Saturday, 29 October 2011

Post-cruise blues

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker and Jack Steel)

Just a short follow-up to my previous post:
The following day we arrived at Gatwick to fly to Venice, and at the airport I found a convenient hobby horse onto which I could climb. I turned on my laptop just to see if by any chance there was a wireless system there which I could log onto without making a significant dent in my credit card. The third one listed said ‘FreePublicWiFi’. Now, I don’t know about you, but to most people that name would suggest that members of the public could log on to a wireless network without paying a fee, right?
            Actually, wrong. I’ve tried logging onto such networks around the world and every single one I’ve tried has been anything but – not free, not accessible to the public, or in some cases not even a wifi network. But I tried anyway. Gatwick didn’t disappoint, though in a way that I hadn’t expected. It was accessible to my laptop, it was free and it was a wireless network. In short, it did, as they say, do what it said on the tin. What it didn’t do was what I – and what anybody else who logged on to it – would reasonably have expected it to do: it had no access to the internet. Or to anything else.
            That, I have to confess, rather puzzled me. Why, in the name of all that’s reasonable, would anybody have gone to all the trouble and expense of setting up a wireless network at a place like Gatwick, and then disabled access to the internet? What, exactly, were they trying to achieve? What was the point? Apart from pissing off the passengers, obviously, which they certainly managed to do in my case.
            But the cruise was as good as we’d hoped, with calm seas and excellent weather apart from the day the ship was in Naples, where the skies produced torrential rain all morning but brightened considerably during the afternoon, when we drove back along the Amalfi Coast. The ship, the Crystal Serenity, was just as delightful the second time around, the destinations were all interesting, and I had good audiences for my lectures, which always helps.
            Then we flew back to Heathrow from Barcelona. I had a couple of meetings in London, and I definitely knew I was back in England when the illuminated sign in the train announced: ‘Welcome aboarl thas service to Sevenoaks.’ General literacy obviously hadn’t improved while we’d been away …
            The publishing schedules roll around seemingly quicker than ever. The delivery date for my next book is Monday 31 October, so it’s just as well that it’s almost finished. That’s the next ‘James Becker’ novel for Transworld, and I’ve also got a little under two weeks to go through the page proofs of The Titanic Secret, the first ‘Jack Steel’ novel for Simon and Schuster, which has just been sold to the American arm of the same publishing house. Then there’ll be the editing to do for Transworld over the following two or three months, as well as writing the next two books for these publishers, because I’m now back to doing three novels a year.
In fact, it might even be four, because my agent – always a font of really good ideas – has suggested another possible plot that sounds interesting. If it works, that’ll mean another nom de plume and probably another publisher, but it all depends on the book working, and him selling it.
And on me finding the time to write it, of course.

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