Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Senegalese Suitcases and Sabrage in St James – Dianne Hofmeyr

Dates suddenly loom in my diary after great, big, white, open spaces of nothingness. April 23rd is one of them. I have this blog due and two workshops and a book launch (not mine).

Months ago when someone asked me to do two G&T sessions, I thought I was being invited to a drinks party. It turned out to be two sessions for Gifted and Talented boys in Year 9 and 10.

They’ll tower over me. I write for Year 7.
They’re just slightly older.
Could I do Egypt? I’ve written some novels set there.
We need something more creative.
Caves? I’ve this novel about caves. It could take them into the future.
Been done.
Suitcases? Their hidden past. I’ve a short story about suitcases. (Should I mention it’s also about apartheid and an abortion?)

Suitcases it is! I’ve this Senegalese suitcase (actually from Goree Island which has a bleak a history as apartheid). The case is made from tuna tins and is lined with comics of hyena’s speaking French. Inspirational enough for a Gifted and Talented Year 9 or 10?

Now Thursday 23rd April is upon me. I’ve this blog to write, visuals to prepare for the writing sessions and need to work out how to make the widget on ABBA post this blog tomorrow, instead of today.Tomorrow will be chaos. I’ll either arrive hours too early or hours too late.

When it’s all done and the boys have produced their inspired pieces of writing, with Senegalese suitcase in hand, I’ll race across London to St James to sip champagne and munch chocolates in the Alfred Dunhill shop for the launch of my friend’s book. (How come I never get a launch in Dunhill?)

The story’s about a skilled martial artist who is a stealer of chi. (proceeds from the book to be donated to a fighting initiative for Afghan women – CPAU Fighting for Peace.) And with martial arts in the air I’m hoping to see a fine display of Sabrage - the ceremonial opening of Champagne bottles with a sabre being sharply slid along the body of the bottle toward the neck so that collar lops off with cork intact. (the art is in finding the seam I’m told.)
The technique was popular in France when the sabre was the weapon of choice in Napoleon’s fearsome Hussar cavalry. Napoleon's spectacular victories across Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. One story goes that the tradition started when Madame Clicquot inherited her husband’s Champagne estate at the age of 27, and entertained Napoleon's officers in her vineyard. When they rode off in the early morning with their complementary bottles of Champagne, they would open them with their sabres to impress the rich young widow.

Maybe I’m pushing it. Sabrage in the Alfred Dunhill shop is perhaps a step too far... all those impeccable pieces sprayed with Champagne. But all the same, look out for my friend Natasha Mostert’s book, Keeper of Light and Dust…

What is the greatest desire of all?
In the death choked corridors of Palermo's famous catacombs surrounded by eight thousand mummified corpses, a young man asks this question. His answer will set the course of his life and take him on a journey into the heart of darkness. A brilliant quantum physicist and chronobiologist who’s devoted his life to the study of chi - this gifted scientist, is also a skilled martial artist… and a hunter. Drawing on the knowledge contained in an enigmatic Chinese text written by a legendary Chinese physician in the thirteenth century, he preys on martial artists who are blessed with a strong life force, draining them of their chi and making it his own.. But the hunter becomes the hunted when a mysterious woman enters his life.

Harper's Bazaar dubbed Keeper of Light and Dust as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ and chose it as a Hot List Must-Read-Book. (Natasha’s pervious book, Season of the Witch, won the Spread the Word: Books to Talk About Award on World Book Day 2009.)

Perhaps after a day like the 23rd April with Gifted and Talented Year 9’s and 10’s and French-speaking hyena’s and the possibility of sabrage in St James, I need to hold on to my chi.


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

oops I see I didn't get the post widget right. I should have put in the date and time but not actually posted it. Sorry... didn't mean to take over today's blog!

AnneR said...

Keeper of Light and Dust sounds great - I'll look out for it :-) And your suitcase is a thing of wonder, Dianne - how could it fail to inspire G&T boys? (I had a similar proto-alcoholic moment when my daughter, years ago, came home from school and announced she had to go in early on Wednesdays for G&T. It's a comprehensive with a very mixed social intact, but really - at breakfast time?)