Category Archives: diary

My Dad RIP

My Dad died in June. He was 96 and right up to just his last few days was still talking about all sorts of random stuff. Here’s the eulogy I gave at his funeral:

Roald Dahl, a Cardiff boy, wasn’t supposed to have been the nicest of people, but in the preface to what I think is his best book, Danny, Champion of the World, he wrote something like this:

What a child wants – and deserves – is a parent who is sparky.

Well, my dad was literally a sparky. He was, for a few years, an electrician. But he was also sparky. He was sparky, kind, generous, and wonderfully, brilliantly eccentric. He was a great father. He was also my friend.

Just last week, in going through his things, I found a newspaper article, probably from The South Wales Argus, reporting his retirement as a magistrate. He was on the bench for 26 years. Here are a couple of paragraphs from that article.

‘Wishing Mr Strong well for his retirement, court clerk Jon Badman said ‘I can honestly say that in the 19 years I have been clerking here, whenever you have been chairman of the bench I have always looked forward to an entertaining day.’

Entertaining? He was a magistrate, not a juggler!

And then later, in the same article, there’s this…

‘Mr Strong, who joined Newport magistrates in 1971, wore a flamboyant Donald Duck tie to mark his final day.’

Dad had a range of ridiculous ties. My brother Roger is wearing that Donald Duck tie tiday, I’m wearing one featuring Homer Simpson and my son Jake wears the one decorated with those guardians of the law, the Mister Men.

Yes, Dad was eccentric. He often wore a deer stalker and, for a while, had a large badge of an eye pinned to the back of it. The eye was a lenticular image, one that appeared to move – so the eye winked as he walked the short distance from car or motorbike to his office. He’d also smoke an upside down pipe, and in his pocket carry a plastic moustache, which he loved to produce so he could utter his most loved pun ‘I moustache you a few questions.’

About ten years ago, after slipping on the garden path and falling on a metal joist he ripped his face open, knocked out half his teeth. But the next day, when I went to see him, horribly bruised and disfigured, he laughed as he told me how he had not only taken himself to hospital, then discharged himself, but got up early that morning and go out, as usual, to buy milk and paper, and enjoy the horrified look on the faces of passers-by. ‘I look like the elephant man!’ he chuckled.

Moving back through the years to my infancy, I remember how he taught me the word onomatopoeia, as that was the word he used when he wanted me to get out of the bath. Andrew – on a mat appear – now!

But for most people who knew him he was their optician. I remember the four floors of HJ Strong, on Upper Dock Street, which got successively more cluttered and ramshackle the further up you went. A bit like Dad’s psyche – superficially he was bastion of the community, but get to know him, climb up the dark upper storeys of his mind, and you discovered a wildly imaginative and slightly messy man.

Dad never cared about money or material things. He was a little bit chaotic, and his stories were often rambling and circuitous. In those last weeks in hospital he often engaged nurses and doctors with his exhausting stories. When he began to hold forth, fixing a nurse or orderly in a storytelling trance, I would quickly take my leave, fully expecting by my visit the next to day to find him still going and the staff comatose on the floor.

Over the course of his life Dad had many hobbies and interests: he loved making cine films, took hundreds of photos, he loved motorbikes, airguns, (a fascination that skipped a generation) and there was golf, of course, but there was also his interest in electronics – he built a remote controlled caddy which later evolved into gokart for the grandchildren. He designed what he called the cupot, half cup, half pot, which he sent to Dragons Den; he learnt the clarinet for a while, practised dowsing, and, inspired by the cranky theories of Erik Von Daniken, once built a pyramid in the attic at home in which apples would supposedly stay ripe and he proposed blunt razorblades could miraculously regain their sharpness.

In his last weeks he was as interested in everything as he always was. I made a note of the topics of some of our conversations: the fall of Rolf Harris, Frank Skinner, the German radar system, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a game called centrifugal bumblepuppy, JPR Williams, Morse code (while in hospital he insisted to one of the doctors that a bedside monitor was spelling out his initials) and how the nationalisation of the coalmines led to the demise of the coconut matting industry.

He was a kind, generous, warm-hearted and eccentric man, a brilliant father and, considering his generation, incredibly liberal. He loved the Goons and although he owned very few books, he had at least three by Spike Milligan. He was quirky, funny, loveable. I will miss his monthly calls to check his premium bond numbers, the regular visits to his flat to go through the same paperwork I went through the month before but which he’d manage to jumble up into a confused mess. I’ll miss scrabbling around on the floor of that flat to retrieve his glasses, remote controls and batteries. There were batteries everywhere. I think at the last count we’ve discovered about 120 in his flat.

