Attack on Nice: an awkward sigh of relief

David and I have a second home in Nice and this past year we spent the winter there and then returned at the end of May for a five-week visit. In other words, we just missed the terror attack on Bastille Day by a couple of weeks. From our home in Ely, Cambridgeshire we’ve been watching the news unfold in horror through television and social media and this morning hearing the rising death-toll figures on radio. Part of me wishes I had a private jet to fly me there right now to be with French neighbours and ex-pat friends at a time like this. But another part of me is breathing an uncomfortable sigh of relief. Had we been in Nice, it’s likely we would have been on the Promenade watching the fireworks or listening to the live bands. Our little apartment there is some 100 meters from the famous seaside thoruoghfare, though we’re away from the city centre, some two miles from where the attack occurred. While I’m thinking about the dead and injured, many – if not all – could be strangers to me, I’m also thinking about our friends who have used our apartment over the years – I’m grateful none of them were there. 2014-01-03 16.42.46.jpg

We were in Nice in November of last year when Paris was attacked. Here’s an excerpt from my journal the following day:

“After breakfast, we decided to walk into the centre of town – a health walk with the aim of picking up a British newspaper along the way, as we normally do on a Saturday. On the Promenade des Anglais we saw a few French flags that would normally not be there. The road was unusually quiet without the Saturday morning traffic we had grown used to. I guessed that most people were inside watching television or in the halls of apartment buildings talking to neighbours, sharing the experience of shock and worry – was it safe here in Nice?”

The answer to that question is now “no.” I’m feeling sadness and anger. This beautiful city, which we have made our second home, has been brutalised and turned into a place of fear and confusion.

Switching from Journals to Blogs

I’ve done some blogging over the past decade in Tumblr and, but now that I have a site all to myself I feel obliged to make a more of an effort. Blogs to me are a lot like journals and I’ve been keeping journals since I was a teenager. That was in the olden days when people only wrote on paper. I still have my earliest journals and they sit on my shelf along side more recent ones. The first one I kept, which looks like a bjournalsound book, was the Kahil Gibran diary for 1977. That was when I was a teenager, hooked on David Bowie and anything ‘spiritual’. My first e-journal was kept between 1995-98, when I was in South Korea. Now I keep journals on my laptop and in a spiral notebook. While I have used some of my e-journals for essays and other creative writing, I haven’t dared to look back at my early paper journals for writing material – I don’t know if I want to step into the mind of my younger self or relive the angst and anxiety of my youth. As for this blog, it will serve in some ways like my journals, with thoughts about writing and the world. But I’m still keeping an e-journal (about my life in France) and my spiral notebook for my deepest emotions and thoughts I don’t care to share with the world just yet.

Gore Vidal’s Burr

I’m very pleased to see that my article on Gore Vidal’s novel Burr has now been published by the Literary Encyclopedia. I enjoyed reading this classic as it’s far from your typical historical fiction. Though meticulous in its detail about the once Vice President Aaron Burr, placing the reader into the end of the 18th century through to Burr’s death in the 1850s, the fictional elements are also prominent. I do wonder if Hilary Mantel was inspired by Vidal.

Here’s the link: