Cuban Cool Cats

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some Cuban reflections.


We were in Cuba in February 2020, a lifetime ago. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the cocktails flowed like, er, wine. Like Freddie, we were Havana good time, Havana ball… Far away from where we are right now after these dangerous months.

When I think of Cuba, I think of cars, cocktails and – slightly strangely – cats. At times, they blend together: when we first arrived in Cuba, a 1958 Plymouth ride back in time to La Guarida restaurant in the heart of Havana, its feline guardian in the entrance hall large enough to hold a dance floor, a rooftop terrace housing the open-air Mirador Bar dispensing life-giving Negroni Habanero cocktails – a mixture that includes aged Campari, red vermouth and the perfume of orange rinds. Plenty of ice.

I thought I would share a few memories like that of our trip to bring a little salsa (and, as you will see, heavy metal) back into life for a few minutes as we mingled with the cool cats of Cuba.

La Guarida restaurant in Havana, Cuba
Paladar La Guarida, Havana with a bonus game of Spot The Cat

More cool cats at the Buena Vista Social Club.

You have to smile when you see this much joy

Music is an enduring part of the place. Take a look at a few moments of this street sweeper practising asome moves to the beat of a nearby bar.

A brush with Cuban music

And in Varadero, a table band in a restaurant playing the final notes of some AC-DC…It’s a matter of great regret that I didn’t hit record sooner; too busy head-banging with the rest of the restaurant-goers…

Definitely not A Touch Too Much…

In addition to hearing some heavy rock on a violin in Cuba, I have also been lucky enough – quite a few years ago – to hear Jingle Bells on a sitar in an Indian restaurant in Sri Lanka to get us in the festive spirit.

But it’s best to leave the last words to the cats and cocktails of Cuba:

Please do not park on this cat

The cocktail below is an El Presidente (there are numerous variations, but this one works a treat):

  • 25 ml Bacardi
  • 25 ml White Vermouth
  • 5 ml Grand Marnier
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Beautifully cut Orange Peel, preferably sliced very thin and in one piece – the one below was from the maestro who served us at El Floridita in Havana

Shake with ice. Pour into a Martini glass.

Glorious

Harking back to AC-DC, this cocktail is perhaps a Highway to El…

Cheers!

Alan


Alan Camrose with beard

Alan Camrose writes books and a blog:

www.alancamrose.com

Baby steps


Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose

It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, I’ve had a think about how I got going with my new book, based on past experience with the others…


I’ve written and published two books, one an urban fantasy-thriller, the other a (short) book of (ultra-short) stories. I’m in the middle of my third book, a novel, around 40K words in out of probably about 75K…

What have I learned from my earlier forays?

That a rapid lift-off is important. My first novel started as more of a “write one chapter of something and see how it goes”. The longest things I had written before that were long legal opinions. I wrote the first chapter, felt good and just struck out into the ocean from my tiny island beach, trying not to be swamped by churning waves and iffy Internet.

The first chapter proved not to be the first chapter at all in the end. My initial efforts were very much aimed at describing the world and some of the denizens, I suspect more for my benefit (and pleasure) than anyone else’s.

Nothing actually happened in the book when I started it. There was a set-up scene of the main character wandering around his London HQ, bumping into what I thought of as interesting locations and characters.

Nothing changed. It was like painting a mural.

Then, when I’d properly got the taste for it, came the painful evolutionary process of re-organising material and dumping some of it – particularly any over-indulgent scene-setting material that I was too pleased with (or it simply pleased me) but did not fit the needs of a Beginning (I hate prologues, I find them too artificial and jarring with continuity).

The pick-axes and shovels had to come out…What had to go was too info-dumpy, too self-obsessed, too whatever – too needing to be cut and then pasted into an “at some point may come in useful” file. You know, the file that you never look at again, like most clippings from the Good Food magazine or that recipe book based on Madagascan delicacies that Auntie Beryl gave you six Christmases ago.

I have read thousands of books, but had never really clocked how they tend to work. I have simply read them.

