Tag Archives: writing

Boy Made Good

Did you know Master William Shakespeare was an astute businessman?

 

Only recently has light been thrown on the playwright’s business activities. And it seems William was a bit of a spendthrift; court records show his readiness to chase any debt owed, but also illustrate he was adept at moving out of digs just as his tax became due. Unlike fellow playwrights and actors he never bought a house in London but rather invested his hard-earned cash into land and property around Stratford-upon-Avon, his home town. There are even records showing he was active as a kind of Elizabethan commodities broker, buying grain during harvest-time and storing it so he could sell when the price was high.

 

So why haven’t we heard of Shakespeare & Co Ltd? Well the academics who recently unearthed this information say it was deliberately ‘buried’ in order to enhance his literary achievements. It seems certain academic snobs wanted to conceal the fact that our creative genius got his hands dirty with ‘trade’.

 

We English have a rather two-faced attitude towards ‘trade’. Napoleon Bonaparte called us a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ because he knew how deeply the insult cut. But we inherited the notion that business, the profitable act of buying and selling, is somehow less worthy (than merely pillaging?) from the Norman conquerors who invaded our shores in 1066. Once they became overlords they put their military prowess into coercing us natives, stealing local assets and sharing out the land gratis. Apparently it wasn’t their custom to pay the going rate for goods or services either. Thus, eventually, we had the Magna Carta.

 

When the Tudors took power (1485) they totally mistrusted the old nobility (particularly those with cherished Norman bloodlines) and actively promoted able men from any class to run the country. Henry VIII’s court was the first to appoint more ‘ordinary’ citizens than knights, and his daughter, Elizabeth I, never doubted the sense of engaging self-made men. And the new regime didn’t spurn trade, it absolutely embraced it.

 

So William Shakespeare was born at a time when England was a dynamic melting pot of change. And that change was fundamental to the creation of a new form of entertainment called theatre. London was thriving, a place where anyone willing to embrace opportunities could, and did, make a profit. And in contrast to other playwrights Shakespeare didn’t aim his work solely at the educated elite; his plays mirrored life; each multi-layered drama resonates with the full strata of society. And being a shareholder in this new venture was crucial to his creative acumen. He quickly realised that weaving stories which appealed to rich and poor (and just about everyone between) meant he couldn’t fail to fill his theatre, and thereby earn greater profits.

 

And like many budding entrepreneurs, as soon as he’d earned enough money he purchased a fine coat of arms (a fist shaking a spear) because it put his name firmly on the map of respectability. William didn’t anticipate fame; he just wanted his family to have better status. No doubt his father’s failings meant William never risked putting all his eggs into one basket. Shrewd, canny, ambitious, he understood the value of money because he worked hard for every penny. It was an asset, never a gift.  

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The Glove-maker’s Apprentice

I’ve been working through an on-line study course, part of a new international learning directive, with www.futurelearn.com. The ten week course studies one particular writer’s life through his work, using evidence from contemporary sources. If I tell you his story can you guess his name?

 

Born into a small town in middle England his early years were lived ‘over the shop’ of his father’s glove-making business. Clearly his father was seeking to improve his lot, having abandoned the family farm to learn a trade and, like many budding entrepreneurs, ascended the local social ladder, becoming member of the town council and eventually holding a status akin to mayor. This last role earned his son a free education at the local grammar school, sure means of ensuring his offspring could aspire to the next rung of social improvement. However the glove-maker’s world came tumbling down when he overreached himself. In the quest to grow bigger profits he dabbled in dark waters, such as money-lending, and attempted to break into markets to which he held no title. Which is when the corporate authorities stepped in and threatened to have him arrested.

 

It must have been devastating for the whole family, losing their status, but for the eldest son it meant the end of his education. He lost any chance of going to university and all the advantages that pathway promised. Bang went the boy’s future.

 

And worse was to come. A powerful local landowner called Sir Thomas Lucy spotted him poaching game on his property, and made it known he was going to catch him and put him in irons. And, at just eighteen years old, he got an older woman pregnant. All his hopes and dreams must have seemed crushed as he walked up the aisle.