I’ll miss his silly voices, his rambling stories. I won’t miss his ridiculous ties, they’re still with us. The banana tie, Homer Simpson, the Wallace and Gromit, the Mister Men, Donald Duck.

Goodbye Dad.

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Tokyo is a city that works, despite a population of 39 million, the throngs in the subway, the malls, the markets. There are so many people, people who sit silently on the subway, who move quietly through the streets, who rarely raise a voice. Listen and the loudest thing you’ll hear is an electronic chirp in the the underground, or the consoling bleeps at a crossing.

In Shinjuku, where we stayed, three and a half million people go through the station every day. That’s the combined population of Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol and Glasgow. Every day. And they move so quietly, almost serenely. And the trains arrive and depart on time. Exactly on time. Tokyo works. Which cities in the UK work so well?

Millions of people, a river of humanity, flow through, so Shinjuku station has become a city in itself, a bright, infinite warren of shops, cafes and bars. It goes on an on forever, as far as the eye can see in every direction.

We debated how to get from the airport to our hotel. The options were monorail, overground, subway, bus or taxi. We chose bus, as it meant we would see the city as we covered those twenty miles.

But as soon as the bus left the airport it entered a tunnel, and, as it turned out, the third longest road tunnel in the world, eleven miles long. When we emerged we had seen nothing of the city, we felt like moles, blinking into the light.

And what light! Light everywhere…buzzing swirling light. On the Shinjuku city streets there was something else. The quiet. There were thousands of people on the but so little noise. The Japanese are so quiet.

And the roads too, at least those at ground level, were uncongested, largely, I think, because traffic goes underground and, as we looked up, overground. The city sky is criss-crossed with overpasses, with roads and monorail. Think Bladerunner. The sky full of scribble, a concrete action painting.

Tokyo’s tunnels and malls, its subways and monorails, these keep the streets quiet. People are respectful of each other, there is a distinct and overt awareness that to be noisy is antisocial, discourteous. There is almost no litter, and weirdly, few litter bins. On two occasions when I was looking for a bin someone appeared to take my litter from me, and with a polite bow, whisked it away.

Litter and litter bins, subways, malls, traffic, it’s all hidden away. I’d like to draw a parallel with their toilets, nearly every one we saw, whether in hotels or small bars, had a control panel to activate squirts or, in some cases, sound effects.

The sound effects are there, I assume, to mask the noise of your functions.

Tokyo is a a city of masks, of hiding, of partition.

Two forms of traditional Japanese theatre, Noh and Kabuki, use masks. Replica masks are on sale everywhere. And the Japanese, too, wear masks. They wore masks before the pandemic, and they wear masks now, on the subway, in the street. We had to wear masks on the 14 hour flight.

The city is quiet, but so is the subway, where talking on phones, for example, is frowned upon. There’s less visual noise underground, too, far fewer adverts, and far more useful information than on, for example, the London underground. It is visually quieter.

Every person with whom we had any exchange was incredibly helpful, courteous, polite. We were shown kindness again and again. We had a few interactions with authority, at customs, on the subway, on the tram – and each time received smiles, reassurance.

We used Shinjuku station regularly and never got close to understanding it. The station is on five levels and each level is vast. Radiating from the station underground are six miles of shopping malls. Sometimes we would emerge just across the road, other times we would find a huge walkway which would take us very close to our hotel. Think of an underpass the size of a street, brightly lit, clean and usually full of people, full of shops. Multiply it that by ten. And then imagine it bright, clean and almost silent.

Silent except for the weird electronic bleeps, softly alluring snoring sounds, some like birdsong, on subway stations (I’m sure one was a cuckoo) and above ground, there are the cute noises emitted when it was safe, at last, to cross the road.

Every underground line has its own jingle, a sound played to warn you the doors are closing. (One line in Tokyo had the theme from ‘The Third Man’ as its jingle.)

