Publishing a novel #2

(continuing from the previous post)

‘Why did I bother?’

That’s the big question.

And the small answer is, because I wanted to

squeak, squeak

While the big answer is, because I wanted to change the world

ROOOAAAR!

During the last great heatwave of 1976 I was sweeping the floor of a factory where they made machines which in turn were used to make cigarettes (which I in turn smoked in great quantities after purchasing them in their branded form from the local newsagents using money I had earned sweeping the floor, and so on…round and round).

After they had completed an operation the machine operators would call me to sweep up around them. 95% of my time was spent leaning on the broom handle waiting their call and over that entire heat-filled summer I must have written about 100,000 novels in my head.

When the heatwave ended so did my imaginings…only to re-emerge about five years later after a great many misadventures had left me pining for novels which had helped change my world in the first place, most notably those of Kerouac and Solzhenitsyn but also a host of unremembered novels and books of psychology and philosophic outpourings mostly borrowed from friends and libraries and occasionally bought from bookshops or stolen at book fairs.

But – there was nothing left on the shelf…

And, really, all this feeds into why I bothered.

The world needed to be changed and I wanted to be some kind of agent to that change.

Now that it has become widely understood that the media controls the output which emerges for sale on bookshelves it is possible to recognise why certain material has never become publicly available.

Just as the distribution of the news has changed, so now has the distribution of quality fiction.

Simply by sharing these blog posts or visiting your local bookstore you could be aiding and abetting the creative process.

You might visit the GFR page and read for free the opening sections to all the available works. More are in the pipeline.

Ultimately, change is only going to occur as we pool our thoughts and begin to operate more smoothly together.

My novels are – and always were – intended to be a part of this collaborative idea.

Novels by Glyn F Ridgley available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

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Publishing a novel

A fairly raggedy cheap brown envelope turned up on my doormat with a letter inside telling me what a good writer I was and how I should rework my manuscript to make it publishable before sending it back through the process once again.

Hmm, what to do? Take it seriously, this unsigned scrap of typed paper with a little squiggle of ink at its end?

No, not really. The MS was all but complete and I’d already spent money previously getting somebody’s expert opinion about another work I’d done…

Oh, hold on…

Way back while living in a room in West Ealing and working in a Soho clip-joint the inspiration had come upon me to write a novel and within a month the masterwork was complete. An agency wanted me to send in another piece of work.

That work was rejected out of hand.

I wrote a piece about a young man who rejected society and placed a bomb in a club exclusively for the rich.

An agent wanted me to send in something longer.

I was writing a full-length novel about living on the streets of London and another agent wanted to take me on but was prevented from doing so by her boss who was the person who had requested I send in another piece of work after reading what I had written while living in a room in West Ealing and working in a Soho clip-joint…

That work went to an agency which charged a pound a page and told me what I already knew.

In the meantime, the agent who wanted to take me on but who had been prevented from doing so by her boss opened her own agency and now didn’t want to take me on…

Later, the BBC published a piece about me concerning a person who had written a full-length novel about living on the streets of London.

The agent who had wanted to take me on while working for an agency but didn’t want to do so when she had her own agency had written to the publishing editor of a literary publishing house who had sent my manuscript about living on the streets of London to a reader who had complained that my novel was exactly what I wanted it to be: the story of a young man living on the streets of London. The editor could only concur. But he lost the manuscript and never got back to me. The agent who advised me to contact him (and who didn’t want to take me on now that she had her own agency) had previously praised him but now told me otherwise.

I had only begun to write because after leaving school with no qualifications I had worked in various non-skilled occupations and had run out of things to read; nothing on the bookshelves satisfied.

So I took a look at my opening pages of the manuscript and had it read by some people I trusted and sent it back in…

And a month or so later a letter came back saying no go…

This time it was signed; and only then did I discover that the person who had written to me previously was Jonny Geller, the agent who had just been voted the Most Influential Person in British Literature.

Why did I bother?

Novels by Glyn F Ridgley available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

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GFR Amazon Page

 

Years of waste: 1979-2019

1979-2019 will surely be remembered as a 40-year pointless wandering in the desert by the western tribes. When we could have helped found the promised land, we instead were drowned, and engulfed by the conservative forces of inertia. Following decades of plenty after the recovery from WW2 there will have been succeeding decades of drought and waste. All easily predicted. All self-inflicted, governed by the dictates of greed and self-interest.

