January 2nd, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Why not to send your husband to buy a house

Buying a house is said to be a couple's biggest purchase. Something to be entered into jointly. But when your new house is in another country and you have a smallholding with a myriad of animals to be looked after ... sometimes you have to act alone.

Moral: don't send the husband.

So, there I was dispatched to France with a strict mandate from my wife - come back with a small country cottage with about ten acres of pasture. And don't go over budget.

Ten days later I'd seen some amazing sights. French plumbing was not so much an essential feature of a house as an art form. I had never seen so many interesting places to site a toilet. Now, I've seen toilets before - I'm a man of the world - and under the stairs has always been a popular space-saving location but ... at the foot of the stairs? With no privacy? Placed such that to climb the stairs one had to squeeze past the bowl?

And how about the cottage in Brittany that had the mains water pipe enter the house through the chimney? I was amazed. It entered the house through the back wall of the lounge fireplace, hovered a few feet over the grate and then bent along the wall in search of a kitchen.

‘Why?’ is a question often used in house-hunting. Sometimes it actually precipitates an answer. This was not one of those times.

But I did have some theories. A rudimentary hot water system? A useful pipe for hanging a cooking pot from?

Favourite was the 'it was the closest point to the road - therefore less copper pipe to buy.'

Then there was the log-burner in Gascony.

There's nothing intrinsically unsound about placing a fire in the centre of a room. It can look very stylish and a good way to heat a large room. But ... something wasn't quite right with this installation. It was the flue. Which was where the problem started. Not, however, where it finished.

Most people installing a flue would have taken the pipe straight up from the fire and out through the roof. Very few would have taken the flue fifteen feet across the room at knee height until it reached a wall.

Even fewer would have then knocked a hole in that wall, taken the flue through into the next room, angled it along said wall before sinking it into the chimney breast on an adjoining wall. As I tracked the eight-inch diameter flue's progress through the house, I wondered if I was at the birth of an entirely new form of heating system – no radiators required just one continuous flue.

There was nothing much you could say.

‘Why?’ was certainly one of the candidates. But it demanded an answer. And I wasn't sure if the world was quite ready.

I walked back and forth between the two rooms. One looked like a giant hand had pulled the log burner into the middle of the room and extruded the flue in the process. The other looked like a neighbour had tapped into the chimney breast whilst the owner was out shopping.

So you can see - the groundwork having been laid - that when I saw The House it couldn't help but stand out from the rest. It was perfect. It was habitable. It had seven acres. It had views of the Pyrenees. It was in our budget. And it was a bargain - the owner was so desperate to sell he'd halved the price.

But it wasn't quite a two-bedroomed cottage. The mandate had been quite clear on that. We're looking for a small house for two people and the very ocasional guest.

This house had eight bedrooms ... and five toilets. None of which were at the foot of the stairs.

But it was a bargain. And someone else might make an offer. So I bought it.
The phone call home was slightly fraught.

'You did what!' and 'Eight bedrooms!' elbowed their way into most sentences.
The bargain ploy wasn't going down too well either.

Or the five toilets.

But house-hunting is often like that. You start off with a tight list of your requirements - the two-bedroom bungalow, the tiny stone cottage - then let your husband loose and back he comes with the keys to an eight-bedroom mansion.

Two years later when we decided to move again - you would have thought she'd have learned - and I was despatched to Normandy with a firm mandate - two bedrooms and no more!

I'll tell you what happened tomorrow but the episode includes a phone call home with the words that every wife dreads: 'I've done it! I've bought a village.'

(to be continued)
International Kittens of Mystery

Another excellent review

This time from KC Heath at Yet Another Book Review Site. Needless to say I like it:)

Looking for something original? I haven’t read anything like this before! RESONANCE is cool, cutting-edge science fiction. It is a keen mystery, keeping the main character—and the reader—moving through London, even dodging bullets and bombs, trying to find out who is trying to kill Graham Smith and why.

Graham is no ordinary man. As you begin to read, you ask yourself: is this guy retarded? –OR- is there something wrong with his world? This story is intriguingly bizarre. Example: Graham carries notes in his pocket so he will know where he lives—sometimes he comes home from work and his key doesn’t work. A check at the note in his pocket says he lives elsewhere. He doesn’t remember moving. Ah, but it gets worse. One day Graham comes home from work and a strange woman greets “her son”, demanding to know where the groceries are. Graham reaches into his pocket, and instead of bringing out the business card someone gave him earlier, he finds a grocery list he’s never seen before. Later that night, Graham slips out the window to talk to Annalise Mercado, a very weird young lady who says she is a “medium” who can talk to the dead, and they tell her the world will end if anything happens to Graham. We find out later that both Annalise and Graham have mis-defined the way their world works. Graham is sure it is unravelling, as sure as Annalise is that she talks to the dead. They come up with other ideas, yet still they are both wrong: the truth is awesomely more horrifying than their imaginations. Together they make a great team, but against the exponential forces against them in this creepy world, there seems little hope.

RESONANCE should win an award—it is that good. Everything from characterization to world-building, to editing, plot and use of real science theory are excellent examples of what the craft of writing is all about. Highly recommended (especially for readers who want to believe that even a “nobody” can make an influential contribution to the world).