Happy Holidays!
As everyone and their granny's cat are producing Best of 2006 lists I feel I have to tell you that my favourite book that I read this year was The people’s act of love by James Meek - a moving and compulsive read that was modern and strange, but old and Russian at the same time. My favourite CDs are to the right -  they're not what the site's about, but are all pretty wonderful.
I lost a much-loved cat in March, but there were highlights later, in the shape of
The Sultan's Elephant in May, my Venice trip in September, and those new cats in October, all of which featured on this site, which got even more popular and visited, and generated more head-swelling links and e-mails. For all of which I thank each and every one of you. I also started making websites for authors in 2006, and have just started on number 4 - may these stimulating endeavours prosper, and make for even more trips to Italy in 2007!
And may you prosper and have happiness too.
Reading: Miranda Innes  Cinnamon city
Watching: The Hogfather
Listening: Aimee Mann Another Drifter in the Snow

The Great Disappearing Venetian Cats Mystery deepens. There's no reason to doubt the story that most of the strays were indeed shipped out to an island exile in the late 1990s, but they seem to be returning. A sweet report reaches us from Anne from North Carolina, just back from a trip, in which she made the happy discovery of a sanctuary consisting of a collection of little houses by the church of San Lorenzo in Castello. She returned later in her trip with some cat biscuits and made some furry friends, and so sounds like a girl after our own heart. She also passes on reports of other sanctuaries in Cannaregio and by Piazzale Roma. Further investigation is called for. Also I thought that a Venice and Cats page was called for, to bring some of  these strands together, and as an excuse for some more cute cat pics.
Reading: Alice Munro  The View from Castle Rock
Watching: Futurama series one 
Listening: Margot & the Nuclear So and So's The Dust Of Retreat

Weeks pass, the weather gets colder, a freak tornado blows houses down in North London, the Christmas decorations go up, and I'm still reading the same book! Only 100 pages to go.
Reading: Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers
Watching: Miami Vice 2006 
Listening: Devotchka How it ends

I was reading The Pickwick Papers on the tube into town today and I'd just read the fragrant description of the White Hart Inn in the Borough as real life spookily intruded in the shape of the automated announcer saying 'The next station is Borough'. I was on my way to London: a Life in Maps at the British Library, which I mentioned last week. It is indeed a fascinating exhibition with not just maps to squint at, and find your houses and birthplace on, but drawings, panoramas, prints and books. It shows the growth, of course, especially fierce in the last hundred years, but also how maps have helped in social reform and swaying opinion.
Reading: Charles Dickens  The Pickwick Papers
Watching: Alias  final season
Listening: Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas

Yet another fascinating-looking exhibition London: a Life in Maps at the British Library from Friday. There's also a book of the same name and a related web site www.mapmylondon.org

The news that the new James Bond film, Casino Royale,  has scenes filmed in Venice is not particularly earth-shattering as there have been plenty of previous visits to Venice by 007.  It turns out, however, that Venice features in the spectacular finale during which a palazzo is blown up. Now that is a trifle  uncommon.
Reading: Zadie Smith  On beauty
Watching: The IT crowd
Listening: The Dears  Gang of losers

My jury duty finally finished today, and I'm pretty happy to be returning to real life and not having murder on my mind. A gruelling but also reassuring experience because it's a system which seems to work, and all my jury colleagues took it very seriously and cared. During this period I also took on another web-site creating  job, and sold one of my photos from this site. So all is pretty good.
Reading: Charles Dickens  A tale of two cities
Watching: The honey pot
Listening: Duke Special  Songs from the deep forest

House bling in Tooting, 25th December 2006

My Top 10 CDs of 2006
Holden Chevrotine
The Knife
Silent Shout
Howling Bells
Howling Bells
Joan As Police Woman
Real Life
Charlotte Gainsbourg
The Pernice Brothers
Live a little
Destroyer Destroyer's Rubies
Vienna Tang
Dreaming through the noise
Palo Santo
Midlake The Trials of Van Occupanther

An odd year, in which none of my favourite artists (except
The Pernice Brothers) came up with the goods, and so most of my choices are by people I hadn't even heard of as the year began. And a lot of mighty fine trip-hop - who'd'a thought it?



Three photos taken on Open House Sunday 17th September 2006.
Above is the Hop Exchange near Borough Market
(like a real photographer I waited for the sun to come back out).

Above is a statue of Hodge, Dr Johnson's cat, in Gough Square opposite Dr J's house. 
Below is the staircase in King's College's Library and Information Centre in the old
Public Record Office building.