How does a city of this size, with so many people, feed itself? One thing I’d read was how few farmed animals there are in Japan – meat eating was banned for 1200 years (until around 1872) – but meat consumption has accelearted in the last hundred years. Naively I thought we would see sushi restaurants everywhere, but there were just as many restaurants offering steaks. Burger King and MacDonalds are all over Tokyo. We were offered shark cartilidge, innards stew, horsemeat sashimi, diaphragm, then there were tuna eyes the size of tennis balls, one vendor proudly picked up his restaurant’s menu and pointed to a section written in English, to a dish I still think about now: squid guts. We’re vegetarians, and although these offerings may revolt British tastes, I applaud the Japanese omnivores for their steadfast resolution to eat everything. Most of this stuff is in burgers, anyway.

We saw several MacDonalds and Burger Kings. There are Starbucks everywhere, too, even Costa, but these are often in beautiful buildings, as if the Japanese authorities squeeze the US corporations to succumb to a Japanese aesthetic.

There is no obvious sense of any concern about climate change. Even if meat consumption is everywhere – I was surprised to see cheese – and this is a country obsessed with plastic, everything is in plastic.

I am aware of a charge of hypocrisy here – after all a 14 hour return flight from the UK to Japan emits a huge amount of carbon. I am vegetarian, almost a vegan, I try to live ethically. I’ve been aware of climate change for a least 30 years – it’s one of the reasons I gave up meat. I have taken very few flights in that time. On the few occasions I took my children abroad, we flew once, then travelled by ferry and train. I realise this is expensive, and yes, I am fortunate. Heathrow to Tokyo was non-stop, and as such is more fuel efficient than covering the same distance in short haul flights.

I am aware of the dangers of criticising others, especially another cultures, for their huge consumption, for their apparent disregard for the climate crisis, when I have just taken a long, carbon emitting flight.

But I’m going to make a few observations anyway – at many temples we had to put on a mask, take off our shoes and put them in to a plastic carrier bag taken from a dispenser in the temple wall. And in front of every department store is a machine for wrapping wet umbrellas in a plastic sheath. But is there somewhere to deposit these plastic bags? No, you take them home.

Food in stores is wrapped in layers and layers of plastic, capsule toys come in spheres of blue plastic, books, magazines, sheathed so that when you open them they feel untouched by human hands. One of the most bizarre things I saw: a single, large strawberry in a plastic dome: 4,000 yen, about £25.

Plastics, masks, subways, shopping malls, road tunnels, they keep things partitioned, hidden, silent, quiet. And consider the traditional Japanese house, the paper walls, these serve no purpose other than to separate, divide, hide.

Japan is an island with a language no one else in the world speaks and uses a written script that is an amalgamation of at least three systems. It is a country and a culture which is proud, independent and isolated. And yet there is little overt patriotism. We saw very few Japanese flags. I recall seeing only one.

The Japanese writing system uses logographic and syllabic systems. The logograms are single characters that represent a word. Japanese children have to learn somewhere in the region of two thousand logograms. And then there’s the syllabic system. And yet the Japanese seem to be in awe of America, and of the English language. Many shops have English signs over the door, many without any Japanese. A man from Osaka, one of the very few we met who spoke English, told us that the Japanese think the English language is cool, even if most don’t understand it. So you get shop names like ‘Snobbish Babies’, ‘Springy Clothes’ and ‘Fashion Leg Shop’.

And then there were the road crossings. Yes, Shibuya crossing is the busiest in the world, some estimates suggest up to 3,000 people cross it at any one time. We crossed it, and couldn’t help but feel everyone else there was crossing it because it was such a famous crossing. Cross over, cross back. But Tokyo has a million crossings with a million red and green figures, most of them with hats. I liked their little hats. I don’t think I saw one person wearing that hat. It looked like a straw boater.

But if the red hatted figure is illuminated, you do not cross. You do not cross even if the road is only the width of a table, you do not cross if there is no traffic as far as the eye can see. You wait. You wait just as you waited at the junction ten metres back, and as you will probably wait at the next one. And as there are many crossings it will take you twenty years to get to the end of the street.

Just obey the rules, regardless of whether they make any sense. I got so frustrated with waiting at a red man when the road was clear that I began documenting the crossings. I have about two hundred photos of these places. Waiting, waiting,waiting.

You do not cross and you do not get cross. We witnessed only one argument, a passenger arguing with a coach driver. And he was screaming and raging. You do not cross and you do not get cross. But when you do, you lose it. You completely lose it. I have a theory about this, I call it all or nothing. The Japanese are all or nothing. I’ll explore this in my next podcast on Kyoto.