We could have had it all – love, life peace and prosperity – but have ended up with little else than wars, death, famine and disease. The lands of Israel and Yemen are exemplars of all this catastrophe. The West is stagnant and in danger of rotting away under the sway of establishment forces.

Ah, just think, those halcyon days of the fifties, sixties and early seventies when the world looked set to yield all its fruits; a time when it was possible to consider the possibility of shortened work hours and time to enjoy all that had been attained. Technology would be used to improve the human load and maybe even take our race out to the stars.

Driving through a couple of villages today I easily saw how this has all ended in affluent decay and sociopathic ascendency. The more mindless you are, the more money you are able to acquire, which can then be converted into cars and property and purposeless luxuries.

In the UK and USA and similar western states we only have to look at our leaders and the ruling class to see what are the dominant trends and values. Taking the first two, we have a PM whose joint family income is generated through interests in the machinery of war and killing, and a thrice-bankrupted president who built his racist empire on property and financial speculation. Both are proven liars. What more do we need to know?

Which brings us to NOW again. Currently there is a fightback against the forces of human exploitation and oppression and this movement is still thankfully easily enough accessed through social media (though even these channels are currently under attack from the conservative forces). There are also politicians of integrity with a substantial following, like Corbyn and Stein.

So that all is not lost.

Historically, 1926 brought about the General Strike, 1976 was the UK’s best year according to economists, so that if the fifty-year cycle of the Kondratiev wave means anything at all, the next few years leading up to 2026 could bring about the greatest benefit of all to the peoples of the world.apple

And this time the fruits may be picked off the tree and not be left to fall and rot. Not like earlier.

Novels by GFR available at Amazon and stores worldwide

Bucks blog #1

Without a doubt south Bucks is as pretty and lovely an area as any in the world. Sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes it is gloomy but, always, it possesses a special character to those born here and raised here. The Chiltern hills, Aylesbury Vale and beech woods under an ever-changing voluminous blue-grey-white sky take centre stage as far as I am concerned. Fortunately all this glorious nature can be accessed from my family home; unfortunately a poor writer cannot find the funds to move back to the place he loves – where a wooden hut with a pocket-handkerchief garden would set you back 400K.

Well, we’re still on the road, so that hardly matters at the moment…

Bristol beckons, and then the Welsh landscape will heave into view, especially the Pembrokeshire coast and hills.fiat doblo

After, we’re lining up a cottage in central Portugal for the autumn and incoming winter chill. I’ve got to find a place to settle for a while and continue work on the new novel, which follows on from the previous effort SOUL JOURNEY. This means it will be THE SERPENTINE MYTH PT2 (referring to the manner in which humanity’s most ancient teachings have been preserved from Vedic times and even now are being revealed in a modern form) and contains all the characters from the previous eight novels. The current working title is Zeitgeist Pariah which harks back to when the guys were just starting out from their (south Bucks!) village… (you probably ought to know this is no demons & wizards Lord of the Rings type saga, but rather a bunch of ordinary guys heading out into the world and discovering its secrets therein…while a new generation is now emerging – which will hopefully make a better job of maintaining this planet. – And  I’m 100% optimistic they will!)

Which brings the post back to NOW.st lawrence

I headed out into the god-woods straight after breakfast in my old hiking boots purchased in Truro twenty years ago and on the dry 2018 earth saw how the NT lads had been having a clear out and making the forest floor more open once again. The beeches soared thirty feet up and their leaves formed a glittering green canopy against the bright blue-sunlight while the soft warm loam underfoot reminded me yet again of brown ale aroma. Anyway, I had the woods again all to myself like I haven’t had for a couple of decades since the dog-walkers discovered they could drive out in their cars to a nearby village with their animals in the back and then unleash them into the pure meadows and surrounding woodland. There was the Vale of Aylesbury leading up to the north of the county, there was the golden ball of St Lawrence church glinting above the western tree-line and there was the perfect harmony of earth and sky that I hadn’t experienced for so long…good, old south Bucks!

