UFOs

Last Summer, the United States Department of Defense formed an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force to investigate UFO sightings. Towards the end of December, President Trump signed a pandemic relief bill into law. You wouldn’t think that the two things had anything in common – at least, I wouldn’t – but it turns out that the bill had a provision that called,

… for the director of national intelligence to help produce an unclassified report on everything government agencies know about UFOs, including scores of unusual sightings reported by military pilots.

That report is due sometime next month.

Washington Post

As a result of the report’s imminent arrival, UFOs have been hitting the headlines in the mainstream media.

I have always had an interest in UFOs. I can’t remember when it started but I do remember being very impressed in my teens by a book called Above Top Secret by Timothy Good that catalogued sightings and encounters. It presented them in a serious way that did full justice to the potential importance of the issue.

I have no settled view on whether UFOs are alien space craft or not. What is very clear to me, though, is that not all the sightings are the products of deluded minds or charlatans. Yesterday, having seen the latest headlines, I decided to watch a documentary from last year called The Phenomenon, which covered the history of UFO sightings from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Among the contributors were high ranking political figures and military personnel – people whose judgement you would expect to be sober and considered, and who would have much more to lose than gain by appearing in a documentary of this kind; and yet, here they were, ready to speak out about the subject all the same.

With that in mind, and given the quality of the sightings – indicating that witnesses are seeing something whatever it is – I would have thought UFOs would be eminently worthy of study, especially because if there is even the slightest possibility of their being operated by intelligent beings, that has profound national and global security implications (particularly, as alleged in The Phenomenon, they are able to control nuclear weapon facilities). It may all come to nothing but wouldn’t we rather make that judgement after investigation than before?

Of course, governments are in a difficult position here. They like to be in control. They like to control – democracies as well as tyrannies. But they would not be able to control intelligent beings who possess the technology to travel across vast distances of space. Better to keep the information about them secret. That’s a way forward, although not a convincing one: it would only last until an alien race decided to make contact with us.

New Links

This week I have added two new links to the side bar:

A Clerk of Oxford
Lesbians Who Write
Licence to Queer
Mars Hill

A Clerk of Oxford is written by Eleanor Parker who is an Anglo-Saxon and medieval historian. When I went to university I did so with the intention of taking my degree in American Studies. Within a term I had fallen in love with Anglo Saxon and Medieval English and never looked back. After university, I left my lovers behind and in time found a new one in Alexander the Great. I never stopped loving the Anglo Saxon and Medieval periods, though, and blogs and social media (Dr. Parker is also on Twitter @ClerkOfOxford) have allowed me to keep reading about those early days of my country and, for that matter, those days before England was a country at all.
NB: I also follow Eleanor Parker on Patreon. If you are interested in the Anglo Saxon – Medieval period it is well worth a follow.

Lesbians Who Write supports the podcast of the same name, which is hosted by lesbian romance writers Clare Lydon and T. B. Markinson. I discovered LWW after meeting Lydon at a talk she gave to the Transport for London LGBTQ group three or four years ago. Being a keen, but easily distracted writer, I attended the talk for any practical advice in the art of writing that she might give. After the talk, I bought some of her books, enjoyed them, and have continued buying them ever since. The podcast is part informal chat and part discussion on the theme of writing. Whether or not you like lesbian romances, Lesbians Who Write is worth listening to for the writing advice (particularly if you are considering being a self-published author like they are). Lesbians Who Write has a Twitter account @LesWhoWrite)

Licence to Queer. Up until a few months ago, I did not know that a James Bond ‘fandom’ existed, but it does, and some of its members are on Twitter. That’s where I found Licence to Queer’s author (who tweets at @licencetoqueer). Every so often I hear stories of fandoms becoming very toxic because of the bad behaviour of some of their members. To date, I have not heard of – or seen – anything bad come from the fans of James Bond. I have not traditionally got into being part of fandoms but have seen really awful behaviour where it has no place at all (alas, of all places, on ‘Catholic Twitter’) so to find a group of people so at peace with one another is a blessing.

