Departures to Departures

Wednesday 14th September

After yesterday’s Internet session and after my ‘harbour swim’ I heard a strange noise coming from my bag on the beach. It took me a moment to figure out that this was my mobile ringing, since it was only the second time it had rung this year. It was Julie Crisp at Macmillan, happy to inform me that The Departure had risen to number 18 in the bestseller chart. I’m presuming, like with The Technician last year, this is the Bookscan chart, which is compiled from weekly sales of all books in Britain (though whether hardbacks are separate from paperbacks I don’t know).

I was a bit ‘out there’ during this phone call – feeling slightly knackered, still partially into Dan Simmons’ Endymion, and slightly wrong-footed by this contact from the outside world. I also saw it as par for the course with me. The Departure has gone three places above The Technician which, I’m told, finally went to number 21. This is how it has always been for me ever since my first story was accepted and the magazine concerned folded before publishing it – a steady climb of the ladder; another step up in ‘success’ but no massive leap and no huge critical praise and concomitant hype.

I have to add here that I now prefer this steady climb to the high peaks followed by deep troughs in the publishing world. I’ve seen authors receive huge critical praise for a first book then being hamstrung by expectation. I’ve seen authors’ first books being hyped outrageously and them briefly being a big noise in the publishing scene, whereupon the ensuing book or books are just whimpers. While I’ve been steadily climbing the publishing ladder, I’ve seen others falling off and landing hard.

However, with The Departure climbing into the top 20 this means, apparently, that a book of mine has passed some kind of watershed and has become a lot more noticeable. Whether this means they can put ‘Science Fiction Bestseller’ on the cover or you’ll be seeing it in shop displays of top 20s or in newspaper lists of the same I don’t know. Anyway, after the phone call and while part of the way into a carafe of white wine, I began grinning like an idiot.

Thursday 15th September
My goodness aren’t financial markets fickle things. A few politicians get together and state that they’re not going to allow Greece to default on a debt they can’t possibly pay and things are hunky-dory again (probably for a day or two). I’m astounded that anyone can actually believe a politician any more, but maybe there was an underlying message of ‘not yet’ that the markets were responding to. Meanwhile that dipshit Barroso tells us that the solution to the debt crisis is more European integration. Yep, the solution to the pain caused by hitting your finger with a hammer is to whack a couple more fingers. Of course the eurocrats want more integration because that means more power and money for them. Of course the eurocrats want to delay Greece’s default and the subsequent collapse of the house of cards because, whilst it remains standing, the big salaries keep rolling in and they can strut about on the European stage like the little tin-pot Hitlers they are.

Friday 16th September
Congratulations Denmark! The people there have voted in the centre-left and their new prime minister has promised to increase taxes, increase public spending and let in more immigrants. What an excellent way to completely butt-fuck your own country.

Monday 19th September
Well, I can’t correctly say that I finished the Endymion omnibus, since I was skipping large lumps of it as I drew towards the end…

The weather here this September has been very good so those who were saying that because the summer here started late it will continue late might be right, though in reality that was a fifty-fifty bet. The sea has also been surprisingly warm so I’ve been able to continue with my harbour swims with the result that my gut seems to be receding a little. The good weather has also brought out the kind of display on our bougainvillea we’ve been aiming for since we bought this place:

The black figs are also appearing in quantity on the tree next to our house. It’s nice to eat a few but more than say four or five a day results in frequent flier points in the toilet:

It looks to me as if I’ll be getting a ringside seat on seeing a country go bankrupt. The debt here is in the region of €450 billion which, divided over a population of 14 million, comes out at over €30,000 a head. To get its next loan so as not to simply run out of money the government must get rid of a 100,000 government employees and sell off a load of state assets. Instead it’s trying to leech more money out of the working public. The latest wheeze is a tax ranging from €3 to €16 per square metre of your home, the amount to be added to the electricity bill with the power being shut off for non-payment. ‘Vulnerable groups’ i.e. those already costing the state a packet, such as the unemployed, pensioners and irresponsible breeders with four or more children, only get to pay half a Euro. Meanwhile I have no doubt at all that the politicians here are salting away their disgustingly large salaries in foreign bank accounts.

Tuesday 20th September
And another load of chilli sauce to add to my stores:

I’ve made three lots now and the open jar of it I have in the fridge keeps getting topped up with the remainder from each boiling. I’ve also given away about four jars – two to Greeks who actually like the stuff one to a Bulgarian and one to an English couple. It occurs to me that if this country collapses and food was to be in short supply, we might be living on a combination of chilli sauce, figs and pickled onions, which I suspect would involve toilet paper in the fridge and frequent changes of underpants.

Incidentally, Huan Tan, I have your recipe and bought mangoes so as to follow it, but then decided I would rather make sweet mango chutney with them instead. I’ll be looking up a recipe for that today.

The Jupiter Conflict or Jupiter War is now approaching 114,000 words and its plot threads are resolving. I suspect I’ll finish it this month and that it’ll be a shorter book than both The Departure and Zero Point (though I’ve yet to write the chapter starts and this will only be the first draft). This I feel is a good thing. Have you ever noticed the ever inflating size of books in trilogies or other series where the author is suffering from plotline proliferitis and struggling to get it all nailed down with the last book?

Our neighbour Jean-Pierre is back and the Greek neighbours were on him like flies on an open wound. When I walked down to see him last night I asked two of the kids, ‘Jean-Pierre ina mesa?’ to which one said ‘Neh’ whilst the other corrected me by saying ‘Pedro’. I replied, ‘Oshi Pedro, ina Jean-Pierre’. The Greeks up in these villages like to give foreigners pet names – I started out here as Nico and all the Albanians here have their ‘Greek’ names even if their own names are used in this country anyway. I don’t like it and I don’t like the thinking behind it. It is the application of a pet name to a pet. It’s demeaning and a conversational method of downgrading someone. They call me Neal now, probably because I ceased to tolerate any more shit from them.

And finally, just to annoy various people we’ve seen here over the year, and who are now back in their home countries:

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