East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Salvaging water-damaged books

Two weeks after spending a weekend in fear of the river coming here and soaking all my books, I received a second-hand volume I had ordered a while back, and it turned out to be water-damaged – and not “very fine” as the vendor claimed. The pages are warped and some of them are sticking together.
Oh, drat.

The book is only a reading copy, sure, so the warped pages are not a real problem. But this being a photo book, the pages sticking together are a real problems.

So I started looking around, and found out that the best way for un-sticking the pages is to steam them, and then use a very thin and rigid object – say a sheet of plastic file cover or such – and push it gently between the pages.
Which is what I will try and do, hoping not to cause more damage.

As for the book, I’m quite eager to be able to read it properly – it is called Ghosts, by Sian Evans, and it was published by the British National Trust. It is a collection of haunted places, with beautiful black and white photographs, and reports from national Trust employees about their experiences in the places themselves.
Perfect Christmas-time reading.

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Occasional ghosts

One of my various sources of income as a writer is a series of history articles I am writing for an Italian magazine – pieces about characters and events from the history of Turin and of the Piedmont area. It’s a fun job that so far has helped pay the bills and the house insurance in particular, and it hinges on two of my long-standing interests, history and doing research.

Right now I have a nice list of future topics to explore and today I went into the tragic life of a young woman – a member of the Savoy upper class that lived a tragic existence in Turin and met a sad end in the 18th century. What is usually called “a footnote on the pages of history”, but of possible interest for the readers of the magazine, as it’s part of the local history and, indeed, of the local folklore.

Because as I did some research today about the character of the late Elena Matilde, her ghost appeared in the documents and chronicles – bringing my historical work into the field of the occult and the paranormal. This angle is not what my client is interested in, and yet I will add a few paragraphs on the subject. Because maybe my readers do not believe in ghosts, but they might be fascinated by how a tragic incident hit so hard the popular imagination, that a ghost story arose in the aftermath.