I've been a bit off-line this week, in more ways than one, due to having been called upon to do jury duty at the Old Bailey, which is proving fascinating but emotionally draining. It's been nice, though, walking past an autumn-sun-drenched St Paul's on a daily basis (right).
Reading: P.G.Wodehouse  A gentleman of leisure
Watching: Weeds Season 2 finale
Listening: Joanna Newsom Ys

Went to the At Home in Renaissance Italy exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum yesterday, and it was fascinating, in the way that their usual room displays are, with a lot of the art and artefacts displayed as they would be in real rooms, rather than in glass cases. The example rooms were both Tuscan and Venetian, and the exhibits taken from the V&A's and other collections, so not an opportunity to be repeated totally, when the exhibition finishes in January, even when the new Renaissance galleries open. So go see it, if you can.

I've just discovered that there's a band called Venice is Sinking. They sound a bit like the Mojave 3 tinged with the sound of Low. Click on the link to hear some tempting samples. Lots of must-see art exhibitions in London at the moment, including the Renaissance home, Leonardo, and photos taken at dusk at the V & A, as well as Velasquez, Holbein and 20th Century photography elsewhere. I must get out more.
Reading: Henry James
Italian tales
Watching: Lost Season 3
Listening: The Isles Perfumed lands

Some control-freak inflexibility over at the Wikipedia - the man 'in charge' of the Venice page has decided that the link to this site is 'inappropriate' and has deleted it. He says that the site's rules dictate this, but I can't see it myself. He also accuses my link of being 'linkspam', like I'm selling Viagra or something. Sigh! I remember when the internet was a place where...etc. The whole sorry discussion is here, but I'm stopping now as the whole thing's making me a bit snitty, as you can see.

An interesting new exhibition and website addressing the issue of the signage that 'helps' us pedestrians find our way around London. There are two new cats in our house and, flush with the Venice Trip blog's success, I'm making a new-cat blog. A bit off-topic, I admit, but if you like cats...
Reading: Haruki Murakami Kafka on the beach
Watching: the new Jane Eyre on the BBC
Listening: The Pernice Brothers Live a little

Back home and catching up on the news. Another article about the plans for Battersea Power Station, by Stephen Bayley in The Observer this time. And Hawksmoor's St George's Church in Bloomsbury has been renovated as reported in The Guardian. I went and photographed the recarved lion and the unicorn for you (right).
Reading: James Meek The people's act of love
Watching: new Weeds and Nip/Tuck
Listening: Lindsey Buckingham Under the skin

24.9.2006 - 1.10.2006
Gone to Venice!
See Venice Trip 2006 page
for (fingers crossed) daily updates.

The Battersea Power Station is a symbol of London and its continued state of dilapidation is a national disgrace. It's been half-demolished and crumbling since 1983 and its development limbo looks set to continue. An article in this week's London Time Out magazine tells the sorry story and mentions an art show that'll let us visit the poor hulk from October 8th to November 5th. And ironically the building also features in a new film out this week, Children of men, which is set in the year 2027, where all is grim and dystopian, but Battersea Power Station has been refurbished!
Reading: James Meek The people's act of love
Watching: Dark passage
Listening: My Brightest Diamond Bring me the workhorse

The Open House weekend - where Londoners get to see inside usually-closed buildings -  is one of the big events on the cultural calendar on the wall in this house, but I was working yesterday and my partner-in-poking-around is holidaying in Berlin, so I had a day of solo exploration today. It took in a fascinating tour of an architectural practice, some churches, the Daily Express building, and the ornate Gothick building which used to be the Public Record Office but which is now (who knew?) the huge library block of King's College. A strange experience following the arrows around a huge and empty and tastefully-converted building. And the rather lovely small round reading room was mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, evidently.
Reading: Neil Gaiman Anansi boys
Watching: Fantastic Planet
Listening: The Future Sound of London Teachings from the Electronic Brain

Last Sunday's Observer travel supplement had a nice two-page piece about how to avoid tourist traps in Venice. And in an interview promoting his new novel Peter Ackroyd revealed that his next book will be about the Thames, to be followed by one about Venice - a rare departure from his usual London-centric subject matter, and a most mouth-watering prospect.
Reading: Khaled Hosseini The kite runner
Starts out so well, but the sloppy coincidences and unconvincing plotting of the second half drag it down disappointingly.
Watching: Weeds season 2 episode 4
Rarely has drug-dealing and masturbation been so downright amusing.
And I Feel Fine...The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987
The same old stuff (with bonus rarities disc) but still sounding SO good.

