Wearing Thin

Wearing Thin

Late going home after minor delays,
you might be walking past
‘the worst guest house in England’
or a church’s backlit triptych of saints
and watching for nothing more grave
than a displaced traffic sign.
The whole town is doing its best.
Even now the river’s only troubled
by a cormorant’s neck like a snag.
Monumental Victorians rest in peace.
Behind these emphatic hoardings,
developments will occur.
Lifestyle smiles from every angle.

Some things are easier said than done.
Ignoring overheard remarks
or epidemic rumours turning heads,
you might be amongst the bustle and puff
of a delayed windowshopper’s
determined indignation.
You were thinking
how it might have been otherwise
when you were caught at the lights
with all hopes dashed
by a misread magazine headline:
You are what you were.

A version of this poem was previously posted online by Various Artists.

Obscure moments in the life of a home counties teenager

Given that there currently appears to be a resurgence of interest in the (un)popular music of the late 70s/early 80s post-punk years, when bands pursuing the 'anyone can do it' DIY ethic split away from the increasingly formulaic punk 'mainstream' and when teenagers in corduroy jackets and 'reinvented' 50s dresses began to identify themselves as belonging to something different to the groomed mohican and mohair jumper-wearing crowd, here's a modest selection of old footage that YouTube has recently dredged back to the surface...

Swell Maps: Midget Submarine
tinyurl.com/ygberkh


Cabaret Voltaire: Nag Nag Nag
tinyurl.com/cabsnag

Birthday Party: Release the Bats
http://tinyurl.com/partybats

The Raincoats: Fairytale in the Supermarket
tinyurl.com/raincoatfiarytale

The Pop Group: She Is Beyond Good And Evil
tinyurl.com/5dt5wz

Josef K: It's Kinda Funny
tinyurl.com/jkorson

Orange Juice: Rip It Up
http://tinyurl.com/collinstotp

Pere Ubu: Waiting For Mary
http://tinyurl.com/paubudanceparty

Elsewhere, perhaps, there was disco...

Sofia's speech


From 'Hotel Illyria', Tobacco Factory, Bristol, 2008
Fifteen years after the end of communism in an unspecified SE European country, Sofia reflects on the mixed fortunes of the hotel in whose grounds she runs a cafe not entirely unlike the one pictured above (which is in the grounds of the Hotel Dajti in Tirana, Albania).

SOFIA

Those summers at the Hotel Illyria... Cars pulling in at the gate. The good comrades down from the city. Ministers, generals, heads of this, directors of that. "Evening, Sofia," they'd say as they came into the foyer. "Welcome to the Illyria, comrade."

And the silver service was laid and the band were playing. And after they'd all gone up to change, they'd all come back down again, down the staircase... that huge, sweeping staircase... and always in order, of course. The most senior, the most favoured, right down to the ones who'd disappear the following year... I never worked out how they did that. How they arranged it so they all came down from their rooms in exactly the right order... Who told them? Who knew? They must have waited, each of them, in all their finery, ears pressed against their bedroom door, listening out for who was going past, listening out for their turn.

And when the Leader was here - the panic! Everyone tripping over everyone else, the maids and the police, the waiters and the bodyguards. And the maitre d' poring over this great list of instructions, looking for clues. Would the Leader be inclined to red or white wine this year? Fish or meat? Gravy or sauce? And he would have to choose and wait and sweat until that first meal was served, the first glass poured, and we'd all take up our stations in the dining room, hardly able to breathe, stomachs like stones, absolute silence... Until, yes, there it was: the first mouthful, the first sip... and that famous face - the one on every banknote, every stamp... there it was, unmistakeably, the Leader's half-smile... And then, when we were sure, the sound would come rushing back into the room like a shower of rain. And conversations would start. And orders be given. And the cutlery clattered and we'd be rushing in and out of the kitchens, fetching bread, fetching wine, fetching plates piled high with food... Of course, that was years ago. Before the Siguritate came here. Before they arrested the maitre d'. Pjeter. My husband.

Mostar and Sarajevo

Pictures from Bosnia 2009:
a) the plaque in Sarajevo commemorating the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914;
b) an as-yet unreconstructed 'new construction' in Mostar, shelled during the siege;
c) the park in Mostar - no dogs, no ball games, no guns;
d) Mostar's reconstructed - and laws of physics-defying - bridge. It's the early afternoon: the crowd at the balustrade is a coach party from Dubrovnik or Montenegro. A bloke from the Mostar Diving Club is about to jump.










Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Bookishness

For no other reason than that we're coming towards the end of the year and making lists suddenly seems to be the 'thing to do', here are some books I've read in the last twelve months (although many were published before that) which might be of interest if what's been posted on this blog so far has itself been of any interest at all.

Bohumil Hrabal: The Little Town Where Time Stood Still
Novel by the Czech author of the elegantly concise 'Closely Observed Trains' and slightly madly exuberant 'I Served the King of England'. This one revolves around a brewery, a woman with unfeasibly long hair and an uncle who almost compulsively smashes up furniture in a Europe about to fall under the shadow of various dictatorships. The most obvious comparison would be Marquez - but Hrabal is better at jokes.

Julian Evans: Semi-Invisible Man
Biography of the novelist and travel writer Norman Lewis ('A Dragon Apparent', 'Naples '44' etc). Lewis combined a love of Bugatti racing cars with campaigning for the rights of indigenous communities in South America and admirably refusing to play the literary 'game'. That, at least, is how Evans sees him.

Jan Morris: Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere
Travel book/lament for a city conventionally dismissed with the phrase 'faded grandeur' but where Freud went to study the genitalia of eels, Svevo wrote 'Zeno's Conscience' and Joyce caused a diplomatic incident within hours of his arrival (and is now commemorated by a bronze on an obscure footbridge). This, too, is the city from where Austro-Hungarian scion Maximillian departed for Mexico (and his firing squad execution, as most famously depicted by Manet) and where Archduke Franz Ferdinand's corpse passed through the streets on its way back to Vienna from Sarajevo.

