To Harrogate, somewhat disorganised

Despite what anyone says,  Agatha Christie did not disappear for eleven days in 1926. She simply wasn’t where anyone was expecting to find her. Instead she was here, at the very lovely Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate.

Front of the Old Swan hotel, Harrogate 

After spending Friday night there courtesy of the fine folk at the  Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, I’m hoping some of the Christie magic has rubbed off. If not, there were plenty of living crime writers around to learn from.  (Husband has just winced at this ungrammatical sentence construction. Apologies to anyone who objects to ending a sentence with a preposition. As Winston Churchill is alleged to have said, ‘that is something up with which I will not put.’ ) Meanwhile, back in Harrogate…  

I especially enjoyed a panel discussion between ‘gritty’ and ‘cosy’ authors – turns out the ‘gritty’ folk are surprisingly unscary and the ‘cosy’ ones aren’t as soft in the centre as you might think. Outside the formal events, there was time to wander the middle of town enjoying a game of spot-the-author. Unfortunately this had to be abandoned early on Friday evening for a solitary and desperate game of spot-the-open-shoeshop. (The result of packing at the last minute, very late at night.)

 More rushing about meant the chance to catch a few hours in York before driving home.  In Museum Gardens they were announcing


 Possibly they were referring to this, on a hoarding outside the nearby Yorkshire Museum:


 but ‘The New Yorkshire Museum opens on 1 August’  wasn’t especially good news for those of us who hadn’t done our homework, and turned up in July.  Still, there’s no shortage of things to see in York. I will restrain any urge to wax lyrical about the apsidal end of the legionary bath house in the cellar below this pub, but it really is rather good…


Regular visitors to the blog may recall discussions about the presence of Africans in Roman York. So it’s entirely appropriate that crowds had gathered just down the road to hear a superb music-and-dance group from Zimbabwe (who may or may not be called Siyaya):

  Zimbabwean music and dance group in street performance 

Vowing to return when the museum’s open, I spent most of the long drive down the motorway happily listening to Ian Rankin’s gripping novel, ‘The Complaints’. Today an official letter arrived. Seems I was so gripped by Ian Rankin that I failed to notice the speed limit.

 It’s been an interesting weekend.




So much to see, so little time.

English Heritage carrier bag resting on Legionary shield

Just spent the afternoon enjoying the spectacular English Heritage Festival of History over at Kelmarsh Hall.

It’s always fascinating to be in the company of people who love what they do, and consequently do it very well indeed. Sadly the same can’t be said for my attempts to capture the atmosphere on video, which portray variously:

1) an empty field

2) The distant tail end of the Roman Army marching out of frame

3) The Roman Army marching three paces and then halting in mid-step.

There are a few marginally more competent photographs across on the  Facebook page.

I completely forgot to photograph the beautiful display of Roman medical instruments laid on by Steve Wagstaff and partner Fiona, but am  now the proud owner of a reproduction Roman cataract needle. (Gruesome, or what?)

Meanwhile, having sized up all the options on offer, Husband has declared that he fancies being a Viking. Evidently you can be hairy and shout a lot. If that weren’t fun enough, there’s always the prospect of a little pillage.

Bodies in the Bookshop

A bit of a last-minute post (tho’ it’s been on the Diary page for ages).

Just a reminder that should any kind reader be passing through Cambridge between 6 and 8 pm this evening, Heffers in Trinity Street will be stuffed with more crime writers and readers than one would have thought possible.  But there will always be room for one more – details are here.

Ruso and the Disappearing Paperback

Just in case anyone’s wondering where it’s gone…

Cover of Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls

At the moment stocks of  ‘Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls’* are pretty much sold out. Apologies to the people who’ve tried to get hold of it and can’t, but the nice people at Penguin say it should be available again by the end of the month.

LATER – meanwhile, if you have one of those thingies to read it on, you can buy it here from Penguin as an e-book.

*that’s the UK edition of Ruso and Tilla’s first adventure.

Thanks, Tony.

The smiling chap is the excellent Tony Kesten, a fellow-excavator at Whitehall Roman Villa. Tony happens to be a friend of the librarian at Monticello, NY, and managed to pull off a publicity double-act last week by giving copies of all three Ruso books to the library and having himself photographed with them while modelling this year’s Whitehall teeshirt.

Tony in Monticello Public Library

Now that’s what I call enterprising. Meanwhile, some of us were hard at work back in the trenches.

Ruth in trench with trowel
"You mean I was supposed to find something down here?"

More pics of the Iron Age

Just added a few extra photos of the lovely Butser Ancient Farm to the Facebook page, because it’s easier than posting them here.

It’s a great place  to fire the imagination (Butser, that is, not Facebook). They run a full programme of workshops and events, but it’s also a pleasure to wander aimlessly around the site, enjoy the relative peace in which our ancestors used to live, and mull over what’s been lost and gained over the last two thousand years in the name of progress.

On the way out we were surprised to spot a photo of another ancient curiosity on the shop noticeboard.