Something happens to get the reader interested, the main character is introduced and is hopefully appealing, there is some sort of hook at around the end of the third chapter or so to keep the reader from the book equivalent of channel-hopping to yet another of the millions of available tomes. That all sounds very cold to me, but it wasn’t until I focused on that kick-start that things started to happen a little more fluently. And I had to realise that everything was a kick-start for the next part, phase , whatever of the book…

In my current book, I have three main protagonists, all on a collision course from the off. I have changed the running order of the first three chapters once, and I think that’ll be it. No navel-gazing, just an attempt to make sense of that and the following material. I’m just going along for the ride at the moment.

I’m eager to see what happens.

I have a rough idea of how it will end, but that’s up to Rebecca Slade, Greg Barker and Charles Fitzgerald, Cheung, Unusual Steve and the others.

In the meantime, here’s my proposed (not set in stone!) first line, which I hope you’ll find enticing…

It began with a cat, a single-decker London bus and the First World War, not necessarily in that order.

Guardian Angel

My plan is to give you periodic reports of where I’m at, now that my new book is more than a mere glimmer…

And I’m nearly ready for beta readers of the first half, if you’re interested.

Long way to go yet…!


My website


Alan Camrose with beard

At The Lair Of The Camrose: Everyone welcome!

Alan Camrose

Behind The Scenes – Behind The Typewriter

Alan Camrose with beard

Author Interview

This interview is reprinted from the one that I took part in for Jazzy Book Reviews during last week’s book / blog tour for my new book Lost In Plain Sight:

1.       What would you consider to be your Kryptonite as an author?

Gin (even with tonic)…

2.       If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Just get it down, then stress about it. I still need to yell that sometimes at myself…

3.       What book do you feel is under-appreciated? How about overrated?

Difficult. I have my opinions on books, but we’re all entitled to our opinions, right? I’m not too bothered if I’m in the minority or the majority.

4.       Favorite childhood memory involving books?

Discovering Isaac Asimov, or as an only child trying to re-enact bits of the Lord Of The Rings in the back garden.

5.       If you could dine with any literary character, who would it be and why?

See below about my fictional friend!

6.       What fantastical fictional world would you want to live in (if any) given the chance?

That’s a tough one, but I’ll plump for the absurdities, wonder and awesomeness of the Discworld. But only if I could be head of the City Watch.

7.       Did you want to be an author when you grew up?

Yes. Being a lawyer in the intervening period from not being grown up to being a bit more grown up has allowed me the privilege of having a go at it…

8.       If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Me: creativeirreverentobsessive

My wife when I asked her about me: stubbornannoyingobsessive

All a question of perception, I’d say…

I’m not even going there with my nineteen-year-old twins, but grumpy would no doubt feature as one …

9.       What is your most unusual writing quirk?

Writing while my Burmese cat drapes herself on the right side of my chest and sleeps. That causes problems of course: I need to choose a lot of words on the QWERTY side of the keyboard…

10.   What’s one movie you like recommending to others?

Has to be Die Hard. Yippee-ki-yay!

11.   If you could own any animal as a pet, what would it be?

Drogon from GOT’s looking good. I stopped being afraid of heights a while ago.

12. Have you ever met anyone famous?

Not really.

13.       What is the first book that made you cry?

Black Beauty.

The Colour of Magic (Terry Pratchett) made me cry with laughter. It was my first exposure to his extraordinary perspective on the world. (Bambi was the first movie that made me cry when I was a kid, and I vividly remember Gallipoli as a teenager…)

14.       How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

I’ve written two.

The novel, Lost In Plain Sight, took around two years or so to write; the collection of ultra-ultra-short stories much less time. I’m hoping for about twelve months for my next novel (currently in production at Chapter 4 [now 20]…).

15.       How do you select the names of your characters?

They just come, probably from people around me, the media, whatever. It then takes a while to get comfortable with them if they’re major characters. My half-human character, Meyra, in LIPS started as Grace (too serene for what I wanted), then Miranda (too witchy) before settling on Meyra (Other, without being too odd). Sam Franklin came straightaway. And Pagoda? Well, that’s my cat’s name…

16.       What creature do you consider your “spirit animal” to be?

A Giant Panda – they seem pretty chilled.