So, it's September and my Venice trip is only a few weeks off. This year I'll be taking my laptop and I'm hoping to be posting to my 2006 Trip Page each evening, which'll be exciting, for me anyway. I'm planning a Venetian Cake of the Day feature too. How I suffer...
Reading: Marina Lewycka
A short history of tractors in Ukrainian
Watching: Battlestar Galactica season 2
Listening: Charlotte Gainsbourg 5:55

The recent harsh restrictions on hand luggage on planes out of England following the 'alleged' terrorist plottings introduced the concept of not taking a camera on your trip because it wouldn't be covered by your insurance. The cold sweat this induced in me at the prospect of being in Venice with no camera made me think that maybe I need to wean myself off this need, but contemplating even one day there without a camera...sorry I need a lie down.
Reading: Michael Moorcock The dancers at the end of time
Watching: Tony Takitani
Listening: Tom Petty

I occasionally get e-mails from you lot out there suggesting books I might include, but not that often. Imagine my surprise, then, at getting two e-mails in one day suggesting CAKES I might have missed! The London bun (a spicier and fruitier Swiss finger) and the Chorley cake (a bit like an Eccles) were mentioned, but I'm mouth-wateringly sceptical about the first one.  A bit of a new-page blizzard this week too, with the addition of London Abandoned Buildings and some favourite photos of Venetian Doors and Windows.
Reading: Jonathan Keates The Siege of Venice
Playing: Prey
Listening: Metric Live it out

Went to an unusual little exhibition at the Photographers Gallery today of photos taken by official Fire Brigade photographers recording the scenes of fires and accidents. You know how strange those lifeless scenes of crimes look? Added oddness provided by the exhib being in the gallery cafe - looking at scenes of death and charring with people chomping on tuna baguettes behind you is not exactly conducive I find.

Salley Vickers' Miss Garnet's Angel was a pretty special novel from a few years back which almost instantly established itself in the Venetian novels pantheon. The author's recent is similarly moving, if not similar in many other ways. So, my fanship renewed, I thought that I'd search out her website salleyvickers.com and I commend it to you warmly - it gives very good Venetian content, including a piece about Venice-set fiction and an interactive map relating to events in Miss Garnett's Angel.
Reading: Scott Lynch The lies of Locke Lamora
Watching: Match Point
Listening: Underworld The Riverrun Project

As London hots up to temperatures in access of the previous highest for July, set in 1911, all we can do is thank our lucky stars we don't have to put up with this heat wearing all those Edwardian layers, and drink lots of water.
Reading: Julian Barnes
Arthur & George
Watching: On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate
Listening: The Buddha Machine

If you find melancholy pleasure in ruins and abandoned buildings you'll likely care to check out this site, which promotes a book called Left London which features photos of 'derelict spaces' like hospitals and warehouses. I've ordered the book and will let you know if it lives up to its promise.
Reading: Haruki Murakami Blind willow, sleeping woman
Watching: The Simpsons season 15
Listening: The Guillemots Through the Window Pane

The flow of new novels set in Florence is a slow one so The Third Heaven Conspiracy by Giulio Leoni, which features a young Dante investigating dark and satanic goings-on in pre-Renaissance Florence, is an embellishment to the Florence page worth looking forward too, although there is some confusion as to whether it comes out this October or in January 2007.
Reading: Richard Morgan Altered Carbon
Watching: The piano teacher
Listening: Howling Bells

Repaying link favours to other spiffy sites that have mentioned us  - Reading Matters is a recommended reading site and marginalia gives this boy that singular buzz you only get from seeing your site name in amongst Japanese text.  And here's  another interesting Venice blog.
Reading: Granta 94
On the road again
Watching: Murder my sweet
Listening: Midlake The Trials of Van Occupanther

Just down the road from me is the Colliers Wood Tower, one of the worst eyesore buildings anywhere, long loathed by locals. Gratifyingly it featured in last year's Channel 4 Demolition series as one of the 12 worst buildings in Britain and this month BBC London featured it as one of it's 5 most hated buildings in London, with a chance to vote for the worst; and it won, with over 50% of the total vote!  And while we're talking blights on the urban landscape, there's a site for all us haters of stupid big cars run by the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s. Check out the mock parking tickets tailored to the designs of the London Boroughs - very clever.
Reading: Philip Roth The Plot Against America
Watching: Battlestar Galactica Season 2
Listening: Paolo Conti

In a strange example of exaggerating the problem in order to solve it, or something, an economist has suggested that running Venice like Disneyland is the answer to its problems.  The suggestion comes in support of the motion at the Venice in Peril annual debate on the 12th June, the subject of which is Enough money has been spent on Venice.
Reading: David Mitchell Black Swan Green
Watching: Supernatural (the OK TV series)
Listening: Holden Chevrotine

