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Will Buckingham's Wayward Things #5

November 2019 Edition

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Welcome to the November 2019 Edition of Will Buckingham's Wayward Things!

Добър ден! And hello from Bulgaria,

A little behind schedule, as this month has been deadline month! My next book, Hello Stranger: Stories of Connection in a Divided World, is almost finished. By the end of November, I will be sending it off to my editor at Granta.

As much of the month has been spent in furious editing, this newsletter will be shorter than usual. But this month there are some updates on the various projects I'm involved in, a nice piece about the night sky from Nautilus magazine, a couple of links to things I've written online for the BBC and Southeast Asia Globe about Myanmar, a breakfast recipe from Iraq, and some music and books to enjoy.

I hope you have fun with this months's Wayward Things. And see you next month for the Christmas edition!

With all best wishes,


What's new...?

At the beginning of November, I relocated from Greece to Bulgaria, where I will be for at least the next six months. So I've now traded in my Greek textbooks for Bulgarian ones.

Here in Bulgaria, there a lot happening. I'm running some creative writing courses in collaboration with Sofia University, along with my Wind&Bones collbaorator Hannah Stevens. I've also got a few lectures and talks and workshops lined up. And I'm hoping to keep up my Greek connections as well—it is just a short hop across the border.

I'm also enjoying the brilliant street art, like these two orthodox priests, spotted round the corner from where I'm living.


At Volvi Refugee Camp

Just before leaving Thessaloniki, Wind&Bones were at Volvi refugee camp in Northern Greece, running a creative writing and storytelling workshop.

We worked with young people, most of whom were from Afghanistan. It was a hugely moving experience, and our first workshop with RTI. We're hoping to do more work together with RTI later on in 2020.

At EmpathEAST 2019

At the beginning of November, we stumbled bleary-eyed off the bus to Bulgaria, had an overnight nap, and then headed to Plovdiv where we were lucky enough to spend four days at the EmpathEAST forum for empathy-driven social change.
EmpathEAST is run by the wonderful Bulgarian NGO, Ideas Factory. The event was three days of workshops, lectures, art events, music and friendship, and was a great introduction to life here in Bulgaria.

With our Wind&Bones hats on (metaphorically speaking — we don't actually have special hats, at least not yet), Hannah and I gave a lecture on the stories we tell about ourselves and others, why they matter, and how we can find ways of telling new stories. We also ran a manifesto-writing workshop with a brilliant international crowd of writers, artists and activists.

Courses at Sofia University with AFEAS

We've hit the ground running here in Bulgaria with a course on life-writing and memoir.

The course stars next month, and we're running it in conunction with Sofia University's Academic Foundation for English and American Studies. There's more info on the Wind&Bones website.

Something interesting from around the web

Nautilus Magazine: Falling in Love with the the Dark

Last year, we were lucky enough to be in Bulgaria for the Perseid meteor shower. We were staying in Veliko Turnovo, and a small band of us climbed up the hill—accompanied by a trusty local dog who led the way—to watch the meteors streak acrosss the sky. We lay on our backs in the long grasses on the top of a hill, quiet except for the occasional ooohhh and aaahhh!

Bulgaria is good for spotting meteors. Over a decade ago, when I was first thinking about my Bulgaria-themed novel The Descent of the Lyre, I travelled to the tiny village of Shiroka Luka, and sat at the back the guest-house drinking Bulgarian brandy as the sky filled with shooting stars.

So I wanted to share this piece from Nautilus magazine on night, on the sky, and on falling in love (again) with the dark.

Writing from elsewhere...

I've had a couple of pieces published elsewhere this month, both about Myanmar, and both about curious Burmese religious beliefs. The first is from the BBC, and the second the Southeast Asia Globe.

How To Move One Thousand Ghosts

I'm especially proud of this one, which is a piece I have written for BBC travel online about the military operation to remove 1000 ghosts from the capital city of Nay Pyi Taw. Here's the opening.

Captain Aung Khant, of the Burmese army, leaned back in his pink plastic chair. He was a handsome man in his 40s with a relaxed military bearing. We had just met, and I was immediately intrigued by him.

There are some people like Whoopi Goldberg who are close to ghosts,” he said. He pulled on his cigarette and smiled, gauging my reaction. “They are ordinary people, but they have a special ability. They can tell the spirits it’s time to move.”

You can read more on the BBC Travel Website.

Spooky Porridge in Yangon

"I spoke to Burmese friends about the porridge. They confirmed our fears: it was black magic..."

The second Myanmar-themed piece is something I've also been working on for a while, about gentrification, witchcraft, and a bowl of very suspicious porridge that we found one day in our apartment in our little corner of Bahan township when we lived in Yangon.

This piece was published in the Southeast Asia Globe. You can find the link here.

From the Kitchen: Ahmed's Broad Beans

We've spent the last couple of weekends with Meeting Points. They are a great Bulgarian organisation, who do a lot of work with refugee and Roma communities. Last weekend, we went on a food tour of the Middle Eastern groceries of Tsar Simeon street with Vesy and Diana who run Meeting Point.

It was a feast of spice, friendship and good food. Ahmed is a friend of Vesy and Diana, and runs of the Diyala grocery. He was generous enough to share this recipe for breakfast broad beans, Iraqi-style. The addition of cardamom and lemon juice is a stroke of genius.

1. In a bowl, soak 250g of broad beans overnight.
2. Drain the beans and transfer into a pot with plenty of water. Season with salt and boil until beans are tender but not mushy.
3. While beans are cooking, chop 1 medium-sized onion in small pieces and fry it until caremalised. Drain and set aside.
4. Drain the boiled beans, reserving the water.
5. Tear 3 pieces of lavash bread into medium sized pieces and dip into the broad bean water for a second or two. Transfer to a plate. Top the plate with the drained beans and onion. Season if needed.
6. Scramble three eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. When ready put on top of the beans.
7. Melt some butter in a small pan until brown and nutty in flavour. Drizzle generously on top of the dish.
8. Sprinkle with the ground cardamom. Serve with lemon wedges.

What I'm Reading...

Philosophical biographies are often a mixed bag. But I recently devoured Sue Prideaux's I Am Dynamite, and absolutely loved it.

It is a beautifully written—and absolutely fascinating—account of Nietzsche's life, his work, and his times. And it provides some unflattering, but intriguing, insights into the reasons behind Nietzsche's falling-out with Wagner.

Even if you are not a Nietzsche fan, it is well worth a read.

What I'm Listening To...

One of the highlights of EmpathEAST was the inter-generational party held in a Plovdiv sports hall. There were grannies! There was home-made village wine and food! And there was a guest appearance from the Bulgarian singer Mimi Nikolova/Мими Николова! Now 82 years old, Mimi is famous for introducing the Twist into Bulgaria in the 1960s. The Bulgarian Twist, apparently, then went on to take much of the rest of Europe by storm...

Here in Sofia, we can't get enough of Mimi's back-catalogue. You can find a lot on YouTube. Here's her version of Somethin' Stupid, or in Bulgarian Нещо необмислено (which translates more accurately as something like 'something rash', or 'something headlong').
That's all for November. I hope you've enjoyed reading. I'm getting back to the book manuscript. See you in December for some Christmas-themed fun!

До скоро!

Will Buckingham

About me

I am a writer, philosopher, researcher and teacher of both writing and philosophy. I write non-fiction, fiction and children's books. I'm interested in the places where philosophies, stories and lives intersect. Currently freelance and based in Thessaloniki, I am represented by Emma Finn at C+W Agency in London.
Will Buckingham's Wayward Things is a free, monthly digest of things I find interesting, curious or worth sharing.
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