17.       What are your top 5 favorite movies?

Favourite rather than best, I hasten to add:

Die Hard (see above)

Aliens

Blade Runner

Gattaca

Parasite

18.       If you were the last person on Earth, what would you do?

Find an iconic place to do a Charlton Heston impression and yell something iconic. Not the Statue of Liberty, he’s already done that. Mind you, it might take me a while to get to New York from Surrey.

19.       What fictional character would you want to be friends with in real life?

Sam Vimes (from Discworld). Although, given my answer about where I ‘d want to live, I would want his job, so that might cause friction…

20. What book do you wish you had written?

I like the books I’ve written and am writing, but I love The Old Man And The Sea (Hemingway) for sheer bang for word-buck. The simplicity of the language, the timeless themes, the bleakness and the hope, all wrapped up in such a compact package. Awesome.

21. Tell us 10 fun facts about yourself! 

My Joker wig is in a hat box in my wardrobe, just in case. I keep my other nine fun facts tied up in a purple bow next to it.

22. If you could live in any time period, what would it be and why?

Another wow question. Three immediate thoughts: in the 1920s, but only if I could be Bertie Wooster; mid-nineteenth century if I could invent something to get the industrial revolution going and be allowed to wear a stovepipe hat; as a 15th century explorer when anything was possible and there still might be dragons.

23. What is your favorite genre to read?

I love books that defy pigeon-holing. But if forced to choose, then it’s Fantasy. Or Thrillers (especially Noir). Probably Fantasy-thrillers. I need some humour in that, not just bleak and dark. If any Sci-fi comes along for the ride, then so much the better. And neo-Victorian, I like a bit of that. It’s very difficult. The Maltese Falcon’s Magic Blade Runner That’s Dreaming Of Electric Sheep. There. Perfect.

Check out Jazzy Book Reviews for a bunch of interesting stuff, including a blog and reviews: https://www.jazzybookreviews.com/2020/06/lost-in-plain-sight-by-alan-camrose.html

WEAR A MASK!

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com

Daddy Lockdown 2: The Legend of the Lockdown

Swedigon temple Burma, images / statues of Buddha

Life is more complicated these days, not necessarily in ways we would expect. It has shown us the encrusted treasure map (encrusted with spilt curry) showing the way to the Sacred Vault Of Treasures and Wisdom.

In a stale fortune cookie delivered before the Lockdown and batted by the cat under the sofa was the following list of prophecies and wise sayings which have proved to be true and have come to pass:

Confucius, he said:

  • There’s no need to dial 111 if Ocado doesn’t deliver the promised tub of Phish Food.
  • Nor is there a setting on the Sat-Nav to figure out the whereabouts of the smallest saucepan, or indeed The Mythical Teaspoons From Antiquity. Alexa is on the side of the Sat-Nav on that one, in electronic solidarity.
  • No matter how many times everyone looks under the cushions, the identity of the villain who changed the Amazon account password to something obscure and then forgot it will be lost in the Eternal Mists of Forgetfulness. Even though the list of suspects is short and unchanging.
  • If anyone so much as peeks at something on the Interthingy, a horde of Visigoth suppliers will descend on you and besiege your computer hurling entreaties to buy a 100″ TV. Be warned!
  • It is possible to attempt the ‘I hate you’ teenager to parent per day world record on consecutive days for the whole of Lockdown.
  • It is important that opened tomato ketchup bottles are left out in direct sunlight for as long as possible to ensure a proper degree of crustiness, ideally when the top has been taken off for the first time. Bonus points for hiding the lid.
  • The dishwaher should not only be on for every second of the day , operated in the same way as chain-smoking but with washing tablets. As a rule of thumb, it is forbidden for anyone under the age of 20 to put anything into the machine or take anything out.
  • Sleeping is something to be done during the daylight hours or at night. In case of confusion, treat twilight and early dawn as either daylight or night. Short breaks from sleeping are permitted to allow access to the fridge.
  • The high priority items in any Sainsbury’s order are party food for seven-year-olds (to feed a pair of nineteen-year-olds).
  • Dirty laundry is precious and should be cherished and put away in sacred – obscure – places until its blessed revelation and its casting into the Washing Machine of Purification.