Inspired, no doubt, by my section devoted to The 2004 Henry James biographical novel glut David Lodge, an author of one of the glut, has written a fascinating piece about this coincidence which features in a forthcoming book of essays and which was in The Guardian over the weekend and is available online by clicking here. And another one of the glut, Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty, has been very well  dramatised for TV.
Reading: Kazuo Ishiguro Never let me go
Watching: The Simpsons and Lost
Listening: Pet Shop Boys Fundamental

The Sultan's Elephant was a big thing in town last weekend (see below and right) attracting crowds of open-mouthed admirers and creating traffic jams and joy. If you missed it it's in Antwerp in July, Calais in September, and Le Havre in October. There's also a TV documentary about it on BBC 4 this Thursday at 7.00pm

I realise that I'm reaching out to very few of you when I say this but: great news for UK-based simnel cake lovers!  On a more, but not truly, universal note, it's Spring! In London temperatures are rising nicely, Winter coats are being put away and more flesh is being exposed, some of it attractive. (Does the season of sap rising give me an excuse to be a bit sexist? No? Sorry.)
Reading: Michelle Lovric The floating book
Watching: The Double Life of Veronique on DVD, at last
Listening: I'm not a Gun We think as instruments

Strange goings-on in London town today - a crashed space ship in Waterloo Place and a mechanical elephant 3 storeys high in Horse Guards parade. Some pictures right and an explanation here.

Last week: 208! I've just got the DVD of the recent Casanova film, so expect a review soon. I'm not expecting much so may well not be too disappointed. I've just begun a London Films page, which has been a bit of a large lack for a while now. It's not much yet, but bear with me as it grows.
Reading: Anne Tyler The amateur marriage
Watching: I'm not scared
Listening: The Last Town Chorus  Wire waltz

I've come close, but never yet managed, 100 hits to this page in any one week, so imagine how warm my heart became...last week...171! This feat is due in no small part to some kind words in a thread over at the Slow Travel Talk forum that generated a swarm of hits. Thanks to all.

I'm happy to have a big up to announce, to counter my big downer of last week. I've been helping site-friend and author Michelle Lovric to create her web presence and it's finished and a treat for all fans of her books and of Venice. Go to www.michellelovric.com immediately! And I've just been sent a copy of a Venice-set novel called The Man who was Loved to read and review. It's a first novel, and also the first novel I've ever seen with a warm  recommendation on the cover by the lead singer of Led Zeppelin! Some early-Spring wandering in the City last Sunday resulted in some odd pics - see right.

Reading: Granta 93 God's own countries
Watching: Six Feet Under the final season
Listening: Gotan Project  Lunatico

Been messing around with a new program to make photos look all arty
and watercoloury.

Wandering around London Sunday 16th July 2006. 
Above is the Chartered Accountant's Hall, below is a back gate in the Guildhall.
Below that is Leadenhall Market

My mate Louis (? - 29.3.2006)

As the weather warms and Easter approaches a not-so-young man's thoughts turn to hot cross buns and simnel cake, and I've found out some interesting facts about these favourites and added them to their entries on the Cakes page.  To associate both these cakes solely with Christian festivals is to be, frankly, wrong. 
Reading: Sarah Dunant
In the company of the courtesan
Watching: A History of Violence
Listening: Clogs Lantern

Book promotion events seem to now stream continuously throughout the whole year, but there's currently a bit of a glut of London-related events. getlondonreading.com will point you in all sorts of interesting directions. It has a directory of fiction arranged by Borough and, even better, there's a nifty free booklet produced by Rough Guides reviewing fiction in more detail by smaller areas.

I'm finally reading John Berendt's City of Falling Angels, trying to approach it with a mind empty of all the brouhaha  I reported last year here, and finding it pretty fascinating, I must admit. It's just such a change to be reading about Venice as it is, rather than the eternal was. I've been sent a copy of the new book of Jane Rylands stories which were also part of the bitchery by the US publisher, so I'll be reading them and getting back to you too.
And it's my birthday next Monday!
Reading: Niccolo Ammaniti I’m not scared
Watching: Battlestar Galactica
Listening: old Supertramp albums

I've not seen, so not mentioned, the new Casanova film. It's got middling reviews but he's seen as a hero and something of a role-model around here so I'll get around to it eventually. There's also a film of The Thief Lord - a book I liked - coming out in March, but straight to DVD. Which is a bit worrying as you would have thought a theatre release might've caught the Harry Potter wave. In other film news, I've added some spooky screen captures to the review of The Monster of Venice. And I'll be adding more for other films as I've now found out how to do them.

So many mysteries in this big city. For more than two weeks now the chocolate machines on the Underground in Central London have been out of order, with the same hastily word-processed note stuck to each. What's that all about?
Reading: Harry Steven Keeler The Riddle of the travelling skull
Watching: The Monster of Venice
Listening: Calexico Garden ruin

The Venice vs. Berendt bitchery festers on, in a sharp piece worth reading online in the New York Times today. 