Colin Thubron: Among The Russians
Account of a journey through the Soviet Union, when such a place still existed. Opens with an the phrase: 'I had been afraid of Russia ever since I could remember'. Arguably, one of the sanest travel books about the Communist bloc written during the Cold War (for contrast try Dymphna Cusack's 'Illyria Reborn' or, indeed, from a very different perspective, the Albanian chapter in Eric Newby's 'On the Shores of the Mediterranean').

Philip Marsden: The Crossing Place
Account of a journey through the Armenian diaspora and into Armenia itself. Particularly revealing for all those who 'missed' the Armenian genocide or are slightly perplexed by the stringency of the Turkish government's laws against even mentioning that it happened.

Ismail Kadare: The Siege
Despite an acceleration in publication since he won the Booker Man International Prize, only a very small number of the Albanian writer's novels are available in English translation. This is the latest, a reworking of a book previously published (during Albania's communist 'Hoxha time') as 'The Castle'. It's not difficult to tease out an allegorical interpretation of this tale of the Ottoman Empire's assault on an Albanian fortress. Hopefully, a translation of Kadare's most recent novel in Albanian, 'Darka e Gabuar' ('The Mistaken Dinner', at a stab), won't be too far distant as a French version has recently appeared. In the meantime, there's always 'The Successor', 'Broken April', 'The File on H', 'Agamemnon's Daughter', 'Chronicle in Stone'... Despite his relatively new-found fame in western Europe, Kadare remains a controversial figure in both Albania and SE Europe as a whole, largely because of his ambiguous relationship to the Hoxha regime (how did he manage to survive in the most repressive of repressive regimes without making some kind of 'accommodation' with it?) and his apparently enigmatic decision to leave the country on the eve of its 'democratic' revolution in 1991 (explained in his hard-to-find 'Albanian Spring'). For a glimpse of the arguments (and my minor incursion into them), see the review and subsequent letters at www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n17/thomas-jones/feuds-corner

William Dalrymple: From The Holy Mountain
Dalrymple was the only writer I saw at this year's Cheltenham Literature Festival who didn't bow to the prevailing genteel atmosphere and the carefully PR industry-nurtured habit of only drinking mineral water and not swearing on stage. I bought this on the strength of his confident flouting of convention and the disapproving 'harrumphs' from the audience (who, earlier in the day, had been quite happy to queue to get Cheri Blair and Harry Hill's signatures on their latest tomes). It's an account of a journey among orthodox Christian communities from Greece to Syria and Lebanon to Egypt; its descriptions of the similarity of the religious rites practised by Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East make the tenor of world politics in the last decade look even more woefully Swiftian.

Misha Glenny: McMafia
How Montenegro allegedly funded its independence from Serbia using the profits from its blackmarket cigarette trade and many other stories of organised crime's easy exploitation of 'globalisation', the 'tiger economies' and 'new capitalism'. The section on how to hack into anyone's computer using a Pringles tube is particularly worrying. If you come across this in paperback, don't let the tabloidy cover put you off.

Robert Elsie & Janie Mathie-Heck (eds): Lightning from the Depths
Anthology of Albanian poetry that ranges from excerpts from traditional oral epics and the poetry of the 19th-century 'national renaissance' to contemporary work. Breathtakingly diverse (imagine an anthologry of English poetry ranging from Milton to Prynne) and, given the confines of a single volume, necessarily episodic, but as good a selection as is possible in the circumstances when the editors (and translators) here are some of the very few people able to translate directly from Albanian into English.

Lloyd Jones: Biografi
Very odd book which its author originally passed off as a non-fiction account of his quest to find Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha's 'double', Petar Shapallo. No such person existed or, if he did, he wasn't called Petar Shapallo. Jones, though, does seem to have travelled to Albania in the aftermath of the collapse of communism but how much of the resultant book is fiction and how much non-fiction remains a matter of debate. Either way, on the eve of Jones's appearance at the Brisbane Writers Festival last year, The Australian newspaper (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/) took issue with him over playing fast and loose with 'the truth'. To make matters even more confusing, there used to be an article on-line which claimed that David Byrne (as in Talking Heads) had written the book.

Not entirely unexpectedly, very few of these books were actually available in a bookshop the last time I looked.
Without the brave and pioneering work of this shoestring charity, I very much doubt that today’s major tour operators would have the responsible policies of which the travel industry is now so proud."
Alison Rice, travel journalist & broadcaster and Associate Lecturer in Tourism and Media at the University of the Arts, London

Tourism Concern are an independent, non-industry based, UK charity. They work closely with partners in over 20 countries to ensure that tourism benefits the local people; they actively campaign against exploitation in tourism and human rights violations. As well as the quarterly Tourism In Focus magazine (also available in print in the Journals section), the website provides educational resources such as their online exhibitions, there are a range of DVDs, information packs, reports and research papers for purchase - check the Library Catalogue for publications by Tourism Concern. A links page includes details of related organisations in ethical tourism and general travel.

Become a member

Donate

Crisis Management

For literature on this topic, there are plenty of books and articles to be found in Athens. Here are a few more that I came across such as this article on Tourism Crisis Management. A guide has been produced by The London Development Agency and Visit London; this colourful presentation looks at destination crisis management with Phuket and Bali as case studies. A book on crisis management is available online which includes a chapter on the foot and mouth crisis. Tourism crisis development in Nepal is considered in this paper. Intute has quality resources that you may also find useful.

Come along to a workshop for further help with online resources.

Two Poems

Something like an epitaph

And so now we will have to try and find the words,
we three, sitting here, dumbstruck, the weekend
before Christmas. What we depended on has gone:
there's no talking our way out of this. For once
your silvered laptop keyboard has nothing
to offer. His obituary won't write itself.

Almost exactly square patches of sunlight
interrupt dinner-party table, terracotta walls:
they won't join up. Midway through our lives,
we're simply sitting in so much stripped pine,
welcoming distraction - doorbells, kids,
the slightest circumstantial change.

It won't go away. Silence is goading,
a crackling socket in need of fixing.
Whatever it is we'd rather not say
sits tight between sofas, remote controls,
the lifted plunger of a half-warmed cafetiere.
The garden drops away towards another life.

