“London is so beautiful this time of year…”

So it must be said that things are hotting up here in Hive Towers almost to Vesuvius level… our Have the Last Word competition is definitely keeping our followers on Twitter and Facebook guessing as to who our mystery author could be. I’ll give you a clue too… his name was used a lot in the recent Crime Thriller Awards as a nominated author. Not that this gentleman is a stranger to winning awards anyway… but I won’t say anymore as le chat will be very firmly out of le sac in the next two days…. How exciting! You don’t get this every day now, do you?

Karl's diaries from when he visited the Seven Wonders of the world last year.

The last three weeks has seen the start of a new series of An Idiot Abroad, where comics Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send Ricky’s loveable-but-not-as-dim-as-he-looks former radio producer Karl Pilkington to various places around the world, where Karl is to “live out the dreams” of other peoples’ bucket lists. In true Ricky and Stephen-style though, there were some amendments; Karl gets to pick his choices out of a list of a hundred dreams, but these choices are then tweaked and expanded on by Ricky and Stephen, for visual pleasure and certainly not at Karl’s.

Last week he was sent on the Trans-Siberian Railway, right through to China, but had to endure sleeping “on a very tight and cramped shelf” that was the accommodation of third-class. No, no one else seemed to know there was a third-class either. In latest episode the dream was to go swimming with dolphins in Australia. As opposed to just flying straight out to Oz and swimming with the gentle creatures, Karl was made to stop over in Thailand and spend time with some Bangkok ladyboys, followed by going to a zoo and being mauled by lots of monkeys. Just when he thought this madness was over, he is finally flown to Australia, only to find out upon arrival that the reason he is being met with a large steel cage is because he is not going swimming with the afore-mentioned super-intelligent, peaceful, aquatic mammals, but the inspiration for Spielberg’s Jaws; great whites. It’s a far cry from his life growing up on a Manchester council estate in the 80s. Unsurprisingly Karl bottled his first attempt to swim with the whites, but eventually summoned up his courage and got in the water with the giant man-eaters.

So far it’s been a good series, but I have to say I have enjoyed the first series of An Idiot Abroad more; the contrast of cultures where Karl eats a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch in a poverty-stricken backstreet in China whilst the locals “look normal” feasting on scorpion, skinned frogs and dead fertilised chicken’s eggs is a lot more eye-opening to watch. However. If you follow Ricky on Twitter @rickygervais you will see that there are a lot more delights in store for us at Karl’s expense for the remainder of An Idiot Abroad 2. If you like their humour and indeed were a fan of the Office & Extras, then you will not be disappointed.

I was pleased to read about The London Bookshop Map, the first edition of which was published a couple of weeks ago and aims to support and spread awareness of local independent bookshops in London. It will subsequently be published every six months to allow for updates, and is free and available in bookshops and galleries around London. I think this is marvellous, though I’m a bit of a closet-cartographer anyway. Plus I love books. If you want to know more, click on the link at the beginning of this paragraph, and you can also go to their Facebook page too and get into it there. Anything that promotes independent bookshops and bookselling can only be a good thing, and hopefully this map will show Londoners and tourists who don’t know more about the independents in the Big Smoke. Good booklover-type-people of London; galvanise!

And if you want to know where there are good independent bookshops across our entire sceptred isle, then why not use this new map as engineered by the Guardian and its readers. A fun way by clicking on the coloured dots in different counties will ensure you see reviews and information about your local independent, or indeed any in the UK which are housed on it. You can submit reviews about your own experience in a shop, and create a funky coloured map pin for them too so other readers can see and spread the word about our great independents. Get travelling, I say!


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