More Random Stuff; this time, Artworks

Creatively, for me this week has been rather a damp squib.

I have managed a little writing and research on ‘The Assassin’s garden’, but I’ve not had a very good week, one way or the other, and am just not up to writing a blog today.

So, the easy way out.

This is a somewhat random mix of some of my paintings from the last 10 or 15 years.

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An oil pastel painting of a rock structure a few miles away from where I live – it looks to be a heavily abstracted painting, but is actually reasonably accurate!

 

chestnuts

A watercolour – chestnuts in autumn.

 

summer-medway

A chalk pastel – alongside a nearby river, The Medway, in summer.

 

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Another oil pastel – a door in a house in a village in the Khumbu region, Nepal.

 

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Charcoal on paper – Musician.

 

dusk

Acrylic on canvas – Dusk.

I think that’s suitably random; I’d be surprised if anyone could find a theme there, other than ‘paintings’.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

A random bit of Delhi for the weekend

‘Once I leave, I am back out in noisy, smelly, confusing, squalid, hassling, bright Paharganj. When I first came here, it seemed very strange and exotic, had an unusual, exciting feel to it that was difficult to identify but was certainly the strange, unfamiliar sounds, smells, sights and feel of an unknown culture. Even the bits that were new, still seemed dirty and somehow old, as if something about them owed their existence to the distant, Indian past. This has gone and I miss it most keenly, since I keep getting a hint of it, floating unexpectedly on the breeze with sounds and smells that remind me of when I first came out here. This has been replaced, however, by something almost as precious…I feel completely at home.’ 13th November 2009

Crowds near the Ajmeri Gate, Old Delhi

 

Turkman gate, Old Delhi. One of the gates in the city walls at the time of the Indian Mutiny / 1st Indian War of Independence, it dates from the seventh city of Delhi, Shahjehanabad. More recently, in 1976, during the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi’s government, it was the scene of another infamous episode, when crowds protesting about the bulldozing of their houses in an effort to clear slum areas and force them out of the city were fired upon by the police, killing several of them.

Tenements near the Turkman Gate, Old Delhi

 

Mihrab, or Arch, in a building in the Lodi Gardens, Delhi

Delhi Gate, in the old city near Chandni Chowk. This photo was taken in 1989. When I passed the same gate in 2009, the traffic was a whole lot worse!

The great tower of Qutb Minar. The first of the Moslem invasions was by Muhammed, Sultan of Ghur in what is now Afghanistan, in 1192. Having overrun a large part of the Northern Indian plains, he returned to Ghur, leaving his new territory in the hands of his army commander and favourite slave, Qutbuddin Aibak. Qutbuddin decided to leave a monument to his religion that was designed to overawe his new subjects and inspire his own people, and set about building a mosque with a massive tower nearby. The tower itself is almost 73m high and is 15m in diameter at the base, tapering to 2.5m at the top.

Decorative details of the stonework. Most artistic decoration is, as usual with Islamic craftwork, patterned work and verses from the Koran. At Qutb Minar, there are also plentiful stylised, and sometimes surprisingly realistic, depictions of plants with flowers and buds and long, winding stems and tendrils. To construct the mosque, artisans used stone from Hindu and Jain temples and many stones and panels still depict the original carvings, frequently defaced but still recognisable.

 

The famous ‘non-rusting’ iron pillar. This stands in the courtyard of the mosque and was here long before the mosque was built. It was made in the reign of Chandragupta II (AD 375-413), is composed of almost pure iron (99.72%) and shows only the slightest sign of rusting. A sanskrit inscription on the pillar indicates that it probably stood originally outside a Vishnu temple, possibly in Bihar, and was moved later to this site. It would probably have had a garuda, the vehicle of Vishna, on the top. 

Squinch-arch in Iltutmish’s Tomb. A squinch is a ‘bridging’ structure, used here to support a dome (now gone). Iltutmish was Shamsuddin Iltutmish (ruled 1211-1236), 3rd ruler of Delhi (after Qutbuddin and Aram).

Brahminical motifs on the columns of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. These pillars were originally part of the Hindu and Jain temples that were razed in the area when Qutbuddin built his capital. It is chronicalled that 27 temples were destroyed. They would have been reassembled by Hindu craftsmen, Qutbuddin using local labour.

The Assassin’s Garden

My mood is strongly affected by the environment, and this will naturally influence my writing.

Although it is obviously not necessary to recreate exactly the conditions of the story I might be writing, it certainly helps if the mood of where I am matches that of the environment I am writing about.