We walked an average of eight miles a day. From Shinjuku to Harajuku, then on to Shibuya. From Ginza to Tsukiji fish Market to Shimbashi. We walked and waited at crossings, we walked and marvelled at the cleanliness, this litter free world. We realised even the cars are clean, we saw only one grubby van, and that was just slightly dusty.

We walked and when we were lost someone popped up to show us the way, even if they had no English, they would show kindness and patience and try and point us in the right direction.

These podcasts are about these weird isles, not those weird isles, but after spending time in Japan I have become more aware of some very British idiosyncrasies.

Compared to Japan the UK is raucous, racially and culturally diverse, iconoclastic, more creative and maybe, carefree. And without doubt compared to Japan, the UK is a fucking shambles.

You can’t leave Tokyo without the sense that they’ve got so much right, and when they look at us, in the UK, they must think us dirty, noisy, rude, choatic, maverick, anarchic. But they must also sense that maybe we’re more cynical of big brands, of capitalism, perhaps, less trusting, more open, more global. And we’re certainly not so intimidated by peer pressure, nor so repressed.

But maybe many of us outside of Japan wear metaphorical masks, just a little. In the UK there is tendency towards politeness, towards the same suppressed rage.

But like the UK, Japan is an island that sits off a vast continent. Unlike the UK, though, its language is not spoken or written by much of the rest of the world. And in this sense Japan is alone, perhaps cut off, and this, though, may be its strength.

Even to those who have spent theirlives studying Japan and the Japanese, it will never be understood, never grasped. And this, perhaps,is its allure. To outsiders it will remain aloof, a parallel universe, a blank canvas – a country of infinite complexity and endless dreams

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A Robinson Crusoe of the Soul at the Fringe

I performed ‘A Robinson Crusoe of the Soul’ for ten dates over two weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe. I described it as ‘dirty, noise opera’. A messy mix of sound, prose, music and nonsense. A solo show I wrote, produced and performed on my own, as stupidly arrogant as this may have been. I write this now it’s over, knowing now how blissfully unaware I was of how difficult it would be. The orgnaisation alone, from booking the right venue, to ensuring I had enough twenty pence pieces in a jam jar for the parking meter, was enough to have me crawling around on all fours slobbering. But these were things I knew about. What I could not have forseen were things like the entrance to the venue car park being blocked by a laundry van and there being nowhee else to park. I could not imagine how something I had run through over and over again – setting up my equipment, making sure all cables and connections worked, tuning instruments, sound checking, would be so much more difficult when the previous performer overran. With seconds to go before my audience was shown in, I would still be making final adjustments, unsure everything was working, the venue humid, my head, face, body, sweltering, pouring with sweat. And this was before any performance began. A performance is the tip of an iceberg, in this case an iceberg that is melting at a furious rate. What the audience don’t see is the huge amount of preparation, the years of writing, composition, organisation, and particularly, last minute, frenzied, furious mayhem.

Ten shows on I am pleased how well I did, how few mistakes I made, how little went wrong. It was not a great show, but I carried it off. I survived. I got some great reviews from audiences, from complete strangers who had just wandered in out of curiosity:

‘Passionate, magical, beautiful, intimate and quite astounding. I’m very glad I didn’t miss this gem of theatrical, musical, crazy genius. A wonder indeed.’

(Sally MacLean)

‘A beautiful and gently captivating one-man show. It uses layers of live sound and storytelling to tell of the life and inspiration of the author Machen.’

(Paul Fricker)

‘A beautifully realised and moving account of the life, creative processes and philosophy of the great Welsh mystic and writer. A must see (and hear) for those interested in the pastoral origins of Britain’s weird tales.’

(Paul Johnston)

And then there was one negative, almost hostile, response from a professional reviewer, who I shall not name, who suggested audiences would have felt ‘short changed’ when my show ended ten minutes earlier than I had assumed (shows were of varying length because so much was improvised). No audience member complained that my show was too short, although one gentleman walked out because it was too loud. I received no negative audience feedback at all. Yet this reviewer (who didn’t pay for his ticket) managed to taint my (maybe  unwarranted) pride at having pulled off what was a gargantuan task. Just finding somewhere to park, to load my gear, climbing up and down two flights of stairs three times a day, to load the car, then getting to the venue unsure of whether I could get my stuff out of the car and inside on time, every day, was self-inflicted torture, and enormously demanding even without having to give everything to the show. But it is done. Maybe I’ll perform it again in a few months. We’ll see. I’m a wreck.