And the Eleventh and most important:

Four adults can co-exist in good humour and tolerance during this period of craziness and frustration (with a bit of letting off steam)

Raaaaaaargh! Letting off a bit of steam…

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com

WEAR A MASK!

The Number Of The Beast: 0.8 to 25

Alan Camrose with beard


Welcome to my Blog at The HAIR Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come with me on a further look around the Household during the Lockdown through Cousin It’s fringe


The nth + whatever week of Lockdown and Father has been wondering about the follicle-related issues in the Household but is not tonsure of the results

The Family has accumulated a lot of hair over the past few months of Lockdown (apart from Jasper the Retriever who is now in full-on shedding mode for the Summer, to increase the R number in the House (Rug number)).

It is now more appropriate to refer to:

Locks-down

Shaggy hair, shggy by nature, Zoinks scary!
Zoinks!

Father has always been sub-optimal at gardening, but hair is something that he has been able to cultivate in the privacy of the House. Oh, yes.

Forget toilet paper supplies, the availability of personal grooming kits plummeted on Amazon in the early days of Lockdown. It was fuelled by crazed stockpilers. They had the determination to build up stocks of home barber kits, scissors (didn’t matter what size) and precision personal care systems (on a scale where non-precision is a strimmer). It was TOO MUCH of a temptation. Like collecting first-day covers or commemorative coins. All pristine and even now unopened.

But Father had a head start on all of them (not the Joker wig).

A few years ago, Mother-in-law bought him the Beast for Christmas. It may come in useful when you’re older: The mark of a visionary Christmas present and its ticket to the back of the wardrobe.

And now, the Beast has re-emerged.

The Beast is a Hair Clipper Gift Set. How Father laughed at the time. It has a Precision (that word again) Trimmer; an Ear-Nose Trimmer (presumably for if you feel your nose is too long or your ears too large, or you otherwise want to jam a miniature threshing machine up your nose or into your ears). It also has Precision (!) Blades in minute increments from 0.8 mm to 25 mm, 8 of them. Scissors, a barber comb, a Thumb-Adjustable Taper Lever (no, no idea).

It’s still in its packaging, in the brutally efficient-looking hard plastic carrycase that seems more suitable for an assassin to keep his silenced snap-together rifle. It’s black, of course, for added glamour.

Father is terrified of it.

When it is unleashed, it will howl and roar with the full fury of its three AAA batteries, and tear at Father’s hair and facial fur in an orgy of primitive topiary. It will make offerings of slabs of matted fluff to its ancient gods.

Father has fought it off for the moment, but the time will no doubt come when it is invoked by Mother, when Father is given a (probably justified), er, wigging about his facial furniture. She has already tackled her own head of hair in a modest and well-executed way, but Father truly believes that is a ruse to lull him into a false sense of security while she teams up with the Beast for a Shearing.

Would Father’s nineteen-year old Offspring join in? In a heartbeat. But they would only be able to do so over Father’s beautifully coiffured dead body. Anyway, they are looking after their own glut of tresses for the moment blossoming out of their heads at a frightening rate.

Resistance may be futile for Father, but until the Day Of The Beast, he stands firm (and furry).

The Lockdown has made us re-evaluate how we do many things, and hair maintenance is not exactly top priority, but this period has allowed a degree of freedom that cannot be restricted or spoiled by That Bastard Virus.

Role model for the well-haired

A BIG Thank You to the NHS, Emergency Services and Front-line workers for making the world a safer place. for all of us

 Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com

Daddy Lockdown

author / writer at play

It’s a Madhouse!


Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come with me on a journey around the Household during the Lockdown – forget the Olympics, it’s all here…


DADDY SMASH!!!

The nth week of Lockdown and Father has been re-evaluating his place in the Cosmic Order.

He thinks about the unexpected joys of the Offspring back from uni for an undefined and unknowable period, and the close bonding rituals that could therefore be entered into by the family to achieve a Nirvanic Utopia of harmony and shared purpose.

Then the need for another cocktail kicks in, one of the high points of the situation: a carte blanche to practise making cocktails at increasingly bizarre hours of the day. Father is the Cocktails Master, his signature chemistry experiment being an El Presidente – rum, vermouth, Grand Marnier and Grenadine, a twirl of orange peel, and see you tomorrow morning.