During the years I lived in a desert environment, for example, I never once wrote a story about whaling in Antarctic waters.

Today is grey, cold, basically miserable. To sit and work on my India novel is, quite frankly, impossible. Instead I have been re-working some of ‘The Assassin’s Garden

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The Assassin’s Garden‘ is the working title of the novel I have been writing for almost 5 years, now, and which got overtaken when I had the inspiration for ‘Making Friends with the Crocodile‘, and couldn’t be much more different. It is a complex tale, with a timeline that begins in Medieval Persia, passing through Mogul India to Victorian England, back to Victorian India, and then England again. It is (obviously!) a historical story, which also has strong elements of detective story and Gothic horror/fantasy.

I don’t really know which genre it truly fits into. Perhaps it needs a new one.

Proto-historic-goth-punk, perhaps.

As it stands, it is well over 100,000 words long, and may well end up being split into two or even three separate books.

Perhaps it is time that I finally completed it.

In other news (switch to picture of newsreader staring earnestly into camera, serious look on face, effect ruined only by line of kittens dancing a can-can in the background), I’m finding it quite difficult to sort out my Print On Demand edition of ‘Making Friends with the Crocodile’, and have now decided to switch printing companies (oh what fun).

I know I’m not the only writer who just enjoys writing the stories, but hates all of the publishing and publicity sides of the business – I am just not a businessman in any sense of the word; I dislike doing it and find it difficult. It also goes completely against my nature to go around saying ‘My book is fantastic, you must buy it now!’

Unfortunately, if there is a button I can press on the computer after I have finished writing the book, labelled ‘format, publish, promote and sell’ I’ve not noticed it yet.

Blowing Someone Else’s Trumpet for a Change!

One or two of the sharper-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I am quite interested in India.

Naturally, this means that I follow a number of blogs about India and travelling around India. So, for anyone that visits my own blog and enjoys my occasional pieces on that subject, you might well like to visit these other sites to see how it is done properly!

Click on the links to visit their sites and show them some love!

These are by means the only such blogs that I follow, but I have chosen these particular ones because each post is always about Indian travel, and because they post frequently and regularly.

Enjoy!

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(photo my own)

  1. An excellent blend of photography and text, bnomadic is a journal of journeys all over India, although the Himalaya are an obvious favourite:

bnomadic

     2. In his own words: ‘Rang Birange is an endeavour to understand and promote the faraway and unseen India.’ Lots of beautiful photographs coupled with a crisp, often sparse, text:

rangbirange

       3. Arv runs this splendid photographic blog of Jaipur:

Jaipur thru my lens

       4. Tuhin’s travel diary, chol palai, documents his travels around India:

chol palai

Nepal – Annapurna Region

Nepal – Annapurna Region

In 1988 I went to Nepal for the first time, travelling by bus from Delhi to Kathmandu. Although the trip took almost 2 days, and the bus was remarkably uncomfortable, it was one of the most spectacular journeys I have ever taken, and a most remarkable experience.

And then I trekked the Annapurna circuit, still considered by many to be one of the 10 classic treks of the world. It took 24 days to complete, and from the time we left Ghorka, until the day we walked down into Pokhara, we were travelling entirely on footpaths and saw no vehicles of any description.

Part of the walk is now over a new road, and whilst this is surely welcome to the inhabitants of the region, I suspect that it takes away a little of the magic of the trek.

Village near Manang (posibly Mungji), on the Marsyandi River, close to the Annapurnas. In many ways, a typical Nepalese mountain village, it is built on man-made terraces, up steeply sloping mountainside, to avoid using any of the precious farmland available in the valley.

View from Poon Hill. Poon Hill lies a little to the west of Ghorapani on the river Ghora (pani being water), west of the Annapurnas. Sunrise there consequently occurs behind the Annapurna peaks, including the spectacular Machhapuchhare, or ‘fishtail’ peaks. That said, this shot was taken towards the west, looking across the Kali Gandaki valley.

This is dawn, though. Machhapuchhare and its double peak are shown clearly on the left.

Mountains and glacial lake from the village of Manang.

Lower down, the land is heavily terraced, fertile land being at such a premium that every available bit is used. These rice paddies are near the village of Chepe Ghat, on the Marsayandi River.

Chorten. Chortens, or stupas as they are also commonly known, usually contain relics of saints or priests. The original stupas held relics of the Buddha, such as at the Temple of the Tooth, at Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Mountains near the village of Muktinath. In the rainshadow, here, the landscape is that of a high altitude desert.

