Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Sunday 29 November

November 29, 2015

An Exceptional Nation?
Former newspaper commentator and historian, Jonathan Fenby, posed this question about France at the Quaterhouse this afternoon. He took us through the events that have shaped the country from the Revolution to the present day. Some of the facts I already knew but there were many details about the leaders of those times of which I was unaware. This has been a month in which the shootings in Paris have left the modern world numb. The French President has called it an attack on the very values and fabric of his country. This was my last visit to a Folkestone Book Festival event and gives me a chance to reflect on how fanatical violence can affect the freedoms fought for and gained by today’s modern civilizations. Fenby’s book looks to contain valuable information about the turmoils that effect the evolution of a European country and looks to be worth buying.

History of Modern France
The History of Modern France is published by Simon & Schuster
and is available in hardcover and as an ebook

Keith Jahans

Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Saturday 28 November

November 29, 2015

Robin Ince’s Reality Tunnel
I took a break from the Festival on Friday but decided to give this presentation by Robin Ince last night a view. I had not heard of Ince before and was unprepared for what turned out to be a very clever stand-up routine with a smattering of scientific facts thrown in. His set was full of throwaway one liners and often diverged away from a particular point he was trying to make before the punch line. I particularly liked the way he said he had upset some art critics when he said that instead of visiting a Turner exhibition he preferred to walk along a bank of the Thames without his glasses on. Good comedy will always offend someone and Ince takes great delight in doing this. At times I found his comedy a little too glib but the audience seemed enchanted by it. Hidden between the jibs are some salient points and I think that any night out hosted by Robin Ince will be well worth the visit.

Keith Jahans

Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Thursday 26 November

November 27, 2015

Trollope Revisited
This year is the 200th centenary of Anthony Trollop’s birth. The Festival marked the occasion by making his novel, The Way We Live Now, the festival read and a mammoth showing of all parts of the BBC adaptation preceded this presentation by Peter Merchant, principal lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University. I elected to miss the marathon screening but I was glad that I attended the presentation. I confess that I have not read any Trollop novel or watch any of their film or TV adaptations. However, it was fascinating to hear Merchant compare his writing style with his more famous contemporary, Charles Dickens. He used text analysis tools to compare extracts from some of their novels and showed that Dickens used more imagery and words than the more measured and methodical method of Trollop. Each proved effective in recounting the themes that they endeavoured to portray and this has convinced me to add at least one of Trollope’s works to my reading list.

The Way We Live NowThe Way We Live Now is available in a variety of formats,
Ebooks can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg

Melvyn Bragg: Now is the Time
I was fortunate to get a late ticket to see this famous TV and radio presenter talk about his historical novel of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Bragg impressively set the events, which took place around the time of the Black Death, in context. At one point he diverged from his discourse to say that he considered that humans emergence from their apelike ancestors was not due to their ability for language (even birds are able to communicate by calling to each other) but due to their development of imagination. Great Scientists such as Newton and Einstein thought about their ideas first then imagined how they worked before putting them to the test. I found this view of human evolution intriguing which leads me to think that this novel will be well worth the read.

Now Is The TimeNow Is The Time is published by Sceptre
And is available in hardcover, paperback and as an ebook and audiobook

Keith Jahans

Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Wednesday 25 November

November 26, 2015

An Italian Journey
At 7.30 pm Wednesday writer and publisher, Alessandro Gallenzi, translator, Franca Simpson, and cookbook writer Claudia Roden took part in a discussion on Italian food, language and culture chaired by Lennox Morrison. I was particularly taken by Claudia Roden’s remark that cooking is history and landscape in a saucepan. After the conversation we retired to the Quarterhouse’s upstairs bar to examine their published books and where some delicious Italian cuisine awaited us to sample. It was a most convivial evening.

Keith Jahans

Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Tuesday 24 November

November 25, 2015

Gun Baby Gun
This talk by Iain Overton was the most impressive I had so far listened to at the festival and it was a pity that there were so few people in the audience to hear it. In the course of his career as a television journalist for BBC, ITN and Channel 4 he had visited many countries throughout the world and compiled some alarming statistics. In some parts of the USA guns are more available than McDonald’s Hamburgers. It is an indictment of the western world that guns flow from the USA and Europe to fuel violent crime and terrorism in underdeveloped countries while drugs and illegal money flow the other way. I had no hesitation in buying his book and recommend that people and politicians who really want to understand the nature of gun violence do the same.

 Gun Baby GunGun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun
by Iain Overton is published by Canongate Books; Main edition
in hardcover, paperback and as an ebook

The Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War
Although I disagree with the title of his book and presentation by Jonathan Dimbleby (Hitler was a despot and madman who was bound to loose in the end), I do agree that The Battle of the Atlantic shortened the war and prevented Britain’s surrender. I learnt a number of facts of which I had been previously unaware, such as the German intelligence had been able to read Allied naval messages and pass this information to their U-boat packs or that British Navel and Bomber commanders were constantly arguing about the need to provide air cover for merchant shipping. Dimbleby had obviously done a great deal of research before producing this book and I can recommend that it is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand more about this aspect of The Second World War.