Novels by GFR available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

Balkans blog #10

After thousands of miles and loads of weeks occupying a square surface area about that of a billiard table we are still the star-crossed lovers who met in Russia all those moons ago.fiat doblo

We have been heading back from our trip south through the Balkans by way of Italy and France and will quite soon be hitting Blighty’s shores via the port of Calais.

For some reason, my accent has reverted to the Bucks/London of my youth and Anne is finding it increasingly difficult to understand my utterences. That will surely be cured when the clipped vowel sounds of the Home Counties once again fill my ears as a result of turning on the radio and TV.

Actually, that ain’t gonna happen since I was fed up with all the rubbish being fed me before our departure and had already stopped tuning in. Consequently, there is no intention of starting to listen again on our return.

There is a general campaign against exposing oneself to the lies and propaganda of the UK media and I urge everyone to find alternative ways of obtaining both information and entertainment (if you can see any difference between the two). (Just prior to leaving UK shores a colleague was incredulous that I didn’t listen to the BBC and therefore obtained my news…I didn’t have the heart to tell them there’s a revolution going on.)

That is true of mainstream literature also. Whatever pap is being bottle-fed you right now be sure that it has been processed through a series of agents, publishers and booksellers before reaching your eyes and mind to make sure that all the goodness and vitality has been squeezed out of it.

Your only hope is to locate non-adulterated supplies over the internet or by other means.

As for music…

If a film makes it to the cinema it ought to be marked with a ‘Moronic Content’ sticker (I’m not joking…more anon)

As a matter of fact, our living space over the past three months has extended to about as far as the eye can see and the body is prepared to travel. From lake to mountain to sky, sea to shore, meadow to forest and hill to river. We have lived the whole summer outdoors, and feel all the better for it.

The difficulty will be trying to adjust to enclosed spaces. Really.

That said, we can’t wait to see family and friends and at the moment do not know how long we will be staying in their vicinity. Certainly, our return to Blighty is not the end of the trip – but merely a pause.

Next stop…

Written in Sedan, Ardennes, France, on the road to Calais

Novels by GFR available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

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GFR Amazon page

 

 

What a (long, strange) trip it’s been

Corn ripening in the sunny Burgundy fields brings about a sense of well-being that can only come through travelling in a landscape of harvested grain and burgeoning orchard fruits. It’s John Keats come early.fiat doblo

When this trip starting in the Balkans began I kind of had the feeling it might lead to some new sense of purposefulness and maybe a place to promote and facilitate that brand new calling. Whereas, it has further strengthened just exactly what I have felt all along regarding the role of the human being in the universe and how society might be made to fit that most important of all aspects. The places we have been to, the experiences we have had, and the people we have met, obviously, have led to this conclusion. Which is the whole point. What is travel for except to have new experiences and develop understanding?

Now I know what I have to do.

Some people may recognise the title of this blog as being borrowed from a celebrated biography of the Grateful Dead (and a line from their song ‘Truckin’). Anne and I are not part of any hippy movement fanning out from Golden Gate Park – although we went to the place on a trip (not an acid one) to southern California a couple of years ago (see my novel Answer) – but I, for one, would dearly love to see some of the thoughts expressed during that period be evoked again in our present time. On this occasion, brought to fruition. The musicians of the sixties and seventies did a great job of expanding people’s consciousness but the artists, writers and thoughtless intellectuals sadly let them down. So here we are living through times of enforced austerity brought about by the connivance of the enervating conservative powers, when we could all be living in prosperity and having unbridled dreams for an even better future.

This is what I have re-learned through our trip to the likes of Albania and Calabria where I discovered that just like with ourselves the old regime has reasserted its previous stranglehold on the present and future well-being of the population.

The eighties and beyond were like being told to expect sunshine only to have a great big rain shower come along and spoil the day.

All that ‘drip down’ economic wealth nonsense, what an insult!

And the outcome of such untruths were plainly laid out in one particular novel – Question. At least the hero of this work had the sense to see what was happening. We are the agents of our own misfortune.

Modern economic movements are making it clearer and clearer where money comes from and how it can be produced and manipulated for the benefit of society as a whole, and in so doing are giving a lie to the politicians and 1% who would have society believe otherwise.