Are we fated to this? I wouldn't go so far -
only damned to it, this frost-clear Sunday,
we're clutching at smart puns, unlikely
recollections, these few tapped-out thoughts,
the things he might have said or done with us,
friends not being friends, really, until now.


European Union

At first it might have been coincidence
that we heard so many car horns
shifting through the Doppler effect,
or checked in at hotels where girls
in Sunday best held hands and sang
interminable folk tunes.

Only, the following day, new couples
emerged from a scaffolded church
with candles lit, and family groups
assembled in a park for photographs
where filigree blossom coincidentally
obscured the Stalinist backdrop.

Thirty, forty weddings eased
from ceremonies to pose
beneath late-flowering cherry trees,
anticipated pleasures, and advice
they'd hardly need, being of an age
where all has seemed to changed.

Such innocence again around the square,
these brand new starts, this expectation,
Romanian sunlight on dove-grey dresses.

Indigenous Tourism

A special edition of the London Journal of Tourism, Sport and Creative Industries has been published recently, with a focus on current themes in indigenous tourism. Contents include:
  • Touristic encounter, identity recognition and presentation
  • Indigenism, tourism and cultural revival among the Pataxo people in Brazil
  • The Maya Spirit : tourism and multiculturalism in post peace across Guatemala
  • Keeping tourist performances indigenous in Bali and Bhutan
  • Maori cultural tourism or just being ourselves? Validating cultural inheritance
  • Authenticating discourses and the marketing of indigenous identities
Register for alerts when future editions are published.
Access this edition

Tourism Insights

A variety of topics are covered in recent articles to include:
  • Do music festivals contribute to local tourism?
  • Accessible tourism - hosting the Olympics/Paralympics
  • Seaside hotels : planning and development
  • Iconic buildings and tourism
  • The Chinese outbound travel market
Tourism Insights is a non-Athens resource.

'Private' beach, Budva, Montenegro


A small beach in Montenegro

"Russians," he said, with an air of bitter-sweet regret. "Too much, eh? Too much?"
I was clearly expected to agree but, seeing as we were swinging around hairpin bends on the mountainous coast road to Budva at the time, it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the possibility that my son might be about to projectile vomit all over the taxi's leather upholstery.
This journey hadn't been part of the schedule. Having crossed the border into predictably rugged Montenegro from the relatively gentle mayhem of Shkodra in northern Albania, we'd had time for several cups of coffee outside Podgorica railway station before sitting out on the platform to wait for the train down to Bar and a spectacular journey through the mountains to the Adriatic coast. In a suitably dilapidated train, we'd rumbled into tunnels, and out again into valleys that took your breath away and around the brimming banks of lakes where fat men in swimming trunks were casually tossing fishing lines. At Bar, we tried and failed to find the only hotel that the guide book could bring itself to recommend.
"What do you want to stay here for?" asked the first taxi driver who picked us up. "Big money! Try this instead."
He dropped us outside what looked like a cross between a 1970s dole office and a vandalised primary school. The curtains were like shrouds; they blew out through the holes where the windows should have been. As we walked away, another cabby U-turned across the dual carriageway and then snorted with identical scorn when we mentioned the other hotel that the guide book recommended.
"Big money! Pah!" he said, even more emphatically than his colleague. "Where are you going anyhow? Budva? Kotor?"
Before we knew it, we were on our way to "somewhere much better" out of town. A petrol pump attendant filled our tank and waved us through without bothering to ask for money. It was as if having westerners in the back of his Mercedes were enough to grant our driver carte blanche. He took to the coast road with a derring-do which verged on the insane. After several more U-turns and tunnels, we were hanging over Sveti Stefan, the island resort much favoured by the likes of Sophia Loren. "It is presidential resort," announced the driver.
Hotels clinging to sheer-sided slopes came and went. They were all, he went on, built and owned by Russians. Somewhere around a hair-pin, and just beyond policemen hanging over a hundred-metres drop to look down onto a car crash, we arrived in Budva. This was where, the driver decided, we should stop. After some daredevil rubber-necking, he slid into the traffic heading into the resort. He'd been talking about delivering us further north in the old Venetian city of Kotor but he'd obviously lost interest. It was much too far. Instead, we swooped through lumbering coast road buses and, just past a half-finished apartment block, pulled up in a side street where the Hotel Kangaroo announced that it might or not have vacancies. God knows what the answer would have depended upon because we didn't have much choice. No sooner had the taxi rolled to a halt than a woman with far too many wrinkles for her age and a Japanese T-shirt leapt up from a table where she'd been drinking espresso very slowly, and, via the taxi driver's halting translation, announced that she had a room where we could stay. A short walk from the beach, amongst guesthouses overspilling towel-wrapped Serbians, Russians, Ukrainians and, since the political wind was still blowing in that direction, Slovenians, Bosnians and Croats, we were shown into a bare, four-walled cell kitted out wth a broken 80s ghetto blaster and a plug socket held onto the wall with gaffer tape. Naturally, we took it.
Budva itself was a ruin waiting to happen. In the absence of planning permission, a narrow strip of habitable land between the mountains and the sea was being rendered entirely uninhabitable. Adventure sports addicts who had no idea about where they were staying, other than that it was relatively close to an EasyJet airport, floated down into the bay on paragliders. The concrete skeletons of hotels were going up everywhere and the deeply stacked stalls along the waterfront sold everything from candy floss and shark's teeth to dodgy DVDs and ripped-off designer clothing. In the marina, photogenic yachts were moored beneath a gigantic hi-def TV screen.
In a bar in the old town, we sat drinking beer and were immediately distracted by a bulbous Russian oligarch with a half-shaved skull, a pony tail and a seventeen-year-old girlfriend in a bikini. Gift shops sold 'traditional' handicrafts and, in a cafe just down from the unvisited Archaeological Museum, we tried very hard to choose a salad that wasn't produced according to a recipe sent out across Europe from the restaurant franchise's HQ. People had come halfway across the continent to buy telling Balkan fragments and were going home with mass-produced necklaces, T-shirts and recorders. On the waterfront, the immigrant workers charged with sloshing out the bilges of the oligarchs' floating palazzi sat at tables knocking back glasses of indeterminate raki while impressed tourists took their picture. Under the trees, there were people selling cardigans, traditional knitwear and fish. A small sea bass wilted under the streetlamps outside the Hemingway Bar.
The town's only treasure was its library. Up in the castle, where teenagers forced into traditional dress handed out tickets that nobody bothered to check, there was a room full of locked cabinets. Each one contained ranks of books: English, French and German volumes about the difficult history of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. Nobody would agree to open the cases so I lay on the floor, scribbling down titles onto the backs of free postcards, each one half-blotted out by sweat, each one, hopefully, on Google Books. Outside, on both sides of the high Venetian ramparts, swimmers dived off the white stone walls into the bay.
Across the water was an island known as 'Hawaii'. It looks like that: a sudden volcanic apostrophe rising out of the sea. We followed a path round the headland towards a 'private' beach where, having handed over three euros for the privilege or 'privacy', we picked a route across the crowded strand to find a metre or two between American backpackers reading John Irving novels and the canvas shower cubicle where overweight Russians came to gossip before they washed off salt and sand. It was so hot you could hardly walk down to the water. We tiptoed around like ballerinas while the beach cafes thumped out turbofolk. Under the water, the only dangers were dumped beer cans, shiny-white between the lumps of rock. Looking back towards the beach , I couldn't help noticing a woman stood on the shoreline, arms outstretched, looking towards where her children were splashing around in the sea. Her husband called her back towards the bar. As she turned, the slogan across her buttocks was plain to see: 'Cool!' - the message and the medium perfectly out of kilter.