 

Mani stones on the Annapurna trail. Mani stones may be carved, painted or both, and serve a similar function to prayer flags, in that they either have a prayer or mantra carved on them (typically ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ – from which the name ‘Mani Stone’ comes from – meaning ‘Hail to the jewel in the heart of the lotus’ i.e. The Buddha) or they may have a picture of the Buddha himself. Although they may be encountered singly or in small numbers by shrines or at Gompas, at times they make up huge walls containing many hundreds of stones, some of which may have been there for hundreds of years. These walls, like shrines or any other Buddhist relics encountered here, are passed on the left.

Houses at Manang.

The Upper reaches of the Marsayandi, looking down to Manang.

Snowed in below Thorung La. Not an unusual occurrence. Thorung La is at 5415m (17,700ft). We arrived at our campsite early afternoon with the ground clear of snow and the sun out. This was the scene a couple of hours later, delaying our crossing the pass (‘La’ is Tibetan for ‘Pass’) by 24 hours.

Heading up towards Thorung La (Early morning).

The long march…

More Himalaya…

Finally, Thorung La. On the day we crossed the pass, we left camp just after 4 in the morning, and were down the other side by late afternoon.

Looking west (and down!) from Thorung La). On this side of the pass there is far less precipitation and the land is noticeably drier. This is looking towards Muktinath.

Why?

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Have half of the American population become xenophobic, misogynistic haters overnight? Of course they haven’t. The demographic who voted for Trump are, like any other political demographic, a mixture of many different views and beliefs.

There are the die-hard Republicans who would vote for anyone or anything, as long as it wore Republican colours.

There are those who believe in Trump’s vision, as he set it out.

Those who believed that Clinton would take away their guns.

Those who have had a pretty raw deal over the past however many years, and think that Trump holds out their best hope.

And there are those, who I believe number many millions, who wanted to give the establishment a damn good kicking, and perhaps did not care how much damage they did in achieving it.

They are the ones who think that everything is run by the rich; the elite, no matter what their political colours, and that the system needs to be torn down and built afresh.

‘Drain the swamp!’ – how that must have resonated with them.

Had the Democrats selected Bernie Sanders as their candidate, and the Republicans selected a more moderate candidate as theirs, then I suspect we would have seen many of those who voted for Trump, supporting Sanders – solely because he would be seen as the anti-establishment candidate.

And the Democrats had another huge disadvantage, in that they were the presidential incumbents, and therefore the obvious targets for this anger.

Clearly, the political class, most commentators, and probably a huge chunk of the population have been unaware of this mood, this anger, although it must have been widespread, and for a long while.

And perhaps the Brexit vote has, in some ways, given it a legitimacy, given people permission, almost, to express their feelings. Even made them realise their power. Trump has been very keen to use Brexit as an example, aided by Farage’s visit.

And Brexit was a phenomenon strikingly similar to Trump’s victory, in that it caught the pollsters, commentators and political classes by surprise, and for many voters was an outpouring of anger against the political status quo, the elite.

Where we go from here, I don’t think anyone yet knows. In the UK, it seems that the political class have not yet realised that there is going to have to be, at some point in the future, some serious discussions about how the electorate are given a genuine say in how things are run. The same conversation will have to happen in the US.

Of course, the electorates of other countries will be watching all of this with great interest.

It could get quite exciting.

I have some news!

I have some news.

I’m sure some of you (especially the writers) will remember that I reported here a week or two back the disturbing news that fictitious characters now have the legal right to sue their creators for defamation of character, or any other hurt (real or perceived) caused through those said creators’ thoughtless and heartless actions.

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In case you want to have a look, the link is below.

Sue me and I’ll have you killed!

Well, news reaches me this morning of a new grouping of characters, namely sidekicks in detective stories, who have come together under the name of Sidekicks Of Detectives (or ‘Sods’) to challenge their positions as The Most Stupid Person In A Detective Story.

Initially, the group was to have been organised by Captain Hastings, sidekick to the famous Poirot, but after some heated discussion it was agreed that, actually, he couldn’t organise his way out of his own front door without help, and the task was then delegated to Doctor Watson, who arranged a meeting at a coffee shop, one of a well-known chain, in Central London. Unfortunately, he forgot to mention either which branch it was, or the time of the meeting, and so there has only been limited progress on that front, so far.

But, further cases have already come to court.

A number of characters from ‘Three men in a boat’, by Jerome K Jerome, Bertie Wooster and others created by P G Wodehouse, and various characters from books by Spike Milligan began a collective case, but were laughed out of court.