Not only that, his position as Regulator Of The Bins has been upgraded to Bin Czar. There was absolutely no competition whatsoever for the role, but with increased teenager presence (Father hesitates to use the word activity) it has become more of another career than a vocation. The increased fun of 4-D (with added aroma) Hide and Seek to Feed the Bins: searching for increasingly obscurely stashed ancient plastic and glass objects. Many dusted with a delicate layer of darkening yoghurt or a veneer of pasta sauce starting to glow in the shadows.

A joyous game for all the family to play.

Is Hide and Seek the correct comparison? Perhaps more a game of Jenga, where increasing archaeological layers of food are added to the sedimentary terrain until, finally, Father breaks.

When he breaks, he utters the magical words much sought after in the teenager community as the sign of a High Score: Where have all the bloody teaspoons gone?!

The answer of course lies in the Dark Regions of the Offsprings’ lairs.

There are other games that can be played with Father, to the extent that there’s no need to pine for the postponed Olympics when there’s a Pentathlon just sitting there at home, ready to go. All participants are certified to be at gold medal standard.

How about the High Hurdles?

The indoor version involves leaping over clothes carefully sorted into mountainous piles of mixed washed and unwashed clothes strewn between the bedroom door starting line to the finishing line at the window. As a word of warning, a lap of the room is not feasible except for parents who can fly.

The 4×100 Empty Box event, a test of Father’s nerve and resilience as empty cardboard boxes, cunningly disguised as part of the food supplies, are left lurking in out of the way cupboards. With. No. Food. Left. In. Them.

There’s also the Puss In Boots Eyes triple jump event in the pokey cupboard off the living room which houses all the Internet kit. Mummy joins the field on this one. Father particularly enjoys this sport, especially during the Lockdown when the country’s Internet resources are being taxed to the limit.

Once properly kitted out, all the contestants adopt a doleful, big-eyed stance (points are awarded for style) and take careful aim at Father with a brisk and accusing The Internet Isn’t Working. Like the sport of throwing the javelin but with a live target.

That is followed by the second element of the event: the deeply disappointed look. This is deployed when, after a record breaking 35 seconds of Father turning the router off and then on again – using his mystical (and unknowable to the rest of the household) Turn Off/Turn On Manoeuvre, the chant from the terraces is that the Internet Is Still Not Working.

The third and final phase has Father adopting enforced yoga and Turkish massage poses to fit into the Cupboard – the Shrine to the Interweb – with a bent paperclip and the Virgin manual written in Japanese to Reset The System.

Eventually, whether by Father’s efforts or the service provider quietly pressing a few buttons in their secret base to get rid of him, the Internet comes back on with the joyous return of Three White Lights, doing what it had been doing an hour ago.

There is no ticker-tape or open-top bus parade, instead a quick check of the stop watch by the participants to see what performance improvements could be achieved next time.

Finally, it’s onward to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Marathon, all the movies in chronological order.

With the whole family assembled.

Bliss.

Time for another cocktail.


Cheers,

Alan ?


Alan Camrose
https://www.alancamrose.com

Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com

The ties that bind a writer

showing pagoda cat as a kitten

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come with me to Myanmar (Burma, as was) and see the origins of one of the characters in one of my books


We holidayed in Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 2012, travelling from Yangon to Bagan, to Lake Inle in central Myanmar, via a couple of bracing air and road trips. The great thing is now we’re able to say that – like Nellie the Elephant – we met one night in the silver light / On the road to Mandalay. No traveling circus to run away from, although we did have our eleven year old twins with us.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the religious dimension of the exquisite reclining Buddhas. Now I’m going to talk about the exquisite Burmese cats there, which delighted and charmed us in equal measure.

Burmese cats in Burma? Who knew? Read on.

We found them at Lake Inle. It’s an almost supernaturally peaceful place of calm water and effortless fishing with nets by wiry boatmen. They work on long skiffs, their practices unchanged over thousands of years, balanced, more like perched, on one leg. Precarious but elegant. Their non-standing leg wraps around a long oar which they use to propel their boats, freeing their hands to manipulate long, thin bamboo poles and silky fishing nets. They look like eerie stick figures in the early morning mist, or complicated semaphore signallers. Magical.

