Monday, April 30, 2018

Malice Domestic 30

Annamaria on Monday

This year's Malice Domestic was the 30th annual celebration of
traditional mysteries.

It's a conference I can get to by train--my favorite
mode of transportation.
Saturday dawned with appropriately spooky weather.

The hotel coincidently hosted a meeting of doctors at the same time, so there
was medical help--just in case some fictional crime became too real.
My panel: practitioners of international historical crime fiction 
Brenda Blethyn, conference honoree for her role as Vera.

My fellow MWA-NYer--Kellye Garrett, winner,
Agatha for Best First for HOLLYWOOD HOMOCIDE
Happy me, sharing a banquet table with Sujata.  An MIE regular reader
came to tell us how much she enjoyed this blog.  How sweet is that!

Eight marvellous mystery fans signed up to share our table at the awards banquet.
I spied two iconic towers on my way home:

Annamaria's upcoming events:

May 10th
Manuscript deadline -- eeeeeeekk!! 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My Thoughts On Miyajima? Oh, Deer.

-- Susan, every other Sunday

When asked to rate my favorite places in Japan, Miyajima--a sacred island off the coast of Hiroshima--always makes the list, for its fabulous shrine, great hiking, amazing ryokan . . . and, of course, its resident sika (deer).

Objects in picture are closer--and fuzzier--than they appear.

It takes about six hours' travel by shinkansen from Tokyo, and another 30 minutes by ferry, to reach Miyajima, making it a lengthy trip for a place so small.

Miyajima from the ferry. The famous Otorii is just left of center.

That said, an overnight stay on Miyajima is worth the effort (at least in my opinion).

The Otorii--one of Japan's iconic images and the gateway to Itsukushima Shrine

For much of its history, Miyajima was considered so sacred that ordinary people could not even set foot on its soil. (Itsukushima Shrine sits below the high tide line, so worshippers could step directly onto the shrine from their boats, preventing them from profaning the sacred sand.)

The island is no longer off limits to visitors, but remains a historically sacred space. It's also still inhabited by hundreds of sacred deer that have lived on the island for over a century, and have no fear of humans.

Picturesque doesn't even start to describe it.

Although signs on the island warn that the deer are wild, and may bite or kick, evidence suggests the deer don't read the signs.

Clearly a dangerous wild beast.

One even tried to follow my son and me into a restaurant - and waited at the door for over an hour, hoping someone would let him in.

Table for one?

Even if you don't approach the deer, many of them will come to you, in hopes of a handout or a scratch around the ears.

Will someone please buy me a cookie?

Unlike Nara--Japan's other famously deer-filled location (about which I've blogged here in the past)--the sika of Miyajima won't mug you or rip the pockets off your pants in hopes of finding a hidden cracker.

More interested in the beach than your pants. Trust me, that's a good thing.

Miyajima's resident quadrupeds are more relaxed and far less pushy--like everyone else who lives near a lovely beach.

Beach bums come in all shapes and sizes.

That said, they're more than willing to pose for photos - which led to one of my all-time favorite portraits of my son.

A boy and his . . . deer?

The sika may not be the island's most important historical feature, or even the reason most people make the trip, but for me, they will always remain one of its most . . . endearing features.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

How Island Locals Survive a Tourist Summer


I was intending to write a piece on the many troubles confronting Greece at the moment, e.g., coping with this August's end to years of financial bailout loans, saddled with unmanageable debt; a strident Turkey rattling sabers daily; a neighbor to the north laying claim to the Greek name Macedonia; continuing Great Depression unemployment levels; crippling tax burdens; an unrelenting refugee crisis; and national elections within a year.  

But as tourists to Greece will not notice any of that, I thought I'd revisit how locals manage to survive tourist season.

The answer is simple...with straight faces.

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of face put on by TV talking heads pontificating on subjects of which they know little and care about even less, or politicians whenever their lips are moving, I mean the faces of everyday common folk doing what they must to make their living off of tourism.

Singer-Artist Ken Richards
Imagine the stress of dealing face-to-face, 24/7, six months a year, with the many ilk, shapes, and demands of international tourism when virtually 100% of your income is dependant on making people happy.  Add to that mix the occasional thorny visitors who act as if they walked on water to get to the island and insist on being venerated as such even when their fly (or gender equivalent) is down.  Make that especially so on such occasions.  It is enough to drive one mad.

As proof I submit the following two photographs, one of a Mykonian at the beginning of the season, another at the end.

I rest my case.  Sort of, for I have more exhibits to present.  I want to show you the variety of expressions relied upon by Mykonians to make it through nearly twenty-hour days, seven times each week.

