No two are alike – what the snow has to tell us.

It’s fuzzy and a little hard to see, but in this photo that @aliveeverywhere took last winter is something that’s supposed to be impossible – identical flakes of snow. I posted last year about Wilson Bentley, the most famous and all-time best photographer of snowflakes, and how he gave to the world the idea that…

Wind Resistance

The Artist Fights Back..? Being a long-time fan of the music of Karine Polwart and finding her performing a solo show at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, a literal stone’s throw from Vanishing Point’s Tabula Rasa at the Traverse, the decision of how to spend Saturday afternoon in Scotland’s capital was easy. First things first – Wind…

Tabula Rasa

Or, what music do we die to? Last night I attended the opening of a new co-production by the theatre company Vanishing Point and Scottish Ensemble. Being a hybrid of more than one medium, it’s hard to quickly explain what the piece is all about. Here’s what they themselves say: Two of Scotland’s foremost performing…

Walls don’t work

My favourite quote (of many favourite quotes) by the late veteran observer of life along the Mexican/US border, Charles Bowden, runs as follows. Bowden was interviewed for a radio program one night, not in a studio, but out in the Arizonan desert, in a national wildlife refuge near the border town of Sasabe. A couple…

I had a lot of lovely emails about Snow. And then there was this…

I post here, verbatim, the entire text of an email I received about my book Snow. I’m posting it as it shows what we’re up against, in some cases, in discussing climate change. Incidentally, there were no opening or closing formalities or pleasantries, there was just this. “Enjoy”. — London, in 1665, an epidemic began….

I made a playlist of snowy songs in lieu of the real thing.

It opens with the music the BBC used for the Radio 4 adaptation of Snow, as Book of the Week, and closes with a song written especially for the book by the excellent Bookshop Band. In between are some pieces of music I mention in the book, as well as some of my favourite other…

The final flake of snow

My short book on snow is being read on Radio 4 this week, and it sounds more like an elegy than ever. I wrote the text over a five months period, through the winter of 2015. The news of climate change throughout 2016 only serves to reinforce the underlying theme of the book – the warming of…

Top Ten Books about Borders

This article first appeared in The Guardian, October 19th 2016. A border is a question. In fact, a border poses a whole series of implied questions; such as “can you cross me?”, “will you cross me?”, “what am I doing here in the first place?” and maybe most importantly: “Will you be someone else on the other side?”…

The Enigma of Snowflakes

This post first appeared on the Waterstones’ blog.  There’s a scene in my favourite book, Thomas Mann’s epic The Magic Mountain, in which the protagonist, a young patient at a Tuberculosis sanatorium named Hans Castorp, is caught in a snowstorm on a mountain and nearly freezes to death. This is no great surprise, because Hans…

So many skulls, so little time…

Being a quick photo tour of Mexican skeletal iconography… It possibly all started with these guys: On the left, we have Mictecacihuatl, and on the right, Mictlantecuhtli, goddess and god of death to the Aztecs. They weren’t the only deities of death for the Aztecs, but were the most prominent. They don’t look so skeletal here, but here’s…

(Un)happy endings

I wrote before how, upon launching a new book, the same question starts to be asked about said book. With Saint Death, set in and around the somewhat infamous city of Juárez on the Mexican/American border, the first question that came up was ‘have you been there?’ Now that the book is published, and actually…

Why we all need a drink with Siggy and Carlos, on ‘The Couch’

I’ve already received a (less than charming) email asking why I have a gay couple running the bar in Saint Death. So here’s my answer: why not? That ought to be the end of the story, I think. But of course, it isn’t. There may come a day when such a thing causes no fuss but I fear…