Originally published on-line by Various Artists. Reposted here with thanks. Tom Phillips

Shkodra, Albania





Shkodra: The now abandoned Lead Mosque (top); inside Rozafa Castle (middle) and the view across Lake Shkodra towards Montenegro (bottom).

VisitBritain News

If you haven't already, you may want to sign up for VisitBritain's fortnightly e-newsletter which features tourism news, upcoming events, insights and statistics. You may also want to catch up with Arrivals, a quarterly round-up of VisitBritain's market intelligence and research.

The legend of Rozafa Castle

What's left of Rozafa Castle stands on a rocky promontory just outside Shkodra in northern Albania. It overlooks the flood plain where, before the river burst its banks one too many times, a bazaar used to be and where the only sign of this stretch of damp, flat land's former life is the hollow carcass of a mosque. A taxi driver will take you up the steep twists of the castle approach as far as a car park just below the gates or you can walk from the musty, communist-era hotel in the centre of town, stopping at the rank of new shops and cafes on the outskirts for a coffee and an ice-cream in a novelty 'Punky' plastic figurine. Across the dual carriageway, a lane lunges up in zigzag slashes across the promontory, past walled orchards and a primary school which still has communist slogans pebble-dashed into concrete blocks in the playground.
Rozafa is one of Albania's effectively impregnable citadels. Its history involves numerous sieges and, in the fifteenth century, it was the last fortress to surrender when the Ottoman Empire was crushing the rebellions inspired by goat-helmeted Albanian warlord Skanderbeg. When Rozafa castle fell, Albania was consigned to Ottoman occupation until independence in 1912.
These days, Rozafa is the domain of school parties who plod around the ramparts clutching garish flags and flocks of in-bred pigeons which hobble across the courtyard by the castle museum, their feet hidden by strange sprays of grey feathers. The views are spectacular, there's a chapel which became a mosque and then became a chapel again, and the castle bar is staffed by boys reluctantly wearing traditional dress. Access to the museum is determined by the electricity supply. When there's no power, you'll get in for free but you won't be able to see anything.
The legend of Rozafa is the story of the third builder's wife. Three brothers, it seems, were building the castle but the section of the wall they were building repeatedly collapsed. At the end of their tether, they were relieved when an Albanian version of a djinn turned up and offered a 'deal'. The wives of these three brothers came up to the castle every day, bringing lunch. Should the first wife to appear the following day be incarcerated in the wall, the castle would be finished. The djinn asked the three brothers to swear that none of them would forewarn their wives. They did so but two of them, of course, immediately broke their promise and told their wives to stay home all day. The third, though, kept his word and, the following day, watched while his wife toiled up the promontory to deliver his lunch. He promptly told her that she was the one who had to be immured to guarantee the completion of the castle. Remarkably, she agreed (or was forced) but only on the grounds that, since she had a young baby to feed, a small hole would be left in the wall, through which she could breastfeed her child. Even to this day, milky water is said to seep from various holes in the walls of Rozafa castle.

Ornithology in the Balkans

Ornithology in the Balkans

It wasn't the Muslim weddings that took our eye
on that alluvial floodplain so much
as bent-wire cages under every tree,
goldfinches' less than common soliciting
beside trapped black squirrels and a dove.
At xhiro hour, along streets of dark stairwells,
the hawkers were out, their not so fair trade
drawing buyers who swooped on bargains
and took promises of health and long life
as just so much hot air. On the fly,
you might have been taken in
by flashes of iridescence or plain song.
Above the mountains of another country,
the rumoured eagles were predominantly crows.

Because, at one time, there was more
than some doubt, above the disputed town,
its castle flaunts a history of sieges
in so many collapsing balustrades,
and the milk-white dribble between stones
which is said to seep from the breast
of the wife sacrificed to complete it.
Across the promontory's ruined terrain,
we were trying to work out which wall
had belonged to which religion
when, against the faithless sky,
a squadron flew in: dandyish pigeons,
bred for it, stumbling around,
hunting down a roost in feathery galoshes.

