Friday, March 24, 2017

Waterloo Bridge to Portsoy.

As the eagle eyed amongst you may know I was in London last week. Alan  had gone out for a walk on the Wednesday while I was at my acupuncture lecture. He walked down to the Houses of Parliament and stood on Waterloo Bridge and sent me a selfie from there. 
The same place and time  where five people lost their lives just 7 days later.
Thinks like that always make you stop to think.
Signs on the London Underground are saying today, 'All terrorists are politely reminded that this is London. So we are going to have a cup of tea and carry on as usual. Thank you.'
But on the lighter side of life Stan the man was supposed to be riding in the Cape Argos Cycle race, I think it was called off or delayed for some reason. My friend, a Scottish journalist who was the Times South African correspondant for many years, had been training for the Cape Argos and sending me regular facebook messages about how badly his training was going. I understand that these two gentlemen met over a tennis net. And discovered they had me in common!
I'm not sure what you say in those situations? 'Of all the tennis courts in all the world, you had to walk on to mine.' ?? 

On a slightly more insane note the Scottish Nationalists are at it again. They are calling for what's now known as "the second referendum".  I can’t be bothered toruturing my brain with this logic but it goes something like this. The Scottish population voted to stay in the EU so if we have a referendum and vote to go independent we will then rejoin the EU although the rules are you can’t for 7 years if you are a newly independent nation (and the Spanish have said they will veto Scotland's application for entry as they want to keep hold of the Catalans) while everybody is ignoring the fact that 34% of the SNP PARLIAMENTARY party membership voted to leave the EU.....
Meanwhile back in the real world..... last week I was in Portsoy and back in Nairn where I do believe Stan has hit the odd golf ball or two. So here is a photo flaneur of the trip.

A rainbow over Loch Ness. just  because it could!

Rannoch Moor. Bleak.

The sands at Nairn


                                                  Sunset at Nairn
                                           Just before the event at the Salmon Bothy in Portsoy
                                                        View from the walk way at Nairn
                                                                    Sunset at Nairn
                                                              Alan getting some fresh air
 The Bothy, prevent. They had make cupcakes with tiny books on them! And Prosecco!
 Miss Ramsay, Miss Grey and Miss Cleeve
Another sunset

                                                        The sell out crowd at the Bothy.

The Salmon Bothy is now a venue for arts and crafts and community activities. It was built in 1834 as a ice store and Salmon store and has been all sorts in between,  on the walls were old photographs of boys learning to be draughtsmen and girls learning to be cooks! 
Portsoy is a tiny village, population of 1700 people. It sits on the Moray Firth about fifty miles north of Aberdeen. It probably looks the same now as it did in the 1830's.

Caro Ramsay 24 03 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Easy come; easy go

Stanley - Thursday

It was 400 years after Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to set foot in what he called Angra Pequena (small bay) in 1487 that the first Europeans settled there.  The reason?  Good whaling, excellent fishing, and an abundance of guano from thousands of cormorants, penguins, and gannets.  In 1887, the village was renamed for sentimental reasons to Lüderitzbucht.  This is often shortened to Lüderitz.  (Click here for my Lüderitz blog.)

Lüderitz today - German influence is very strong.

Bank cormorant 
African penguin (formerly jackass penguin!)

Cape gannets

The area would probably remained a small trading town at the bottom of the then German Southwest Africa (now Namibia) at the southern end of the Namib desert had it not been for a railway worker, Zacharias Lewala.  As he was working on a railway line in 1908, he picked up a strange rock lying on the sand about 10 kilometres from Lüderitz.  His supervisor, August Stauch, a railway inspector, identified it as a diamond, and the rush was on.

Given that the area was under German control, most of the people who flooded to the area were German, and soon a mining village sprung up, called Kolmannskuppe.

This was no shanty town erected by poor miners.  No, because of the wealth generated by the diamonds, the local residents decided to build a German town in the middle of the desert.  Not only that, they built all the amenities a prosperous German town would have: a hospital (which had the first x-ray equipment in the southern hemisphere, a school, a power station, an ice factory, as well as the first tram in Africa.  For recreation, the town boasted a theatre, a sport hall, a casino, and a skittle alley.

All of this in the middle of the desert, all funded by diamonds.

The German Government soon declared a vast area of the countryside off limits - the Sperrgebiet, the Forbidden Area.  The size of this ended up being approximately 300 kms long and 100 kms wide (180 by 60 miles).

Two things happened to spoil the party.  The diamonds became increasingly scarce after the First World War.  Then the richest find find ever was discovered at the mouth of the Orange River, on the border with South Africa, where diamonds were just lying on the beaches waiting to be picked up.  Most of the inhabitants of Kolmannskuppe (or Kolmanskop as it is now known) just picked up and left, often abandoning homes and possessions in their haste to get to Oranjemund (Mouth of the Orange).

And Kolmannskuppe declined, and declined, and was eventually abandoned in 1956.  Since then, the desert has taken over, slowly invading the buildings, sandblasting the outsides when the wind howls, and creeping inside through every nook and cranny.

Kolmanskop today

Today, what came so easily and went so easily is undergoing somewhat of a resurrection.  Now it is a popular tourist attraction and the site of many movies and TV programs.  It will never regain its affluence of long ago, but it is one of the great ghost towns of the planet.


Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events


April 28-26
Malice Domestic
Hyatt Regency
Bethesda,  Maryland
Panel: TheBritish Empire
(FYI- Sujata and I will be on the same panel!!!)

May 31
Janet Rudolph Literary Salon:
"The History of Hot Places: Clashes between Colonialism and Local Cultures”
Joint appearance with Michael Cooper

Jun 11
Books NJ
Sounds of the Paramus Library
Panel: How to Write (and Read) Mystery
Signing at the MWA-NY Booth

June 16-18
Deadly Ink Conference
Hilton Garden Inn
Rockaway, New Jersey


Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, comes out June 6, 2017.
Just signed the contract for the next two Aimée Leduc investigations in Paris with Soho Press.


Paper back of Rat Run published 28th March.
Signed two-book contract with Severn House.


"The Olive Growers,” appears in BOUND BY MYSTERY, an anthology edited by Diane DiBiasi celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Poisoned Pen Press, out in March.


Dying to Live (Kubu #6) to be released in May in UK and in October in USA

Monday, March 20, 2017

Going to Extremes

Annamaria on Monday

My winter in the Eastern Hemisphere was extreme in a number of ways. 

At 83 days, it was my longest time away from home ever.

I logged a lot of air miles: one trip took me from Hoedspruit to Jo’burg to Dubai to Rome to Florence in 28 hours.  And the trip back to New York, last week—from Florence to Dusseldorf to London to New York, lasted just under 24.

During my stay in Cape Town, Stan took us down to the Cape of Good Hope, which to me, growing up in New Jersey, has always seemed like the other end of the world.

But more than the physical, it was the emotional extremes that made my last three months so intense.    

For one thing, my adventurous spirit burns as bright as ever, but I am still learning to fly solo.  So venturing forth comes with a great high of anticipation, but also a daunting unfilled need to validate the experience by sharing it with a dear companion.  Full and empty at the same time.

This yin and yang followed me wherever I went, most intensely during that week I spent in the bush, where my soul was nourished, as it ever has been in that sacred environment.  But still my heart was tugged by an ever-present longing for what was missing.

I carried two photos with me the whole while.  One is my favorite photo of myself, at age 14 months.  I still feel this exuberant, enthusiastic, loving child inside me, reaching out.


The other is my favorite picture of David, one I took of him looking out over the vast Serengeti.  What I had with him is also still with me, though it is gone forever from my daily life.

While in this complicated state of mind, it helped me to pay close attention to the night sky.  Perhaps that old saw is truly wise—that the vastness of the universe puts our petty problems in perspective.  But perhaps there is a deeper truth—that all that darkness and those intense lights become truly beautiful only if we experience them as two aspects of the same picture.

The Moon and Venus as seen from my terrace in Florence

There is a tree next to Stan’s bungalow at Ingwelala.  He told me that elephants had come into the garden and, inexplicably, after eating a few leaves from the top, broke the tree in half, leaving only a stump.  It seemed dead.  Then, afterwards, a new branch grew from the bare trunk.  I fell in love with that tree.  It seemed symbolic of my life.  Something came along, something that seemed random, that tried to kill it, but it grew a new branch, and it lived.

At my request, Stan took this picture of me with that tree.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dawn on Diamond Head

-- Susan, every other Sunday

Like Jeff (and Sujata), I'm in Honolulu this week for Left Coast Crime.

Taking one for the team in Honolulu.

It's been a wonderful, relaxing conference filled with friends, books, and mysteries. The location isn't too shabby, either...

Wish you were here.

Since this is (regrettably) my last morning on the island, I got up at 5am (everyone rises before the sun when on vacation, right?), met up with with fellow mystery authors Gigi Pandian and Diane Vallere, and headed out to hike Diamond Head -- also known as Lē'ahi, a volcanic mountain that dominates the coastline at Waikiki beach.

It takes a little over half an hour to hike from the park entrance to the top of the mountain, and we hoped to catch the sunrise, so we started early.

We spent the blue hour before dawn hiking upward along an earthen trail already fairly busy with fellow pilgrims:
The hour before dawn, at the base of Diamond Head.

After tackling the switchbacks we emerged at a small plateau.

We weren't the only pre-dawn travelers on the mountain.

And then continued up more stairs, through a tunnel...

Not a hike for the claustrophobic.

... and onto a second platform, which we reached just as the sun appeared above the horizon.

Dawn on Diamond Head.

From there, another, steeper set of stairs

Right at the end. In case you thought the first part was too easy.

which led to (and through) a World War II pillbox installation that remains at the top of Diamond Head. (Sadly, I didn't have the ability to stop for photographs inside.)

World War II pillbox on Diamond Head peak.

Although we didn't reach the absolute top before sunrise, the view was still spectacular:

Waikiki from Diamond Head

Although the pillboxes were a sobering reminder of the World War II-era history of O'ahu (which is also home to Pearl Harbor), Diamond Head is a lovely hike, and a beautiful place from which to view the island.

Another view from Diamond Head.

I'm not usually keen on rising before the sun, but for something like this I'll always make an exception.

Dawn from the peak of Diamond Head.

Especially when I can take the rest of you with me through photographs.