Dan Brown is being sued by every single character he invented.

And there is some confusion in America, where Donald Trump has apparently filed a case against himself on the grounds that he has irreversibly blackened his own character.

I’m told he is confident of winning the case, since the stories he has spread about himself are scarcely believable, and that it is generally held that he must be a fictitious character, since the majority of observers and commentators say they ‘can’t believe this guy is for real!’

The trouble is, all this is symptomatic of our legislative culture. It was the retrospective case brought by Big Ears and Mr Plod against the estate of Enid Blyton that, I think, I found most distressing. By all accounts, they cooked it up over an evening of heavy drinking, after being taunted by the Tubby Bear family, and it is strongly suspected (although it cannot be proved) that much of the impetus came from a third character – possibly one of the Fluffy Cats, since they are known to be bad through and through (it’s okay, I can say that. It was proved in a recent court case of character assassination that the Fluffy Cats brought, and lost, against the estate).

But Big Ears and Mr Plod did win their case, and now not only is it a legal requirement that in future they both be referred to as intelligent, but Big Ears must henceforth be renamed as ‘Graham’. And his ears are officially ‘of normal dimensions’. Or else.

Which brings me to my own characters.

I have decided that I am not going to be dictated to, or browbeaten by, some miserable little…hang on, there’s someone at the door. I’d better just get that. Hello? What? A writ? about what? Oh…

I’m sorry, I have to stop there.

Wow, What a Book #3, #4, #whatever

Well, Saturday already. Seems only yesterday it was Friday *sigh* I suppose I’d better get on with it.

I don’t think I’ll do ten of these after all, because I rather run the risk of listing books just because I like them, rather than because they have had a real and measurable influence on me. So today I present the final three.

1. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson.

Image result for silent spring

I read this book when I was in my mid twenties, and it really did open my eyes to what we as a species were doing to the planet. Up until that point, I had not really understood the impact that we were having on the environment. Shocked, I became interested in learning more, and then even more shocked as I learned what food and drink manufacturers put in their products for us to consume. At that time, one of them was the nasty compound dropped by the Americans on Vietnam during the Vietnamese War; a defoliant that was known to be carcinogenic.

It was used as orange food colouring.

I got hold of a list of all the ‘E’ numbers that were permitted additives, and which the industry certainly didn’t want us to know about. Certain ones were very nasty indeed. It was at this point that I became very keen on reading the labels on food and drink packaging.

I became involved with various pressure groups, such as Greenpeace.

That book changed my life.

2. The Razor’s Edge by W Somerset Maugham.

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In some ways, this could lay claim to be the book that has had the greatest influence on my adult life, but in a different way to Silent Spring.

I’d always tried to be a reasonably decent human being, but reading this made me rethink the way that I wanted my life to be. It is the story of a man who returns from the first world war and begins to question his place in society. He finds the trappings of modern western life, and its values, empty and meaningless – its focus on making money, selfishness and greed. He then searches for something meaningful in his own life, through education, religion and travel, and explores his relationships to others.

The message in this book immediately resonated with me; that there is much more to life than the pursuit of money, essential though some of it it might be to my survival. Other people mattered. Helping others was important. What is called the spiritual life, whether or not you believe in a god or not, was an important part of us all.

5. The War of the Worlds by H G Wells.

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Are you serious? you ask. How could this book be an influence on your life? One of the first science fiction books, and admirable for that, but an influence?

Well, it is easily told, and the answer will probably surprise you. This book provided the initial impetus for me to become a vegetarian.

Yes, a vegetarian. There is a passage in the book where the narrator recoils with disgust as the Martians take the blood from still-living humans for their nutrition, but then comments that it was probably the same reaction as an intelligent rabbit would feel observing our own eating habits. That made me consider whether it was necessary for me to eat meat, and I came to the conclusion that no, it was not.

Well, yes, right…or write…

The clocks have gone back, and it’s getting dark earlier and earlier, but there is still a blackbird singing in the garden, although there is also the smell of wood smoke in the air – from a bonfire, I would guess – and a definite chill in the air. The autumn leaves have been exceptionally beautiful this year, seeming to have an extra couple of tones of red and orange. And there are still plenty of late flowers out. I may be a summer person, but it is  decidedly beautiful at the moment..

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I said I’d take part in NaNoWriMo this year, didn’t I? What on earth could I have been thinking of?

Did I really commit to writing over a thousand words a day all through the month?

