Village People

So much happens in and around the Congress floor it’s impossible to capture it all in a short blog such as this.  One Brazilian delegate stopped me in the corridor and handed me a biography of a Scots-born woman called Maria or Mary Dundas.  Her first husband was a Scottish sailor / spy called Thomas […]

September 19, 2011

Business Unusual

It occurs that I haven’t yet written anything about the actual business of PEN Congress in these blogs, which might leave the impression we were simply on a jaunt.  Actually the sessions, occasionally fascinating, can be pretty gruelling as we work through reports and resolutions, and Linda’s experience with WWF1 really helped as we discussed, debated […]

September 19, 2011

Letting the words flow in Belgrade – Linda Cracknell

  “Good morning, Scotland”. The greetings begin as at 9.30am as delegates pass Drew and myself, crossing the border between Scotland and Sierra Leone, on their way to their country’s designated position. It’s the first day that we’ve gathered as an Assembly and this year the alphabetical order has been reversed so that Zambia sit […]

September 15, 2011

A warm bath

After a long, heavy day at the 77th PEN Congress I decided to forego the cultural evening laid on by our hosts – with no reflection on our Serbian hosts, who have been excellent – and go for a quiet dinner alone to be followed by some personal reading and, hopefully, some work on my novel.  […]

September 15, 2011

Cracked China

The business of a PEN Congress can be slow, ploughing through procedures required of a charity, receiving mandatory reports and so on, but within each day there are moments to treasure.  At the Writers-in-Prison Committee, where we play a very active role, there are messages from friends in the Independent Chinese PEN Centre thanking us […]

September 15, 2011

Touchdown in Belgrade

In the long descent to Belgrade airport a patchwork of little fields rolled out below us, a colourful quilt stitched with hamlets and smallholdings that gently remind me I know little of Serbia beyond its recent bloody history.  Insofar as I had thought about it at all I suppose I had expected great modern industrial […]

September 15, 2011

Brokebus Mountain

Brokebus Mountain Wyoming, July 2011 We were in Annie Proulx country when our bus, full of scholars attending the 9th Walter Scott conference in Laramie, Wyoming, broke down 10,000 feet up in the Snowy Range. If the Man from Laramie could have met the Man from Abbotsford would they have had anything in common? Maybe more than one might think. They were both familiar […]

September 6, 2011

Cathay Clips

370kph-420kph. As the world’s fastest train accelerates, the Shanghai skyline tilts. Pinnacles of skyscrapers loom crazily towards us. If the tilting ‘maglev’ and the tower blocks represent the future of China, at ground level the past breaks through. Labyrinths littered with bikes, trikes, huts, tenements, washing lines and sorrowful birdcages. In the Marriage Park parents swap notes of their children’s ages, […]

September 1, 2011

The Magic of Lavigny – Part I

Living at the Château de Lavigny  Entrance to Chateau Lavigny [Last year I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks at this Writers’ Residence in Switzerland. You can find out more about it via the link] Part 1 The night before we left Château de Lavigny there was a wild storm. We’d had windy days, even rainy […]

August 3, 2011