For sure, the Establishment wants people to live in fear of the present and future in order that they can continue to govern and remain in positions of power. They don’t care that people suffer. That is not their remit. Their one and only aim is to somehow sit on the top of the pile – no matter what a heap of shit they maintain and so long as the flies continue buzzing around them.

It can sometimes be very difficult to see the present and future as being different from what they are as a result of events that happened in the past, but it is possible. The political and economic past can be seen for what it was and overcome.

So, hey, here we are sitting in a very comfortable municipal campsite in rural France and can have no complaints of a personal nature. Soon we will be back in Blighty. And the work of my blog and my novels continue.

Posted from Louhans, Borgogne

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

The trip continues…

Perfect hangover weather here, 3000 feet up in the French Alps. After bludgeoning temperatures of over 30 degrees even up high on the plateaux it’s a relief to have them lowered as a result of the rain. Wisps of cloud are clinging to the wooded alpine slopes as they move through the valley before fading away. The rain falls soft and gentle, just like Van Morrison describes it in some of his best songs.fiat doblo

We are hungover because last night Pascale and Lionel invited us over to their place for a nosh up of the most wonderful tartiflette, made from potatoes and onions combined with lardons and Reblochon cheese produced from raw milk by the dairy farmers in the mountains of Savoie, where we are still camping. We began with a rose wine and croutons before ‘changing colour’ to a beauteous red wine which accompanied the main dish. I have never experienced such a matching up of wine and food. There was jambon sec and cornichons to follow with the crispy Batavia lettuce leaves and simple but perfectly proportioned oil-and-vinegar dressing. In the meantime a partly-drunk bottle bearing the hand-written legend poire 2015 had been produced and put on the table. When the Nescafe coffee and sweet fruit tartlets from the local boulangerie appeared so did four small liqueur glasses. As he poured out the pear schnapps from the bottle Lionel explained the label. In the region only certain families are permitted by law to distil alcohol and they are usually approached sometime in the autumn when the fruit is at its ripest to make the different flavoured liqueurs. Before the first tasting Lionel described it as ‘anti-freeze’, which fortunately proved to be a misrepresentation. Though it was obviously pretty pokey. More conversation followed and this led to another bottle of clear liquid being produced; this time we learned it had been flavoured with the ‘mirabelle’ plum, and dated back to 2010. A vote was taken and the second bottle took precedence. What I should say is that the rain had been pelting down since soon after our arrival at their caravan-and-awning and the thunder crashing and the lightning flashing down the mountain valley for hours. Essentially, we were captive. So my glass kept being refilled with plum schnapps as we awaited a break in the weather. By midnight we decided that, rain or not, bed beckoned and for the umpteenth time we made our farewells. This time successfully.

That was last night. Today…

Posted from Petit Bornand les Glières, Haute Savoie

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

 