Below is an image that I have stolen from Licence to Queer – I hope he doesn’t mind; it is Léa Seydoux who appeared in the last Bond film, Spectre, and will be in this year’s No Time To Die. I have included it just to sneakily promote my next blog post, which will be a little review of Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which I finished watching yesterday.

Mars Hill is a blog that specialises in politics, from a moderate left perspective, and Christianity. It is run by Paul Burgin who I have had the great honour of knowing since we ‘met’ via a now defunct C. S. Lewis forum called Into The Wardrobe in the ’90s. I don’t share Paul’s politics, or Christian home for that matter (he is a Methodist and I a Catholic), but he is a thoughtful and kind witness to all that he believes. Apart from C. S. Lewis, we have something else in common: a love of all things Bond (Actually, I think it may have been through him that I discovered the above mentioned Bond fandom) and have recorded conversations with one another about several of James Bond’s films. You can find them on Paul’s You Tube page, here. As it happens, we will be discussing The Spy Who Loved Me next Tuesday. Paul is on Twitter @Paul_Burgin)

Demi Lovato

A couple of days ago I read that the singer Demi Lovato now identifies as non-binary and has changed their pronouns to they/them. Here is the BBC’s report.

I have to admit that I find the concept of changing one’s gender identity and pronouns hard to relate to. I think I am too used to the idea of gender identity meaning male or female. With that mindset, the rejection of he or she as a pronoun makes no sense.

That notwithstanding, you will note that in the first paragraph I used Lovato’s preferred pronoun. Although converting her to their feels awkward, this isn’t about my feelings but Lovato’s preferences. Speaking of my feelings: how would I feel if my preferred pronouns were ignored? That question sweeps away all difficulties.

I read about Demi Lovato’s new self-identification on Twitter. The tweeter added that they were happy that Lovato had found ‘their truth’. This idea of truth existing in a subjective way has been around for a while. I don’t know why: it implies that two people could hold completely opposite views, or truths, and both could still be regarded as valid. To be fair, this is sometimes possible. Other times, however, it certainly is not.

a: I believe in free market economics
b: I believe in a command economy
There is nothing wrong with holding either of these positions

c: I believe in democratic government
d: I believe in a fascist form of government
Who would argue that these beliefs are of equal value?

But if you believe that truth is subjective (which you have to if you believe that people can have their own truths, because you can’t believe in both its subjectivity and objectivity) how could you argue against (d). They would simply say ‘This is my truth’.

I am happy for Demi Lovato. I am happy that they have found the answer to a problem in respect of their self-identity. I hope it gives them great peace and helps them to live a happy, and good, life. I hope also, though, that we leave this idea of subjective truth behind. In regards Lovato, it does them no justice. Firstly, it minimises the significance of what is hopefully a great step forward in their self-understanding (because maybe Lovato has found an answer that is objectively true and is worth celebrating as such). Secondly, it seriously undermines the speaker’s ability to argue against bad ideas.

19th May 2021.

The current bout of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants is now in its tenth day. I don’t know who started it ten days ago but I do know that until the two sides sit down and talk with each other, it won’t end. For sure, the present wave of attacks will eventually stop but only for a while. Sooner or later, someone will launch another attack, and the cycle of violence will recommence.

Will Palestinians ever be able to sit down at a table with Israelis and agree a permanent ceasefire? Or has the violence simply gone on for too long for them to be able to countenance such a thing?

I have no doubt that there are those on both sides of the conflict who hate their enemies so much the only outcome they will accept is their utter destruction. I choose to believe, however, that there are also those on both sides who in the right circumstances would be prepared to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict. If Republican and Loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland can do it, anyone can.

