I’m just back from a couple of nights in Kathmandu, Nepal. Curious place. While Delhi is suffering an identity crisis, feeling like a confused fusion of Asian poverty and the modern metropolis it wants to become, Kathmandu is happy to be unashamedly dilapidated. Admittedly, ‘unashamedly dilapidated’ is unlikely to appear on any tourist brochures in the near future (though if you like it, Nepal tourist board people, call me, we’ll talk), but it’s no bad thing. It’s a sprawling mess of a city, but not without charm. It has the feel of having grown organically from nothing, with little planning or preparation, a vast maze of narrow winding streets crushed against each other. It’s a tangle of a place.
And the traffic? It makes New Delhi look civilised. There’s the exact same chaotic disposition towards the rules of the road (ergo, no acknowledgement that there are any), but the roads themselves are tiny, broken things, that you can’t help feeling enormously sorry for. If they were people, they would be on their knees, begging for your pity.
The flight back was probably the best bit. For a start, it was a clear day over the Himalayas, highlighting exactly why that beautiful region of the world holds such a spell over people. Then there was the Exorcist moment. Almost as soon as we touched down in Delhi, before the seat belt light went out, an Indian ‘gent’ wobbled to his feet about four rows ahead of me. He was in the aisle seat. If he’d coughed discreetly into his hand to make sure he’d arrested our full attention, he couldn’t have got it any more effectively. He turned his head very slowly to the left, opened his mouth, and, with no apparent effort, vomited copiously. It didn’t just splash to the ground, either. It shot across the aisle and hosed the three Nepalese guys sitting there. It was like a Little Britain sketch, and seemed to go on forever.
To top it all off, he refused to acknowledge that anything had happened at all. He staggered into the aisle and made for the toilet at the back of the plane (as every passenger aboard leaned as far away as possible). I thought he was going to get a kicking when he got back, but by then (thankfully) everyone was up and moving for the exit.
It’s a scene that will live long in my nightmares. And, possibly, in future fictions…
Speaking of which, when I got back from Nepal today, I found this waiting for me.
It’s the first proof copy, and I’m delighted at what a smart, gorgeous little book it actually is. A lot of the credit must go to the cover designer, Emma of snowangels.org, but the whole package looks superb. It made me bounce up and down a bit. You can’t see my favourite part of the cover in this image, but if you buy a copy, look closely at the pupils of the eyes, and the pattern of reflected light. There’s a tiny detail in there, something I requested of Emma that harks right back to the cover of the first edition back in 1999, and that’s she’s done a perfect job of.
It’ll be a week or so before the paperback has it’s own Amazon page, and then it will hopefully also turn up in other stores in the next couple of months. Between you and I though, if you want an early bird copy, you can grab one direct from the printer right now…