RIP Reginald Hill

I read from barely two people on Twitter that ace crime novelist Reginald Hill, auteur of the Dalziel and Pascoe crimefighting duo, has died. M’learned colleague Stephen Tall has a nice post on the subject, bemoaning the quality of the TV adaptations of his work.

For me this was not an issue, for although I was aware of the adaptations I have never seen either incarnation.

I had however read a few of his novels over the last few decades, and so was able to choose his work when I went on my long French road trip in 2005. It is always a pleasure to encounter the first time an author you really like with an extensive series of novels you can get your teeth into when you get time. I have a slight completist streak, mainly when it comes to the unproductive side of life such as crime novels and TV series.

So in 2005, in preparation for six weeks under canvass on my own in France, I bought a crate of Reginald Hill novels, almost all of his books that had been in print some time, and systematically set out to read them in order. I had particularly been looking out for the Ursprungsroman of the gay character Sergeant Wieldy, which is referred to obliquely in many subsequent books. I have definitely read it, enjoyed it at the time, and have no detailed memory of what happened in it.

I ended up tearing through the crate of books, burning up the D-cells in my tent lantern so I could read through the night, and ultimately read the six weeks’ worth of books in only three. The structure of my holiday was such that I took a holiday from my holiday to return to England halfway through for a stag do so was able to ensure that a whole new stack of Amazon 1p special secondhand books was waiting for me when I got there. I moved on to reading all of Sue Grafton’s alphabet books.

My route took in my dear friend, my former French teacher, and conversation there turned to novels, and I found out that despite her northern heritage, she had never read the Yorkshire classics. We ultimately effected an exchange – and my crate of Hill novels was handed over and in return I got a big pile of Georges Simenon novels – the Maigret books – in French. I fear that crate has languished neglected somewhere ever since. I hope it’s in the attic and is OK.

To return to Reginald Hill, it seems such a shame that so few people are talking about it. So few people have mentioned it on twitter, and I haven’t heard officially on the BBC news on either last night’s 6pm bulletin or this morning’s lunchtime headlines. And the Wikipedia pages are somewhat incomplete, with most Dalziel and Pascoe novels not having a page of their own. Which is a shame.

Pathetic Fallacy

Pathetic fallacy is a literary or filmic device where the weather reacts to the plot, ie in some Goethe story where the river breaks its banks when Sorrowful Werther tops himself, or something.

So, storms as I drive home seems a bit dramatic.

Baking hot in Boulogne today, but tipping down with rain in Dover. For the entire journey north from the M25 I was about 30 miles behind an enormous storm with thunder strikes and lightening ahead of me all the way. As I got to the Nottingham motorway junctions, I caught up with the storm and the lightening was all around me from the motorway to my front door. The rain whipped up to a high-speed-wiper deluge and ran in rivers down the A453. We had to slow almost to a stop in several places as the road practically became a ford.

Unpacking the car was fun. Camping gear and the results of my booze shopping spree are now spread around the house waiting to be put away. And drying off.

Looks like one of my computers has blown up whilst I was away. Bah. Will open ‘er up tomorrow and boot up a spare for now. That’s why I never throw anything away. Redundancy.

My knees are peeling

After all this time in France, including in the south of France, I managed to avoid sunburn. My arms are nicely brown.

Until a day spent in a chair in the shade in Brittany when I burnt my legs to a crisp. Bah. I’d forgotten how uncomfortable sun burn is.

Legs much better now. Shorts always were a stupid idea.

A fire for St John on the Kervillen beach near CarnarcI’m weeks behind on explaining where I’ve been: haven’t told you about the Drome or Nice, or alpine driving. I also stopped off in Carnac in Brittany, and saw an impressive ‘Feu-St-Jean’ ritual where a fire was lit on a beach as the tide came in underneath it.

After that, a glorious week in Normandy and two nights in Paris.

Ferry home from Boulogne later today.

Bordeaux? Bordel!

I had to drive for 12 hours straight to get to a position to be able to write these words.

I never meant to go to Bordeaux but I got horribly lost on the motorways between Perpignan and Perigeux. Four motorways go into Toulouse, and I managed to get on the wrong one out, getting past the toll booth before I realised. Rather than getting back on the motorway in the other direction for another attempt, I took small roads all around Toulouse to get back the motorway I actually wanted. When I finally got back to a toll booth on the right motorway, I took a moment to try and look at my map before heading off.

Unfortunately, a hitch-hiker took that as a signal I was prepared to give her a lift, and lept into my car. (A welcome sign, at least, that there will be room in the car for P when I pick him up from the airport next week…) I was basically too embarrassed to tell her to bugger off. Hitch-hiker was headed for Bordeaux, I was headed for Perigeux, so I challenged her to look on the map for me and decide where she would like to be dropped off.

There wasn’t really anywhere that suited. The motorways split between where I wanted to go and where she wanted to go pretty much immediately after the toll booth and went in different directions. Since all that really mattered to me was that I head generally northwards, I told her I didn’t mind heading to Bordeaux instead and we set off in that direction.

I’m generally in favour of hitch-hiking. From a green, environmental perspective, it uses up an otherwise empty space in a wasteful journey. I also like to do random good turns from a zen / good karma perspective: what goes around, comes around. Maybe one day, I’ll be stuck for a lift and someone will help me out. It’s also vaguely Christian along Good Samaritan lines. Where it breaks down is when the person you help is not seeing it from such rose-tinted specs lines and tries to rob you along the way. I’ve certainly been taken for a sucker that way several times before.

This specific hitch-hiker didn’t seem very bright. I’ve a niggly feeling I know more tenses in the French language than she did (1), but in fact, since she sat in almost total silence for the entire journey, except to point out at one stage when I’d taken a wrong turning that I was perhaps headed in totally the wrong direction. (She was right.) Still, I think I brightened her day. I bought her a sandwich when I stopped to fill the car up with petrol. I didn’t get the impression she was eating very regularly so offered to get her something. She didn’t twig that the main reason was to get her to come with me to the cash desk “to choose a sandwich” rather than leave her sitting in my car, stuffed with all my nickable kit, on her own, whilst I was out paying.

I eventually dropped her off near the St Jean railway station in Bordeaux, and went on to try and find a hotel for myself. It was time I got an internet connection for a night, apart from anything else.

I tried maybe 8 hotels around the station. All were full. There’s a “Vinexpo” going on in Bordeaux at the moment, and everywhere is fully booked. Eventually, I went back to my car, dug out my Hotel Ibis handbook and phoned round the branches in the near vicinity. Eventually found somewhere 100km away that could accomodate me, so signed up.

And hear I am at Hotel Ibis Saintes. Multimap says I’ve done 361 miles today. Factor in the circles when I got lost at several stages and round up to 400. It’s gone midnight, and I’m sitting here eating the remains of an olive loaf I bought a couple of days ago and a tin of evil strong beer that should hopefully knock me out for the night.

And all I saw of Bordeaux was a railway station and a vague glimpse of a cathedral spire. No time to go back!

(1) I know, or at least I was once taught, some really obscure ones that don’t get used apart from in 18th century literature.


I’ve taken the Petit Train Jaune for most of its length to Font Romeu, a ski resort high in the Pyrenees. Problem: I’m here for one hour only until the only return train. And it’s tipping it down!

I’ll spend a wee while re-acquainting ,yself with the french keybopqrd lqyout in qn internet cqfe, then see if I can get some coffee somewhere warm.

Since last posting, I’ve spent two nights in Provence, driven through the Alps to Nice, driven right around the Med to Montpellier, and then driven inland to Vernet les Bains.

I’ve now driven over 2,000 miles in France.

More info and pics at a later date.