Battle For The AtlanticThe Battle of the Atlantic: How the Allies Won the War
by Jonathan Dimbleby is published by Penguin
in hardcover, paperback and as an ebook

Keith Jahans

Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Monday 23 November

November 24, 2015

Sport Unwrapped
Brian Scovell, former cricket and football writer for the Daily Mail, gave an entertaining talk about the many characters he knew in the world of sport, including Sepp Blatter, Denis Compton, Danny Blanchflower and many more. He was there to promote his autobiography, Thank You Hermann Goering: The Life of a Sports Writer, which looks to be a good read but I managed to persuade him to sell me a copy of his book on England and Surrey spin bowler, Jim Laker, which he duly signed.

Keith Jahans

Sport UnwrappedThank You Hermann Goering: The Life of a Sports Writer
is published by Amberley Publishing and
is available in hardcover, paperback and as an ebook

Jim LakerJim Laker: Nineteen for 90 is published by
The History Press and is available in hardcover


Travels in Southern England – The Folkestone Book Festival – Sunday 22 November

November 23, 2015

Beautiful Britain with Tom Fort and the Reverend Peter Owen Jones
I remember being delighted by Tom Fort’s TV progamme in which he described his travels from London along the A303 as this was a road passing through ancient landscapes which I have travelled myself many times. On this occasion he was promoting his book, Channel Shore, in which he recounts his journey by bicycle along the English Channel Shoreline. This talk was a must for me as I have been visiting this area regularly as part of this blog. He had many stories to recount about the characters and things he encountered but was very critical about some of the places he visited. Peter Own Jones, on the other hand, seemed happy just to commune with nature. Apparently, Great Britain is one of the very few parts of the world where you can roam freely and he has collected 21 of his circular favorite walks in his book, Pathlands and Shares.

Friends of the Book Festival Quiz
At 7.30 pm that evening I took part in the Festival Quiz. The venue was the bar of The Quaterhouse, where all of the festival events I attended so far had taken place. Quizzes are a great way to meet other festival goers especially if, as I was, you are on your own. I joined five bright people, three men and two women, to answer what turned out to be general knowledge questions but with an artistic bent. We came second out of nine groups of six with the winners beating us by just one point. We should have won if some of us (and I am afraid I was probably the chief culprit) had not talked one of the ladies out of what turned out to be at least three correct answers. Despite this, we all seemed to get on well and it was a most enjoyable evening.

Quaterhouse FolkestoneThe Quarterhouse Folkestone

Travels in Southern England – Folkestone, Kent

November 22, 2015

I do not recall ever visiting this seaside town before but when I was looking for places to go I was delighted to see that it had its own literary festival which was about to begin. I packed the car, off I went and here I am.

The majestic Grand Burstin Hotel overlooks the harbour and I was lucky enough to book a room here for most of my stay. There were problem’s with the lock on my door on the first day and I had difficulty in locking it but the hotel management kindly transferred me to a much grander room with a magnificent harbour view.

The Grand Burstin HotelThe Grand Burstin Hotel

View from Burstin Hotel room windowHarbour view from my Hotel Window

Sandy Beach FolkestoneSandy Beach with Mermaid Sculpture near sea entrance to Harbour

The Old High Street FolkstoneThe Old High Street

Folkestone Book Festival – Saturday 21 November

Mindfulness – Linda Blair
This talk by psychologist, Linda Blair, was the first I attended at the festival. On the way in the conference hall I was handed a pine cone. Other people were given pieces of stick. Later in the talk we were asked to begin breathing through the nose and out through the mouth and then study the object we were given for two minutes. It was certainly a way to clear our minds of the clutter that builds up in our hectic modern daily lives. We were told that humans only have a few basic needs. The rest of our lives is taken up by wants. I must say I agree with her but I am not sure I will buy her book.

Crime Without Borders – a discussion between three women crime writers and one serving police officer
The three writers were MJ McGrath (who chaired the conversation), Erin Kelly and Louise Millar. International crime across borders has been increasingly occupying the minds of writers, police and the public given the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. The writers referred to the TV drama’s, The Bridge, and its Folkestone set remake, The Tunnel, in their conversation. It was a bonus that DCI Keith Roberts was able to participate as he gave an interesting insight into how the police service in Kent cooperates with those in France. He was also of the opinion that the chief topics often neglected by crime writers were cyber crime and money laundering. All four participants were experts in their fields and the books by the three women writers are well worth a look.

The Folkestone Book Festival continues to 29th November.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Book Review – Frankenstein Scooters to Dracula’s Castle by Martin ‘Sticky’ Round

November 21, 2015

The scooters in question were made by piecing together scooter parts with motorcycle engines and likened to the way Mary Shelly’s fictional character created a monster out of pieces of dead humans. The horror analogy was complete because the author, his family and two companions passed by the castle owned by Vlad the Impaler (said to be the inspiration for the fictional Dracula) in Romania. The book is a guide on how to take your family through Europe to Turkey on self built two wheeled transport and as such is both an instructive and entertaining read.

I travelled a great deal myself in the 1970s and 1980s by motorcycle not scooter. However, I have a great deal of understanding of some of the perils that can occur and the amount of planning involved. Sticky Round has a distinctive writing voice and conveys his technical expertise and descriptions of the people he encounters in a most amusing way. The modern digital age is very different from the days when I travelled by two wheels but I am sure I would find this book extremely helpful should I be tempted to try similar two or even four wheel journeys again. This was an exceptionally good read and is highly recommended.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Frankenstein Scooters
Frankenstein’s Scooters to Dracula’s Castle by Martin ‘Sticky’ Round
is published by Fingers In Pies Publications and is available in paperback
and as an ebook from the Kindle Book Store

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