Herons Creek Chronicles: Introduction

This is a work of fiction. Similar things may have happened, but imagination can play tricks. Nothing was ever quite the way we remember it.


All members of society are worthy of immortality. – Amadeo Modigliani


You know what it’s like. You’ve had such a congenial evening that you want to perpetuate it in some way, so you make a solemn pledge to do it all again three months from now, and to give it gravitas and endurance you call it something improbable like The Masters of the Universe or, in our more modest case, the Herons Creek Academy of Charm and Deportment.

I’m not sure now who suggested the name, and it doesn’t really matter, though it sounds a lot like something Meg would come up with. It was one of those moments of inspiration that seem to shine more brilliantly at the end of an evening of eating and drinking than in the grey light of the morning after, but the name stuck.

If you wanted to push the analogy you could put on a solemn face and say it was an Academy in the sense of it being a group of inquisitive and opinionated individuals coming together to explore issues of interest to them and to the world. Or you could just call it an excuse for a bunch of people who like each other to have a party.

The Board of Governors of the Academy meets four times a year, on the eves of the solstices and the equinoxes. Mostly they eat, drink and argue, in the most companionable of ways. I keep the chronicles.






Slippery Fish


Emma and I had been in Saint Petersburg just short of a month when the incidents I am about to describe occurred. I was working on my biography of K———, talking to his friends and enemies, digging up documents in the archives, observing him in his natural setting. Emma was handling the photographics: candids in the studio, close-ups at rehearsal, scenics around the city. We were living in a squat, concrete-and-tile hotel from the Soviet era, and being charged a pittance—the theatre rate, I was told—which the front desk demanded, in cash roubles, daily in advance. The hotel’s worn carpets, its barely functional bathrooms with their chipped sinks and mould-crusted shower-seals, its ill-illuminated dining room with its scowling, bow-tied guardians at the door, might not have held any particular appeal to the tourists who were beginning to trickle in—this was a year or so after perestroika began to take effect—but it was perfectly adequate for us. We had a rough desk to work at, there was a flickering little black and white TV if we needed it, and best of all the hotel was only a short walk along the canal to the theatre, whose management had made the hotel arrangements (the better, perhaps, to monitor our activities), and where we had access to rehearsals, performances and archives, and to a controlled extent people. Continue reading