The long-faced ginger man opposite glances at my book title over his glasses.

I glance at his.

He’s also reading Calvino.

We both glance up and glance hurriedly away.

We sit for ten minutes on the train absorbed in our separate worlds. The reader of Calvino does not communicate to the reader of Calvino, except in terms of admiration of their joint idol. There is no room for discussion. It’s so rare to find a compatriot that criticism is restrained and smug warmth is silently shared.

That said, I felt the itch. I hadn’t actually seen which book he was reading. Of course, it was immaterial, we shared the fraternity of Calvino. But still, not all Calvino was brilliant; I wanted to see which book he was reading. He might not be a Reader, a true Calvinist, but just have picked it up and not be enjoying it. He could even be, Italo forbid, hating it! He could be hating me! If I could see the book title, I could find out. He couldn’t hate If On A Winter’s Night but I could understand boredom segueing into loathing at The Baron in the trees. Finding out wouldn’t necessarily alter my opinion of him one way or another, just give me more material for various hypotheseses. A quick glance should tell me.

But the train was pulling into Paddington. I duck and dived my head as much as I could, decorum willing, in a crowded train carriage. I couldn’t catch the name, the angle and the font obscured it and his hands were all over the front of the book. He stood to go and I caught a glimpse of the colours of the cover; greens, browns or reds I thought, which narrowed it down not at all.

And then he was out, speed-strutting down the platform edge, teetering outside the yellow line. I grabbed my clutter and strode after him, down short platform 14, past the gradually accreting stalagmites, through the lengthy stumbling crowds on long platform 12, past the giant Paddington bear in the lost property office and the curious wailing shutters of the staff area, around the bollards and tape, slaloming columns. I lost him behind a wall of dark coats in the underground, and felt immediately ashamed for chasing him at all.

A man who I don’t know, couldn’t care about, who I would never talk to whatever the outcome, produced all this in me by a significant glance, which might even have been unintentional. Rather, I produced this in myself by caring about Calvino more than I should and falling into a world like his. If on a spring morning, a traveller…

PC Plus – Customising Firefox

PC Plus – Customising Firefox: “While the PC Plus team entirely appreciate that the unifying power of Microsoft Internet Explorer is a fine and dandy thing for breaking Internet standards, we will admit that we’ve all hopped on the Firefox bandwagon with all the keenness of sharpened slates. The major advantages of Mozilla’s baby are its customisability; there are more extensions than a Rastafarian barber shop, and most are either useful or intriguing. We’ve gone through as many as we could, and present a handful of our favourites. We would recommend you don’t install all of these at once, however. Most haven’t gone through Firefox compatibility testing so there will be bugs if you bite off too many. “

A thing I wrote for PC Plus on Firefox Plug-ins, ages ago.

National Geographic Adventure Mag.: Caver Chris Nicola talks about uncovering a heroic tale of Holocaust survival.

National Geographic Adventure Mag.: Caver Chris Nicola talks about uncovering a heroic tale of Holocaust survival.: “Their first stop was Verteba, a well-known tourist cave where the families spent their first six months. There, the Jews struggled to find enough water and suffered from the toxic buildup of smoke from their cooking fire. Then on May 5, 1943, after narrowly avoiding capture at the hands of the Gestapo, the families relocated to a previously unexplored cave located beneath land owned by a local parish priest. It was called Popowa Yama, or Priest’s Grotto, and it would be the Jews refuge from the Holocaust for the next 344 days… one of the survivors, only four years old at the time, said she remembers playing with a bright, shining crystal in the cave. One of the largest crystals in the world is close to their campsite inside Priest’s Grotto, and chunks of it will sometimes fall to the ground. When we saw the crystal, we realized that that was where she used to play.”

Just came back from a book club where we discussed Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev. A young Hassidic jew grows up with a gift and desire for drawing, which earns him only the oppobrium of his family, though the artistic world acclaims him. I enjoyed it immensely, probably because I recognised the characters a little from my childhood – the most amazing thing was that it convinced me for a few days that I was living in a winter wonderland – I’d leave tube stations and expect to be walking out into snow drifts, I’d rub and blow my hands inside my fingerless gloves before realising I was actually too hot, not cold. The book’s ending is predictable, but it pulls no punches; I’d recommend it to anyone, though I’m too tired to describe why right now.