Literature Travel

Magda’s Durham Night Out

From time to time us German Weardale-dwellers like to venture away from the comfort of our villages.

One of the main reasons I had for moving out here to the Weardale region was the peace.

Having spent a large majority of my life living in an urban sprawl, either in my native Germany or later during my publishing career in London, I craved the all encompassing serenity that came with the territory of living in the countryside. After nearly a decade spent pacing the claustrophobic streets of London, I wanted to live somewhere that I wasn’t constantly being assaulted by the rumbling of nearby busses or the hubbub of late-night drinkers.

I found that much desired serenity in my little hamlet here in Weardale.

My cottage is one of a small collection of buildings that are sporadically dotted for a mile or so around. My ‘neighbours’, if you can even call them that, are predominantly farmers. I spend most of my days here either walking around the local countryside, taking in the fresh air, or tucked inside my cosy living room getting some writing done. Unless I bump into one of the handful of farmers that work on the surrounding fields, I can sometimes go for 7 or even 10 days without seeing another human face. It might sound like a lonely life, but the lack of human stimulus helps to clear my mind when I’m coming up with a new concept.

When it comes to conceptualising new characters and dialogue, my needs change rather drastically and I find myself yearning for human interaction.

Despite the television and internet providing any writer worth their salt with a massive plethora of inspiration, I find that I need to physically witness other human interactions to get my creative juices flowing. Having recently got to this stage in a project, I knew that the time had finally come for me to end my self-imposed exile and force myself to return to civilisation.

I probably could have got all the inspiration that I needed by just slinking into my local pub for one evening, but I decided that this trip called for something a bit more special. I decided to make the most of having a few days away by booking into a hotel in nearby Durham and giving myself a chance to reacquaint myself with humanity once more.

Luckily for me The Full Moon Market was in town when I arrived, giving me a glorious opportunity to eat my fill of delicious international food whilst getting accustomed back to civilised life.

This monthly event has been running for a few years now, bringing a host of different street food vendors a chance to hawk their wares to the people of Durham under the light of a full moon. As with all food markets there was quite possibly too much on offer to get a taste of everything, so I left the event feeling like I’d missed out somewhat. However, something that I didn’t miss out on was the glorious conversation with the lovely vendors, performers and musicians.

Durham’s Full Moon Market offers visitors and locals alike a great chance to engage in a fun, foodie experience that you’ll remember for a long time to come.

Literature Travel

Fun-times for Flora

I know this is the place for culture arts discussion on Film, Literature and Travel, but all I’ve got to write about this week is a boozy trip to the Forest of Bowland.

[I’m sorry Herr Madelung, I know I promised you that I’d be going to see some live music whilst I was there, but I didn’t. Even if I had, I don’t think I would’ve remembered it anyhow.]

merkelI’m a hard working German person, the living embodiment of the national stereotype – serious, efficient and almost always sober.

However, it does grow tiresome having such a consistently outwardly serious persona for so long a time – so every now and again, I like to really let my hair down and get wrecked.

I’ve been living in Crook for the last 6 months, around 10,000 people live here, but it feels more like 100. The average age of residents here lies between 45 and 60, so it’s perfect if you’re interested in playing bridge and watching day-time TV, but not so good if you just want to get hammered and have a dance.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m usually a somewhat serious person. In fact, I’ve been told on several occasions that I need to lighten up – that’s usually by the older members of the community here as well. When you get told that you’re taking life too seriously by some one who might literally be knocking on death’s door within a matter of months, it tends to make you reconsider your lifestyle choices.

So when a friend from university said that they had a spare bed in their holiday home for the night, I jumped at the chance to escape Crook and get an eyeful of somewhere new.

bowland-fell-park-placeJust a 2 hour drive from our pleasant valley of Weardale, Bowland Fell Park is right on the edge of the Forest of Bowland—an often overlooked Area of Outstanding Beauty.

My friends were already there, unpacking the food and booze they were hoping would sustain us for a weekend away.

The stationary caravan they had rented (you can take a look at it here) was pleasantly roomy on the inside, but it wasn’t the interior we were interested in.

The reason I’d driven 100 miles or so away from our dear Pennines was to experience somewhere new – a landscape fresh to my own eyes. The Forest of Bowland definitely didn’t disappoint.

forest-of-bowland

Even though it’s just a short skip away from Crook, the thick forests of conifer and broad-leaved trees that blanketed the landscape made it feel like half a world away. We set out for a hike straight away, deep into the depth of the forest. A large network of paths and trails wind their way through the forest floor – there are maps you can use, but we decided (wisely?) to go without.

Taking a few bottles of locally sourced ale and a hefty rucksack of picnic-ready goods – we set out just before midday, planning to get a good head start and really cover some ground.

It didn’t work out that way.

The beers were cracked early, the food did get pillaged and we found a gorgeous glade to settle down in. So we only made it about a mile and a half – so what? In just a few hours, I’d found the right combination of friends, environment (and beer) to feel like I had sufficiently bucked the national stereotype.

Out amongst the stars and trees, with the comfort of a caravan to look forward to, I felt a long way from Weardale – and that’s OK.

Literature Travel

Magda’s Evening With Anthony Horowitz

As as a working writer, I’m always reading and always fascinated by the output of new and old authors.

The Durham Book Festival, which ran from 7th-16th of this month was a fantastic opportunity to get back into the literary scene that I’d, by and large, been avoiding for the last year or so.

It’s been a while since I’d returned to the heady world of books, publishing agents and journalists – thank God my pen name has left me with the autonomy that allows me free movement. I wouldn’t say I’ve got a particularly striking face, but had it been printed in any of the 20 or so books I’ve written over the years, then this would be the place where I’d be recognised.

Author Anthony Horowitz

Thankfully, the contract that I made with my publishers a long, long time ago, stipulated specifically that my image or real name was never to be used in connection with any of the material that I’d written over the years. My privacy is something that I prize very highly and we live in a world today where the most minor of celebrity can thrust you into the path of hundreds, if not thousands, of possibly malicious trolls.

It was with little envy then that I applauded International Bestseller and writer extraordinaire, Anthony Horowitz to the stage.

magpieHorowitz, a man who has  sold literally millions of books, is one of the most successful writers that this country has produced – the ovation he received was indicative of the acclaim he has received over his 30 year writing career. From critically acclaimed TV Drama to Children’s Horror to creating new stories for legendary characters such as James Bond and Sherlock Holmes; Horowitz has flexed his considerable writing skills over thousands of pages to the delight of millions of readers.

His talk, rather than being a cloying retrospective of his glittering writing career, instead focused on the important lessons he could offer writers. Rather than coming off as condescending, Horowitz had an uncanny charm to keep the audience in good humour – clearly working with the sheer volume of adoration that hung heavy in the air of the Gala Theatre.

I’ve been writing crime novels for a similar stretch of time that Mr. Horowitz has.

My popularity is relatively dwarfed by his (my books sell mostly in my home country of Germany and, for some reason, the North-East region of Belgium) however, the lessons he gave to aspiring writers that night, seemed to me, as incredibly succinct and full of truth. Even a experienced and somewhat beleaguered writer such as myself, found inspiration in his words.

anthony-horowitz-magpie-murders

Although I wouldn’t dream of paraphrasing him line for line, I can attempt to give the general gist of his rhetoric.

Other than reading and writing as much as possible (practice does always make perfect!), Horowitz felt that the power of self-belief was something that should be harnessed as a supreme source of power for the writer. After all, many writer, many of our great works of literature, would not exist today without it.

Without the conviction and confidence to put pen to paper, your literary journey can never begin.