Well, it’s been an interesting few weeks. I finished teaching a couple of weeks ago, giving me some proper time to knuckle down to next year’s Nathan novel. But I’ve also had the chance to pay a short visit back to the UK in order to visit my Mum and Dad in South Wales. More than that, I’d also been very honoured to have been invited to the presentation of the Dylan Thomas Prize at Swansea University.
So, it’s all planned out and, early last Thursday morning, I set out for Treviso airport armed with a pocketful of tickets and a helpful “what to do now” document that Caroline had put together for me, just in case things don’t run to schedule and I start to get in A Bit Of A State.
There are a couple of potentially difficult moments further down the line… Mum and Dad live in West Wales and the rail service, beyond Carmarthen, is that area of the map marked “Heare be Dragones” where I have just four minutes to make a connection: making this connection marks the difference between meeting my dad in the pub, and the landlord’s cry of “last orders gentlemen, please”.
Still, here I am at Treviso with all my documents neatly folded, and my “Carta Brexit” tucked away inside my passport.
There’s just one thing that bothers me.
My passport. There’s something about it that just doesn’t look quite right. The cover seems to be a little bit less weathered than I remember.
Don’t be silly Phil. It’s your passport. Of course it is.
I flick it open.
Caroline’s photo looks back at me.
I close the passport. I open it again. I stare fixedly at the photo for about thirty seconds because that, of course, will magically cause it to switch.
For a moment, I consider the alternatives. Could I feasibly bluff my way through this?
No. If it were that easy, then Carlos the Jackal would have thought of it years ago, and the plot of “The Day of the Jackal” would have been considerably simpler.
There’s nothing for it but to go home. By the time I arrive Caroline – bless her – has rebooked my flight for two days later. There will be no Dylan Thomas Prize ceremony for me – not this year – but at least I’ll get to see Mum and Dad.
So there’s a cautionary tale for you – I think the lesson is, never travel without your other half. And if you do, then check that ever-so-important photo before you leave the house.
What else has been happening? Well, I hope to have some dates lined up for signings in July, but – in the meantime – I’ve been lucky enough to be the guest on a number of podcasts.
First up was an episode of John Bleasdale’s excellent “Writers on Film”, in which we had a good old natter about my love for vintage horror and Italian horror.
Next were two lovely Welsh guys, Gav and Stef. I joined them in their monthly battle against the Forces of Evil, when we discussed the idea of Euro horror and, in particular, two genuinely great films from Sweden and Spain – “Let the Right One In”, and “The Orphanage”.
And, finally, I was delighted to be involved in a discussion with my Crime Cymru pals Alis Hawkins and Gail Williams at the CrimeTime podcast, where we discussed, well, Crime. And Wales! And Welsh Crime (with a slight diversion via Venice).
‘But Phil!’ I hear you cry, ‘this is all well and good, but where is the “Prog” aspect of this blog title?’
A good question.
Well now <deep breath>, at this year’s online Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival, I found myself lucky enough to be on a panel with Mark Ellis, Mark Billingham and Barry Forshaw. We talked a lot about crime, the importance of place, the importance of period, the difficulties of men writing convincing female characters and… and…
…and, well, some idiot kept going on about Hawkwind the whole time. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll never be invited back again. Try and ignore him and concentrate on the chap with the sexy voice who does the voice-over on the introductory video. He’s good! I’m sure he’ll go far….
You can find the whole discussion here at
– along with tons of excellent panels from this year’s Crime Cymru festival. We hope to see you in Aberystwyth next year!
Well, that’s all for now. Caroline and I are heading off for the HeadRead literature festival in Tallinn next week. Lots of photographs will follow. And this time, I’m sure, all our passports will be in the right place….
Cheers for now,