What will it take for Israel and Palestinian leaders to sit down and talk? Again, I don’t know, but I do know it won’t happen until enough people of power on both sides realise that they will never be able to win by military means, only then will the space for talks appear.

***

There is no reason why the UK cannot be a force for good in the pursuit of peace between Israel and Palestinians. But we do need to get our own house in order as well. In the last few days, we have seen anti-semitic protests in London. I have read of death threats made against Jews, and of a police officer recorded shouting “Free Palestine” at a protest outside the Israeli embassy. Britain ought to be a place where Jews feel safe, but many do not. I wish, therefore, the government was more visible about what it is doing to help them. Soothing words from politicians and the police are not enough.

Speaking of that police officer – I read a comment on Twitter the other day that said she could reasonably ask why her actions are being investigated given that the Met allowed officers to take a knee at last year’s BLM protests and dance with people attending Pride. That is a fair comment. The best outcome to this investigation, therefore, would not be the officer’s reprimand or dismissal but the Commissioner of the Met Police confirming that from now on the police will follow of strict neutrality at all times in the course of their duty. It will be a shame that they cannot dance on such a happy day as Pride but the police exists for one cause, and one cause only: justice.

Notting Hill

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had just watched Notting Hill.

I actually started watching it on Friday, 8th May and, after watching a little more of it a few days later, finally finished it at the weekend.

On the 8th, I paused the film at the end of the scene when Will Thacker and Anna Scott break into the private garden. I did so because I knew that the sad scenes were coming up and I didn’t want to watch them. Yes, I am that soft.

My softness was aided and abetted by my ability to get distracted easily – to drift from one thing to another, to do the thing that is easiest on my effort.

You might think that nothing is easier than watching a film, but even a ‘simple’ romantic comedy requires thought – and concentration. That’s why, after managing to watch a few more scenes during the following week, I made myself lie down (I watched the film on my laptop on my bed) and watch the film to its finish.

I am happy I did so as the sad scenes passed and the happy ending came. I am angry with myself, though, for having to say, ‘right, Malcolm, lie down and watch.’. It shouldn’t have to be like that. Especially not at my age (49).

Sadly, though, it is. What to do about it? Not watching films is not an option. So, this week I am adapting. Instead of lying down expecting to watch the whole film, I am doing so with the aim of watching at least 45 minutes or an hour of it. If I can watch the whole thing, great, but I am not going to expect myself to do so.

By setting a target, I will – hopefully – make better progress than if I lay down to watch a whole movie, didn’t manage it and got annoyed with myself again. This has already worked with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which I watched over the last couple of nights and has got off to a good start again this evening with Blue is the Warmest Colour, so we’ll see how it continues.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back A Very Quick Review
Tom Cruise is a great action star. His Mission Impossible films are to die for. Never Go Back, however, is a second division picture. While the story holds together well enough, Jack Reacher has none of Ethan Hawke’s wit or charisma. He broods his way through the whole film. I don’t want him to be Ethan Hawke Mk 2 but there needs to be more to him than just his ability to beat up the baddies. 7.5/10

Some Kind of Wonderful

I have two favourite films – two that stand head and shoulders above all others no matter how good or dear to me they are. The two are Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) and The English Patient (1996).

As far as films go, The English Patient has a fairly high profile. It is the screen adaptation of a Booker prize winning novel and won no fewer than nine Oscars.

Some Kind of Wonderful, on the other hand, not only didn’t win awards, but isn’t even its own film – the story is a retelling of Pretty in Pink. Instead of Andie, we have Keith Nelson. Both are outsiders at school. Duckie is replaced by Watts. And Blane becomes Amanda Jones. In the original ending of Pretty in Pink, Andie walked away with Duckie. Test audiences hated this, however, so in the revised version, she fell in love with Blane.

80s teen-film maestro, John Hughes, who wrote both Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, however, was determined to see his original ending on the big screen, so he wrote Some Kind of Wonderful. As a result, Keith and Watts come together at the end.

