Tuesday, September 29, 2009


We finished an idyllic three days in Savannah by sitting in the sunlit Madison square and reading our books before catching an overnight Amtrack to New York. Madison Square is one of the most famous crime scenes in US literary history, as it's the site of the slaying featured in the 90's journalism-thriller 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' by John Berendt. The book - people in Savannah simply refer to it as 'the book' is notorious and lies like a curse on the city. The reason is its heady mix of fiction and fact. There really was an antiques dealer called Jim Williams and he really did shoot a young man in the 1800's house in my picture above. The book, which is a great read, brought in the tourists and even Clint Eastwood to shoot a picture - but now Savannah can't exactly wriggle free of its reputation as... a bit louche. There again maybe it doesn't want to.

As to the cavalcade of of other characters in the novel, some of them did undoubtedly exist, some have their names changed - and everyone here will tell you that they know someone in it.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Tomorrow we pull out of Charleston and head further south into Georgia. We spent today at the beach and got our noses burnt in unseasonable sun. Out to sea dolphins broke the water as fishermen dangled lures off the pier. Pelicans dived to catch fish and the sunlight glinted off the Atlantic, which turned out to be so warm even Ms T felt up to a paddle.

Afterwards we went along the pier to meet the gnarled fishermen who turned out to be the cast of 'Jaws'. What are you fishing for we asked. Shark, they replied. I looked suprised. I'd been swimming in there, I laughed (uncertainly).

Ah well, they replied, the shark are there all the time. You might not see them but they are there. But they're only a risk in the evening or first thing in the morning. So now I know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


After a swing through rain soaked Virgina we've arrived in sultry Charleston, a costal city on the coast of South Carolina. I've never seen downpours quite like the ones we drove through, but that's America, they don't do their weather by halves.

Twenty years ago to the day Charleston played host to Hurricane Hugo. The physical scars have long gone but the local news today featured an item about shelter suitability; they can't take their security from the elements for granted here. We wandered about the elegant French quarter and a friendly lawyer showed us around the court complex which dates from the eighteenth century. The centre of the storm came ashore here and tore the roof off, he reminisced, so they spent two million dollars or so rebuilding it to its former glory.

Friday, September 18, 2009


From Washington

In Washington for the first time in years. Passed by the Vietnam memorial (above) - always moving, so perfect and simply achieved...then walked our little legs off. You rarely see people in uniform at home in London, but in Washington by contrast you rarely walk the length of a street without seeing a Marine, or an Air Force officer. It feels like the country is at war in a way which ours isn't. And that's borne out by reports here this week that Gen McCrystal will shortly ask Obama for up to fifty thousand more troops to get the job done in Afghanistan.

Museums done we headed for Rosslyn across the Potomac for a lunch at Ray's Hell Burger. This made headlines a few months ago when the President and Biden dropped in and lined up at the counter like everyone else. It's not ritzy but by God it was tasty.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Two quite heavy days on the newsdesk had left me with a headache so it was up first thing and off to the Lido for a swim. The water was so cold my face nearly fell off. Pushed the polar bears aside and did my twenty lengths. But Autumn is with us now and leaves were floating in the pool. The morning sun made the waves glitter as I sculled up and down. There were about fifteen other hardy souls none of whom were wearing wetsuits and some had their small children with them. Respect! The headache disappeared and my skin tingled. Swimming in a heated pool feels odd now, like being in tepid tea.

Afterwards in the park on the way home there were horse chestnuts on the ground. They were so shiny and cool I had to pick them up. Do kids still play conkers or has the pastime been banned on health and safety grounds? Or maybe the Nintendo DS has conquered conkers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Beds Walk

To Harpenden for one of our walkabouts, with Ms T choosing the route from a new guide we'd not tried before, the Rough Guide walks around London. This is not quite as good as the Time Out versions in that the walks are circular rather than from one station to another, but it does make buying the train tickets a good deal less complex. The maps in the Rough Guide are much much better than the Time Out equivalent which makes navigation easier, although the directions are less comprehensive. Like the Time Out routes there's a pub in the middle, in this case the Wicked Lady in Weathampstead which looked gentrified to the max and which I thought would be dreadful - but which surprised me with an excellent fish risotto and Ms T raved about her sardines on toast. So there you are.

Harpenden is what it is; a dormitory suburb outcrop of London but a pleasant place with some nice country areas around it. The weather was stunning, Summer's last hurrah.

After being on the wagon for two weeks and holding out with a lime and soda in the pub my will evaporated when I got home and I indulged in a Spitfire Ale. Then it was off to the Regent where I got three sheets to the wind with Ellen and Ms T. Remembered in the morning why not drinking can be a Very Good Thing.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Walked in hot September sun (?) down to Camberwell to see Charlotte, struck down by Salmonella after an encounter with a chicken sausage at Colombo airport. Ms T was hungry on the way so we stopped at a Vietnamese cafe a short distance from the hospital.
The next table was occupied by two youngish doctors. The door opened on another world as the conversation ebbed and flowed.
"We went to Tuscany for a fortnight but the nanny didn't come."
"I don't think the recession ever reached us actually. And we saw some bankers the other night - very bullish. There's money to be made..."
"We were trying to buy an apartment in Manhattan, but the deal fell through."
How much are these guys on?

Monday, September 07, 2009


This is the latest thing to fall into our garden overnight. I don't think it's the kids this time, somehow, so I'm not sure it falls into the same category as the dinosaur (see below). When I came out to go to work there were pages strewn all the way up the street, so perhaps it was someone who was drunk or just unhappy with the service levels at Argos.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Old Aunty

Love this 1959 documentary of life at the BBC looking at the overnight operations, including a hilarious sequence apparently filmed in the wee hours in the Bush newsroom.

'Anything new for the 0300 bulletin?'

It's still like that, well, sort of. My favourite sequence is the security guard ringing Jack De Mannio to point out that it's half past five in the morning. They ought to bring that sort of thing back.