Saturday, 2 February 2013

Ukraine, Travel Writing, and Secret identities

At the begining of the millenium I lived in Ukraine for four years. It's been a while, but I remember it perfectly.

 I remember very well the low-ceiling hall beneath Tolstova roundabout in Kyiv, accessed by subways from three main roads, that led to the metro station. Here, in the iron grip of winter, hundreds of people would gather to buy snacks and beers from stalls, smoke, listen to buskers, and even dance. When the thaw comes the crusts of filthy snow that line every road are ploughed into the middle of the street for cars to bump over and smash up.

In the summer, every beautiful, wrought iron bench in every park is full. The horse chestnuts on the main street in Kyiv flower, making it look as if the road is lined with beautiful candelabra. On Sundays the road is closed and people stroll along, dressed in their best. they drink beer, have their pictures taken with monkeys, and pay 10 cents to weigh themselves.

Hundreds of islands in the river, lined with beaches, become pleasure parks. Stalls and open air restaurants sell shashlik, delicious marinated pork kebabs.

When I got the job that took me to Ukraine, I didn't know where it was. Somewhere - roughly - between Japan and Germany. It turns out that Ukraine - as well as being the biggest country that is entirely within Europe, also holds the centre of Europe. It is a big, boisterous, beautiful, kind of backwards place, and I loved it.

I was always going to write about Ukraine, and now I finally have it makes sense that the hero is larger than life. Ukraine is also a very mysterious place, and sometimes adventurous, and so that's how I wrote the story.

These are both firsts for me, so I've started out with a short, 20,000 words, which has the lead, Ox Purcell, as a kind of metaphor for the country. Hopefully it's also quite funny.

As well as everything else, Ukraine is raw, unsanitised, and so the story is as well. For that reason I've used a pseudonym, and I've doubled down on the name of my main character, Ox Purcell.

This post is a tiny snapshot of the lifeof an observer  in Ukraine, if you want more, as well as mystery, comedy, and adventure, bad-language, and very bad behaviour, check out Weirdo Beach:  99cents only...


  1. great comments, small add on:
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  2. Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 provinces and one autonomous area known as Crimea. The country is home for forty-five million people. Ukraine occupies eighth place in the world by the number of tourists visiting. Ukraine is a most interesting country to visit in eastern Europe.

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