This Saturday, 21st Feb. saw my debut appearance on the shopfloor of Waterstones, Bath. Here I am seated at a small table in the act of signing books. The delightful lady joyfully examining one of the copies is my daughter Sandhya, whose unexpected arrival took me completely by surprise. It was a day of surprises and the unexpected.
There had been a write-up in the local paper a couple of days previously. I was in good company; I spotted the cover of my new book at the bottom of the page below an article on the Bath Literary Festival featuring its artistic director, Sara LeFanu; a cover picture of The Other Half Lives, 'an edgy thriller', by Sophie Hannah; ditto of Sir Menzies Campbell in conversation with Don Foster; and ditto of the forthcoming appearance of Melvin Bragg at Topping & Co with his latest autobiographical novel, Remember Me. Was inclusion in all this illustrious company pushing my luck just a bit far? And what about that headline for The Strange and Precious!; ''Miracle' author weaves love and sci-fi into her new novel." Some header! Well, I though, that's the Bath Chronic, for you. Hope no-one comes along on the day expecting blue smoke and a sparkling magic wand. But something even more extraordinary happened.
It certainly amazed me, anyway.
I had been told by Claire on behalf of the management at Waterstones, to expect people wanting to come up to talk to me about the book. I had to think about that: it's such a complex story I wasn't sure how to approach it. I wrote an Outline, printed out some reviews, compiled a sheet of background scientific research, and wrote an 'About Me'. On the Friday morning I did a few last-minute posters to pin up and took them into town. My write-up in the Chronicle had begun one paragraph; The Island, (which Plato claimed to be the last remaining tip of lost Atlantis,) is the setting for this many-layered story. This gave me an idea; something interesting, not to mention important, to talk about. I enlarged that quote, put it in context, and printed it out ready for the morrow. I'd also checked my emails once or twice in case anything important had come in. It had been a busy morning: I called it a day and had a lunch break.
Later in the afternoon, around 3.30 I checked my emails again. As I opened my BT/Yahoo page a 'breaking news' announcement popped up. I don't usually take much notice of popup news, but there at the top was this item headed; Has The Lost City of Atlantis Been Found? Astonished, I quickly printed it out in economy, b&w print, thinking, Here is something I can definitely use at the signing. The Island is certainly a place where Strange and Precious Things happen; I had already pointed this out when I gave my little talk at the launch, and here was yet another example - the universe presenting me with this last minute gift. But why not splash out and print it out in colour, I told myself. I opened up Yahoo again, but now, only minutes later, it had gone! The news item was no-longer there. I stared in disbelief, realising that if I hadn't opened it up just when I did, I wouldn't have seen it at all!
I felt quite miffed at not being able to have the colour version, but it occurred to me later that there was a way to go back onto the news archives, which I did. I'm so uninterested normally that I'd never looked this closely. But the synchronicity of the thing appearing at the exact moment I opened up and then disappearing again was amazing.
In the version I've managed to upload here the image of the sea floor grid is unfortunately difficult to decipher. And the text impossible to read. (I'll search for a better one later.) But, briefly, is says; "A perfect rectangle of criss-cross lines has been found 620 miles off the coast of West Africa. Is this the lost city of Atlantis? Bernie Bamford from Cheshire, UK found the figure while using Google Ocean to explore the sea. Its existence is even more perplexing as the grid is about 3.5 miled down.
Some believe it is the city of Atlantis, a great civilisation that Plato believed sank around 9.700 B.C. Dr. Charles Orser, curator of historical archaeology at New York State University and an authority on Atlantis said, "The site is one of the most prominent places for the proposed location of Atlantis. Even if it turns out to be geographical, it definitely deserves a closer look."