July: Midwinter rites in Tasmania, UK trippin’, and a good month for murder

Roving

It was a busy month as I headed 40-degrees south (to Tasmania) for the annual Huon Valley Midwinter Festival sponsored by MONA and held at iconic The Apple Shed. I’ve been going to the event since it kicked off three years ago as an offshoot of the month-long Dark Mofo Festival during June in Hobart. The Midwinter Festival features Morris dancing, wassailing, costumes, brilliant bands and plenty of high-quality locally produced food and drink (my favourites include Willie Smith’s Organic Cider and Moo Brew). It’s a great weekend, and this year I convinced a group of fellow mainlanders to come down. They enjoyed it so much I expect to see them there next year as well.

Of course my Tasmanian sojourn was just the start of a lengthy break I really needed. Next stop, London!

Besides my usual slew of bookshops and some friends to drop in on, my itinerary was pretty much a case of pin the tail on the GPS, and saw me stopping over at places en route to other places. First stop though was Oxfordshire to stay with some good friends and acclimatise to the English summer (ha!). It turned out to be a scorching 35C and the hottest day on the English calendar!

I spent some time exploring some villages in the area including Hanwell and Banbury (well, Banbury is technically a town). Y’know, ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross? Well I didn’t quite do that but I did visit a statue of the lady who apparently did! I also drove to Cheshire and visited Alan Garner’s neighbourhood and walked the beautiful forest of Alderley Edge and had a cider at the Wizard of Edge pub. You’re more likely to see a WAG (wives and girlfriends of rich football players) in the Alderley environs than a wizard or King Arthur himself, but it was fun to walk the landscape that fed Garner’s imagination when writing The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath. For the record I can’t quite bring myself to read Boneland, the third in the trilogy…I don’t want to ruin the high the first two books gave me! Then it was off to Edinburgh for the weekend to catch up with more friends and enjoy some nice walks around the city (and some more pubs).

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Writing

Nil writing – at least I’m honest! There was far too much driving and socialising going on to retreat to my keyboard for anything more than proof-of-life emails home and a bit of social media.

Reading

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – Well this is the start of something good. I’m now ridiculously addicted to following PC Peter Grant’s wizarding adventures all over London. And thanks to this music video, I can’t but help picture Peter as being played by the handsome and supremely talented young comedian Ben ‘Doc Brown’ Smith (who, in a nice crossover, for me anyway, had a starring role in the Phil Rickman Midwinter of the Spirit TV adaptation in 2016). Word is some kind of TV series might be in the offing. Let’s hope so! In the meantime, I have several more books to read…

A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad by Del Quentin Wilber – A real life fly-on-the-wall true crime read that follows the threads of 12 separate homicide cases from the perspective of one busy homicide unit in Prince George’s County. It was an eye-opening read for me, even as a former police rounds journalist, and offered a unique perspective. Camaraderie and commitment are the two main themes that are woven through these stories – the mateship of the detectives and their unwavering dedication to solving the crimes on their patch.

I also dove deep into a pile of True Detective mags this month courtesy of my local stationmaster, who happened to be dispensing with his private stash. Freaks, the pair of us. I’ve been a fan of the mag since my early teens, when I bought my first copy in a UK paper shop while on holiday. Disturbing reading!

Speaking of disturbing, I also read this online collection of creepy phone calls – how unsettling! Deliciously so…

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