was one of the best ideas I stole from people who are smarter and better at marketing than I am; it’s cheap, simple and has the potential to introduce you to a much wider audience. And it might have actually worked if I had kept in mind that it was supposed to be a promotional tour. As it happened, I met so many great people and began having such a good time that I became caught up in the adventure and usually forgot to mention the book.

Still, it was very worthwhile, and as I sit here sipping my noir, I can look back on some memorable moments and interesting tour statistics:

- Visits: 26
- Furthest: this was a tie between Suzer and Vicki Gray, both in Australia
- Closest: Marsha, from London
- Most Memorable: sitting on Wendy’s porch drinking mint juleps
- Most Fun: going on an outing with Jen and her Girl Guides
- Most Relaxing: this is a tie between Andy Mont in Tenerife, Paul Allen in Catalunya and Debs in Murcia; I love sitting in the sun drinking beer
- Most Exotic: being hosted by an Azeri (Scary Azeri) in London
- Most Hectic: visiting Kat and her family on the USAF Base in Suffolk
- Most Ironic: posting a virtual tour post while actually being in the place I claimed to be (Brainard, NY)
- Second Most Ironic: visiting Northumberland, then going home and posting from Bizzywig’s blog as if I were in Northumberland
- Most Amazing Coincidence: posting about an unsung fingerprint expert on Brit Fancy’s blog and finding out she was the great-great-granddaughter of the man I wrote about
- Biggest Shock: showing up at Mickey’s place in Massachusetts, prepared for a bloke weekend of drinking beer and catching some American football on the tube, only to discover Mickey is not a guy but an attractive woman

It is also worthy of note that, of the 26 people who hosted me, 23 one of them were woman. I don’t know quite what to make of that, but it sure was nice.

And one final Tour statistic:
- Books sold: 3

C’mon people, you’re not keeping your end up!

Seriously, thanks again to everyone involved for making this a success. Now I’ll have to look around for another good idea to steal.


Thanks and Good-bye from
The 2009 KINDNESS of STRANGERS TOUR


Michael Harling is the author of
“Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat”
“Laugh out loud funny regardless of which side of the pond you call home. Bill Bryson move over, there’s a new American expat in town with a keen sense of humor.”
-- Jeff Yeager, author of “The Ultimate Cheapskate”


Buy the Book: http://www.lindenwald.com/booksale.htm
Follow the Tour: http://www.lindenwald.com/thetour.htm
Visit the Home Page: http://postcardsfromacrossthepond.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Of Two Minds

As some of you know, and the rest of you are about to find out, I smoke cigars. Oddly, it was an ex-girlfriend (now known only as She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) who put me onto the habit. It’s not one I am looking to give up—I find it relaxing and enjoyable and an indispensable benefit to the planning phase of my writing—but lately I have been of two minds about it.

My current schedule seems to be: get up later than I should, spend a few minutes thinking about what I want to write, write for an hour on the bus on the way to work, write for half an hour on the bus on the way home from work, then take a nap and tell myself I’ll finish up after dinner. Get home, have dinner and then spend the better part of the evening relaxing on the balcony with a beverage and a cigar.

It’s not a bad routine, but it has not increased my productivity and I am starting to wonder if I am going to become known as Michael the great writer or Michael the great cigar smoker.

So I proposed to cut down. This is when the two minds came about. Morning Michael was tired of starting his day fretting over the work that didn’t get done the night before. Accordingly, Morning Michael decides that, this time, Evening Michael will write, not have another cigar. Morning Michael is very certain of this.

Then Mid-afternoon Michael starts thinking that it has been a long day and maybe Evening Michael deserves a bit of relaxation. After all, he’s not being paid to write. Evening Michael agrees, and, after dinner, heads out to the balcony.

This week, however, all of us went on another business trip to Devon. The daily routine for these days is somewhat similar to my normal days, except the bulk of all the writing time is used to smoke cigars and a huge writing opportunity is wasted. So this time, after Evening Michael laid out all the cigars and associated paraphernalia for Morning Michael to pack, Morning Michael put it all back and said we would all be better off if we spent a few days away from cigars.

We all agreed with that, at the time, but right now Evening Michael is pretty mad at Morning Michael because it’s a beautiful autumn afternoon and a cigar and a beer in the hotel’s outdoor seating area would be very, very nice.

On the other hand, I’ve finished up a review I promised a month ago, and caught up on my columns for the week, so maybe sitting in front of the keyboard has turned out to be a better idea than sitting with a cigar after all.

Morning Michael is saying, “I told you so,” but we still think he’s a sanctimonious wanker.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Writing in a Glass Box

Writing isn't the solitary activity it used to be. The same technology that has turned much of the human race into square-eyed troglydites huddled in their darkened lairs staring at moving images on their Playstation, Wii or PC screens and eschewing actual human contact, has, paradoxically, paved the way for 24/7 virtual contact. And increasingly, this contact comes bundled with feedback, whether we want it or not.

Our blogs, our Facebook pages, our Flickr photos, even our Tweets are subject to commentary by the virtual critics who hide behind screen names and are, quite likely, simply taking a momentary break from blogging, Facebooking, Flickring or Tweeting themselves. The proliferation of blog-to-book deals means that some of us--myself included--are writing books while several billion people look over our shoulders and, more often than not, offer helpful suggestions.

But is this a good thing? Shouldn't art be developed in isolation and left to percolate and evolve and discover itself before a cybersphere of self-appointed critics take a swipe at it? How would the great works of the past faired if subject to this sort of hyper-scrutiny?


GlobeMaster: Bill, sweetheart, I'm a big fan of your blog but methinks the latest entry is as cheery as a plague-pit. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time only to watch a play where everyone dies? Have Romeo run off with the Priest; you know they were made for each other.

TudorMan: Doth wenches snigger at thy codpiece? Click here for help.

NatH: Herman, A white whale? Hell-o! They don't exist! Check your Google-Analytics; I bet they're taking a huge dive. Your followers are not going to buy this, or your book.

GoodnessAndMercy: My Dear Miss Hill, I stumbled across your Facebook page quite by accident and I have to say I find the accounts of your "adventures" highly disturbing. I see you are friended with Madam Bovery, and I am hardly surprised. People like you need to be rooted out and exterminated; I have a stake and dried faggots ready for you, and I'll find out where you live eventually.

PratchettFan: JK, You will never create a fantasy world to rival Mr. Pratchett's. Your latest entry sounds like it was written for children. Why don't you try writing for some woman's magazines, instead?

CivilReenactor: Mr. Crane, I have studied with devotion your photologue of Private Henry Fleming and his experiences with the Union Army. However, your latest installment included a battle scene wherein a sergeant in the 1st Regiment Provisional Militia is clearly wearing the uniform of the 2nd Battalion St. Louis City Guard Infantry. Historical inaccuracies of this magnitude are unconscionable. In the future, I will limit myself to the exploits of Buck, as posted by J London; so far, he has never mislabeled a breed of dog.

ConnecticutYankee: Mark, your podcasts about the boy on the raft are great! You need to limit the dialects, however; I can hardly understand what some of the characters are saying.


@Schopenhauer: Leo, I appreciate your dedication and devotion to your work. I am also a big fan of your tweets, but don't you think it might be better to

@Schopenhauer: start a blog rather than trying to write a whole novel using nothing but Twitter posts? War And Peace has been going on for more than a yea

@Schopenhauer: r and a half now and, although I love following you, it is getting tiresome. Please, get a blog!