22 March 2017


…although the link between jousting and Rishi Dastidar’s Ticker-tape seems at first to be a stretch, it is there, in the whole notion of a book launch where you hurl a book, throw it high in the air, its arc curving under the nostrils of a hungry public.  The action is no less than a spear thrust, which is the origin of the word launch, coming as it does from Middle English launche, and Anglo-French lancher, and Late Latin lanceāre meaning to wield a lance.  To be liberated with your lance, be a free lance, or a sprightly lance, or a totally crowd-clearing lance depends entirely on how you want to work these days - whether you take your lance with you on the Tube, or into the 5 pm gridlock, or over the soggy moors at night.  And if you lance frequently, lance a lot, in fact, then you are turning into something knightly, courtly, a bit cavalier perhaps, which etymologically speaking means you must be travelling with a horse.  And then we have to get into cavalcades, parades of horses, even a ticker-tape parade where (if you are lucky) paper, words, and poems rain down on your head. 

All of which means I’m hugely looking forward to this evening’s launch of Ticker-tape in Waterstones, Piccadilly, London.

6 March 2017


This time of year my thoughts always turn to Spain.  From a notebook dated 2010:

At the bus station café in Malaga, the waiter is running a tight ship, persuading and cajoling all ditherers at the door to sit down at a table even before they have time to get their bearings.  This way there is no dilly-dallying at the counter over the cheaper fare, but an orchestrated segue into the more serious part of the establishment.

Middle-aged with a small paunch, the waiter busies himself constantly - wiping tables, taking orders, clearing crockery, and directing with aplomb the not-so-sure hovering at the entrance.  He stretches a friendly but authoritative hand to my shoulder, and I am clinched.

After taking my order for tortilla, he flourishes a paper tablecloth to cover the perfectly serviceable, perfectly wipeable melamine table to indicate that here, unlike those feebly ordering only a cup of coffee, is a customer who has squared up to the menu and is ready to dine.  I sit prepared for his next move, perhaps to tie a napkin around my neck.

‘¿Cómo se llama en español?’ I ask, motioning to the tablecloth.  I’ve forgotten what it’s called, but offer up the word napa, a ridiculous cheatling I’ve concocted from the French nappe.

He looks at me quizzically.   ‘Es un mantel,’ he says.  Then: ‘De donde es usted?’  Where are you from?

‘De Inglaterra,’ I answer.  

He nods, slowly, sympathetically, in recognition of the misfortune it must be to hail from a land in which the art of covering café tables with paper tablecloths has all but disappeared.