 

But as eldest son it seems he was determined to restore his family fortunes and seemingly, as soon as he was able, he travelled down to London to seek his fortune. He didn’t have a trade but he’d learned to live by his wits, probably having the need to talk his way out of trouble on many an occasion. And when he got to London he quickly tagged onto a new and exciting industry called theatre. Before too long he’d earned a reputation as a ‘jack of all trades’, acting, directing and writing plays for a prominent group of players who had the good fortune to sometimes perform for the queen. Critics made fun of his country accent and rival playwrights looked down on him because he hadn’t earned a degree from Oxford or Cambridge but he had a gift for re-working well-loved stories and turning them to gold.

 

But then, just when it seemed he’d found his place in life, all London theatres were forced to close their doors indefinitely, due to an outbreak of plague, and anyone who was anyone abandoned the city for their country estates. The ‘jack of all trades’ found himself out of work and in serious need of a patron, so he turned his pen to poetry. Again he didn’t aim at creating anything original, just re-worked the classical myth of Venus and Adonis to make it appeal to a particular audience. In fact he was fishing for a very particular audience, one who would be charmed by his use of a liberal pen, because this well-educated and exceedingly handsome aristocrat was about to come into a fortune.

 

And this is where the writer’s run of bad luck turned. One of his former grammar school friends, Richard Field, had become a printer and he agreed to publish the poem. Using a form of flamboyant sales talk almost certainly mastered in his father’s glove shop the writer penned a graceful introduction to his work. And the young Earl of Southampton was duly flattered.

 

 

I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart’s content; which I wish may always answer your own wish and the world’s hopeful expectation.

Your honour’s in all duty,
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

.Image The Earl of Southampton aged 21

 

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Wishes and Resolutions

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Chinese New Year involves writing wishes on red cards and tying them to a wishing tree. I came across this photograph just as I was setting down my resolutions for the coming New Year. Taken in January 2011 I was en route to a family wedding in New Zealand and stayed in the city just a couple of nights. Although much has happened since the picture was taken I still haven’t managed to achieve any of the goals I set myself (perhaps the wishes were left in Hong Kong?). So this year I’ve decided I must make my resolutions less abstract, because I believe the time has come to knuckle down, work harder and not rely on wishes.

First, I am going to formulate a strategy, a working plan, in order to achieve all I want. I will list everything I need to do in order to succeed. I’ll write it in pencil, so it can be altered, but hang it firmly on my study wall in plain and obvious sight.

As I want these goals to be successful I mustn’t reach too high or too far outside my comfort zone, that wouldn’t work at all. So I’ll break down them down into smaller resolutions that can be measured by accomplishment or disseminated into lesser goals should the need arise. I aim to be pragmatic.

And knowing, as I do, how family and friends generally play havoc with my timetable, I will bend my resolutions around their schedules, being born a willow rather than an oak.

So here they come:

Listen and observe in greater measure – use the tools of discovery.

Limit time spent on the internet. It is so easy to lose precious hours on-line – sometimes I think it should be called the Empty-net.

Write every day. Even if this doesn’t produce anything worth reading the practise is quite necessary.

Expect more people to read what I’ve written as and when it’s finished. Extend your reach.

And finally, don’t be afraid to finish what you’ve started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taxi to the Top

Taxi to the Top

Squeezing in for a cosy ride.

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October 21, 2013 · 4:03 pm

Where do stories begin?

I often wonder about that moment…..when the telling of tales first began?

Cave-paintings show how our earliest ancestors lived, and their pictures reveal, like tiny chinks of light, what mattered to our ancestors and what their lives involved. But when the men went away to do the hunting what stories did Neolithic mums tell their young? I’m sure they must have had lots to tell, events in their ancestors lives, stories passed from mother to child? Were those stories about love or, like cave paintings, did they revolve around the thrill of the chase. And what about the battles their people had lost and won? Did these mums tell stories to comfort sweet dreams or risk adding horror to nightmares? And did those primitive mums also sing songs to lull their babies to sleep?

 

A couple of years ago I was fascinated to hear a folk musician on the radio (I was driving at the time and couldn’t take note of his name) explain his life-long search for the oldest tune in the world. And the most  ‘common tune’ he discovered (admittedly sung with different words) in just about every culture he explored, from the Sami peoples of the Arctic Circle to fishermen on the Mediterranean, was the tune known I know as ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star.’ 