The first one

At this stage, a broad statement of intent would be unwise. Suffice it to say, the putative title of this blog was going to be Working Progress, something of a hedge between work-in-progress and a broader, vaguer optimism - but that had already been snaffled by someone else and, on reflection, it does rather sound like the title of a particularly bland Labour Party manifesto. Perhaps, in fact, the Labour Party were the ones who snaffled it first.
I imagine, then, that the contours of this 'whatever it is' will emerge over time but, for the moment, it will mainly feature bits and pieces of writing which will probably be by me but which might well also be contributed by other writers later on. These bits and pieces - poems, fiction, theatre, travelogue etc - may be in a more or less finished state. That depends. Sometimes it's interesting to see work-in-progress; other times it isn't. Likewise, it's sometimes interesting to read about the process behind a piece of writing and, at other times, that can be as dull as the dullest ditchwater. Or, indeed, that metaphor itself. Other posts might not have anything to do with writing at all.
What this won't be, however, is a wide-ranging blogzine like the continually thought-provoking Eyewear (http://www.toddswift.blogspot.com/) or a blogsplurge of dietary habits, relationship stress and what happened on 'The X-Factor' this week. Recreation Ground sits somewhere in between, like an underused all-weather tennis court beside the mainline between Euston and Glasgow, exactly, in fact, like the underused all-weather tennis court which sat beside the mainline between Euston and Glasgow at the head of 'the rec' in the village where I grew up. Just down the slope is the 'impossible' (or, more accurately, pointless) cricket pitch carved into the side of a hill and the knackered old pavillion with a stopped clock sitting like a cake decoration above a verdigris-scrawled balcony.
Today I ate sausages for lunch and tried to upload my wife's photograph to her Facebook account.

LeisureTourism.com

Recent articles have included discussion of the following:

In sport/leisure:
  • Digital gaming
  • Street cricket
  • Winter sports in Canada
  • Twenty20 cricket league in the USA
  • Sport nutrition for endurance athletes
  • The claimed benefits of losing Olympic bids
  • Legacy plan for Glasgow's Commonwealth Games
  • Importance of television money to sport in the UK
  • Sports club membership boosts physical activity in young people
  • Economic impact of the 2015 Rugby World Cup to England
In tourism:
  • Casino tourism in Louisiana
  • Trophy hunting in Namibia
  • Bathing quality of beaches
  • Hotel service quality
  • HRM in travel and hospitality industries
  • The economic value of Liverpool's' museums
  • Effects of the economy on theme parks
  • Heritage tourism in Wales and Scotland
  • Travel websites/online V. traditional travel agents
  • Links between business travel and company profits
  • Impact of the global economy on Caribbean tourism
  • Pro-poor interventions in the tourism value chain
  • Internet search behaviour of hotel customers
  • The impacts of the influenza outbreak on Mexico's tourism industry
  • Risks to wildlife in the Galapagos from disease vectors spread by tourism
LeisureTourism is a non-Athens resource.

Conferences

Nation Branding: a global movement supporting the better stewardship of national identity - 12 Nov, London

3rd UNWTO/PATA Forum on Tourism Trends and Outlook
- 15-17 Nov, China

Cities as Creative Spaces for Cultural Tourism
- 19-21 Nov, Istanbul

SAANZ Annual Conference: Death, dying and bereavement stream - 22-24 Nov, New Zealand

Sustainability, Climate Change and Tourism Seminar
- 25 Nov, Bournmouth Uni.

Harnessing Events & Festivals for Tourism
- 26 Nov, Leeds Met Uni.

Navigating shifting Sands and Moving Mountains: New Paradigms for Tourism and Tourism Education?
- 2-4 Dec, Peak District National Park

17th ENTER2010 - 10-12 Feb, Switzerland

Corporate Watch

This is a US-based organisation which reports on non-ethical practices in corporations; industries covered include Food and Agriculture, Media and Entertainment, Retail and Mega-Stores and Tourism and Real Estate. The Issues section covers consumerism, environment, globalisation, health and labour. There is also a useful page which provides tips on corporate research.
The Society for Applied Anthropology aims to promote the integration of anthropological perspectives and methods in solving human problems throughout the world and to promote recognition of anthropology as a profession. The website provides abstracts from a number of their publications including Human Organization and Practicing Anthropology. There are a number of fulltext reports and papers available too.
A student poster competition has once again been launched by the SFAA. Broadly based on the theme of tourism, awards for the best posters will be presented during their annual meeting taking place next year.
Deadline for poster abstracts - 1st November.
As part of Blog Action Day, which has focussed on climate change this year, I've decided to talk about the Maldives. These islands with a reputation for luxury, sunshine and warm hospitality have a sad fate awaiting as growing sea levels creep up over these 12,000 low lying islands, most of which are just 1m above sea level. There is a real fear that the Maldives will at some point, become uninhabitable. The tourism industry there is also under threat; as Ali Rilwan, executive director of local environmental NGO Bluepeace, commented, "Our natural asset is the beauty of the islands. If the proper measures are not taken to protect these islands, I don't think the Maldives as a tourist destination can be sold as it is today." Although coral reefs offer some protection, the Maldives took a battering during the 2004 Tsunami and also suffer from regular flooding and tidal surges; together with rising sea levels, the islands will literally drown
more...


A big welcome to all new and returning students! Once you've had a chance to settle in and started thinking about research for that first assignment or your dissertation, consider using a wider range of resources. There are books of course - once you have your reading list, check to see if any are available as ebooks (via Athens). Journals are also an essential part of academic research and again, many of these can be found online. The great benefit of using Athens is the ease in searching and finding information in a fraction of the time.

There are numerous videos and dvds covering a range of topics, that can be watched in the Library. We have collections of company reports, maps and newspapers. There are many more resources to be found online including market research reports, magazine articles and international newspapers.

As so many of these resources are online, it is essential to know how to utilise these effectively. Online resources workshops will be offered throughout termtime beginning 5th October. Times and days for these will be displayed on your notice boards. Just drop in, no need to book and we'll be able to help with your research query.
This event is aimed at everyone in the leisure industry. It will include live demos, education and conferences with high profile industry speakers, as well as the Sport Show which supports Sport England's pathways for Grow, Sustain and Excel. The Sport Show will include an exhibition, live demonstration, an extensive education programme and much more with 3 core themes which are Increasing Participation, Developing Infastructure and Improving Performance. Click here to register.