Some are pretty good at hiding their thoughts.

Others are not.

Some see life through rosé-colored glasses.

Others chose to view it from another planet.

Some grin at it all.

Others do just the opposite.

There are those who tune out and those who tune in, both to the same end.

There are the sophisticated who seem to remain above it all.  And those who lose it to laughter.

There are some who can legitimately claim not to understand.

And others in blinders making them oblivious to what’s going on about them.

But of all the faces, the ones I enjoy the most are found on those who cope the best and remain above it all.

Yes, the young children of the island, for in their innocence they have no need for guile.  Or work.  Ahhhhhh, to memories of days long gone.


Jeff’s Upcoming Events

Friday, May 18 @ 12:30 PM

Bristol, UK
Moderating Panel titled, “Power, Corruption and Greed—Just Another Day at the Office,” with panelists Jeff Dowson, Thomas Enger, Abir Mukherjee, and Abi Silver.

Saturday, May 19 @ 2:50 PM
Bristol, UK
Participating in Panel moderated by our Michael Sears titled, “Getting Personal—Private Lives of Characters,” with co-panelists Kjell Ola Dahl, Mari Hannah, and Priscilla Masters.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dinant, Birthplace of the saxophone


Luxembourg. This blog was supposed to be about Luxembourg but we were in a tunnel and seemed to drive through the country without noticing.

We were on route to Dinant, in Belgium. It's famous for two things. One is very sad and quite horrific and will be the subject of next week's blog. The village was the site of an atrocity in 1914, a famous incident where this gentleman...

                                            received the  wound that made him limp for the rest of his life.

As it is today,  you do get the feeling that everywhere you go in Dinant, the Citadel, the fortress on the hill, is looking after the village. It has been  doing so since 900 or so.
The memorium  to the fallen of that fateful night in August 1914.

More about that later, but for now Dinant is a small town in Belgium, in the Walloon district. It’s only 38 square miles and has a population of less than 14 000. It’s a very long thin town, sitting in the upper Meuse valley which  is very steep sided. So there is a river, the road and mostly a single row of buildings before things start to get a bit vertical. 

The word Dinant, means, roughly translates from some ancient tongue as The Sacred Valley.
                                              View from the cable car, right over the river.

Billy Connolly has a famous quote about Belgium. He said it would be great when it was finished.

There is a similar town on the other side of the Meuse,  Bouvignes which has a gentler, rolling landscape behind it.
                                                                 The Cathedral.

Apart from the events of 1914, Dinant is famous for......being the birthplace of Adolphe Sax who invented….. the saxophone!
Antoine-Joseph Sax was born on 6th November 1814 and he was quite a character.  Nobody, least of all his mum, expected him to survive. As a kid he had fallen out his house from the third floor, accidentally hit his head on a stone and temporarily lost the ability to walk,  he swallowed a pin amongst other near lethal objects, and he was messing about with some gunpowder when it exploded and burned him badly. He managed to fall onto a hot pan and gave himself third degree burns and then, just to put the tin lid on it, his family were varnishing some furniture and left the items in his room to dry overnight.  He passed out with the fumes.
Then he fell over again on a cobblestone and concussed himself. 
Then fell in the river, in the Meuse. 
I wonder if his mum was…amused.
Nowadays he would be subject to a social services referral.
His clumsiness, inability to look where he was going,  or plain daftness earned him the nickname, the little ghost as   his family presumed that one day, his luck might run out.

The bridge is lined with saxophones, all different, one from each EU country. The UK still has their's but I'm writing this on Thursday, who knows what might happen on Friday so here's Mette's saxophone for Denmark.


Sax died in Paris aged 79, and is buried in Montmartre. He died in complete poverty after fighting legally to protect the legitimacy of his patents, the legal fighting went back and forth for over twenty years, using up all his funds and sending him into bankruptcy.

In early the 1840’s he invented the saxophone. (He played the flute and clarinet.)  He also invented the saxotromba, saxtuba and the saxhorn which evolved into the euphonium.

Saxotromba? I think that would be the blog word of the week!
It's all cool and froodie, with the citadel watching like a matron over a troublesome patient.

Just because they could, in 1854 a band in the Scottish borders formed as the Jedforest Instrumental Band and The Hawick Saxhorn Band formed a year later, doing their things with the saxhorn. It sounds much better than the bagpipe (in both senses).
                                                         ( one of these is a useless instrument)

In 2015, google marked Sax’s 201st birthday with one of their wee google doodles.

I liked this house... very spooky.

                                                   And this tree. It seemed to be connected with the memorial in some way but I am still trying to research it.

Nice place.

Caro Ramsay 27 04 2018