July 27th, 2002

Sunset from the sky

Last weekend marypcb and I went back to my home island of Jersey for a family celebration. As we needed to get back in time for a concert on the Sunday night, we decided to try flying from London City airport, rather than our usual jet from Gatwick. The tiny Dash-8 bumbled its way across Kent to Dungeness, before turning west and paralleling the coast down the Channel. I had the window seat, and the digicam to hand, and took a couple of (so I think) rather lovely pictures...

The evening sea touches the coast.
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Sailing down the Channel, following the sun.
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Memories and images: back to my favourite beach

I love beaches, those dramatic spaces where air, land and water meet. And, drawn like a moth to the coast, I've been on many: the pink coral sands of Bermuda, the wide expanses of the French Atlantic coast near Bordeaux, little coves of crystal water on the Croatian Adriatic coast, the sculpted shores of the south coast of Hong Kong, the flint banks of Shingle Street, the black sands of a collapsed volcano on Lanzarote, and the wide open skies of a winter's afternoon at Reculver.

But there's one spot I really love, one beach I could sit on for hours, a beach I grew up with.

Jersey isn't a big island, and my grandparents lived just on the south-east corner of the island, at La Rocque. It's a lovely area, with pink granite houses and a small harbour still used by inshore fishermen. While most people tend to stop at the big beach, sheltered from westerly winds by the granite harbour wall, those in the know walk down the harbour, to a set of steps by a plaque commemorating the attempted invasion of Jersey by the French in 1781.

The steps go over the top the harbour wall, dropping you down to one of the quietest and most pleasant beaches you will ever find. Soft white sand billows around pink granite outcrops. The beach shelves gently down to the sea, azure blue like only a summer Jersey sea. When the tide is in, there's a small island in the middle of the cove, sea pinks nodding on its grassy summit. When the tide is out rock pools run all the way to the horizon, a mile or more beyond the coast.

It's an ideal beach for children, gentle seas, soft sands, rocks to climb and rock pools to explore. It's also a pleasant place for adults, quiet and calm, just the lap of gentle waves on the shore, and the ripple of children's laughter.

Last weekend, back on Jersey, marypcb and I spent an afternoon on that beach. And it was just as I remembered it.

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The Saturday Morning "It's Hot" Review: A Year In The Linear City

PS Publishing is doing wonderful things for science fiction. Its limited edition novellas are showcasing some of the best and most innovative work around, and showing the world that there is a market for high quality short-length fiction. One of the latest works to come off their presses is a fantasy by Paul di Filippo, A Year In The Linear City.

What if the world was an infinite New York street, buildings on either side, the Tracks on one side, and the River on the other? Under the street roars the Subway, and overhead, the Yardbulls and the Fisherwives hover, waiting to carry the dead off to The Wrong Side of The Tracks and The Other Side of The River. This is Dickens meets Dick, with a slap or two of Runyon and Farmer. And, looking again at the title, this is a book that is exactly what it says on the cover: a year in the life of an inhabitant of this unlikeliest of worlds. It's a story of life, love, death and writing science fiction. And a little journey down the river.

di Filippo is an excellent writer, with much to say about how we live. We can share the lives of his characters, and learn something about who we live, in our world circumscribed by society's tramlines and institutionalised visions of Heaven and Hell. The lead character, Diego Patchen, is an everyman, living an ordinary life in an extraordinary place. And, di Filippo seems to ask, aren't we like him, living our ordinary lives in our extraordinary places? The conflict between the downriver section of the city and the visitors from Patchen's section point out how insular we are, when we could be sharing in a wider world. A Year In The Linear City is a fantasy doing what it should do, telling us about our world and our lives.

A short read, but a worth introduction to di Philippo's writings.
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