View highlights of last year's show here.


The future of


Birmingham World Cup Bid 2018

Show your support for Birmingham by voting to try and bring the FIFA World Cup here in 2018.

Intute is changing...

Following extensive market research, the people behind Intute have been busy updating the website - so what will change? The home page has been given a face-lift and now display the new 19 subject headings, which will provide a simpler navigational structure and are aligned to university courses. There will be 31 updated Virtual Training Suite tutorials released shortly; these will have more graphics and exercises, making the tutorials shorter and easier to read. The search facility is still there and MyIntute provides the option to save searches and receive email alerts of new records added in your subject area.
If you missed the recent Play the Game conference in Coventry, you can replay the whole thing; view on demand streaming as well as presentations from the conference. The main conference themes can be found here.

Conferences

Dickens and tourism conference - 11-14 Sept 09, University of Nottingham

Business & cultural tourism in metropolitan areas - 13-15 Sept 09, Warsaw

Int. cultural tourism conference - 23-24 Sept 09, Finland

New paradigms for tourism and tourism education - 2-4 Dec 09, Peak District National Park

3rd Int. Conference on destination branding & marketing - 2-4 Dec 09, China

2nd Biennial conference IATE - 11-13 Dec 09, Thailand

Int. conference on sustainable tourism - 22-25 April 10, Crete & Santorini

Festivals & events research : 'state of the art' - 14-16 July 10, Leeds Met.

Liminal landscapes: re-mapping the field - call for papers; email Dr Hazel Andrews for further details
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JUPTRR

Published in cooperation with the National Recreation and Park Association, the Journal of Unconventional Parks, Tourism & Recreation Research is a new online journal with articles which challenge conventional ideas on leisure. They encourage submissions of papers from anyone interested in these subject areas; a special issue next year will explore dark tourism more...

Sport England Strategy 2008-11

A new report has recently been published by Sport England which sets out its strategy for community sport in England, in the run-up to the Olympics. Following extensive consultation, Sport England aims to develop a new community sports system to ensure they support the growth in the numbers across communities playing sport, to spot and encourage talent at an early stage and to provide all those taking part in sport with a quality experience. The new strategy also highlights the roles played by the three key bodies in sport - the Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, and UK Sport.

So...who's got the Best Job in the World?

You may remember me mentioning this in an earlier post; well, the worldwide search is now over and in case you've been wondering who got the job, you'll be pleased to know it was a Brit - Ben Southall. He has recently flown over and started his blog. Here's the original video application he submitted. Find more info on the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland here.

Back in business

We're back in the comics commentary business! Check out our new blog:

Dates for your diary...

Many of these conferences also have a call for papers:

ENTER 2010 conference
- 10-12 Feb 10, Switzerland

International conference on sustainable tourism
- 22-25 April 10, Greece

Emotion in motion: the passions of tourism, travel & movement
- 4-7 July 09, Leeds

CENTOPS tourism & climate change conference
- 8-10 July 09, Eastbourne

Tourism in a changing world : prospects and challenges
- 11-14 Sept 09, Greece

EuroCHRIE 2009 - 22-24 Oct 09, Helsinki

Researching coastal & resort destination management
- 19-20 Oct 09, Catalunya

Consumer behaviour in tourism symposium

- 15-19 Dec 09, Italy

Great British Walks

If you missed any of the issues in the Great British Walks series in the Guardian/Observer last week, you'll be happy to know we still have copies for you to have a browse through. Topics covered in the supplements are Film & Music, Art & Literature, War & Politics, Engineering and Architecture, Lost Worlds & Legends and Castles & Churches.

Metrotwin

If anyone out there's planning a trip to London or New York this summer, you'll be interested to know that both cities have been recently twinned, the result of which is a website that provides some of the best places to visit. An extension of this site is Not For Tourists which is specifically written by locals, for locals. It reveals hidden gems that you may not find in some guidebooks and the recommendations come from experts, both bloggers and online communities. Just remember to keep it yourself...

Matthew Boulton Bicentenary 2009

An exhibition commemorating Matthew Boulton's diverse achievements as an industrialist will be highlighted from 30th May to 27th September at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Boulton was also one of the founders of the Lunar Society, a group of great thinkers and inventors who met at his home Soho House.
Not sure how to get there? Then hop on a history bus...

Find out more...

VisitBritain News

Issue 1 of Tourism Trends Quarterly is now available online. It provides a summary of the latest available tourism data for the UK as well as a look at the issues which are shaping these trends.

Another new publication is 'Arrivals', highlighting summaries of primary research carried out by VisitBritain. Contents include how the credit crunch is affecting inbound tourism, the views of young European people on Britain and changes in inbound tourism over the last 40 years.

Previous to this, VisitBritain produced 'Visitor's Voice'. All previous editions of this can be viewed on this page. Articles discuss a range of topics such as the 'Open Skies' agreement, Britain's cultural heritage and the rise of sports tourism.

Lonely Planet praises Birmingham...

..."Huge regeneration projects have revitalised the industrial landscapes and canals that criss-cross the city; now there are more glamorous shops, swanky bars and hectic nightclubs than you can shake a bargepole at...Established cultural and architectural gems dot the city centre and planners keep coming up with ever-more-innovative makeovers, such as the striking post-industrial Bullring shopping centre...Cities like Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham have become vibrant and cosmopolitan places with lots to offer."
David Else (2009) 'Great Britain'.

Journals - Human Kinetics

A number of sports journals by Human Kinetics are now available in fulltext online. Just click the Non-Athens link on the left of the Library page in Blackboard, choose A-Z list of resources and then Human Kinetics. Titles include Recreational Sports Journal, Journal of Sport Management, Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism and The Sport Psychologist. We've about a dozen relevant titles for you to search and browse.

Sports News

FC Business is a market-specific magazine aimed at the football industry; the website includes various items of interest such as these articles on physiotherapy in football and ticket touts and interviews with prominent figures in football such as this with Arsene Wenger.

A seminar entitled 'Player & Coach Development' will take place on 21 May at the Banks's Stadium in Walsall, find out more

Enter a competition to design a logo for London 2012.