We saw hand-weavers and metalworkers plying their trades in raised bamboo buildings on sturdy poles above the lake. Then we landed at an island jetty revealing the entrance to:

to cafe for Burmese felines in Burma
Afternoon tea for cats. Burmese cats. In Burma.

Do not enter here if you are not a cat-lover, or if you do then be warned (and wear a hat). There are lots of cats. Burmese cats. A silken wave. In fact a heat map of Myanmar would surprise you in terms of hits for Burmese cats, since they died out in Burma in the 1930s. No more Burmese cats in Burma, like no chocolate in a chocolate cake. 

They were re-introduced to their native and spiritual home in 2008/9 from Australia and Britain to re-kindle the flame. Make the world right. Put that smooth, delicious chocolate back where it belongs.

Cat storage platform cat sitting on head
Just passin’ through…

The cats at the Cat Café won our hearts – as well as high ground in the picture opposite. Their now familiar to us complete lack of fear (common sense) of strangers had them cavorting around all of us in no time. 

It was an easy step to acquiring one when we got back to Britain. 

Pagoda.

She even now walks on my shoulders – not so much on my head, maybe – in the same no-nonsense way as her predecessors at, a link to the feisty cat familiar in my new book, Lost In Plain Sight. 

What felt like an inevitable starting point for my writing journey: that cat as one of the protagonists, allowing mere humans a periodic glimpse of what it means to be a cat. 

I was acting on the most consistent advice that I’ve seen, apart from the raucous screaming of the words “SHOW, DON’T TELL!” :

“Write what you know”. 

Maybe something about law at some stage. I was a lawyer for a long time. However, for my first project I chose to write about a magical cat who naturally believes that her “owner” is in fact her familiar while they hunt down a murderous demon. With the greatest possible respect, that was a lot more fun than writing legal opinions. 

I hope you read it and agree.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose


Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com

Brighton Beach Memories

Brighton Pier across the pebbles

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…This time, come with me in the company of a psychopath to the seaside for a look around the place that inspired one of my books…


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Brighton hasn’t featured prominently in literature or movies with a few outstanding exceptions that I’ve looked at in this post. (Brighton Beach Memoirs doesn’t count since it’s in a foreign country) I have embedded info about various of the treats in store. Keep it to hand for the better times that are coming.

Pinkie Brown is a psychotic and ruthless underworld figure in Graham Greene’s classic 1938 novel, Brighton Rock (and the classic movie in 1948 (Richard Attenborough), and the re-make in 2010 with among others Helen Mirren – Official Trailer. Pinkie would be an unlikely poster-boy for the Brighton tourist trade. The  brawling tribes portrayed in Sixties Brighton in the movie Quadrophenia wouldn’t be on their shortlist either. (Official trailer)

To give you an idea of the menace that is in this book and the movies, imagine you’re the teddy bear:

Pagoda Cat menacing an innocent teddy bear
Bear in the cross-hairs

On a brighter note, Brighton prides itself on its eclectic cultural scene: a challenging marathon (which I have witnessed, I confess, as a supporter rather than a participant), and the legendary annual Brighton Naked Bike Ride (2019 details) where riders struggle to stow their gear. With the Palace Pier, the towering Needle city observation deck (the British Airways i360) and the barking mad architecture of the Brighton Pavilion, there’s a lot to see.

I have been going to Brighton throughout my life, first with my parents, often to the pitch & putt on the front when I was a kid. I achieved a keen grasp of ’99’ tasting. Then I went with friends, and now family and friends. The city has changed from a more traditional seaside town of ice cream, sticky rock and fish & chips to the newer, more wide-ranging, place to be. I found it was a natural choice for me to use Brighton and its local area as the main backdrop to my new fantasy-thriller, Lost In Plain Sight. I was drawn to it by my familiarity with the place, the excitement that it still gives me to go down there and crunch over the beach and visit the Regency fish restaurant on the seafront for some hake and chips. And an edge to the place, created by the ebb and flow of visitors to the city. Never the same twice.