I first saw Some Kind of Wonderful in 1989 it immediately resonated with me. Why? Because I identified very strongly with Keith and because I fell in love with Watts. Why do I still love the film so much today? I am, after all, now old enough, to be Keith’s father. I guess it’s because although I am no longer a teenager or even ‘young adult’, in terms of my age, I am still the same person as I was then: creative, a bit of an outsider, shy. In essence, I’m still Keith. I imagine the same will be the case should I reach the age of 70 or 80.

Why do I mention the film now? Well, a few days ago, I went on to You Tube to see if there were any videos about the making of the film. I had just watched one about Notting Hill – another favourite film – and was in the mood for more.

I didn’t find a ‘making of’ video, but did get something just as good: a fan of the film visiting some of the film’s locations:

This was a joy to watch! The host, Jordan the Lion (rawwwr) is clearly a big fan of Some Kind of Wonderful as he peppers his commentary throughout with quotes from the film. I’m so happy that I found someone who loves the film as much as I do.

After watching the video, I continued my search on Google. There, I had a bit more success. In 2019, Entertainment Weekly published an interview with the several of the film’s leading cast in an ‘oral history’ of its production. You can read it here. A website I had not heard of before, Moviehole, also published this ‘behind-the-scenes’ account of the film’s making.

Both articles contain some great insights into the making of the film. My favourite concern the development of Watts’ character. Here is what Mary Stuart Masterson says:

This version of Watts presents a much more radical version of the character than the one we see on screen. To be sure, some elements of ‘Keith Watts’ remain in the final film: she still wears men’s underwear and is known only in the film by her surname (in the book of the film her first name is revealed to be Susan) but while still a tomboy, the film doesn’t emphasise either her ‘butchness’ or her relationship with Keith as that of, practically speaking, two guys.

I’m not surprised Watts’ character was softened – ‘Keith Watts’ would surely have been too radical for studio executive to accept in a straight-down-the-line teen romance. On the one hand, I’m not disappointed because I love the Watts that we are given. On the other, what an interesting film it would have been had the original conception of Watts been maintained. It would have allowed Some Kind of Wonderful to transcend its status as teen-romance and offered the opportunity to explore the nature of identity and love in a far deeper way: a way that would have been ahead of its time.

We Have Arrived!

On 16th May 2019, five weeks after leaving Saint Jean Pied de Port, my friends and I finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela. Today, we went straight to the flat we had booked for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll head down to the cathedral and the pilgrim centre.

Two years later I still think of walking the Camino as one of the two great achievements of my life (the other being earning my degree from university) and I remain as happy and honoured to have been able to do so as I was when we reached Santiago.

I would still like to walk the Camino Francés again, though I don’t know if I ever will – maybe health and financial status will not allow it – but if I don’t, I am immeasurably glad and grateful that I got the chance to do it even just the once.

As I write these words, the coronavirus continues to plague the world. Here in Britain, we are recovering: the government has made many mistakes since COVID-19 started to spread, but has done brilliantly with the vaccination programme. The Indian variant is causing concern but all being well, the country will be fully ‘open’ again this summer. After a slow start (to put it mildly), the European Union is getting on with its vaccination programme as well. As it does so, pilgrims will start to walk the way of St. James again. I applaud their bravery, for they will not only be undertaking what will be at times an arduous journey but doing so at a time when there will invariably be lingering concerns about the virus.

If you are one of those trail blazing pilgrims, or if you are reading this further into the future, here is this one-timer’s advice for making a good pilgrimage:

  1. Don’t walk without water!
  2. Travel as lightly as you can
  3. The Camino isn’t a race. Go at your own pace

There is lots of advice that one could give but I think the above are the most essential. I would dare to say that the above is the most critical, as well. Some advice (like ‘leave your phone at home’) can be happily ignored. The above, I believe, shouldn’t be.

