April and Thursday books

Currently reading
Riverland, by Fran Wilde
Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz
The Hunt for Vulcan: …And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe, by Thomas Levenson

Finished in the last week
Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, by J. Michael Straczynski
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Torchwood: World Without End, by John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman, Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano
The Heralds of Destruction, by Paul Cornell and Christopher Jones
The French Connection, by Robin Moore
The Long Song, by Andrea Levy

April 2020 books

Non-fiction: 4 (YTD 21)
The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, by Mallory O'Meara
The European Parliament, by Francis Jacobs, Richard Corbett and Michael Shackleton
Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, by J. Michael Straczynski
The French Connection, by Robin Moore

Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 10)
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
Muddy Lane, by Andrew Cheffings
The Long Song, by Andrea Levy

sf (non-Who): 14 (YTD 56)
The Wind on the Moon, by Eric Linklater
Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher
Prophet of Bones, by Ted Kosmatka
The Wicked King, by Holly Black
The Moomins and the Great Flood, by Tove Jansson
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsin Muir
A Woman in Space, by Sara Cavanagh
Catfishing on Catnet, by Naomi Kritzer
The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes
Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson – did not finish
Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee
The First Men in the Moon, by H. G. Wells
The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Comics: 7 (YTD 13)
Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
Wiske, by Willy Vandersteen
Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Barabas, by Willy Vandersteen
LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin
Torchwood: World Without End, by John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman, Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano
The Heralds of Destruction, by Paul Cornell and Christopher Jones

7,800 pages (YTD 28,500)
14/28 (YTD 37/106) by non-male writers (O'Meara, Levy, "Kingfisher" [Vernon], Black, Jansson, Muir, Cavanaugh, Kritzer, Solomon, Lowry, Xu/Walker, Liu/Takeda, Okorafor/Ford, Barrowman)
5/28 (YTD 13/106) by PoC (Levy, Solomon/Diggs, Xu, Liu/Takeda, Okorafor)
2/28 rereads (YTD 13/106) – A Prayer for Owen Meany, A Clokwork Orange.

Coming soon (perhaps)
A Sacred Cause: The Inter-Congolese Dialogue 2000-2003, by P. E. Winter
Black Wine, by Candas Jane Dorsey
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
Sleepers of Mars, by John Wyndham
Arthur C. Clarke's Venus Prime 1: Breaking the Strain, by Paul Preuss
Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
The Nightmare Stacks, by Charles Stross
The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht
The Queen's Spymaster, by John Cooper
The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, by Stephen Fry
Modern China: A Very Short Introduction, by Rana Mitter
Laatste schooldag, by J. G Siebelink
The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakov
De dag waarop de bus zonder haar vertrok, by Beka
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Gaze of the Medusa, by Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby and Brian Williamson

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

  • Thu, 09:55: RT @UN: Polio vaccinators brave long distances & harsh terrain to make sure no child is left unprotected against the poliovirus. Now, the…
  • Thu, 10:45: ‘Zombie’ Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator On COVID-19 Lockdown https://t.co/CThzrOLSZX Amazing!

Posted in Uncategorised

March 2006 books

March 2006 was a pretty memorable month for me. I had one of the most fun science fiction convention experiences I can remember at P-Con in Dublin, where I moderated four panels, one of which was interrupted by the BBC calling me for a statement on the death of Slobodan Milošević. My brains were eaten by .

I went on from Dublin (having spoken at a panel with Garret Fitzgerald) to Cyprus, where I presented the first Crisis Group report on the situation there at a packed event in the Ledra Palace Hotel on the Green Line. This was more significant than I had perhaps realised; it was the first time since the referendums of April 2004 that someone had come to the island to tell the Greek Cypriots that they had voted for continued partition. Tempers were still high (actually they still are, many years later) and one Greek Cypriot newspaper accused me of behaving "με αναίδεια χίλιων πιθήκων", "with the impudence of a thousand monkeys". But I feel it was one of the more important bits of work we did in my time at Crisis Group, and perhaps more important, I made friends on that trip who I am still in touch with. (The chap in the picture below is not one of them.)

