What lies beneath?

Earthworks in field at Maryport

Just one of a collection of sad pedantic photos stored on the Downie computer, most of which mean nothing to anybody else. Yes, it is a large empty field with a few lumps in it and a row of housesĀ  on the horizon. (Click on it for the larger version and you can see the Lake District fells in the background. And get an even better view of the grass.)

The point, though, is that it’s all that’s currently visible of the Roman fort at Maryport, on the Cumbrian coast. This was one of a chain of defences built to keep an eye on the marauding northerners, lest they sneak around the western edge of the border.

Had it not been perishing cold when we were there last year I’d probably have another photo of the empty field next door to this, where the garrison’s civilian hangers-on used to live.

Pretty soon, though, there should be better photos to be had – because they’re going to dig, hooray! Who knows what wonderful things are lying there waiting to be found? Whatever they are, they”ll be displayed in a new museum on site.

The name of Rianorix, a character in the second Ruso book, came from a tombstone at Maryport. With luck, we’ll find out more about the lives of the real Rianorix’s friends and relations. There are plans to get a lot of the work done by 2012, so there won’t be long to wait.

In the meantime, the current Senhouse Museum, housed in a fine Victorian military building, is well worth catching before its collection is moved. (We really enjoyed a morning in theĀ  aquarium down on the sea front, too. Hey, if everybody stops buying the Ruso books maybe I’ll go for a job with the Tourist Board.)

Today must be a better day…

…because Monday was officially the Most Depressing Day of the Year.

To speed its passing, the Daily Telegraph published a selection of cheer-up tips. Julian Fellowes recommends doughnuts. Anthony Horowitz suggests a trip to the local cemetery. Ruby Wax goes for chocolate mousse. Andrew Taylor makes the sort of music you can’t hear anywhere else and might not want to, while John O’Farrell cites a daft and delightful website.

Somewhere near the end of the page a crime writer makes the bizarre suggestion of picking blackberries. No, we don’t live in a different climate zone – it was autumn when they asked!

In the library – with the candlestick?

Ever wondered what goes through the mind of a crime writer? What makes us sit around plotting misery and mystery instead of doing something useful? Why do so many lovely clean-living wholesome people (including me, of course) enjoy crime fiction?

I’m hoping to pick the brains of fellow-writer Adrian Magson – and think up a few answers myself – in conversation at Stony Stratford Library on Thursday 29 January at 7.30pm No tickets, no charge, no guarantees. Just come along and join in.

It’s part of the Stonywords Festival, and stacks more events can be found listed here.

Let’s hear it for public libraries!

… and for all the fabulous services they provide, many of which they are hopeless at publicising. (If you don’t believe me, Google your local library website and see what’s on offer. You may be surprised. Or you can scroll down this link to see what’s available at ours.)

Kelvin Hopkins, MP for Luton North, is clearly a chap who not only appreciates public libraries, but knows how vulnerable they are. If you live in the UK, please consider urging your local MP to sign his Early Day Motion on ‘The Future of the UK Library Service’ (EDM no. 248 )

The report he’s recommending is on the UNISON union website – ‘Taking Stock: The Future of our UK Library Service’. Whatever your politics, their summary of how the British library service developed is fascinating. Let’s hope in twenty years time we won’t be reading the report of how it was dismantled.

It’s 2009!

In the words of a card we’ve just received from Vladivostok –

‘Let there be festivity, a Christmas tree, presents and sweets, and may all good and kind omens come true. Let snowflakes twirl in their round dances, and may you have joy. Happy New Year!’

(I think it may have lost something in the translation, but the sentiment is there.)