As for me, I bought a little bottle of wine to toast our success in 2019. Here’s to what we achieved and the Camino – long may she be a guide to souls.

Two Parts of the Whole

Writing this blog is both a compulsion and an embarrassment.

It’s a compulsion because I keep coming back to it no matter how long I spend away. Even though I have fewer readers than Shakespeare had Greek, my heart aches to return.

Why? I have a theory: on Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram, I am writing for an audience. Every photo and piece of text is written with other people in mind. Here, however, because so far people read this blog, I am writing for me; only me. That helps me to say the things I really want to say (or, at least some of them, since I am not yet brave enough to say everything).

Sehnsucht and Wine is an embarrassment because of the amount of time between each post. The last one was published on 27th November. The one before that, 11th September; then, 22nd August and 28th June.

Actually, it isn’t the blog that is embarrassing, but me. Why can I never stick to a regular schedule? There is an answer to this: I never create one. Not a proper one that I can look at and say ‘Right, this week, I turn to turn my attention to x’. I tell myself ‘I will write this here, and that, there’, but never make an effort to keep to the plan. A few days ago, I wrote up a blogging schedule for S&W, Hilaire Belloc and The Second Achilles. If I stick to it, I will write one post for each each week. Ideally, I would like to write it over the weekend but I’ll be happy if it just gets done.

I don’t want this post to be just about me having a go at myself so let’s catch up again.

Coronavirus
The U.K. continues to suffer under the pressure of COVID-19. There was good news at the start of December (the 8th to be exact, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) when the first vaccine against the virus was administered. Bad news, however, followed, as infection rates shot up and a new, more virulent, strain of the virus appeared in Kent. As a result, we entered our third lockdown of the year. It remains in place. That isn’t the end of the story, though, as Britain is now pushing ahead with her vaccination process. I think we are currently the leading European country for vaccinations and perhaps one of the world leaders as well. That’s a piece of news that should make us all happy.

Brexit
The U.K. left the European Union last year but the transition process only came to an end on 31st December. From my perspective, it has changed absolutely nothing about my life. Of course, other people will have different stories. Brexit is such an important event in the life of this nation that I feel I should be writing much, much more about it; only, I really don’t have anything else to say. I almost feel guilty about that.

Happiest Season
Watching this was one of the highlights of my December. It stars Kristen Stewart (Abby) and Mackenzie Davis (Harper) as a couple who visit the latter’s family for Christmas. It turns out, however, that Harper has not yet come out to them. The film is a romcom but a bittersweet one as Abby and Harper are forced to keep their relationship under wraps. As you might imagine, doing so almost drives them apart before love wins out at the end. Victor Gerber stars as Harper’s father. As it turns out, Harper is not the only one in the family keeping a secret – thanks to her father, everyone is. Because this is a romcom, though, he is not a villain. He is very cute, however. Dan Levy (John) steals every scene he is in. His character is over the top but he is also a Feste-like figure, speaking the truth to those who need to hear it.

David Hogarth
I attended an online conference hosted by Magdalen College about Hogarth last weekend. I will try and write more about it in another post but I am very pleased to say that the conference was a fascinating event that taught me much about this elusive figure.

During the talks, I took a screenshot of nearly every slide that came up – below is one chosen at random (it shows Hogarth as a young boy; inset is Ben Taylor, the Magdalen archivist who is cataloguing the papers). I look forward to sifting through them.

The reason for the conference is the donation of Hogarth’s papers to his old college by Caroline Barron, who is an emerita professor of History at Royal Holloway University. She is also Hogarth’s granddaughter. What a kind gift to make!

Here We Go-

Catch up time – again!

What I’ve Been Doing
What’s been happening? In late October I finally attending my first Mass since March-April. A few days later, a deteriorating coronavirus situation put England back into a national lockdown. I saw ‘England’ as the Welsh and Scottish governments have been dealing with their countries separately.