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My Struggle

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s  A Death in the Family  is the first of six volumes provocatively titled My Struggle.  This first volume deals with Knausgaard’s early youth, and the death of his father. But subject matter aside, it’s the way Knausgaaard sets about this that makes it so evocative.  He wants to include everything; and in the same way as Borges’ Funes the Memorious never forgets anything he sees, nor does Knausgaard.  Or like Alain Robbe-Grillet, whose novels record the surface of the world in labourious detail, so Knausgaard’s preference is to present us with the quotidian and the incidental, and it’s the accumulative effect of layers and layers of this that makes the novel so powerful, immersing the reader in Knausgaard’s soupy universe. There are moments when I couldn’t help but feel I was walking beside him, or that he is writing about my life, certainly his descriptions of his first experiments with alcohol, his first crushes, the disappointing parties, the dreadful bands he played in and the music he listened to. And Knaausgaard is a pitiful mess, he is no hero, and his inability to raise himself above the everyday, despite his philosophical digressions, is somehow charming.  He imbues everything, every gesture, whether opening a bottle of beer, rolling a cigarette, taking something out of a cupboard, laying a table, pouring a drink, with such filmic observational precision. ‘What you see every day is what you never see,’ he says, but Knausgaard captures every detail.  It’s no wonder his writing reminds me of  Ingmar Bergman; the slow, slow pace of things, the deliberation, the angst.  This is full of angst. Poor Karl Ove. He cries throughout the second half of the novel, sometimes with embarrassment, sometimes with fear. But crying is good, and perhaps if Karl Ove weren’t so sensitive, he wouldn’t have produced such a fine book.  It is a masterpiece of its own genre, kitchen sink, real time, plotless and written in such simple language, it sometimes feels less than what is. Because it is remarkable, and, if I still feel the same after I’ve read the second and third of the six volumes of My Struggle, this ranks alongside some of the most astonishing literary achievements of our times.

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Watercress v Shouting

I won’t go into too much detail, but I recently undertook a psychometric test.  There were something like one hundred and seventy questions, ranging from “I enjoy theories” to “I hate parties”.  As the test proceeded, so my positive responses were clustered together, as were my negative answers.  So things I like (books, people, shouting and watercress) all appeared in the same question, forcing me to make a distinction.  Similarly, all the things I hate (golf, getting up, Wotsits and rabies) were thrown together to make me differentiate between them.  Imagine if you were asked whether you hated Wotsits more than rabies, could you decide?  Rabies is nasty, but you are rarely offered any.  Wotsits, they pop up all over the place, those horrible, disgusting, floury, yellow puke pods.

At the end of all this, I had to sit in a room with an expert who told me how nuts I was.  She laughed until she cried as she described the huge variations in my responses.  “You are a silent loner,” she said.  “You sit outside of the circle, looking in.  You hate Wotsits more than rabies.  That’s very weird.”

“Ah,” I replied, “but I love watercress more than shouting!”

She filed my report away and told me, no, I couldn’t have a copy.  For once in my life, I wish I could have been normal.  It must feel so good.  To like people more than poetry, and parties more than stationery.  I can only wish.

But as I spend hours alone, making things up, it is unlikely that the outside world would consider me a balanced, rounded human being.  I am not, and I don’t want to be.  I want to the eccentric that I am, because in that way the world is an endlessly entertaining series of the bizarre, the surreal and the utterly incomprehensible.  If I were organised and rational, possessed of that dubious quality ‘common sense’, then I am certain I would be incapable of dusting myself off and walking away after a computerised psychometric test had determined I was an introspective watercress loving loner.

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Tristram Shandy

Tristram Shandy is a book I always mean to read but never do.  I know it well enough without reading it.  it’s a mid eighteenth century novel with the feel of modernist literature. Stearne makes the sort of clever literary jokes that appear in books by Borges, Calvino or Will Self.  I still haven’t read Tristram, but driving down to Gower a few weeks ago I listened to the Naxos audio book, and although I found myself losing the thread (it was a beautiful journey, one the best weekends of the year so far) I managed to dip in and out of it enough to feel I had some of the sense of Stearne’s language.