Point one: The world expanded and then contracted again

The liberal dream becomes a conservative nightmare

Back in the nineteen-sixties when my generation was growing up there was a real feeling that barriers – class, educational, racial, national – were being broken down. In fact that was happening and continued into the early seventies. There is plenty of evidence for this in a variety of cultural analyses, so that I won’t spend time discussing the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Germaine Greer, red-brick universities, labour union rights, anti-war movements etc. And then something happened. The ruling elites – or old-time Establishment – cottoned on and began to get scared that all their power and influence might well slip away from them. All they really had was their wealth and powerful contacts and so they thrashed around in search of a unifying ‘idea’. Eventually they settled on one that had appeared to work in Chile, where a brutal dictatorship had been established against the will of the people by use of force and the introduction of a financial system so fixed that a small group of insiders inevitably grew richer at the expense of the larger population. This ‘idea’ was called ‘monetarism’ and its long-ridiculed advocate was hauled out from obscurity, dusted down, and hailed as an economic messiah. His name was Milton Friedman and the disciples of his dis-credited economic model were known as ‘the Chicago school’. The system had been discredited because it plainly failed to operate in favour of the wider public. This flaw, however, was precisely what the western ruling elites required as they fought in hidden corners to regain their pre-modern ascendency. With such an ‘idea’ in place they were firmly able to quash the modern liberal-thinking upstarts. The first thing they needed to do was to create unemployment and destroy the labour unions. The former was easily initiated by taking out and misspending huge international loans that undermined the national economy; with a lack of proper investment and poor management oversight the industries that had formerly underpinned the whole economy – engineering, public transport, the National Health and educational system etc – were all quickly dismantled. And of course, by use of media manipulation, the blame could all be put squarely on so-called socialist ideas and labour rights. For example, as British Leyland was being undone in the Midlands the national media launched a campaign demonising just one person: a factory-worker they labelled Red Robbo, and somehow with the help of MI5 managed to plant the idea in the national consciousness that this one inconsequential man was responsible for the entire collapse of a massive national car-making industry, as large and as successful as any existing at that time in the industrialised world. The Soviets would have been proud. All they had come up with were supposed saboteurs deliberately harming their nascent industry back in the nineteen-thirties. With regards to labour rights, and following on from what had happened in Chile, the government mobilised the national police force and sections of the British armed forces to brutally attack the miners and their thriving communities, forcing them into near starvation and growing dependence on outside charities until at last their resolve collapsed and they were shame-facedly beaten into submission. This was a British government using British law-enforcers, the British military, the British Broadcasting Corporation and British Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) i.e. the whole state power, against its own people, just as had happened in Chile. Essentially, the British working-class were disempowered and the old Establishment could wheel out its previously ridiculed ‘idea’ of monetarism in order to con the public out of all the national utilities and organisations they had previously owned and in some manner controlled. Privatisation finally left the British people with virtually no national resources and massive debt as big companies creamed off the profits and simply left the public to bail them out after the new owners had taken the money and run. And subsequent governments called this economic model a success.

And so, to the point of this blogpost.

You will recall point one was: the world expanded and then contracted again.

By this I meant that a whole series of social developments were taking place over more than a decade which would have for sure led to an opening out of communications and opportunities between different peoples, both nationally and supra-nationally.  This very opening out of the world threatened the UK ruling class and all its accepted hereditary rights and privileges. Hence the fight-back. Of course, all us liberal-minded citizens had no clue concerning the machinations being carried out which would deny us a brighter future. Not until too late has it become clear with what perverted vision our long-standing rulers have contracted the circumstances which would have enabled the vast majority to flourish in this eminently possible open world.

More to come.

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

Posted from somewhere in the Haute-Savoie, France

A bit of a whinge

After driving several thousands of miles and staying on a variety of campsites – some lovely, some not so – in different countries, we have pulled up less than an hour after arriving in France to stay in what is probably the loveliest of them all, in the Savoie Mont Blanc.fiat doblo

Our very first pull-up after getting off the ferry at the Hook of Holland nine weeks ago was in a layby off the autobahn close to Munich, from where we set out early next morning and travelled past black-hatted churches and white-misted forest down into Austria and through the Alps to Slovenia.

That night we stayed in what was probably the worst of all the sites; marred by a suburbia of plasticated motor-homes replete with self-satisfied retirees from the north idling away their time and pensions in a back-slapping display of utter mundanity. So much for the wisdom of old age. Slovenia has apparently succumbed to the mind-sapping influence and affluence of nearby Austria. Take away people’s money worries, it seems, and what’s left is an air-hole between the ears. And that pertains to any background, royal or proletarian. So you can’t accuse me of any bias.

Well, good luck to Slovenia. We stayed in the country for about forty-eight hours.

Croatia had a different feel despite it, too, having been invaded by the northern pensioner hordes. Actually, we made a point of avoiding the county’s touristic coast and wandered inland; but even then we ended up staying on a plot of land bought by a Dutch family soon after the Balkans war when land there was still very cheaply obtained. An old, state-owned campsite dating back to the Tito years provided the only refuge; while in a friendly nearby bar we watched their football team dismantle Uruguay in the football world cup group stage, and England scramble a last-gasp win against Tunisia (not realising the two teams would meet up in the semi-final…).

Following Croatia, entering Bosnia-Herzegovina was like returning to an old Soviet state. The campsites were either non-existent or pretty dire – and dear. Ten euros to camp in an abandoned field, and fifteen to remain on a scruffy patch of grass next to a freezing cold river only good for trout-fishermen. For want of a decent place to stay we crossed back into Croatia, and from there on into Montenegro.