I also presented the report in Athens and Istanbul, my first ever visit to Turkey. The reception was a bit more laid back in both cases.

Anne and I attempted to have a romantic weekend break to Maastricht. It rained. Weirdly enough I went back to that part of the world later in the month for a conference about Kosovo in a chateau very near by (in Château St-Gerlach). And we did a nice little report on the EU and the South Caucasus. Outside Crisis Group, I published a short note on how to proceed with EU integration, proposing the citizens' dialogues later adopted by President Macron (who may have come up with the idea separately).

Meanwhile back at home, F made a scale model of the solar system in our back yard. Here are the Sun (portrayed by a space hopper), a barely visible Mercury, and more clearly visible Venus, Earth and Mars.

Sun (space hopper), Mercury (rice grain), Venus (purple bead) Earth (Orange bead), Mars (yellow bead)

March 2006 books:

Non-fiction 4 (YTD 10)
Does Anything Eat Wasps? And 101 Other Questions, ed. Mick O'Hare
The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds and Times of Doctor Who, by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping
Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea
Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, by Charles Townshend

sf 7 (YTD 16)
Air (or Have not Have), by Geoff Ryman
Learning the World, by Ken MacLeod
Thud!, by Terry Pratchett
Take Back Plenty, by Colin Greenland
Different Kinds of Darkness, by David Langford
Hidden Camera, by Zoran Živković
Swords in the Mist, by Fritz Leiber

4,200 pages (YTD 10,400)
None by women (YTD 5/29)
None by PoC (YTD 1/29)

This was a really good month for books as well, despite a certain lack of diversity. The top book of 2006 for me was Lost Lives, the gruelling account of people who died in the Troubles. You can get it (for a price!) here. Others that I particularly enjoyed were The Discontinuity Guide, which you can get hereEaster 1916, which you can get hereThud!, which you can get here.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Around him, rockbuds smoldered. Moss—dried from the summer heat and long days between storms this time of year—flared up in waves, setting the rockbud shells alight. Flamespren danced among them. And, like a spren himself, Dalinar charged through the smoke, trusting in his padded armor and thick boots to protect him.

I had quite enjoyed the first two massive huge books in this trilogy, The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, but ran out of steam 500 pages into this one; in the end, I didn't quite care enough about the characters and setting to read another seven hundred pages in order to find out where they all finished up. Just way too long. If you want, you can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2018. Next on that list is Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Forty days of lockdown

Well, it seems like no time at all since I posted about the thirtieth day of lockdowntwenty-day and ten-day posts already seem in the remote past…

I said last time that it felt like we are nearer the end than the beginning. That's still true, at least that the beginning of the end is now in sight. The Belgian government announced on Friday that there will be a gradual relaxation, starting on 4 May, tomorrow week, with offices opening though teleworking will remain the norm; on 11 May most shops will reopen, on 18 May most businesses and museums will open, some kids will go back to school and the borders will open, and from 8 June restaurants and cafes will open again, and so will tourist attractions and small-scale open air events. We will all have to wear masks in public.

This is all dependent on the numbers continuing to decrease. The news there has been good of late; we're now down to below 4,000 in hospital, and below 900 in intensive care. But the decrease is awfully slow, and of course the risk of a second wave is very real. And there are other countries where the news is much less good – heaven knows when any of us will be able to visit the United States again.

I'm still fortunate in that I have lost nobody in my immediate circle of friends and relatives. Two political figures who I vaguely knew (a former African prime minister and a retired Swedish diplomat) both succumbed to the virus. Several friends and colleagues have lost close relatives (mostly but not always parents). Another old acquaintance, someone I saw fairly often when I first came to Brussels but had only caught up with once in the last ten years, simply dropped dead last week, at the end of his working day in North Africa, aged only 57; probably not virus-related, but who knows? The Grim Reaper is breathing down all of our necks.

Despite that we've been keeping amused as far as possible. Work continues to provide plenty of activity (which is a good sign). The Doctor Who rewatches planned on Twitter by Emily Cook have been very uplifting. I've been getting deeply into the 1970s series Secret Army, about the Belgian resistance during the second world war, which the rest of the family won't watch because it's too depressing. Anne and I have been getting into The Good Place as well. With no commute, my reading time has drastically shrunk. But I've continued to make my videos about Oud-Heverlee in lockdown.