I just spent a few days cat/ flat sitting in the Barbican. See right. It's nice to be living so central, and made me feel like I was having a holiday in my own city. Being able to walk to the West End and pop into the Museum of London for an hour is something I could get used to. Reading the new Sarah Waters in the middle of one of the worst-bombed areas during the blitz added a certain frisson too.
Reading: Sarah Waters Night watch
Watching: Arrested Development final episodes
Listening: Frou Frou Details

Lee Jackson, a site friend and the man behind www.victorianlondon.org,  kindly provided an advance copy of his next novel The last pleasure garden and I loved it. It could even be the one that propels Mr J into the big time, with its sexy cover and all. Look out for it in April. 
And to anyone dithering over the DVD of the recent film of
Pride and Prejudice, maybe because you're doubting that anything new can be done with the old chestnut, I say (in a phrase Jane Austen often used herself):  'buy it - it's brill!' The performances, the photography, the director's commentary...all are fine.
Reading: Paul Auster Brooklyn follies
Watching: Pride and Prejudice 2004 version
Listening: The Best Of  Paolo Conte

A bit of a hiatus there, brought on by the January blues and some day-job depression brought on by a restructuring and having to be interviewed to keep my own job. But let's keep our chins up and look forward.  This year I'm intent on concentrating on the city of my birth and plugging a few gaps in my London reading. You can't read too much Dickens, now can you?
Reading: Hilary Mantel Beyond Black
Watching: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Listening: Gravenhurst Fires in Distant Buildings


Yesterday, at just after 3 o'clock, the hits on my website for this year passed 3000 which, as previous years - going back - have been 1055, 752, 379, and 265, has made me very happy. Thanks to all you lovely visitors and all fingers crossed for 2006.

Something to look forward to in 06 - the National Gallery has a very tempting exhibition scheduled for April called Bellini and the East, about the Bellini family's links with Constantinople and the whole Byzantine/Muslim influence thing.  In other news: I got The City of Falling Angels for Christmas, so I've now got no excuse for not reading it.
Reading: Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina still!
Watching: Serenity
Listening: Minus the Bear

There's nothing fictionalcities likes more than kind words, and so I'm more than happy to be mentioned on a blog called Bookworld. It's billed as One woman's attempt to read what's worth reading and say something about it along the way - a laudable aim carried out handsomely, and your reading choices could well be spiced up - check it out.
Reading: Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina
Watching: American Dad
Listening: Royksopp The Understanding

I'm still dithering about reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels as most reviewers have tended to dismiss it as grimy and gossipy froth. I was amused to learn, though (thanks Daniel and Carlo) that Jane Turner Rylands, who doesn't exactly come out of Berendt's book with her name unsullied,  has exacted some small revenge. Ms Rylands  (the wife of the director of the Guggenheim) has just published her second book of Venice-set short stories called Across the Bridge of Sighs. The stories feature an unscrupulous American journalist who deserves to be, and gets, spat in the eye, with the wonderful name Cad Peacock. Berendt has it in for Rylands because of her conning of Olga Pound out of the rights to husband Ezra's papers for a fraction of their true worth. Rylands stories also, evidently, contain more thinly-veiled unfavourable portraits of people who condemned her over the Pound business. 
Reading: John Julius Norwich Paradise of Cities 
Watching: Bleak House
Listening: Lamb

Today I went to a Canaletto exhibition at the Queen's Gallery behind Buckingham Palace. That woman owns some nice pictures! As Consul Smith was Canaletto's best patron and George III bought Smith's whole collection, the Queen has probably the best Canaletto collection there is. This small exhibition basically consists of a sequence of paintings of views from one end of the Grand Canal to the other and seventy drawings, most of which would have originally been bound in books and so to see them gathered to illustrate themes is a treat. And the staff are exceptionally pleasant and polite too. Canaletto in Venice runs at the Queen's Gallery until 23rd April 2006, and then moves to the Palace of Holyroodhouse for the latter part of 2006.
Reading: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The shadow of the wind 
Watching: Edward Scissorhands
Listening: Pinetop Seven The night's bloom

I know I promised not to get obsessive but, my weekly hits were up to 84 last week, after a few months of around 50, and it's not so long ago I'd've been happy with 10.  Thanks to all friends and supporters.
Reading: H.G.Wells 
The War of the Worlds 
Watching: Alias Season 4
Listening: Kate Bush Aerial