At the end of October, I celebrated my 49th birthday. I did so quietly with a glass of wine.

At the start of November I joined the NaNoWriMo scheme. It’s been an up and down month in terms of writing. As of today, I have managed just over 30,000 words. Unfortunately, I have not written anything this week. I just ran out of steam.

At the start of this week, I had a chat with a dear friend and admitted that I had read hardly any books this year. I’ve been thinking about that since and realised that I have read a few more than I remembered, but it has still been a poor year.

Books On the Go
As a result of this conversation, on Wednesday, I picked up the four that I had started or tried to start since September and read a little bit of each as a prelude to beginning a programme of reading one or two every day thereafter. The four books are:

i. Hilaire Belloc The Servile State. For more on this one, check out my Belloc blog here
ii. Amanda McCrina Traitor. This is a YA book set on the eastern front during the Second World War. McCrina writes with very a very light touch, which is a great blessing given the book’s setting and some of the events in it; her prose reminds me of Hemingway’s in its matter-of-factness.
iii. Adrian Goldsworthy Philip & Alexander. A doorstopper of a biography about Philip II of Macedon and his famous son. I’ve only read a couple of chapters so its too early to give an opinion of it. Goldsworthy is a good historian, though, so I have high hopes for it.
iv. A.B. Bosworth Conquest and Empire. Another biography of Alexander. I wouldn’t normally read two at once but it is the current book for the Alexander the Great Reading Group, which I am a member of on Twitter.

Formula 1
Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One World Championship for the seventh time! A truly magnificent achievement. When Michael Schumacher won his seventh world title I didn’t think anyone would ever get close to it let alone equal it. Hamilton has every good chance of winning an eighth title next year as well.

A few weeks before Hamilton wrapped up his title, Mercedes won the Constructors’ World Championship for the seventh time in a row. What makes their victories so special is that they have achieved them across different regulations. Formula One changes its car rules every few years. This usually allows a new team to break ahead of whoever dominated the sport before (it’s how Mercedes superseded Red Bull who won the Constructors’ title four years in a row between 2010-2013 with Sebastian Vettel). Mercedes, however, have remained dominant since 2014 despite any rule change that the FIA has thrown at them. 2021 was due to be the next big rule change but it has been put back a year due to the pandemic. Next year’s cars, therefore, will be very similar to this year’s. That gives Hamilton the perfect chance to get ahead of Schumacher.

The Presidential Election
Joe Biden won the American Presidential election at the start of November. Since then, Donald Trump has been doing his best to get the result overturned through the courts but without any success at all. He hasn’t conceded to Biden yet but there can surely be no doubt that he will. On Twitter, I did my level best to avoid the election. No one asked for my opinion and I very much doubt it would be of any value at all to anyone. I still nearly managed to make an ass of myself, though, when I wrote an e-mail to an American friend and typed ‘H’ instead of ‘J’ for Joe on my keyboard. Fortunately, I saw the error in time!

NFL
The Cleveland Browns are roading through the regular season in the NFL. Well, kind of. As of today, they have a 7-3 record and are second in the AFC North. First is Pittsburgh who have a perfect 10-0 record. I will just be happy if Cleveland get to the playoffs.

Romance
Since September (and before) I have been listening to the Lesbians Who Write podcast. Earlier this month, I finished reading T. B. Markinson’s A Woman Lost romance and decided to write a ‘thank you’ e-mail to her. They mentioned the e-mail in the 91st episode of the podcast and I’m not going to lie, I’ve been feeling pretty chuffed about it ever since! I enjoy LWW very much – the humour and insight into the writing business especially. Sometimes I think ‘maybe I will write a romance’ but the stories I really want to write are fairy tales. Maybe I will write a fairy tale romance. Mine would be a bi fairy tale romance, though, as this market seems very ill catered for.