I'll write a jollier post about this later on, I hope, but just to note that today is my 53rd birthday. The day I was born was the 53rd birthday of the American writer Bernard Malamud, born in 1914, which seems impossibly long ago now. I've had worse birthdays (in both 2009 and 2010 I was very ill on the day), but I've had more fun ones too.

Stay in touch.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Amoras: vol 5, Wiske + vol 6, Barabas, by Marc Legendre & Charel Cambré

Second frame of third page of Wiske:


(onomatopœic noises)

Second frame of third page of Barabas:


"Please stow your tray tables, and move your seats to the upright position"

(See previously vols 1, 2, 3, 4)

This is the close of Marc Legendre's reimagining of the classic Flemish kids' comic, Suske en Wiske, with the two central characters finally reunited but only for a rather downbeat ending. Volume 5 actually won the Willy Vandersteen Prize, the award for a Dutch-language comic named after the original creator of Suske en Wiske. (The only other Vandersteen Prize winner that I have read was Ergens waar je niet wil zijn, by Brecht Evens, which I thought was great.)

I have to say that these final two volumes somewhat lost me. I thought that the fifth volume went in for shocking violence, which I never much like, and the sixth built towards a rather grim conclusion. The art and characterisation remain good, but perhaps missed the mark under our curent circumstances. You can get Vol 5 here and vol 6 here.

These were my top unread non-English comics. Next on that pile is the diptych De dag waarop ze haar vlucht nam/De dag waarop de bus zonder haar vertrok, by Béka (Bertrand Escaich and Caroline Roque) and Marko (Marc Armspach).

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

February 2006 books

This is the latest post in a series I started last November, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in current circumstances when we are all somewhat distracted. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

As previously noted, I started the month in Skopje, and then returned to Prishtina in Kosovo for more work meetings, extended by a day when fog prevented my flight home from taking off. This was all leading up to publishing another Kosovo report mid-month. I also got quoted in the Guardian by the lovely Ian Traynor. My other trip of the month was to Vienna, a rather mad affair which included intense chats with the late great Albert Rohan and former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari.

My negotiations with my future employer were meantime continuing, but I received an unexpected approach from a head-hunter looking for someone to run a new thinktank on longevity issues. I don't know a lot about the subject, but I kept up the conversation for several weeks until we mutually decided that it just wasn't my thing. (I tracked down the person who did get the job a few months ago; let's just say that I dodged a bullet.)

At home, we had a lovely ceremony organised by the municipality in which young F attended the ceremonial planting of his special tree. Our village donates or plants a tree for every child turning seven each year; we did not make anything of it for the girls, who would not really appreciate it, but F was certainly interested and engaged.

We went back to the scene in 2013 to see if we could find the same tree, and I'm pretty sure we did.

Another seven years on, we went back again last week – you can see I think that it is the same tree, and the same person who stood by it aged six and thirteen, now twenty.

I did a bit better with reading in February 2006 than I had the previous month.

non-fiction 5 (YTD 6)
EU've got mail! by Graham Watson
First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong, by James R. Hansen
Europe and the Recognition of New States in Yugoslavia, by Richard Caplan
Fanny Kemble: The Reluctant Celebrity, by Rebecca Jenkins
Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation 1838-1839, by Frances Anne Kemble

non-genre 1 (YTD 2)
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

sf 6 (YTD 9)
Azem Berisha's One and Only Flight to the Castle, by Veton Surroi
Ghosts of Albion: Accursed, by Amber Benson and Christopher Golden
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
The Einstein Intersection, by Samuel R. Delany
The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth
9Tail Fox, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

4,200 words (YTD 6,200)
4/12 (YTD 5/18) by women (Jenkins, Kemble, Alcott, Benson)
1/12 (YTD 1/18) by PoC (Delany)

The best and worst of these were all non-fiction. The best is Fanny Kemble's account of slavery from the point of view of someone who married a slave-owner. You can read it for free here. Almost as good is Richard Caplan's definitive account of the diplomatic response to the break-up of Yugoslavia, which kills a few myths and which you can get here. The worst by far is Rebecca Jenkins' biography of Fanny Kemble. If you want, you can get it here.


Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Thursday reading

Current
The Long Song, by Andrea Levy
Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, by J. Michael Straczynski

Last books finished
Wiske, by Willy Vandersteen
Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Barabas, by Willy Vandersteen
Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson – did not finish
Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee
LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin
The First Men in the Moon, by H. G. Wells

Next books
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
A Sacred Cause: The Inter-Congolese Dialogue 2000-2003, by P. E. Winter

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

The European Parliament (8th edition), by Richard Corbett, Francis Jacobs and Michael Shackleton

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Under the treaties, the decision on its seat belongs not to the Parliament, but to the national governments. They reached agreement at the Edinburgh summit in December 1992, chaired by John Major, "on the location of the institutions and of certain bodies and departments of the European Communities" (OJ C-341 23/12/1992), later incorporated into a protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty. This states that: "The European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the twelve periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held. The periods of additional plenary sessions shall be held in Brussels. The committees of the European Parliament shall meet in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments shall remain in Luxembourg." This text can now be found in Protocol 6 of the Lisbon Treaty.

One of the authors is a friend of mine, and I went to the launch of the 8th edition in 2012 and ended up with a copy. The 9th edition, published in 2016, has now superseded this, and I imagine that a 10th post-Brexit edition must be in the works now that Corbett is no longer an MEP.

This is very much the world I work in, so I didn't learn a lot from the book, but I did find it a very good summary (and at 400 pages, surprisingly succinct) of how the European Parliament functions and what it does. It will be very useful indeed for people who are less familiar with the institution than I am. I found the summary of how various procedures work very helpful – one good example is the formation of Intergroups, officially recognised cross-party interest groups of MEPs, which is somewhat arcane in the official rules but explained more clearly here. Another point made early on, which I guess I knew but hadn't really though about, is that one quite often finds elder statesmen and stateswomen in the Parliament – former European commissioners, government ministers, prime minsters and even presidents add gravitas to the proceedings. And it is also interesting to note that one of the reasons that the French and Italian delegations of MEPs punch perhaps below their weight, compared to the Germans and (formerly) the British, is the comparatively high turnover at each election, which reduces their store of institutional knowledge.

What I slightly missed was a broader perspective on whether the Parliament uses its powers for Good, and how the overall dynamic between the EU institutions has shifted over the years. The 2012 edition was written too early to catch the Parliament's dramatic foisting of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission onto unprepared governments in 2014, let alone the botch that MEPs collectively made when they attempted to repeat the process in 2019. (If I had to summarise what happened last year: groups outside the EPP failed to spot early enough that repeating their 2014 success depended on the EPP, who were always going to be the largest party, picking a candidate who was credible with national governments; and given a choice between a European Parliament insider who was unknown outside Bavaria, and a multlingual former Scandinavian prime minister with friends all over the EU, the EPP made the wrong choice.)

This was the top book acquired in 2012 on my unread shelves, and the non-fiction book that had lingered longest on them. Next on both piles – indeed, last for the books I acquired in 2012 – is A Sacred Cause, by my former colleague Philip Winter. You can get the 9th edition of The European Parliament here.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

A Woman in Space, by Sara Cavanaugh

Second paragraph of third chapter:

“You wanted to see me, sir?” She turned her gaze on the chubby member of the duo.

This is a gloriously bad book. I think I was moved to get it after reading a negative review somewhere. I should have known better.

Our heroine is assigned to a mission to locate four missing astronauts. She is twenty-six, and already a spaceflight veteran. Her second in command a disgruntled male colleague who thinks women belong in the kitchen. He rescues the situation when she freezes with panic, and also freaks her out by peeking when she washes. So far, so bad.