Slipping off topic a smidge, the book that I'm currently Reading: below comes utterly recommended for all fans of books about cities that stress the melancholy, ruin and the lost glorious past - the whole Venice thing in other words. From the talk of the authors who best conjure this melancholy (or hüzün in Turkish) to a chapter about Istanbul's own Piranesi, this mix of history and autobiography slips by as easy and fascinatingly as fiction. And the author's name is the same as mine in Turkish.
Reading: Orhan Pamuk Istanbul 
Watching: The Girl from Monday
Listening: Nine Horses Snow borne sorrow

In my Venice Trip diary I mention going in search of the palazzo where Henry James'  friend Constance Fenimore Woolson committed suicide and trying to find the courtyard she jumped into, with no luck. (Regular correspondents sharing a fascination with this relationship, and this woman, have assured me that my interest is shared and not ghoulish.)  Now an e-mail comes from Marianne in Denmark with a quote from Leon Edel's biography of HJ saying that Miss W  'jumped from her bedroom window, and fell into the little street' - a calle I photographed just in case. The photograph is on the right.

To coincide with the publication of her new Marshall book (reviewed here) Carlo Vennarucci, the webmaster over at italian-mysteries.com writes to say that Part 4 and Part 5 of his excellent and comprehensive interview with Magdalen Nabb are now up. She talks about her publishers, but there's no mention of her - supposedly stormy - dealings with her UK publisher.
Reading: Alan Bennett Untold Stories 
Watching: current Nip/Tuck & Lost
Listening: Merz Loveheart
The account of my recent trip is now up here. It might have some useful tips for your future trip, it definitely does have some pretty nice photos.  
I had an email recently from John Newton, the manager of a new London website bookshop called londonbooks.co.uk It sells books only about London and looks like becoming an essential site. The fact that there is no such specialist real-world shop is a mystery to many of us.

Well, what can I say but I'm back! 
N0 I wasn't stranded in Venice for a month - what a tragedy that would've been!  I was away a week, but came home to a PC with a busted on/off button, which those organised folk at Mesh took a whole two weeks to fix.  
But let's not wallow in bitterness and regret, because aside from my trip report and some lovely photos, there are two new reviews to post up (including the newie by site fave Magdalen Nabb). Onward!

Reading: Will Christopher Baer Hell's half acre 
Watching: Six Feet Under Season 4
Listening: The Band A Musical History box set

Just two days until I'm off to Venice - I fly out at an ungodly hour on Wednesday morning, and return on the 21st September full of pizza, ice cream and, I hope, joy and stories and with a memory card full of fine photos. 

Reading: Kage Baker The anvil of the world 
Watching: Scrubs season 2
Listening: Elbow Leaders of the free world

Just two weeks until I'm off to Venice, but I've just realised that I'll be away in Venice for the London Open House weekend. This event, where hundreds of buildings in London throw open their doors for a weekend and let you wander around, is usually comfortably up there in my Top 5 events of the year, and so I'm gutted. Now I'm just waiting for an e-mail from Scarlett Johansson telling me how much she likes my site, how she's going to be in London during that weekend, and how much she's attracted to chunky librarians...
Reading: Kelly Link
Magic for beginners 
Watching: Weeds
Listening: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! 

On a visit to the Murder One crime bookshop in Charing Cross Road (but recently moved to the other side) yesterday I picked up a review proof of the new Marshall novel by Magdalen Nabb , called The Innocent. It was originally announced for last June, but is now due out in October. New additions to the Florence page are pretty rare these days, so a new book from a site favourite is cause for celebration.
Reading: Alice Thomas Ellis The summerhouse trilogy 
Watching: The Simpsons Season 6 DVD
Listening: Clor

Last night I finally got around to watching the film Closer on DVD. Imagine my spine-tingling surprise when Jude Law and Natalie Portman visit Postman's Park - one of my favourite lesser-known London places, the source of several moody gravestone pics around the site (see right) and just days after I reviewed a book about the park. Spooky.

An e-mail arrived today from Carlo Venerucci over at the ever-wonderful Italian Mysteries web-site. He's just put up the first part of his good long interview with Magdalen Nabb, click here to read it. He also asked her about the long-lost TV adaptation of one of her Marshall stories mentioned over on my Florence page. I added the gist her negative comments to the entry but later had to remove them.
Reading: Colm Tóibín
The Master
Watching: Nothing - My TV's gone wrong!
Listening: Death Cab for Cutie Plans

Had a nice long chat on the phone  today with Robert Booth, a fellow Venice lover who's produced a catalogue of books about Venice old and new. Most are around the £20 mark, some rarer and more expensive, all are of interest to readers of this site, I'd bet. The witty annotation of the entries makes the list worth owning in itself. And 10% of all proceeds from sales go to Venice in Peril. E-mail him for a copy, or if you have any other book needs, and not just Venice-related ones.

