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Archive for October 2016

Reading ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ in transit

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The book: A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James

The place: squished into a fake leather chair at Charles de Gaulle Airport.


I write this from the comfort of my Glasgow bed, but the wonky photo above was taken somewhere in the mists of Sunday morning, stuck in transit at CDG after my flight was five hours late leaving Freetown and so I missed my Glasgow connection and had to be rerouted via Birmingham, arriving home nine hours later than scheduled. Oof. I don’t know why but my departures from Freetown seem to be particularly fraught with mishaps; to recap:

  • When I missed my flight due to poor Sea Coach timing (entirely my own fault) and made the terrible choice to forego the $500 payment for a charter boat to the airport, insisting instead on going by road, which turned out to be a three-hour drive rather than the 90-minute drive I’d believed it to be, via six ebola checkpoints, allowing me to arrive at the airport just in time to see my plane take off and turn around for a disconsolate three-hour drive back to Freetown;
  • When I had my passport stolen and needed to rebook a flight in order to get an emergency travel document from the UK High Commission and then on the very morning of the day on which I was intending to get an afternoon flight I was going through the process of getting a replacement passport only to be informed by the clerk in charge that a mysterious flag had appeared on my file, which he was not sufficiently security cleared to access, resulting in him having to call London to get someone who was sufficiently security cleared to open it and read it to him, cue much silent panic on my part that finally my extensive travel to dubious places had caught up with me and I was going to be denied a replacement passport and would have to live in Freetown forever (it was fine; said flag turned out to be, basically this woman sure loses her passport a lot, what an idiot);
  • When Brussels Airlines cancelled my flight and didn’t inform me, meaning that I only found out when trying to check in for my flight the day before; Brussels Airlines were then completely uncontactable to multiple friends trying multiple numbers on multiple continents on my behalf, and the only way I could reach them was via bloody Twitter (Twitter! The outrage!) whereupon they told me without apology that yes my flight had been cancelled, no they didn’t know when they would next be running a flight out of Freetown, byeeee! (This was in the aftermath of the terror attacks on Brussels Airport, so I have some sympathy – but also, like, two weeks after, whereas Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi burned down and remained functional, so said sympathy is limited.)

Anyway it was all, as ever, fine in the end, and I made it home (to find myself locked out of my own flat, but let’s draw a veil) and am now enjoying late-autumnal Glasgow, which is always (sometimes) a joy. I don’t know how I’ve got so lucky this year but pretty much every time I’ve been at home the weather has been glorious, and now is no exception.

(Not much to say re. the book other than it is brilliant and dense and fascinating and bloody and richly deserving of the Man Booker.)


Written by Jess

October 25, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Reading ‘Crooked Kingdom’ in Freetown

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The book: Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

The place: Freetown


So I’m guessing that 2016 is just the year when I’m going to read almost nothing but young adult fantasy, and that’s OK. I have been berating myself for failing to read anything more ~challenging~ or gritty and realistic, but honestly, 2016 is serving up quite enough challenge and gritty realism on the political stage, and so escapism it is.

Anyway ARGH this book is so good. I read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy last week, and while I liked it a lot, it didn’t quite do it for me. But Crooked Kingdom, and its predecessor, Six of Crows, are right in my wheelhouse. It’s partly that I just like the protagonists more (even though, objectively speaking, they are far worse humans); and partly that it feels like Bardugo has just rolled her sleeves up, hunkered down, and waded into the thick of this story with great relish. (What an alarmingly mixed metaphor.) I am about a fifth of the way through Crooked Kingdom, and already prematurely traumatised that this is only a duology and there will be no more books after this one is finished. Who even writes duologies any more?! Monsters, that’s who.


Freetown is allegedly at the end of the rainy season, but it hasn’t felt very endy the past couple of days, and both yesterday and today I’ve been drenched in sudden downpours that have blown up out of nothing. As I was walking back from lunch today two enterprising young men pelted up to me with an enormous Africell umbrella that they had liberated from somewhere, and escorted me down the street until the rain slackened off. (I tipped them both handsomely for their efforts.)





During rain…


…and post-rain. Makes for some spectacular sunsets.

Written by Jess

October 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized