Sorry to be neglecting the blog. Not counting Dr Biswell who is still elsewhere, there are no less than three books in various stages of the finishing process in the house (one being drafted, another rewritten, and the third at the answering copyeditor’s queries stage), so we have been busy. Furthermore, we have been South of Hadrian’s wall for a while. I made it down as far as Kings Lynn, a weird little place which made me think of Great Expectations. It was rather grey; the river lurked in a bed of mud, and there didn’t seem to be anyone about much. Magnificent warehouses, one beautiful medieval one which belonged to the Hanseatic League, and a very splendid town hall, where I was talking about literature with a whole lot of other people. Lynn is far away from anywhere else enough to feel like another world: it puts on two literary festivals in a year, and evidently lots of other stuff as well. In other words, people were making their own entertainment like it had never gone out of style; there was a very strong sense of local networks, a circuit of people who had dinner parties with one another, and gossiped like fury. It was quite an interesting experience, once, anyway. I was sorry to miss Julian Barnes being interviewed by Beryl Bainbridge: what with one thing and another (members of the author community were not stinted in their entertainment) Dame Beryl was somewhat the worse for wear by eight o’clock when it started, and the poor man ended up having to interview himself which must have been quite funny, especially since he doubtless did it very well. On the Saturday morning, I went for a walk before anyone needed me to utter thoughts about literature: I’d woken up in a fourposter in a seventeenth-century room with lovely chamfered beams, and emerged onto a winding street of immaculate heritage frontages. Walking round by the church (picturesque as anything), the aforementioned town hall was clearly visible on the other side of the road. Off to the side, though, was a Saturday market: the choice was obvious. It was a very nice market, an excellent flower stall, some highly tempting plants (if I hadn’t been in Kings Lynn facing 3 changes of train, I might have bought a phoenix palm to keep the chusan palm company), a proper butchers’ and fish stall, lots of good stuff. But coming out of the other end, I found myself in a proper, scrotty East Anglian town (don’t remind me Lynn is in Norfolk, I know that. But my sense of that region is based on Cambridge and parts adjacent). Pound shops, amusements, poodle parlours, dodgy electrical goods, clothing that looked as if it’d fall apart on the second wear, and terrible decorative items, such as a window full of disturbingly lifelike moulded resin animals, up to and including a life-sized Alsatian, a mere four hundred quid. All of this busily going on just a few hundred yards from the empty, beautiful streets with the heritage in.