This week I've been moving some of the non-fiction reviews on the London pages off onto their own pages. So there are now separate pages dealing with The Thames and Spitalfields, as well as the old Tunnels page. Still some sprucing up to do, but they work, I hope. The police are still busy in London but - touch wood - the terrorists aren't. My tube journeys these past few days up through Stockwell, Oval and Warren Street stations have felt strange - mundane train stops suddenly becoming world (in)famous is an odd thing.
Reading: Colm Tóibín
The Master
Watching: Scrubs Season 1
Listening: The Magic Numbers

Some good site news this week - I've just booked myself a much-needed (it's been three years) week in Venice in September.  So even more of a Venetian inclination will be noticeable,  I should think, in the reading and reviewing over the next few weeks. Including maybe  The Lion of St Mark by Thomas Quinn who's kindly sending me a review copy.
Reading: J.K.Rowling Harry Potter and the Half- Blood Prince
Watching: Scrubs Season 1
Listening: Coralie Clément Bye bye beauté

Just a word to reassure friends of the site that me and mine are all fine following yesterday's bombings in London, with nothing worse to show for it than sore feet and a deep sadness. Concerned enquiries from around the World have been much appreciated.
The photos on the flickr photo-sharing page devoted to what they're calling 7/7 include a demonstration of solidarity in Florence's Piazza della Signoria last night.


Through a combination of events both complex and unfascinating I've just got an advance copy of London Born by Sidney Day, and unfascinating it isn't. It's the reminiscences of a North London rogue as told to his granddaughter. Not the sort of thing I usually go for, being blasé about such stuff due to to having a similar background, but after only a couple of chapters on the tube home from work I'm finding the detail and scenes evoked fascinating. A review will follow. 
Reading: Charles Nicholl Leonardo da Vinci - The flights of the mind
Watching: Steamboy
Listening: Sufjan Steven Illinois

It's too hot. To type. In London. Today. Must just go sweat some more...
Reading: Will Christopher Baer Penny dreadful
Watching: Code 46
Listening: Minotaur Shock Maritime
Drinking: Robinson's Lemon and Barley Water


If you've noticed it's quicker walking between certain London Underground stations than catching a train, and thought that it would be handy if there was a map identifying such stations, here it is
If you've ever wondered what the Tube map would look like with the stations in correct geographical relation to each other here that is. Fascinating stuff. 

I've just started up a new and somewhat self-indulgent page - a guide to London cakes. It is to be hoped that it'll help those confused by cakes without labels in London bakeries and also improve the breadth of knowledge and appreciation of the Chelsea Bun House.
Reading: Rupert Thomson Divided Kingdom
Watching: Six Feet Under season 3
Listening: Lunz

Time Out magazine this week tells us that Scotland Yard has decided to stop using so-called murder boards - the large yellow signs chained to lamp-posts which ask passers-by for help with the likes of  murders, assaults and shootings. They are thought to not be 'reassuring' and the Met are looking at 'better ways of seeking information'. The streets of Clapton E5 will now be much less colourful. For more information about murder boards than is strictly healthy click here

An interesting article in yesterday's Guardian about the new Channel Tunnel Rail link - on-line content here. The thrust of it is that the link has involved the digging of a deep and swift new tunnel under London which, for such an impressive feat of engineering, has received little publicity and praise at a time when the railways in Britain are still getting such negative press, usually with good reason. It also reveals the worrying fact that the clay under London is so waterlogged in many places that a lot of the tunnel can be said to be floating.
Reading: Jeremy Gavron An acre of barren ground
Watching: Six Feet Under season 3  
Listening: Reigns We lowered a microphone into the ground

Not much to report this week, apart from Winter returning to London, we hope for the last time this year until, say, November. 
Reading: Anthony Trollope Barchester Towers 
Watching: The Life Aquatic...
Listening: Andrew Bird

Bought myself a new digital SLR camera yesterday - the Canon 350D known, somewhat comically, as the Digital Rebel XT in the US. So the number and sharpness of the photos on this site should improve, filling that white space to the right very soon, honest. 
Reading: Jeff VanderMeer
Secret life
Watching: Avalon
Listening: Clem Snide End of love

A bit of a quiet couple of weeks, apart from the noises of carpentry and painting, and the smell and the dust and...anyway,  I've just renewed my site's hosting package and have paid extra to get rid of the annoying advert banner thingy.
Ain't I good to you?
Reading: Jeff VanderMeer Secret life
Listening: Ben Folds Songs for Silverman

