Tuesday 26 January 2016

Oh yes, also, people died...

It's a hot and humid morning, the sea beyond my window is sparkling blue dotted with white boats, mirrored by a blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds, the cicadas are buzzing down in the bush, the kakas are swooping along the valley which echoes with their harsh pterodactyl-like cry (you can't prove that comparison wrong) and I'm sitting here looking at a list of unpublished stories from last year, cursing terrorists. And the weather.
There are a couple about beleagured Paris, one about the sweet and unique little Pet Cemetery out in the suburbs, and another about exploring the 13th arrondissement with boundlessly enthusiastic local man Quan. There's another set in Turkey, a country of rich history, magnificent architecture, striking scenery, delicious food and friendly people but horrendously hostile neighbours, and one specifically about Istanbul where I stayed in a cute little hotel a minute up the hill from the Hippodrome with its - it was then, anyway - remarkably new-looking Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius where ten unsuspecting tourists were recently killed in a suicide explosion. Yet another tells about cruising the Greek Islands, in the waters where desperate refugees keep drowning trying to escape their ruined homeland.
There are others about the north of England - Yorkshire, Cumbria - which are currently due for another onslaught of wild weather, still sodden and crumbling as they are after the torrential rain and flooding that made Christmas a misery for those unfortunate enough to live by a river or on a floodplain. I've got one story set in Western Australia, where raging fires have consumed huge areas of bush, plus the homes built in it, almost as bad as the terrible conflagrations on the opposite side of the continent.
In all these locations I met nice people who depend on tourism for their livelihood, who are proud and enthusiastic about their bits of the planet and want to share them with visitors. I'm also pretty keen for my stories to be published, to repay my hosts with publicity, and also to reap a few pence (no exaggeration, sadly) for my work. But that's not going to happen while these places are, for one reason or another, in turmoil - editors, unfortunately, tend to play it safe rather than take a stand.
So maybe it's just as well that, South Africa in August apart, my horizons for this year are currently relentlessly domestic. There's a Grand Tour coming up, hitting all the visitor must-sees for New Zealand. Hopefully there will be nothing more dramatic en route than the mountains, lakes and fiords - but who knows, in these turbulent times? Watch this space.

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