While the country is really rather beautiful and the people apparently laid-back and having a typically Mediterranean outlook, the Montenegrin campsites usually failed to meet our rather modest needs. Again, they were far too expensive for what they offered. On one, we had to park the van on a space outside the gate beyond which lay the amenities, and yet still had to pay twenty euros for the privilege (a figure that just seemed to be made up on our arrival). Up north a similar figure applied for staying in a large field.

So, we with our intended daily budget of thirty euros weren’t doing all that well. Wild camping wasn’t an option because we couldn’t find any decent spots and were reliant on the internet to keep in touch with family members who were either ill, preparing to leave for abroad or simply in the throes of purchasing their first property.

And the problem – if that’s what you can call it – as we see it is this. Camping used to mean getting out into the countryside and living in nature, often under canvas. To do this required an element of ‘roughing it’, but part of the pleasure was indeed getting away from everyday domestic comforts. Plus, because amenities were basic they didn’t cost much. Now that has altered. Everybody wants to bring their home comforts with them. And by purchasing a big plasticated box built on a wheeled chassis and powered by a modern gas-guzzling engine there is no reason to leave anything behind. You really can bring the kitchen sink (quite why you would want to do so is a different matter entirely). Not only the kitchen sink, but a motorbike or a hitched-up car, too. Just to make life really, really easy. Why forgo anything that alleviates any type of inconvenience?

And, of course, one can see the pleasure in this – the logic, even. You escape your everyday environment and don’t have to suffer any discomfort or apparent consequences. The ‘snowbirds’ of the northern USA have got this down to a fine art as they live in their comfy homes for the summer months and take their polluting high-spec RVs down south immediately the thermometer shows a dip in temperature. Arguably, the wealthy and privileged have always done this. Only last week we visited the site where Hadrian had built his exclusive country getaway. Certainly northern Europeans are beginning to follow this pattern in their droves, so that even far-flung Islamic Morocco is considered a desirable winter destination.

But, anyway, my gripe is not the fact that people like to travel in comfort – why shouldn’t they, since they have every right to? It’s that because the affluent north European pensioners are spending their time hitting the roads of the south and spending their money in places that traditionally have not seen the touristic euro/dollar, an over-inflated sense of what they – the campsite-owners – have to offer i.e. sunshine and warmth, has led them to understand that north European prices are somehow compatible with south European standards. What’s more, they naively imagine every north European must be wealthy. (We met with the same scenario in newly-opened Myanmar a short while back.)

In Albania, because we felt rather imprisoned, we got off the campsite which had been privately developed on the northern border, and really did achieve Germanic standards and prices, and walked up to the local shop and bar. We ordered local food and local drinks at local prices and got talking to the English-speaking daughter of the owner. She repeated what we had been told by the Italian-speaking care-worker in the mountains concerning how much the average Albanian could expect to earn right now and also about how many Albanians had made or were intending to make their way to London. These stories are rife and no bones are made about the advantages of doing so. We were told them everywhere we stopped and talked.

As a matter of fact, everything we heard and discovered in the Balkan states is exactly as we found during our winter sojourn in Greece nearly three decades ago as the northern Europeans flocked into the country to take advantage of relatively cheap property prices and the Greek way of living. In some parts of town – the nice parts – you’d only hear German or Dutch and the only Greeks around were the cleaners and unemployed. The one campsite we stayed on during this trip had a similar distribution of nationalities.

Italy was a different proposition altogether. There you pay high prices because the average users of campsites are entire families who expect to be provided with swimming-pools, shops and some kind of entertainment: a ‘camping village’, in fact.

Ciro was not like other campsite-owners. I would say he had the perfect set up and ideal philosophy. Inheriting a piece of Calabrian land from his nonna which had been used to grown corn, he gave up his humiliating and enervating job as a bagnino catering to the beach-needs of wealthy northern Italians, and planted it with all manner of trees to provide a hospitable environment for campers. He also grows vegetables and fruit (which he gave away freely), while his brother keeps bee-hives in the adjoining olive grove, and his father continues to look after some naturally-fed sheep and pigs and lives in the big, old family house. Ciro’s place was an absolute haven (excepting the arrival of a clearly dysfunctional Italian family in their big white camper…) We also lucked-out by finding an inexpensive state-run site in the pine woods by Lago Arva in the Sila mountain range. A find that was countered by being ripped off for basic food purchases in the nearby village (and perhaps the subject for a future gripe about travelling around in the van).