Interesting-looking exhibition of linocuts of iconic London landmarks coming on at the Oxo Tower gallery next Wednesday. And the new series of Doctor Who continues to play havoc (and fast'n'loose) with these same landmarks - first we had the London Eye broadcasting to dummies and then in last week's episode an alien spaceship takes a great chunk out of the Houses of Parliament, like a Brit version of Independence Day
And talking of time travellers...
Reading: Audrey Niffenegger The time traveller's wife
Watching: DinnerLadies
Season 1
Listening: Jen Charlton Wasted

It's always good to hear from authors, and yesterday I got an e-mail from Michelle Lovric, whose Casanova novel Carnevale  I found moving and impressive but in need of a trim. Ms L. very sportingly says that my review was fair, and her forgiving nature means I'll soon be reading and reviewing her new one The Remedy set in Venice and Southwark in London, which looks to be lean and fascinating. She has also cleared up a mystery for me about where Venice's feral cat population has disappeared to - a question posed (and now answered) on my Venice Trip 2002 page.
Watching: Buffy - the final season (sniff!)
Listening: Maria Taylor
Reading: Granta 89 - The factory

A good night for telly - the BBC3 Casanova ended on a suitably melancholy note. Having distilled the life down to the man's vain yearning for his supposed one true love, remembered in old age, the conclusion was never going to be a zinger. Then there was  Fingersmith, another book we liked, which began its three-part run on BBC1  in promising fashion. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/fingersmith for info, clips and much background, including streams of a fascinating radio programme about how Victorian London must have sounded.
Reading: Clare Clark The Great Stink
Bringing up baby
Listening: Propaganda albums

The BBC3 Casanova is proving to be big fun, if a little light on authenticity - which lack it makes up for with spirit, and a truth to the spirit of the man. Disappointing as a Venice fix, though, with painted panoramas and some very vaguely Venetian locations. Only the first - pursuit - scene being filmed in your actual Venice, it would seem.
And last week's University Challenge (a TV quiz featuring teams from UK colleges) featured a set of questions on fiction set in Florence. The novels asked about were E.M.Forster's
A Room with a View, George Eliot's Romola and Sarah Dunant's The Birth of Venus, two of which are reviewed over on my Florence page.
Reading: Sarah Hall  The Electric Michelangelo
The Incredibles
Listening: Old Yes albums!

A new TV adaptation of the life of Casanova, everyone's favourite Venetian librarian, starts this Sunday on BBC3 - click here for details, and all the usual spicy stuff. Plus a few quite interesting links.
Reading: Matthew Woodring Stover Heroes die
Listening: Doves
Some cities
Le Parfum d'Yvonne

Hits back up to 68 and I promise to stop talking about it. No radio appearances or anything else exciting this week, except the book I'm reading at the moment, which gets a very firm recommendation for its deep darkness and real humanity, and on Sunday it's my Birthday!
Pretty funny: www.whitehouse.org
Reading: Will Christopher Baer Kiss me Judas
Listening: Tori Amos
The Beekeeper
Watching: Lost
tv series

Hits down to 41 this week. Oh well maybe I was getting a bit obsessed.
In better news, my radio appearance (see below) was very unembarrassing and pretty exciting, for me anyway. If you are interested you can go to this page this week
and click on
Listen to the latest programme. I'm in the intro bit, and our interviews start around 19 minutes in.
Reading: Ian McEwan Saturday
Listening: Thomas Newman
A Series of Unfortunate Events soundtrack
Watching: Gankutsuou

Hits holding steady at 85 this week, so the big news is...
I'm going to be on the radio! 
The BBC Radio 4 programme called Open Book came to the library where I work on Monday to interview a couple of us about bookmarks, folding corners over, and the odd things we find in books. It's on Sunday at 4pm. It might be entertaining, it might be embarrassing. 

Reading: Anita Shreve All he ever wanted
Listening: Isan
Watching: 24 series 3

This week 84 hits.
Reading: David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas
Listening: Rachael Yamagata
Watching: Wonderful days DVD

Due to an unprecedented increase in my weekly hit-rate (last week 51, this week 77!) I've decided to try out getting all personal and bloggy and return some link favours too.  So domo arigato this week to the Little Toy Robot http://www.littletoyrobot.com/  for a nice mention, and long-standing gratitude to the ever-impressive Italian Mysteries site http://italian-mysteries.com/mystery-links.html and to you too, for helping me well towards that magic 100.
Reading: David Mitchell Cloud Atlas
Listening: Arcade Fire Funeral
Watching: Wonderfalls DVDs


An evening walk whilst cat/flat...

...sitting in the Barbican again. 10th Jun 2005

15th May 2005

Before The Eye c.1980
After The Eye May 2005

Flat/cat sitting in The Barbican 8th April 2005

Queens Walk, Green Park 7th April 2005

Wandering around St Giles 14th Jan 2005

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Venice // Florence // London // Berlin