Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Words by the Water - Free Tickets for Students

Words by the Water, the literary festival that runs from March 2nd to 11th, 2012, in Keswick, is offering bursaries of free tickets to 17 to 25 year olds. 

This is a quote from their flyer:
"Words by the Water - Festival of Words and Ideas is pleased to offer young people the chance to listen to and engage with a host of prominent writers, politicians, broadcasters and commentators through our Bursary Scheme. If you are passionate about writing and new ideas; excited about art, travel, philosophy, politics and current affairs, or simply seeking inspiration there are lots of reasons to apply.” 

The festival takes place at the Theatre by the Lake, in a lovely setting just beside Derwent Water. There are lots of walks, some only a few minutes, others a few hours long. There are also flocks of water birds and a regular ferry up and down the lake.

Some very well-known people will be there. The whole programme can be downloaded as a pdf from the website. The person to contact for an application form is alice.ling@wayswithwords.co.uk.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Youth Olympic Games

Innsbruck by Fernand Metzger
I see that the Youth Olympics Winter Games in Innsbruck finished last week. They ran from January 13th to January 22 and involved athletes from 14 to 18 years old. The first summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) were held in Singapore in 2010 and the next will be in Nanjing in China in 2014. They are overseen by the International Olympic Committee, like the adult Games, and are part financed by the committee and part by the host city. There’s a long article about them on Wikipedia, pointing out that there is a strong cultural element to them as well as the sporting events. They give my female protagonist, Suzanne, a target to work towards, together with the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow. I'm sure, if Themis were alive today, he would be gearing up for Nanjing too ...

Our search for a photo of the statue that we now think of as what Themis looked like goes on. No answer as yet from the owner of our favourite on the internet. I'm in London for five days, so I'll see what I can do here.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

No biting, no gouging ... and flowers

The more I research the arts and writings we still have from Ancient Greece, the more connections I find with aspects of modern life.

I saw the movie ‘Warrior’ the other day. It’s about a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament in which the two finalists are estranged brothers. I was interested because MMA is similar to the Ancient Olympic sport of pankration. This was a combination of boxing and wrestling which famously had no rules except ‘no biting and no gouging’. It seems to have started at the 33rd Olympic Games in 648 BC but has never been included in the Modern Olympic Games, even in 1896 when they began.

They say that even the no biting, no gouging rule was ignored by the Spartans, who were trained to use any method possible to win in a battle. So Spartans were barred from competing in the pankration of the Ancient Olympic Games. They were too dangerous!

According to the Wikipedia page, ‘In Greek mythology, it was said that the heroes Heracles and Theseus invented pankration as a result of using both wrestling and boxing in their confrontations with opponents. Theseus was said to have utilized his extraordinary pankration skills to defeat the dreaded Minotaur in the Labyrinth. Heracles was said to have subdued the Nemean lion using pankration, and was often depicted in ancient artwork doing that.’
Taken by Yair Haklai in 2008, St Petersburg

The fighting in ‘Warrior’ includes a bewildering series of techniques of striking and grappling and submission holds. There is a statue that shows a submission hold in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It is a Roman marble copy of a third century BC Greek bronze and is known as the Uffizi WrestlersThis photo is of a copy of it (a copy of a copy!) in the Yusupov Palace in Saint Petersburg.

There’s a story in Pausanias (translated by Peter Levi) about a pankratiast or all-in-fighter called Arrachion of Phigalia. He had won twice in previous Olympic Games and in the final bout of the 54th Olympiad (564 BC), he was caught by his opponent in a strangle-hold. As he tried to get out of the hold, he broke his opponent’s toe. The opponent submitted because of the pain, but just at that moment Arrachion died in the strangle-hold. Arrachion’s dead body was proclaimed the winner. As I watched the story of ‘Warrior’ unfold, I wondered whether something similar would be the climax. If you haven't seen it, I won’t spoil the ending for you …

I’ve been away for ten days visiting relatives and came back to Cumbria to find snowdrops, crocuses and cyclamen out in the garden. This is earlier than usual by two weeks or so. 

I particularly love the cyclamen at this time of year. In Greece they flower from now until the heat begins in April and the autumn ones flower from September through to December. So as long as there’s rain there are wild cyclamen among the rocks and scrub on the mountains. In The Boy with Two Heads I had them garlanding a statue of Pan, god of wild places.

Talking of The Boy with Two Heads, Connie is now working on the text layout. We met on Saturday and decided on various design features and spacings. Because the story is told partly in extracts from blogs and diaries, we have had to use two different fonts and various heading styles. Our own two heads were better than one again, especially as one of the decisions was to do with running heads! The cover is still causing problems, but the whole is progressing, though more slowly than anticipated - as always in my long experience of publishing. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Boy is nearly there.

We were in Carlisle shopping a couple of days ago and came across this sculpture of chairs. It’s beside one of the paths towards the stadium where Suzanne used to train in The Boy with Two Heads, but the story is set two years ago, and this is quite new. It seems unlikely for this part of the world, more reminiscent of Barcelona or Lisbon. The weather was so cold and windy that I didn’t manage to find out if it has a name and who made it. I’ll have another look on a better day. 

On a completely different note, it seems there’s to be an award ceremony at the IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) conference in Glasgow in March at which I will be given a certificate for winning first place with Dragons' Eggs in its category. When Nelson’s Dream won, it was a very small affair at the CUP stand, but this time it will be a bit more public and involve people having drinks and making speeches. I’ve known about winning the category since August, but had no idea there would be this celebration. Brilliant!

Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe
Yesterday there was an email from the friend in Zimbabwe who checked over the text of Dragons’ Eggs for me to make sure there were no cultural mistakes. He jokingly mentions Juliasdale, a small town in the Eastern Highlands, where Brian and I climbed a granite hill and looked out across miles of mountains. It's not where the action of Dragons' Eggs happens but it is such a wonderful place, I want to include a picture here. I'm really looking forward to the better weather when we can do some more walking in the hills here in Cumbria.

My work on The Boy with Two Heads is almost done now, except for letting people know about it. There will be checks of text and so on till the last minute, but that looks like being within three weeks or so. I have made a proposal to CUP for another Reader for them. Their Readers are not timeslip novels, of course, but they can be just as complex to write because they are for young adults learning English, so the language and structure are carefully controlled, as well as the content.

We've been trying to get some more tickets to the Olympics in London, but the website seems to be having trouble dealing with the traffic. We wanted to see some of the athletics but haven't managed as yet, in spite of Brian spending hours on line. 

I shall be busy with other parts of my life for the next couple of weeks, so won't be posting anything here until later in the month. Thank you for your interest so far!