From Lisbon to Hay

A view of the bridge in the distanceLisbon is sleepy and quiet at 8.30 in the morning when I set out in search of breakfast after a good night's sleep in a tiny apartment on Rua Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso. Back at the LS Factory, a complex of restaurants, boutique shops and Livraria ler Devagar, where we launched Landeg White's novel, Ultimatum, last night, the cobbled street between former industrial warehouses and factories is totally deserted. There's a light on in the one café offering breakfast, but they don't open till 9.30 and I've got a plane to catch this morning, so I wander a little further down the hill.

There's a neutral scent on this October day that is already winding up the temperature to compete with yesterday's 34°; a slight tang of salt and the beginning of leaf mulch. The tiled buildings haven't yet shrugged off the night and the spectacular Berardo Art Nouveau museum is still asleep, but there's a corner café that seems to have plenty of custom and when I tentatively enter, the waiter is quietly welcoming and helpful. Two good coffees, water and eggs will fortify me for the trip back and it's a place I can sit and read and journal while eating.Landeg White signing books at the launch of his novel, Ultimatum

An article I'm browsing talks about integrity, about how much more important integrity is than success. I resonate with that. I'm someone who says yes to too many things, takes on too many projects. I like being busy, but there's a line that I'm not always aware of until I've crossed it — I've taken on one (or ten) too many commitments because … well, a whole history there ☺ … but then I'm miserable because inevitably some of those projects simply don't fit with who I am and I've made promises that I keep rather joylessly. It's so different when I'm working on editing or mentoring a manuscript that delights, that pushes boundaries, that was written from passion, not a profit-motive. I know this and I'm increasingly making an effort to live as though I know it, which will be a life's work, no doubt.

Interior of the Libson bookshop where Ultimatum was launched When I walk back up the hill, the sun is becoming fierce and the street cleaners are busy; a scent like dying flowers swept away by clear water. I walk past my street to take a picture of the river and the bridge, then back to the apartment to pack and wait for the taxi to take me to the airport.

Tomorrow I'll be in Hay-on-Wye, back into autumn weather after a brief late summer hiatus to launch one of the most vital and powerful novels Cinnamon has ever published. Political posturing and the issuing of ultimata are no less with us now than they were in 1890, when Landeg's book is set. Slavery, racism and exploitation are similarly just as alive and thriving, but so too is the human spirit that resists, that makes promises out of integrity rather than weakness.

Since returning from an intensive writing retreat in Budapest in June, we've been thinking a great deal about the next phase for Cinnamon Press, who we are as a press and what kind of promises we want to make and keep. We've spent the last three months overhauling a lot of our admin systems and there will be more changes to come; good changes that keep us fiercely independent and creative. The times spent travelling are often the times when the deep thought processes that are needed if we are to keep improving take place — trapped time when thinking and writing flow and the next phase begins to emerge …

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Thursday, 19 October 2017