West Midlands Tourism Campaign

A £25m plan to promote tourism in the West Midlands has been launched today. The campaign will encompass various projects; one of these will see the Department for Work and Pensions aiming to increase skills needed by the region's tourism industry. An advertising campaign featuring Warwick Castle, Henry V and the humble Cadbury Creme Egg is due to hit screens across the country soon more...

Flights Online 2009

A new report by Webcredible reveals that Ryanair and Monarch websites are least popular with users whereas British Airways and Virgin Atlantic appeared to offer best levels of usability. Download the full report here

Britain Walks on the Web

If you need to find the best routes for walks around Britain, want to know what to do with a compass, or if you just fancy climbing a mountain, then this article will point you in the right direction. Featuring the most useful websites which cover a range of issues such as advice on buying the right pair of boots or best places to take young children for a walk.

A Sporting Future for London

With the hope that the Olympic Games will become a catalyst to encourage participation in sport by all sections of the community and help tackle issues such as obesity, ill health and crime, a new report by the Greater London Authority sets out how the Mayor of London plans to achieve these goals.

Tourism Crises

An article by David Beirman entitled 'A Strategic Approach for the Global Tourism Industry to Overcome the Global Economic Crisis : a 10 point plan', is now available online. David Beirman is a leading tourism destination crisis and recovery management specialist and is author of 'Restoring Tourism Destinations in Crisis'.

'Post Crisis Marketing', an article by Dr Peter Tarlow, can also be viewed online. It discusses the importance of developing a tourism crisis recovery plan and how to communicate with the media following a crisis. Dr Tarlow is a specialist in tourism sociology, tourism safety and security. He is currently the president of T&M.

In the News...

A medieval football game in Cumbria is under threat by supermarket development. It's played in the port area of Workington by hundreds of people whereby two rival teams attempt to hail or lodge a specially made football over the gates of Workington Hall. Despite Tesco threatening to take over the main pitch, supporters of the game are planning to keep the game alive more...

The International Cycling Union is ready to prosecute its first cases of dope users. It's 'biological passport' programme was launched last year but had so far not caught any cheats more...

The Birmingham open-top tour bus is back in operation again following a 13 year break, offering a variety of tours to attractions around the city. Read the story on how it was put back on the road, here...

Also back again this summer, will be the beach in Chamberlain Square. With more than 110,000 visitors last year, it will again be open daily for 10 weeks to include live music performances in the evening more...

New publications

Research Highlights have published their latest newsletter which includes a special feature on climate change and tourism as well as market studies on China, India, Russia and Japan.

The Euromonitor Global Trends Report considers forecasts for North America, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Following the recent National Tourism Summit organised by VisitBritain and DCMS, the final report has been published which provides a detailed view of the current state of the British Tourism industy including a SWOT analysis and a 10 point strategy for Britain. VisitBritain's latest newsletter provides details of conferences, events and tourism trends containing statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Frommer's list of top destinations for 2009 has now been published and is available online.

The new Journal of Tourism Consumption and Practice is available online; articles include:
  • Is Wellington environmentally friendly?
  • Engaging Auschwitz: an analysis of young traveller's experiences of Holocaust tourism
  • Edward Lear landscape painter and Italy
  • Moving with the times: visual representations of the tourism phenomenon
Also includes book reviews and conference reports.

Destination World news carries a feature article on customer loyalty.

Tourismos - new issue

The latest issue of this journal are now available. Contents include:
  • Tourism demand in Catalonia
  • The relationship between personality, gender & hotel departments : Turkey
  • Tourism taxation & environmental quality in a model with vertical differentiation
  • State & tourism planning : a case study of Cambodia
  • Tourism as a stimulus for sustainable development in rural areas : Cyprus
  • The importance of strategic stakeholder management in the tourism sector
  • Domestic tourism in Iran
  • Motivations of young volunteers in special events

Dark Tourism

Recently, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was unveiled at nine historic sites across the US, five of these at Pearl Harbor. These focus on the events leading up to Pearl Harbor through to the Peace Treaty in Kyoto Bay—with the emphasis on the historical events of World War II in the Pacific Theater and its impacts on the mainland. A website showcasing the major events and people of WW2 in the Pacific is under construction...

Another memorial to those who have died during times of conflict, is the Linen Memorial in Ireland. Names of those killed are embroidered onto handkerchiefs and these are then hung and displayed to form a monument.

"Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders" is a website containing a collection of digitised crime broadsides that will be of interest to anyone with an interest in the history of crime and punishment. This collection of over 500 broadsides comes from the Harvard Law School Library.

Tourism Insights

Recent articles include:
  • Segmenting the tourism market
  • Linking to the cruise industry
  • Historic towns and tourism
  • Corporate hospitality in the economic downturn
  • The effect of the recession on the hotel sector
  • Visitor centres: meeting the challenges of the 21st Century
  • Transport in historic towns
  • Case study: East Midlands tourism's approach to the family market
  • Skills & training - the forgotten ingredient for future growth
  • Surviving the recession: lessons for the independent hoteliers
  • Visitor perceptions of public transport in London
  • Complaint handling - a guide to best practice
  • Tourism & the proposed Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009
  • The case for public funding of tourism

Tomorrow's World, Consumer & Tourist

VisitScotland in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University have produced Tomorrow's World, Consumer & Tourist a report on sport tourism. This has been inspired by the forthcoming Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014. With a focus on sport tourism in general, research carried out has resulted in many charts and tables of statistics based on research carried out in Scotland with comparisons made with the UK and Europe. Issues discussed in this paper include who the beneficiaries of sport are, self-improvement, charities and volunteering.

Leisuretourism.com

Here are some of the recent additions to Leisuretourism.com (non-Athens resource):

Some of the brief articles look at:
  • Measuring aggressiveness in sport
  • Liverpool as Cultural Capital
  • English coast under threat
  • Demand for agritourism in the US
  • Namibia tourism
  • Safety and injuries in adventure tourism
  • Fair Trade and African tourism
There are also a number of special reports which include Food and wine tourism in Australia, Travel habits and the destination positioning of Costa Rica, Economic impact of baseball, Tourism and handicrafts, Valuing tourism spend from national parks and Adventure tourism and adventure sports injury.