Then they are captured by the same aliens who captured the two previous missions, and it turns out that a doomed race has fled to our system after their planet was destroyed, leaving only two older married couples and six sexy young women, who have been busy mating with the kidnapped astronauts. Our heroine objects to this situation and eventually becomes the instrument of reconciliation of the aliens with Earth.

The entire plot lacks any credibility even in its own terms. The sexual politics is awful, and the sex is pretty badly written as well. It’s so bad you have to finish it once you’ve started. (It’s only 192 pages.) If you really want it, you can get it here.

I tried to do some research on author and publisher. No other book by any “Sara Cavanaugh” is recorded in any catalogue that I have found; it’s almost certainly a pseudonym anyway. The 1981 publisher is Nordon Publications, and it’s branded as “A Tiara Novel”; there are a number of other Nordon books branded Tiara, but most of them are “A Tiara Romance” or “A Tiara Romantic Suspense”, and I found one case of “A Tiara Edition”. The other books explicitly branded “A Tiara Novel”, all from 1981, are:

On Rainbow Wings, by Etta Pegues – she must surely be the same person who pops up in accounts of the 1897 UFO incident in Aurora, Texas and also wrote a book about Newark, Texas;
A Flame in the Wind, by Janis Harrison, who wrote several other romance books under that name;
Maybe Tomorrow, by Sharlie West, who also wrote Reflections, a self-published poetry collection, in 1978;
Echoes of the Heart, by Ann Bernadette, an obvious pseudonym..

I guess these were railway station or drugstore books, which basically sold on the cover art and were digestible in a day or two. Even so, I think purchasers of A Woman in Space were probably disappointed with it.

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Muddy Lane, by Andrew Cheffings

Second paragraph of third chapter:

I was feeling a bit tired after my morning's exertions and the ride down to town, so I decided to take the train back to Cross Drains, spending the time before its departure down on the sands. The town was already quite crowded with holiday makers but the beach was still relatively empty, and I spent a pleasant hour walking by the breakers and gazing across the water to the distant, low hills of East Anglia.

A novella by a member of our extended family, in which a young man leaves a broken relationship to become a nature warden, and has loads of sex with other men from the neighbourhood and from his own past. All intensely and tastefully done. You can get it here.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Prophet of Bones, by Ted Kosmatka

Second paragraph of third chapter:

After they married, they’d continued to work on the same projects for a while, but there was never any doubt that Paul’s father was the bright light of the family. The genius, the famous man. He was also crazy.

One of a bunch of books I picked up at Novacon in 2013 and am only now getting around to reading. This was way better than I had expected. It's set in a world almost exactly like ours, except that science has proved the age of the universe to be only 5,800 years. Our hero, a dynastic palaeontologist, finds himself confronted by fossil evidence that challenges the foundations of both scientific and religious belief, and gets wrapped up in a massive conspiracy to control, suppress and eradicate the truth. Not deep stuff but a great fun read. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2013, and also the sf book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on those piles respectively are Laatste Schooldag, by Jan Siebelink, and Heaven's War, by David S. Goyer.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

January 2006 books

As previously noted, 2006 started with a full house of visitors and much fun, though B's behaviour was becoing more and more difficult. I got very excited about the Lib Dem leadership, with Charles Kennedy's dramatic fall and the nearly successful wonkish challenge by Chris Huhne to veterans Menȝies Campbell and Simon Hughes. (There was a time when it mattered who the Lib Dem leader was.) At work we published a report on (North) Macedonia, but I was running out of steam… I had a one-day trip to Paris, and actually finished the month in Macedonia, having travelled there from Kosovo on frozen and slippery tracks over the hills after a landslide had knocked out the main road from Prishtina to Skopje; these pictures don't quite convey just how scary a drive it was.

January 2006 books: mostly commuting by car, I did not get through as many books as I sometimes do.

Non-fiction 1
God's Clockmaker: Richard of Wallingford and the Invention of Time, by John North

Non-genre 1
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

SF 3
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
Steppe, by Piers Anthony
Year's Best SF 10, ed. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Comics 1
Shutterbug Follies, by Jason Little

2,000 pages
1/6 by women
None by PoC

Best: Anansi Boys which you can get here (I was startled to discover that Neil Gaiman had come across my review and linked to it), and Year's Best SF 10 which you can get here. Worst: Steppe, which you can get here.


Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Thirty days of lockdown

For the first time, it is beginning to feel like we are nearer the end of this than the beginning. Although Belgium yesterday extended the current lockdown to 3 May, there's a strong sense that this may be the last or second-last such announcement. People are starting to talk about exit strategies, including particularly in neighbouring countries. (But things will not move as quickly in the US or the UK.)

From our direct perspective, the government announced yesterday that residents of residential care centres and institutions for people with a handicap will be now able to receive visits from one person (not clear if that was one person at a time or one designated visitor per resident). This announcement caused an immediate kerfuffle with the care homes, who had not been forewarned or consulted, and are not ready. B and U's home called to tell us that they won't be ready for visitors before May. It's probably just as well; B will make do without us, and U would find it too confusing for either Anne or me to come and see her without bringing her back home – meanwhile, we are continuing regular Skypes with her.

It's clear now that the absolute numbers here in Belgium are pretty awful. We have had far more deaths than any other country of our size – more than 4,000 so far, to 1,200 for Sweden and 600 for Portugal, more than Germany or China, level with Iran. Per capita we are at the very top of the table, only just behind Spain and Italy (oh yeah, and Andorra and San Marino). It seems to have been a combination of bad luck, with several early centres of infection, and also a broader definition of the numbers being reported – where other countries are counting only certified deaths in hospitals, Belgium is (now) counting deaths in care homes too, even if they are not formally certified as being due to COVID-19. In any case, it's dreadful.

The dynamic, however, is a different matter. The number of daily deaths has remained agonisingly stable for the last ten days, but it's the last indicator to move (and stability here is anyway relatively good news). The daily number of new hospital cases peaked as long ago as 28 March; the total number of hospital cases has been steady in the mid to low 5000s since 1 April; the number in intensive care has been dropping slowly for over a week. So one gets the sense that we started from an unexpectedly bad position, but that once the situation became clear, the various governments have handled it reasonably effectively, and more importantly the population has generally complied.

I must say I've been wondering again about the stomach bug that hit me a couple of weeks ago. The historian Fern Riddell has written on Twitter of her experience of gastric-only coronavirus, and some parts of her description rang bells for me, in particular her account of it coming back every few days – I had it badly on 26/27 March, even worse on 1-3 April, and felt I was still shaking it off last week. But I'm fine now, and was never as bad as people who have had the Real Thing seem to have been (also, crucially, the rest of the household remained uninfected). Though in some ways I almost hope I have had it, as it would probably make me immune.

I'm certainly in a better frame of mind. The launch of this year's Hugo final ballot went particularly well, and I'm glad I had a hand in that. The Doctor Who rewatches organised by Emily Cook on Twitter have been a good bonding experience. I joined the Eastercon virtual room party on Saturday, making up for not being in Birmingham. My workplace organised an online pub quiz last night (my team won). Apart from that, I've been fairly successful in keeping the day job to the spare room (it has been keping me busy roughly 8.30-6 every day). In news from abroad, Martti Ahtisaari and his wife have apparently recovered from the virus.

Physical exercise makes a very big difference too. The long Easter weekend was sunny and I got out cycling several times. Anne, F and I have been getting out for walks almost every day, whether separately or together. I've been continuing to do my series of videos about the village. (Though the experience has reinforced my admiration for those who work in video and film production for a living.) Here we are in the garden on Easter Sunday, enjoying our eggs. I hope you are well too. Stay in touch.

Posted in Uncategorised

Thursday reading

Current
Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson
Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Wiske, by Willy Vandersteen

Last books finished
(lots of short books over a long weekend)
Muddy Lane, by Andrew Cheffings
Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsin Muir
A Woman in Space, by Sara Cavanagh
Catfishing on Catnet, by Naomi Kritzer
The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, by Mallory O'Meara
Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
The European Parliament, by Francis Jacobs, Richard Corbett and Michael Shackleton
The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes

Next books
The First Men in the Moon, by H. G. Wells
Long Song, by Andrea Levy

Posted in Uncategorised