I’d planned to meet my friend Neil in Gower, where we would walk the cliffs, drink the Gower Gold Ale, and try in vain to get to Goat’s Cave, Paviland, the oldest surviving ritual burial in the UK.  The Red Lady of Paviland (actually a man) is 30,000 years old, and his bones lie in Cardiff museum, on loan from the Ashmolean, Oxford.  Goat’s Cave, then is one the most important prehistoric sites in Europe, but is largely unknown.  I got very wet trying to get to it, and gave up after realising I could well kill myself trying to scramble across a vertical cliff some hundred feet above the rocks.

Intrigued by Tristram Shandy – and having enjoyed it more for listening to it on a journey through some startling landscape, when I returned home I bought Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation, A Cock and Bull Story, in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon slip in and out of character, pausing to describe events inside and outside the story, but this isn’t Steve Coogan discussing the movie he’s in, it’s Coogan playing a version of himself, of course.  The film weaves the layers of fiction together into a warm, gentle comedy.

As a result of the success of the film, Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom went on to make The Trip, the duo once again consciously playing themselves, eating their way across the north of England (and, indeed Yorkshire, location of Shandy Hall).

Neil and I ate out once, in the Britannia Inn, Llanmadoc, Gower, but it was very, very disappointing, and if it wasn’t for the cuckoo we could hear as we returned to the car, it would have been quite miserable.

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The Day It All Changed

When I was a young I knew animals had souls. I was a thug until around the age of seven or eight, and had, until then spent far too long devising sinister tortures for wasps and minnows.  I won’t detail them here, I am not proud of what I did. But I had a dog, which we put into kennels when we went on holiday, and when we returned it was dead. I was inconsolable. I thought of my dog, a sweet little Sheltie pup, and imagined it pining for us, wondering why it had been abandoned.  I thought it of it as retribution for all the horrors I had inflicted on tiny creatures.  I became protective of all living things, of the smallest creatures, even of plants.  I took it a step too far with my feelings for inanimate objects, and in sensing their natures, began to understand where the temptation to hoard comes from.  The universe, some say, is cold and ruthless.  Life is an aberration.  I live with that, but at the same time I can’t help but marvel at life, at being, at what we are and what we make of the world around us.

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The Middle of Nowhere

I live in the middle of nowhere.  There is nothing for miles.  (And by ‘nothing’ I mean hills, fields, farms, streams, clouds and sheep).  There are no other houses, no shops, very little traffic.  I drive to work and rarely meet anyone coming the other way.  I drive home and stare into the setting sun.  At night the house creaks like an old ship.  In the mornings, in the summer, there is no better place to live.  In the winter, when everything freezes up, the track to the house becomes an ice slide, we can’t get out, and nothing can get up here. We’re marooned.  And if the water supply shuts off and the boiler breaks down, we might as well be living in a tent. So I watch nature’s clock for the tell tale signs of spring: the snowdrops, the daffodils, the first green buds on the hawthorn.  And when everything explodes into blossom, it is symphonic and sublime, and then the cold brutality of the dark months is at last seen off and life never feels so good.

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I drove east to Oxford and a party to celebrate 25 years of the Felicity Bryan Agency. It took place in the beautiful, refurbished setting of the Ashmolean Museum.  I overdosed on champagne and managed to be articulate enough to talk to a number of agency authors.  I chatted with Peter Heather, who very modestly told me he was teacher, which he is, but he is also Professor of Medieval History at King’s College, London.  His expertise is the fall of the Roman Empire, so I asked him to tell me, in one word, why the Roman Empire collapsed, he replied ‘Barbarians’ – which I think is the title of one of his books. I want to read it now, not just because I don’t know much about who the Barbarians were, but because Peter was a very amusing bloke.  Lydia Syson, an author I hadn’t met before, was embarrassingly nice about my books, and Joanne Owen I discussed being Welsh, and what Wales means to us.

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Battles with My Boy

Last week I took my son to start his first term at university.  Saying goodbye to the first born was something I was not looking forward to.  I wanted him to go, to begin his new life, but knew I’d miss him.  He’s been bogged down with school subjects he was never that immersed in, and so to start studying the thing he loves most, politics, means that he is doing what he wants to do.  It is such a bittersweet experience.  Once upon a time I had an idea of writing a book about our travels together: Battles with My Boy.  It was to be a travelogue of journeys across battlefields of Britain, and a commentary on our arguments.  We used to argue all the time, about politics, education, how to make tea, where the biscuits have gone.

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