Nothing says ‘Spring Break’ quite like a day of larks at the beach! Okay, maybe not so much when it’s one of the coldest days of the year in Rhode Island. Nonetheless I had a great weekend getaway with Jen and Niamh. More photos on the Facebook if you’re there.
Here’s Janez Grm, me, Funda Cinoglu, Vassilis Danellis, Avgust Demšar AKA Tomaš and Alibi mastermind Renato Bratkovič at the legendary Bar Grega. In Casablanca, everybody goes to Rick’s; in Slovenia, everybody goes to Bar Grega.
I was unprepared for just how amazing Slovenia would be. I thought it would be fun of course, as it usually is hanging out with other writers — but I had no idea how crazy beautiful this country is. Seriously, book your holiday today before everyone discovers it.
See the whole photo album here. There’s just too many wonderful pictures. Renato was a brilliant host: he took me to Lake Bled where we had their famous cream cake, then I got to nap a little at Hotel Jakec to get over my jet lag, then my first visit to Bar Grega to be greeted by the genial host Borut, who had the welcoming mat out:
The next day the other writers arrived (not having to come quite as far) and I met Janez, Vassilis and his lovely wife Funda — they live in Instanbul so it was fascinating to hear their perspective on current events, plus they’re both delightful. Avgust AKA Tomaš is quite a legend, like the Val McDermid of Slovenia. He has a wicked dry wit. We were lavished with attention at Bar Grega, then taken to dinner at the amazing Gora pod lipo, a stunning alpine restaurant set in a restored country house with all modern meeting rooms and the food — did I mention the food yet? Surrounded by vineyards and served the most tasty array of foods. When was I ever so spoiled?
As Renato said, nothing’s really free. He had us draw from potential titles because Saturday we would be back at Gora pod lipo to write the stories. Yes, we had most of the day to write, pampered with tea and wine and snacks like roasted pumpkin seeds covered in dark chocolate (oh, and I thought I hated pumpkin!). So of course I wrote about 6K — haahahaa! Imagine how much I’d write if I always lived like this.
Then we were whisked off to the cinema to see Psi brezčasja / Case: Osterberg, a noir film presented by writer Zoran Benčič and producer Tomi Matič. Zoran is also lead singer of Res Nullius, Slovenia’s premiere rock band (check them out). The film is based on his novel. Though we didn’t have a subtitles, it was pretty easy to follow the story (I’ll write a proper review over on Graham Wynd, maybe tomorrow). I was surprised to learn it was a no-budget film as it looked really good. The film premiered at the Festival of Slovenian Film in September 2015 and received unanimous critical acclaim while also winning the FIPRESCI Film Critics award for best film.
Then we all repaired to Bar Grega to chat and drink more Laško Noir — the official beer of Alibi — until everybody was too tired. So Renato drove us back up the winding mountain roads to Hotel Jakec (I think Janez probably still dreams of those drives and wakes up ill).
Sunday it was back to Gora pod lipo. I put the finishing touches on my story (would Borut live or die? 😉 following in Eddie Vega’s footsteps I put our Bar Grega host into my tale) then just enjoyed the beauty of the mountain and the bounty of our hosts. They took great care of us. Then it was time for the reading in the wine cellar. You can’t beat that for cool.
Then we had a wonderful dinner with Renato’s family to wind up the day and it was just the thing we needed. His daughter is a budding Evelyn Glennie and his wife Alenka made sure we were all eating enough. It’s a wonder I did not burst at some point during the weekend.
It was hard to say good-bye! Good thing I had Venice to entertain me — but more of that later.
From Leechdom, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, a compendium of wonderful folk knowledge of early Anglo-Saxon England, a charm using bread [hláf] hallowed on August 1st [hláfmæsse-dæg] the traditional grain harvest day:
Summer’s last hurrah this month: in sunny Dundee the flowers still bloom:
But the rowan berries have come too, and they spell my doom:
Last Monday I headed down to London to catch a few exhibits. My first stop after dropping things at my hotel was to drop by the Royal College of Physicians to see John Dee’s Library. The RCP gave me strong sense of dejá vu for my Harvard Med years, where the rich and powerful men sat around dark paneled rooms making rules and plans. This is the Censors Room where decisions were made about who was allowed to practice medicine.
It was difficult to take much in the way of pictures, what with the low light and no flash allowed. Most of the cases were covered my light-obscuring cloths to protect the books. It was interesting to see what Dee had collected, but mostly how he had annotated the volumes with his own thoughts (click to embiggen). Familiar items from the British Museum were there, too, including his scrying mirror and its case.
I had to have a tag to identify me as a visitor. They had several conferences going on at the same time. I didn’t quite manage to slip into the tea and cakes that were out for one of them.
There’s a wonderful series of gardens, too. They had a Shakespeare theme going on in the foliage, highlighting plants that appeared in the plays (oddly enough the Bard became a theme for my week).
More to come of course —