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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Of Letting Go and Moving On: The Venice Project and the DVD Dilemma

We recently moved house. After a few months of great uncertainty, we finally had something firm to which we could anchor our floating futures. Moving from the bleak beauty of flat Fenland to the middle of middle England had its ups and downs. Our estate agent was golden, the removal men patient and helpful, even if they did manage to break a couple of things but not a big deal considering how much stuff we had. Stuff turned out to be the only real problem. We were doing what is usually called ‘downsizing’.  In effect, that meant downsizing everything I had accumulated in over twenty years of reading, listening, watching and dreaming. Fifty per cent of our books had to go. You’re welcome, British Heart Foundation. Mrs Cobblers wanted the DVDs to go. This was never going to happen. A few went. I was never going to watch ‘Heroes’ season 1 again, and ‘American Beauty’ just irritates me now, so some were easy. Conversely, despite them actually being terrible pieces of cinema, I couldn’t bear to part with the Green Lantern movie or Stallone’s Judge Dredd. Comic book movies. Have to have. But what to do with the DVD collection? Two deep and two wide, stacked in the living room, they still approached five feet in height. The X Files and Doctor Who box sets had to stay as they were, but for the rest, space was at a premium. Enter a little company called Arrowfile: big, thick photo album type folders that each hold 160 DVDs. Two of them duly filled. Blu rays? Still in their cases, in the one cupboard that holds them. I ought to get my head round this Ultraviolet thing at some point. CDs I’ve managed to hold on to – they’re on a handsome wooden rack in the snug. That’s already been trimmed anyway – I only have about 700 now. Another thing that had to go was audio equipment. I used to have a separates system to be proud of, which, as formats waned, trimmed down nicely in recent years to a good CD player, amp and floorstanding speakers. My Rotel amp had been with me for nearly twenty years and did good service until one sad day when it died, not long after followed by the CD player. So, on moving, we invested in a Roberts CD player / ipod dock / DAB radio and now we have the ideal setup. It’s small but perfectly formed, with the ipad connecting by Bluetooth and the laptop streaming Spotify straight into it. We have officially joined the twenty-first century. Finally.

Psychologically, I anticipated it being very painful to get rid of so many books and setups that I’d found comfortable over the years, but not so. Many age-friendly comics and graphic novels went to my nephew, who’s a bit of a Marvel fan. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to interest my daughter in comics, but she’s a voracious reader of everything else she can lay her hands on, so who am I to complain? So, we’re down to two (admittedly quite big) bookcases jam-packed with the books that are left. Standing in front of the British Heart Foundation book chute at the tip, wondering whether to get rid of Howard Jackson’s ‘Analysing English Grammar’ from university was worth it. It went, as did so many other books we hadn’t looked at since university, or hadn’t read, or had read but would never read again. My unread Ernest Hemingway collection survived though. I will read them. Honest. Sorting through like this unearthed some gems that went straight to the top of the re-read pile, hence me revisiting Darryl Cunningham’s ‘Psychiatric Tales’ and ‘Science Tales’, and Tom Gauld’s ‘Goliath’ last week. Next up is reminding myself of the joys of Magnus Mills’ oeuvre.

Then there’s the Kindle. That’s where most new fiction and non-fiction is going, as much as I love the solidity of a real hardback (that said, yesterday I bought Sting’s ‘Broken Music’ at a second hand bookshop – once read, it either stays or something else goes: one in, one out), so it was that I came to download a book that came as a real surprise.

‘The Venice Project’ by Philip Gwynne Jones (available for Kindle and in paperback) is extraordinarily well written, Phil’s voice echoing through every line. I know this because (vested interest ahead) Phil’s a friend from many years back. I was in the sixth form; Phil was a couple of years older at university. We were both part of a group of friends that – ahem – played role playing games such as Call of Cthulhu and Runequest (not Dungeon and Dragons, we were above that – serious players, and damn, we wrote good stuff). It coincided with that time in life when drinking and girls become important as well so, living in a small Welsh seaside town, it all came together nicely. Our holidays driving around Scotland and Wales and sleeping in cars and tents are fond memories, bridging that gap into adulthood. Phil played guitar at my wedding as I attempted to sing ‘Sultans of Swing’ (long story), and the last time I saw him was at his wedding at a castle just outside Edinburgh. ‘The Venice Project’ picks up where looming redundancy sends Phil and his wife Caroline to Venice to live, having retrained as English teachers and taking a massive leap. We seem to have faced similar book dilemmas. I recommend this book not because Phil’s a friend but because it’s so well-written and so different from the other let’s-live-in-another-country-for-a-year-and-aren't foreigners-funny memoirs. It isn't like that at all. There are good reasons why Phil and Caroline chose Venice. Check out the sample on Amazon.

And so that brings us to writing. ‘Amnesia Agents’ crawls along. I’ll be posting up some other short fiction soon. In the meantime, forget you saw me.


  1. There's nothing wrong with a bit of Call of Cthulhu. Good choice.

  2. I'd forgotten about Amnesia Agents ;-)

  3. K - COC was even better when I used Alan Moore's Swamp Thing as the basis for a COC campaign. We had the Monkey King, Etrigan, Brujeria, the lot. Scary.
    A - :-)