UPDATE: 29.11.20 I have written a catch-up post for my Alexander blog, The Second Achilles. You can read it here

Time for Tenet

The last post took two months to write; this one has taken just three weeks. I’m getting better…

Tenet
A week last Wednesday I went to see Christopher Nolan’s new film. Like most people, I came out thoroughly bamboozled regarding the plot but still enjoyed the picture. The two leads, John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, were very good in their roles. Washington’s Protagonist is a somewhat distant character; he is all about the plot rather than character so I was grateful for Pattinson’s Neil who is a little more of the reverse, whether it is in his clothing choices or warm smile. Since watching the film, I have learnt that John David Washington is Denzel Washington’s son, which I can hardly believe. And what’s more, JDW is 36, so he has been around for a while. It turns out that that Denzel Washington is 65. How time flies.

What was it like going to the cinema? Tense. Because of the coronavirus risk, I umm’d and ahh’d about going for several days before hand. Had it not been for Christopher Nolan, I probably wouldn’t have. I went to an 11am screening in the hope that it would not be busy. Thankfully, it wan’t – there were just a handful of people in the screen. Why did I feel tense? The cinema was very clean and tidy; if the staff’s PPE was anything to go by, Vue take their health and the cinema-goers very seriously. Of course, the answer is that despite the cinema’s best efforts, the virus may still linger somewhere and I may catch it. This was on my mind beforehand, while watching the film, and afterwards. It won’t start to go away until after next Wednesday – the two week mark when symptoms of the illness usually start to manifest themselves.

While watching the film, I wore my face mask. Doing so will never be enjoyable but at least the temperature in the screen was fairly even. As a result, my glasses only steamed up once or twice.

Why next? I really want to see Bill & Ted 3 (it opens on 16th Sept.) but I have to admit I’m umm’ing and ahh’ing about it even harder than with Tenet. I could easily see myself deciding to wait until it appears on DVD or streaming service. The next film that I will do all I can to go and see in the cinema is No Time To Die. The latest trailer for James Bond 25 looks absolutely stunning. The film is due out on 12th November.

Home Life
Nothing much has changed: in the morning, I work; in the afternoon, I read and write. This week has been different, though. It has gone really well. Every week day for several months now, I have written a list of all the things I would like to do during that day. Rarely have I ever been able to tick everything off before day’s end. This week, I have managed to do so for four days in a row! I can’t tell you how extraordinary that is. As a result, I have managed to :-

read a little more of Rob Johnson’s Lawrence of Arabia on War
develop my plot outline for my as yet unnamed Camino Story
write and schedule tweets for my Hilaire Belloc Twitter account (@SineAuctoritate)

every day. I’m very proud of myself for that. I have no expectation about what I will achieve today, or any day into the future: I don’t want to think about that at all. Every day is a gift so I would prefer to focus on where I am and what I am doing now. If I can tick everything off again, great, if not, not to worry.

Books
A new book about Alexander the Great has been published! It’s called Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors and is by Adrian Goldsworthy. He has written several books, mainly about ancient Rome, so is very solid. I can’t wait to get started on it.

Podcasts
I’ve been enjoying listening to Clare Lydon’s and T. B. Markinson’s Lesbians Who Write podcast. On a practical level, it is full of useful writing tips. Its greatest virtue, however, has to be the warmness of the hosts’ friendship. It is very evident in the presentation and makes for nice, homely podcast. If only Christopher Nolan could make a film that was as friendly! I’d like to start listening to at least a couple more podcasts regularly but I don’t know which ones to choose, yet.

Formula 1
The season continues. As I write this, Free Practice 2 is taking place in Tuscany. Tuscany! The F1 circus is using Ferrari’s test track at Mugello. I have visited Tuscany twice in my life and had a wonderful time both times. Well, almost. My first visit (c. 2002) was my first solo trip abroad. I had a two hour panic attack after I arrived. Once I recovered, though, the rest of the trip was fabulous (except for the time an Italian guy swigged my wine outside a trattoria!).