And so after driving up through Italy on its expensive autostrada in the aggravating heat – losing our exhaust and waiting to have a new one fitted outside Florence – and staying overnight on its expensive campsites, crossing the border into France by way of the Monte Blanc tunnel and heading immediately for a municipal campsite up in the mountains has come as a relief. The municipal campsites came about from the desire of the French people to have access to their own land at prices the average person can readily afford. They are usually set in natural beauty spots and provide just the right level of amenities. The site staff are universally friendly and give the camper a feeling that it is a shared experience living for a time out in the country, rather than one where the campsite-owner charges the highest price they think the poor, miserable saps in their diminished circumstances will be prepared to pay.

Happy Holidays!

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY are available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

The trip so far…

Birdsong. Cow-bells. Cool pine-shade. A mirror lake. Time to take stock of our trip so far.

Eight weeks in and five-thousand feet up in the Sila Grande mountains and our little vancar has stood up excellently to the four-thousand miles already covered on sometimes parlous roads down through the Balkans and across the Adriatic Sea on a ferry to Italy. fiat dobloBy dropping into Calabria and visiting the remains of the temple of Hera on the outskirts of Crotone we have been as far out south and east as we intend to travel on an irregular six-thousand mile loop with diversions that will return us to our starting point in the UK. These largely-unknown Calabrian mountains are the quietest and loveliest resting-place we have camped in over the whole trip*. The looming Montenegrin peaks in all their cragginess were probably more awesome but the pine-covered slopes falling down to the lake here offer more serenity. The countryside of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was too steeped in recent violent history to contain any real sense of peace. The same was true of Albania and its Accursed Mountains. Northern Greece was just too barren beyond its olive groves. Of course, we have been following the Adriatic coastline for the most part and that first hit of southern warmth still lingers in our northern veins. We have swum in the sea and rivers and lakes and such cooling water has been absolutely necessary as we have endeavoured to remain comfortable in sometimes overwhelming temperatures. Insects have been an issue and only in Cetinje, Montenegro did we find a solution when we bought a cheap mosquito net at a hardware store and adapted it to fit round the back-doors of our van. Food has been adequate, mostly preparing meals for ourselves and only eating out occasionally as it has suited. The best meal of all was with our daughter at a fish restaurant in Ada Bojan; while the best beer was the stuff made at a brewery in Niksic, Montenegro and sold chilled in bottles from the supermarkets throughout the region. (Alpha beer in Greece is pretty good, too. Can’t complain about the Peroni here in Italy either… I only wish there was a fridge in the van…) The red wine from the Ciro vineyards here in Calabria is just perfect, as is the food!

Right now, Anne is finding out where the best mountain trails are located and whether it is possible to easily walk into the nearest village for provisions. A car has just arrived from a local farm with a couple of women selling cheese and fresh vegetables…

The temperature is a perfect twenty-five degrees. We will most likely spend at least a few days here camping by the lakeside before considering our options as the mass August holiday gets underway and millions of Europeans take to the roads for their annual summer break. Ideally, we will make our way back in a zig-zag through the German Black Forest and Moselle and Alsace regions of northern France that were denied us on the way down on account of the gloomy northern spring climes and unexpected onrush of belligerent traffic. We would have liked to visit friends in Switzerland but that now looks unlikely this time round.

So much time, and so much travel, all bound up in one neat paragraph… Never mind, I’m saving the real meaty stuff for the novel!

*A walk into the village revealed a place where people are struggling to get by, with closed-down restaurants and dilapidated hotel buildings, while a long chat with the Ukrainian owner of the grocery store – who had left his home country after his parents and friends were killed in a series of shootings by state thugs following the collapse of the USSR – revealed that the Calabria mafia still holds sway in this region, squeezing locals and holding back any economic progress. He has put his business on the market but surely no one will make the purchase. We felt too embarrassed to ask what he and his family would do next or where they might go.

Posted from beside Lago Arvo, in the Sila Grande mountains

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