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are?

Up above the world so high

Like a diamond in the sky.

He showed how the structure/phasing/melody are all extremely simple, which means the basic tune can be played on fundamental, hand-carved instruments. But I wonder if an Egyptian mother sang similar words as she lay on the roof of her mud-brick home with her children, seeking a cool breeze in the middle of the night after an unbearably hot day. Did she look up at the great span of stars and wonder…… We may never know how long the song has been sung but it is strangely comforting to think it precedes written history.

 

So back to my original question, how old is storytelling? I believe it is likely as old as humanity, if not older. Even, perhaps, we imagined the story and then we began.

 

World Storytelling Day is celebrated on the Spring Equinox in northern territories and on the Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere. The theme for 2013 is Monsters and Dragons. For more information go to: http://www.freewebs.com/worldstorytellingday/

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Frozen Lakes

ImageWe visited Dove Cottage last month, a small damp cottage at Town End, Grasmere, world famous for being home to William and Dorothy Wordsworth. I’ve never been a fan of Romantic poetry but given his reputation, and the fact he was one of the first to promote the grandeur of Cumberland (now part of Cumbria, my home county) for its wild mountain scenery and ‘savage’ natives (I’m told it means un-contaminated) I felt it was time I learned a little more about him than his famous reflections on spring bulbs.

 

Orphaned before he reached his teens William was flailing for a profession when a small legacy meant he had money enough to support his ambition to write poetry. In late 1799 he rented the former Dove and Olive Bough public house, a native-built stone cottage set beside the main road from Keswick to Kendal, and moved in with his sister Dorothy, who he hadn’t lived with since childhood. But she shared equal aspirations for William’s genius and managed to supply all the practical support he required, which was essential because Will preferred to recite his thoughts while someone else did the writing. They lived in the tiny cottage for eight years, squeezing in with William’s new wife and her sister and then, by-turns, three children, as well as many famous and frequent visitors. When Walter Scott came he gave them one of his dogs, Pepper, whose portrait greets visitors when they first enter the cottage.

 

Men such as Coleridge, Southey and de Quincey, would call for afternoon tea and emerge weeks later bowled over by the Wordsworth’s hospitality. And when the Wordsworth clan moved to Allan Bank in 1808 De Quincey became the tenant of Dove Cottage, a tenancy he held for the next twenty-eight years. It seems strange the Wordsworth’s eight years trumped poor De Quincey but he failed to be respectable after publishing his Confessions of an English Opium Eater. The publicity machine which drove Wordsworth’s popularity meant the former public house was bought by the Wordsworth Trust in 1890 and opened to the public the following year as Dove Cottage.

 

It was during his very first stay in Grasmere that De Quincey noted, when the lake froze over, how William embarked on his other great passion, ice skating. William was particularly proud of his great skill on the ice but his friend was less impressed and wrote in his diary, ‘he sprawled upon the ice like a cow dancing a cotilion’.

 

Taken from ‘The Prelude’ by William Wordsworth

 

And in the frosty season, when the sun

Was set, and visible for many a mile

The cottage windows through the twilight blaz’d,

I heeded not the summons:—happy time

It was, indeed, for all of us; to me

It was a time of rapture: clear and loud

The village clock toll’d six; I wheel’d about,

Proud and exulting, like an untired horse,

That cares not for its home.—All shod with steel,

We hiss’d along the polish’d ice, in games

Confederate, imitative of the chase

And woodland pleasures, the resounding horn,

The Pack loud bellowing, and the hunted hare.

So through the darkness and the cold we flew,

And not a voice was idle; with the din,

Meanwhile, the precipices rang aloud,

The leafless trees, and every icy crag

Tinkled like iron, while the distant hills

Into the tumult sent an alien sound

Of melancholy, not unnoticed, while the stars,

Eastward, were sparkling clear, and in the west

The orange sky of evening died away.

 

 

Next-door to Dove Cottage a dedicated museum displays artefacts relating to William’s life

and times. While I truly hope he didn’t actually use the cock-spurs the basket full of  

pace-eggs was a delight. At Easter many children (and adults) still go pace-egging in this part of the world and it was interesting such beautifully-decorated (and very delicate) hard-boiled eggs had survived. But what really caught my attention were William’s ice skates. Not one pair but several! The man really did love to skate, as illustrated by his words. And I share his passion.