The West Pier is my favourite landmark in Brighton. Visit the webpage and you’ll see its Goth allure. It used to be an elegant slice of seaside glamour, then fires and the elements conspired to bring it down before its redevelopment, leaving what now looks like a black rib-cage hovering in and above the sea, no longer a counterpoint to the Palace Pier, more a dwindling marker of past glory. 

The sea and the sky danced on the horizon, impossible to tell apart, the view broken only by the brooding, spidery remains of the burnt-out West Pier, soaking up sparkles from the water with grim determination.  

Lost In Plain Sight

Pinkie would’ve attacked it with sledgehammers to finish it off, but it sits there now, reluctantly crumbling into the sea. It’s a symbol of keeping going against all the odds. Like the investigation team in my book. 

Brighton has evolved over the years, its history a backdrop for greasy doughnuts, beer and cults of human sacrifice. Keep it in mind for a future escape during these difficult times. I’ll keep it in mind for future books.

The magic of make-up: Lights…Camera…Joker!

Shows my playful Joker face

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come and see me in my make-up studio, also known as my office…


Dressed as Joker in the office, the magic of make-up - nothing to do with my magic cats novel

I absolutely love the Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie. He made me feel sorry for the Joker. Crazy!

Worth his Oscar every day of the week.

It’s been an epic journey for the Joker leading up to this point:

Cesar Romero was fantastic cavorting opposite without question the best Batman ever – Adam West. Cesar was the chortling Clown-Prince of Crime…Among others, the reckless and deranged Jack Nicholson, guilty of chewing up the furniture in Batman.  And the sadly missed nightmare of Heath Ledger’s take. Genuinely unsettling, and brings nightmares even now of his magic trick with a disappearing pencil…

But I think the Phoenix version had the extra dimensions of his aching need for acceptance and terrible mental health issues. All of that seeped into the character so much that even with the horrific crimes that he commits during the course of the movie and his thirst for chaos and destruction, we are still invited not so much to side with him as to at least understand him as a complete character rather than a caricature – an amazing feat when you think about him strutting around in lurid clothes and troubling make-up, the scent of coulrophobia burning your nostrils as you watch.

My stint as a villain (apart from the heinous crime of being a lawyer, that is) amounted to several hours at an office party a while back, heisting beer. You can see the office below…

I recall having taken a conference call that day in my get-up, asking the – very understanding, and amused – client to allow me to conduct the call on speaker, explaining that I didn’t want to smudge my make-up.

Becoming someone else for a brief time is amazingly liberating, as you can perhaps see below – a visit to the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong for tea illustrates that…

Make-up and costume of Joker in Hong Kong

I asked for a table for four in the Clipper Lounge for my wife and the kids. The staff are magnificent there, not even raising an eyebrow – they could have borrowed one of mine – as they showed us directly to our table. I suppose it made it OK because I was wearing a tie?

This feeds through into my writing – the liberation not the need to dress up in odd costumes. Each character unleashed in a book contains – worryingly sometimes – a little bit of me, my family, friends, acquaintances, history. Inevitably. Everything comes from somewhere. All part of my way of understanding the world and me, and me in the world, as part of my writing.

Take a look at my other blog posts: see if they drive you crazy…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose


Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com

Appearances are deceiving…

roast chicken hixters restauarant london

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, come with me on a trip to Cuba and see the coming together of Santeria and roast chicken…


Santeria emporium, Havana, Cuba
Santeria emporium, Havana, Cuba

We wandered round the streets of Havana, Cuba drinking in the sights and some local beer. Our journey led us into a surreal world of crumbling beautiful buildings topped with optimistic modern extensions, watchful street cats, and the mysterious religion of Santeria (the Cuban version of voodoo).

That was a departure from the usual boat-like classic automobiles and challenging-coloured cocktails). 

We discovered a voodoo shop around Calle O’Reilly (O’Reilly Street) in Old Havana. There must be a magic spell over it; I would never find it again, tucked away off the main thoroughfare. The street was named after the unlikely sounding Alejandro O’Reilly, 1st Count of O’Reilly of the Spanish Empire, rewarded by Spain for among other things during the course of the 18th century re-building Havana’s defences after they’d proved to have been set in the wrong place. So, who did your building work last time…?