Oh, for goodness sake! I’ve not even had time to look at anyone’s posts for the last five days, let alone write anything.

I quit. November 2nd, and I quit. Just like that. I’m sure no one else has ever backed out of it that early. Can I claim some sort of record?

But, as some sort of penance, I’m going to put up a short fiction piece for today’s post. I wrote it last week, so that’s almost November…

Light Years

It appears now both ridiculously arrogant and incredibly stupid, but after a mere few thousand years of development we seemed to think that we had arrived at a stage of development that we should consider to be an advanced civilisation. For a handful of years we had been capable of a rather limited space travel. We were beginning to probe the makeup of the universe and were on our way to some understanding of its complexities. And out of all of these thousands of years of development, we had had machines only for a few hundred years. We had had electric light for less than two hundred years. Computers for less than a hundred. We reached the moon one year, and two generations later we were probing the edges of the Solar System. And in those two generations, the life expectancy of almost everyone on the planet increased dramatically. We invented mobile phones and within one generation they were tiny computers that virtually controlled our lives.

In short, the pace of our technological progress increased exponentially.

But we had had wars and cruelty and genocide all of this time. We never solved that problem, we only invented crueller and more effective killing machines.

And should we ever make contact with another civilisation – that’s civilisation, mark you, not just life form – then the odds were that it might be several millions of years old.

No one seemed to realise the rather obvious implications.

And, despite warnings from a few of our more eminent and talented thinkers, we continued to recklessly send signals out into this huge unknown, advertising both our presence and our level of development.

Science fiction in popular culture would have aliens suddenly visiting our planet, swooping through the skies in huge flying saucers with deadly heat rays as weapons. The visitors would be recognisably bipedal – large headed, of course, since their brains would be more developed than ours – but with a limited range of facial expressions (why limited, I always wondered? Surely they would have developed more subtle ones? But perhaps they no longer needed them). The world would be in a panic; world leaders would meet, and attempt to make contact with the visitors. There would be an ill-advised attempt to engage them in battle, which would turn out very badly, but they would finally be forced to leave, or leave of their own accord, and in the end we would be the wiser for it.

But it wasn’t like that at all.

No one seemed to know what they saw, and many seemed unaware even that they had seen anything at all. There was light, but not the lights of UFOs buzzing through the skies at night, and not the stabbing beams of destruction envisioned by the writers and film-makers. For several days, it seemed to me that the light was a rather odd colour, and at times a little misty, or…hard. Others noticed that the light would move around, almost in blocks. It sounds ridiculous, but there you go.

That was about the time that I noticed a slight throbbing in my head and my brother complained of a ringing in his ears. No more than that, although it did seem that there was more shouting and arguing from some of the families in the neighbourhood, but this wasn’t particularly unusual and I thought nothing of it then.

It was the following day, which was yesterday, that everything seemed to go quiet. The arguing had stopped, for which I was grateful, but so had the background noise of traffic. I walked down to the ground floor and pushed open the door, and with that the throbbing in my head seemed to get worse. There were one or two people in the street outside, but no one seemed to be in a particular rush. All of them appeared to be strolling or standing around aimlessly and when I began to walk towards one of them, I found it quite difficult to move my legs; they felt very, very tired. I stopped and looked at the man I had been approaching, but when I caught his eye he began crying. It seemed shocking, and I wanted to cry too, although I did manage to stop myself. In the end, I turned around and went back home. I thought I’d see if there was anything on the news, but the TV no longer worked, and nor did my laptop. There was power, since the power lights came on, and I filled the electric kettle and made a cup of tea, but that tasted awful – perhaps the milk was off –  and I poured it away.

My head was still throbbing, but I thought I ought to see how my brother was this morning. I tapped on his door, then went in, but he wasn’t in his room and the bed looked as though it hadn’t been slept in. He had gone out the previous evening, and it seemed obvious that he had stayed out all night. It didn’t seem to matter.

I still felt tired, and now I did start to cry. It only lasted a moment, though, and then I thought I should have some breakfast. I put a couple of slices of bread into the toaster and put a pan on the cooker. I was going to fry a couple of eggs, but the oil in the bottle seemed to have turned a greenish colour and set solid overnight. I pushed the lever down on the toaster anyway, and for about a second the whole thing glowed with a bright orange light that hurt my eyes, and then just faded away. There was no smell of burning, and the toaster looked unharmed. I unplugged it from the wall, and lifted the lever. The bread was still white.

