Thursday, 26 April 2012

A brief word on Rivers of London


A while ago, my lovely friends Darren and Laura bought me a hardback, signed copy of Rivers of London. They reasoned that it looked to be exactly my cup of tea, and it was dedicated to a dear mutual friend of ours. It went on my to be read pile and then stayed there for a bit, because at the same time I got a kindle, and the whizzbang bit of tech was my new best friend.

            Well, just recently I decided that if I wasn’t going to shove the very lovely hardback into my handbag then I would bloody well get the ebook version and read that. The hardback remains pristine on a shelf... the point is, I recently finished Rivers of London and now I’m on to Moon Over Soho, and I’m very glad I got my finger out and read it, because these books are great.

            I’ve read genre books before set in modern London, and apart from the fabulous Neverwhere I’ve never really connected with them. They never really felt like my London, the London I grew up in and work in and live in now, the London I love right down to my toes. Arronovitch knows the city and loves it, and he writes it brilliantly. It probably helps that he’s writing about places I have a fondness for (Soho, Covent Garden, Holborn) but it’s about more than that; PC Grant is a modern Londoner in every sense, and his droll affection for the city, wary street sense and family strife are London all over. Plus, he’s an immensely likeable and genuinely funny character; add that to a sprinkling of geeky references (how can you not love a book that mentions Doctor Who and Fringe and Playstations?) and a cast of supporting characters that brighten the story rather than distracting from it, and you’ve got a pretty top series of books, in my opinion. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Maaaybe it's because I'm a Londoner... that I love London pubs!

Yesterday it was my lovely boyfriend’s 40th birthday, so being wild and crazy party animals we decided to spend the afternoon moving sedately around the London Bridge area (very sedately, as I appear to have broken my foot in an argument with an oven – don’t ask) taking in the frenetic pace of the area and checking out a few historical pubs I’ve had my eye on. So in place of a proper blog post, here are a few thoughts on some of the places we visited.

The Old King’s Head


To be honest The Old King’s Head looks rather more exciting on the outside; it’s down a dodgy-looking alley and the sign has Henry VIII’s cheerfully inflated head on it, so you expect to walk into some backstreet dining hall revelry, where jesters hang from the oak beams and swarthy men eat entire chicken carcases with their hands. Alas, no, although it is still rather charmingly old fashioned and has some beautiful stained glass in the windows (a dragon, a lion and a whippet, I think).

The George


The George is an excitingly old place, and even has various notices from the National Trust telling you how it’s the last surviving galleried coaching inn, and Shakespeare and Dicken’s hung out there like writerly bros (not at the same time, sadly). In terms of actually sitting around and drinking, it is a weirdly uncomfortable place. It took us a little while just to get inside – you open a door onto a room full of people sitting and drinking, with no bar in sight and no doors to anywhere else – and you have to peer into a few windows before you figure the layout (we did our usual “It’s like the Crystal Maze/Krypton Factor!” bit). The seats were oddly high, so our feet dangled above the floor, and a small bottle of pear cider cost £4.50. Yikes.

The Barrow Boy and Banker


This one was cheating slightly, as we have a long and exciting history with the Barrow Boy; a huge pub, with an upstairs balcony area (off which we once infamously threw some plastic men with parachutes) and an enormous sweeping staircase. It's often heaving to the rafters but yesterday afternoon it was quiet so we ate lunch there, and thanks to it being Marty’s birthday we got a free drink! Can’t say fairer than that. Also, the fish pie is amazing.

The Tiger


Now this one isn’t in London Bridge at all, it’s in Camberwell, but it’s worth mentioning here for several reasons: a) it always smells of lovely food being cooked b) the staff watch Game of Thrones c) it’s decorated in a explosion-in-an-antiques-shop-with-a-load-of-tat-on-the-side fashion, which is exactly how I would decorate a pub, and d) it used to be the Silver Buckle, which was a terrifying place with bullet holes in the walls and drug addicts chewing the tables. Now it’s not, and that certainly deserves celebration. 



Monday, 2 April 2012

Dark Fiction Magazine: 2012 and Beyond


After a wee winter holiday, Dark Fiction Magazine is back with us, bristling with awesome science-fiction stories. Launch your ears into the future and go have a listen (for free) here.


The reason that I’m posting about it on my blog (other than the fact it’s just great, obviously) is that this is the first episode where my partner Marty and I have steering the Ominous Ghost Ship that is Dark Fiction Magazine.


We’ve been involved in the past, with both writing and narration, so when Sharon Ring and Del Lakin-Smith, the awesome chaps that founded the place, decided to take more of a backseat in order to pursue their own projects, Marty and I sort of shuffled forward to take the helm. Marty likes twiddling about with audio stuff (I’m fairly sure that’s the correct technical term) and I like reading through lots and lots and lots of stories (no, honestly, I do) so it seemed like the perfect fit.


Getting our first episode out has been an interesting process, and a huge learning experience. There were times, when self-imposed deadline after self-imposed deadline whistled merrily past my ears, that I wondered, “What on earth are we doing? Do I not have enough stories to wrangle as it is? I think my head might fall off.” But in the end, seeing the episode go live and knowing those four science-fiction stories will be amusing/alarming/entertaining earholes all over the interwebs was a lovely feeling, and I look forward to doing it again soon. So big thanks to: Marty, who not only handled the audio side of things but also did all manner of technical web stuff I didn’t understand, to our fabulous narrators and subs reading teams, who did an ace job as ever, and to Del and Sharon for letting us play with their toys.