The exotic emporium was festooned with bowls (for offerings), trinkets, candles and candlesticks, figurines of Catholic saints, necklaces, and coloured beads called elekes. The authentic, sacred versions of elekes are carefully prepared by santeros (think, priests) to reflect and guide initiates in suitable ways; other beads are…just beads.

Elekes Santeria jewellery, magic, voodoo
Elekes

The religion of Santeria developed undercover as a shadow of Catholicism, when slaves from Africa arrived at their new enforced homes in places like Cuba, and were discouraged from openly practising their beliefs. They used Catholic saints as avatars or proxies to cloak their own style of worship, an intriguing sleight of hand to allow them to continue to follow their old ways. 

Orishas – the Santeria equivalent of selected saints – have specific colours, behaviours and powers associated with them, practitioners emerging from behind the disguise of Catholicism to make offerings of food and sometimes blood (animal sacrifices). The latter adds something of a sinister element to the religion, often over-shadowing its predominantly uncontroversial ways and discouraging open practice.

I made more of Santeria in my novel, Lost In Plain Sight, which portrays a menacing arm of the religion allowing – demanding – human sacrifice, not merely chickens. 

Roast chicken at Hixter

Is this a horrific memento that I stole away out of the back of the Santeria shop allowing me to make an evil Hand Of Glory to strike fear into my enemies and lay waste to their souls?

No, It’s a roast chicken served at Hixter restaurant, Bankside, in London. It’s presented at your table done up like a, er, chicken, including a very fine looking pair of feet. Took me back to our days in Hong Kong, where chickens’ feet are alarmingly popular, espacially when employed to bait foreigners at dinner. 

They’re not for the squeamish, but neither are they a monstrous display of dark magic. The chicken is moist and succulent, run through from the base with an uncomfortable nod to Edward II. 

I picked out this image to illustrate the power of connection and association.

I used the concept of Santeria in my book, albeit distorted and made more alarming by the introduction of higher levels of sacrifice rather closer to home. 

Here’s a passage from my book that talks about it, a taster perhaps, using authentic names but for more diabolical purposes:


EXTRACT from Lost In Plain Sight

The leader intoned in a voice that melted into the African drums and the chant as the chorus writhed in anticipation, all in time with the ancient rhythms: 

‘Babalu-Aye, Oh Lord of Healing, Lord Ọbalúayé, Wise and conquering One,Your Worshipfulness Erinle, Your medical wisdom we need and implore, Lord Esu, Your Tricks and Wit are our Guide, Lord Kokou teach us your Warrior ways, Obatala, help us to create human bodies in your divine image, Lord Shango put your trust and lightning in us, Lady Aje share your bounteous wisdom and wealth, and Mistress Oya, let us know the secrets of your Maagic, we beseech you.’ 

The leader motioned to his entranced entourage, like a king cobra conducting at the Royal Albert Hall. They responded immediately. I am horrified to say that we responded immediately, just far enough away to escape the strangling power of the combination of beat and words and song. The circle of acolytes and spheres tightened; the intensity and volume increased. I could smell its dark ululations, feel the texture of its cloying taste, hear the jangling of harsh colours, even from where we were.  


Religion covered over with religion in the real world, a chicken that tastes wonderful/ looks demonic, and the modification and distortion of reality to provide grounding for some pretty anti-social behaviour in my book. All things that were unexpected for me related to my experiences, woven into fiction because they fitted in with what I wanted to show.. 

Nothing’s wasted. 

Like the chicken (well, maybe those claws this time around)…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose


Alan Camrose writes books, this Blog and quizzes . His clones help him to find time to do all these things simultaneously. His coffee machine is set to intravenous. His golden retriever, Jasper, is set to Hungry Cute at all times. His cat – Pagoda – is like all cats, she doesn’t help him at all. Even though he is a certified cat-whisperer (more a cat-yeller). Pagoda rules the house with an iron claw. Alan lives with the rest of his family in Surrey. Please do visit him at his website: www.alancamrose.com