Featured papers include Interactions between outdoor recreation uses; Americans travelling for health care; Sustainability criteria and rural development; Sport opportunities in India; Cruise ship tourism in Pacific development and Female travellers.

LJTSCI

The second edition of the London Journal of Tourism, Sport and Creative Industries is now available online. Contents include:
  • Creating service opportunities using mobile phone technology in museums
  • Community attitude to Barbados' alternative accommodation initiative
  • The benefits of using student volunteers for small businesses in the event industry
  • The use of social networking within the sport and exercise sciences
  • The development of limited overs cricket: London's loss of power
Here's the link to the first issue, and a page to register for future alerts.

Dark tourism

Interesting conversations have been taking place on the dark tourism research forum, such as whether slum tourism can be considered to be dark tourism, the motivation for dark tourism, topics used for research on dark tourism, the prevalence of the London Dungeons and Auschwitz as focuses for study and ideas for dark tourism in Paris.

A Discussion Paper Tourism to Places with a Difficult Past discusses recent research trends and concepts in heritage Tourism, dissonant heritage tourism, thanatourism, dark tourism and holocaust tourism. There is a call for papers for the Death, Commemoration and Memory conference which will take place on 24-25 June at University of Edinburgh and a Titanic Memorial Cruise is planned for 8 April 2012.

The Sage Handbook of Tourism Studies by T. Jamal (available in Quick Ref at 911 JAM), includes a chapter by T. Seaton entitled "Thanatourism and Its Discontents".

An archive of The War Tourist newsletter is available here. It concerns itself with recounts of places visited by a war tourist, focussing on the great fortifications of the two World Wars and provides practical information for those who may be interested in visiting the places themselves.

An article in the Guardian discusses the experience of a group of young people in Auschwitz. Another article follows pupils travelling to Auschwitz as part of their study, here.

Green Space

A guide has been produced by Greenspace Scotland which provides support for those wishing to conduct a health impact assessment of greenspace; it also considers the role of greenspace in improving health. On a similar note, the Mayor of London and CABE Space have developed a report entitled 'Open Space Strategies - best practice guidance'.

For those interested in urban planning and public space design, there are a number of case studies on the CABE website as well as publications, teaching resources, events and news.

A research paper by Dr Mitchell published in The Lancet recently has found that physical activity in green spaces might be instrumental in reducing socio-economic health inequalities.

Hidden Europe magazine

Recent editions of Hidden Europe contain articles of various little-known regions, including the following:
  • Germany: the Moselle valley
  • Velebit (Croatia) - Edith Durham
  • Eurostar connections - Transdniestr
  • Moravian Brethren - checking airline routes on the web
  • Istanbul's western districts
  • An English Eden: Tresco
  • The children of Golzow: Germany
  • Exploring the European ArcticPoland: Poznan blues
  • France: murals in Angoul√™me
  • Turkey: discovering Allianoi
  • Baltic: the Curonian Spit
Browse the archive
There are a number of forthcoming Fairtrade events taking place locally including:
  • Film night - 2 March, 7-9pm
  • Fairtrade buffet - 5 March, 8pm (both at University of Birmingham)
Fairtrade futures: can Fairtrade transform global trade?

- 2 March 7-9pm at the Hippodrome, Banana-eating world record attempt

- 6/7 March at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

For further details, have a flick through the Forward newspaper,

page 4.

Travel Talk Radio

Travel Talk Radio provides the latest news and interviews from industry figures; these include Peter de Jong, President and CEO of PATA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association. He discusses the rapid growth in Asia Pacific travel and the challenges of achieving environmental and human capital sustainability.The interviews are available as downloadable MP3 files.

New Papers

Two new papers have been developed by Sabre Travel Network and PhoCusWright and are now available here. The publications are entitled:
  • Best practices in travel business intelligence
  • The changing role of travel management

These are based on two years of research and interviews with corporate travel managers and buyers, as well as detailed reviews of travel data management systems from travel management companies, GDS providers and third-party developers.

The Center for Hospitality Research have produced an article entitled 'Using tourist travel habits and preferences to assess strategic destination positioning'. It considers how consumer preferences and patterns of consumption can be used to reveal the status of a particular destination in its life cycle. The Plog destination life cycle model has been applied to consider the destination positioning of Costa Rica.

The Canadian Tourism Commission has produced a toolkit entitled Experiences. It offers advice to those wishing to offer an experience as a tourism product. It discusses the difference between a tourism product and a tourism experience, research methods to identify potential customers and ways to position/communicate the product. There are also best practices from the industry outlined in case studies including Canadian Mountain Holidays, Nimmo Bay resort, Uncommon Journeys and Lighthouse Picnics.

Registration may be required to access some resources, but access is usually free.

Play the Game 2009

The title for this year's Play the Game 2009 conference is Visions for Sport in Times of Crisis. It is to be hosted at the Centre for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University from 8-12 June. Themes include:
  • Ethics in governance: Will sports federations come clean?
  • Between Beijing and London: Mega-events as drivers of development
  • Business battles: The power struggles in football
  • Match-fixing: A blow to the core of sport
  • Terrible teenagers? Sport’s quest for the hearts and minds of the youth
  • Anti-Doping: Will the technological arms race come to an end?
  • Paralympic athletes: More different than the rest?
  • Sport for the Good: What is it good for?
  • Open forum
There is still time to submit papers, the deadline is 31 March.

VisitBritain news

VisitBritain's marketing planner tool can help create a personalised marketing proposal targeting overseas or domestic visitors. There are hundreds of opportunities available including meet the trade and media workshops, niche campaigns, the opportunity to work in partnership with well known non-tourism brands and many more. The system also allows users to select the best opportunities to reflect their business objectives and budget.

Trends in inbound tourism to the UK can be compared with those for other destinations during the current year by taking a look at the Destination Trends Data here.