All of this should have worried me more than it did, but the truth was that I felt that I didn’t care. For the next hour or so I sat at the window, watching the few people outside trudging slowly along or standing and crying. A couple of them were lying motionless in the road. With an effort, I lifted my head and looked up to see that there were bands of thick colour across the sky; not clouds, because they were too transparent to be clouds, and they were the wrong colour anyway. I don’t know what colour they were, but it was wrong.

When I looked down again, the street was empty, apart from the colours.

It is possible that what we saw was no more than a trick of the light, or perhaps they were machines. Possibly, they were even the creatures that had sent them. Who knows, maybe they were both at once.

Light. Yes, light. It keeps coming back to light.

I don’t even know whether this is the end.

But I think it is.

Wow, What a book #2

To continue with the 10 books that have most influenced my life.

My second choice is The Lord of the Rings, by J R R Tolkien.

Image result for the lord of the rings book cover

I suspect that very few readers are unaware of the story of The Lord of the Rings, having either read the book, seen the film, or both. And at this point, it might be a good idea to just make it clear that I am talking about the book here, and not the Peter Jackson films, or even the ill-fated attempt at animating the entire book in 1978, an attempt that got as far as the first book, and was, to be honest, rather dreadful. Let me content myself by just saying it was a bit ‘Disney’. I’m not that mad on the Peter Jackson films either, to be honest, but back to the book.

So, I’m not going into any great detail about the story, but, in a nutshell, it involves a quest to destroy a ring that gives great power to the wearer, but inevitably corrupts and destroys them. It’s maker, Sauron, is attempting to find it, and the free peoples of the world must not only keep it from him, for if he recovers it it he will then have power to enslave the entire world, but also take it to the fiery mountain, Mount Doom, where it had been forged, to cast it into the flames and destroy it.

Mount Doom is, inconveniently, inside Sauron’s heavily fortified and guarded kingdom.

Elves, dwarves, men, wizards, hobbits, orcs…you all know it, don’t you?

As readers, we are all different. Some of us like a plot that gallops along so fast that we can barely keep up, with writing that limits itself to the action and no more than the minimum descriptions necessary.

Others, like me, enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere of the described world almost as much as the plot itself – join the Slow Book Movement now! Just send a completed application form to…sorry, wrong place. Where was I? Oh yes, most readers like a mixture of the two, of course.

But as one of these Slow Readers, there is a massive amount in this book that appeals to me. When I read descriptions of the hobbits setting off to walk through woods and fields as the sun comes up through early autumn mists, I might have been reading a description of a morning when I had done just that whilst wild camping in the countryside in my part of England. I have always loved walking on footpaths and through fields and woods, and disliked roads and towns.

The countryside Tolkien described around the Shire – the home of the hobbits – might have been my countryside. there were chalk downs and woods and streams, even one or two names (for example Michel Delving) that could have been local.

There were other woodlands in the book, and if they were described as magical, then that was little more than I naturally felt about woodlands anyway. Aren’t they all magical?

And, on top of all that, there were mountains. Today, I love mountains! But I had never seen one at this point, and suddenly I wanted to go and climb one. There were inns and beer, adventure and song, friendship and dangers. What was not to like?

The whole book is really made up of three books, and the first book, which has always been my favourite, is the one which is mainly set in this land that I could almost identify. This was not the first fantasy book that I had read, but it was, and still is, the one whose descriptions have the greatest power to draw me in. It is the one that, to me, seems the most real.

All of this, with the themes of courage and friendship, self sacrifice and loyalty, and the message that good will eventually triumph over evil, come together in a mixture that is in just the right proportions to appeal to me.

But how has it actually influenced me?

For a start, when I began to write, everything that I wrote seemed to be influenced by that book. This was not actually a good thing, because other than The Lord of the Rings, I don’t really enjoy fantasy! But I wrote that way for a long while.

Today, though, what remains is the descriptive writing. I wonder whether I might otherwise have been a very different reader and writer, since before I read LOTR, I read mainly detective stories and adventure novels.

And I explored a lot of the Middle English literature that influenced Tolkien, from Beowulf to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I suppose not too many people do today.

I visited mountains because of that book.

And a measure of how strong this appeal was (and remains) is that I have probably read the book about twenty times. The last but one time, though, was around twenty years ago. When I decided to re-read it last year, I did wonder whether I would be disappointed. I strongly suspected that I might have ‘grown out of it’.

I needn’t have worried.

I enjoyed it just as much as I ever had; I noticed one or two details I had either forgotten or never really noticed in the first place, and I found myself drawn in every bit as strongly as I had been before.

I loved it.