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UnknownIf you are wondering why I am blogging so much at the moment it is quite simple. Whilst I try to attract more paying work and build my blogging network into something that has some sort of financial redemption or income stream I am following the old adage “writers, write.” That is to say that the only way you get good at writing is to put pen to paper , develop your skills, find your voice, interact with readers and fellow writers and get your name out there in some small way. Blogging is almost the equivalent of the Victorian idea of serialising stories in weekly newspapers or monthly journals. It worked for the likes of Dickens and Conan Doyle so I’m in good company.

Talking of reading, Russia has been a theme of my current bedtime reads, not intentional but with the exception of books that jump out as must haves, normally music biographies and the like, I tend to buy from charity shops and pick up whatever title catches my eye at the time. It just so happens that the last two books I have devoured have been about trips across Russia. I have always been interested in reading about travel and peoples experiences in other cultures, it is probably linked to the hours I spent looking at atlases as a kid, drinking in the exotic names and the shapes of countries, who they border and where they lay in the world. A nerdy occupation maybe but this love of geography has enabled me to sort out my Arisaig from my Elbow Beach, Bermuda when looking at a map.

I read Fading Red Light by Hamish Wheeler pretty much in a day, and it was reading the first few pages of it over a light lunch that sparked off this previous blog entry. It is the authors account of his journey across the expanse of Russia in an effort to gain some life experience and to help provide subject matter, characters and thoughts to inspire him on quest to become a professional writer. It is the story of the ultimate road trip from St Petersburg in the west to Japan taking in every aspect  and trial that the great country could through at them from over official police to automotive disasters in the middle of nowhere, from high spirited partying to the almost total loss of morale and abandonment of the journey in the face of it’s enormity. It is however a great read, littered with history, humour and the hubris of a once great country being left to decay.

Slavomir Rawicz also covered almost the same journey only he did so in 1939 on his way to 25 years hard labour in a Siberian labour camp. The young Polish officer was accused of spying by The Russians even though he was engaged in trying to stem the German invasion of his country from the west. Along with six other prisoners, a mix of other Poles, Lithuanians and even an American, they managed to escape their prison, flee Russia and trek south through Mongolia, China, Tibet and finally to safety in India. The Long Walk is an amazing tale of survival and is positively Homeric in its scope.

Two very different books but a wonderful insight into travel, either willing or otherwise and the nature of that vast country both today in the not so distant past. Both highly recommended.