 

Taken From The Prelude, Memories of Ice Skating on EsthwaiteLake

 

Not seldom from the uproar I retired

Into a silent bay, or sportively

Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,

To cut across the image of a star

That gleam’d upon the ice: and oftentimes

When we had given our bodies to the wind,

And all the shadowy banks, on either side,

Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still

The rapid line of motion; then at once

Have I, reclining back upon my heels,

Stopp’d short, yet still the solitary Cliffs

Wheeled by me, even as if the earth had roll’d

With visible motion her diurnal round;

Behind me did they stretch in solemn train

Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watch’d

Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.

 

William’s giddy words define the peculiar exuberance of ice skating – as pertinent now as when he composed them, and obviously based on first-hand experience of skating by star-light on a frozen lake. But I wonder if Dorothy was skating right behind him with her notebook and pencil?

 

 

 

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My Routine

I made an off-the-wall remark to a friend that it must be easier to be a writer if you are (a) male and (b) single. I didn’t intend to be cynical, just stating a truth. She couldn’t see my point so I had to explain my average day.

 

I’m generally up early. Not as early as my brother who gets up at 5.45 every morning so he can get some house-jobs done before he goes to work, but I prefer to write first thing, before anything can interrupt my thoughts, and I head straight to my office/library/private space as soon as I get up with a cup of tea in hand. However my grandsons (age 2 and 4) get up at 5 most mornings so it isn’t unusual for my daughter to turn up extremely fraught and in need of support even before my husband gets up for work at 8. And because we have our own small business, or rather he has his own small business and I do the nuts and bolts running of it (accounts, paper-work, etc) sometimes I’m needed and sometimes I can spend my whole day writing. Bliss. Except things very rarely run to plan.

 

If, and it’s rare these days, I manage to reach mid-day without some crisis wanting attention, I stop writing to have lunch with my husband. Funny how we adapt to life as our parents knew it, his father always came home for lunch and he follows the same routine. Which can be very frustrating! Not that he expects me to get lunch organised but it’s the stopping mid-flow or feeling guilty if I don’t join him. Guilt, that’s a whole other essay.

 

Afternoons are tricky. My daughter is expecting (currently overdue by 3 days) a third baby but she’s still working (local youth leader with umpteen projects on the go) and so the grandsons come to me after nursery. The boys have the run of the garden and I make their tea and occupy them until their daddy collects them on his way home from work. I have a very, big garden which they love to explore but if it’s cold or raining they like to watch a film, play games or make things. I once tried to dive back to my notebook when I thought they were engrossed but learned the hard way – it’s surprising how far toddlers can wander in five minutes. And when I asked (calmly) why didn’t you answer gran when she called, their enthusiastic reply – we were being invisible. Silly gran.

 

Intersecting my ‘spare’ time are many other commitments, both regular and fleeting. Things might need sorted for my son, a figure skater who currently trains in Florida. He and his partner competed in the Vancouver Winter Olympics (Pairs Skating) and are hoping to qualify for Sochi next year. There was a fascinating article about him in the local newspaper this week, which has left us all rather puzzled. Journalists can be very loose with their facts. Anyway my daughter was slightly miffed because it coincided with a beautiful full-colour article about her up-coming summer music and youth festival. My oldest grandson also featured in a separate article because his nursery won a prize at the carnival and he was elected to hold the trophy – he looks extremely proud because he thought it just like the ‘Piston Cup’ in Cars.

 

It’s very encouraging to think my children are newsworthy but I’d really like to be finding personal success for my literary efforts. No! I’m not jealous of their achievements, just wishing I could be as single-minded. My husband asked why it’s taking so long to write one book – in all honesty I wanted to write since leaving school which is a very long time indeed – when some writers churn out one novel a year! And it’s my fault – I just like to believe I can do everything. 

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Twinkle, twinkle, little star…..

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Sometime during the last thirty years there has been a huge seismic shift in the concept of sport. Certainly, growing up in England in the 70’s, the focus of sport was entirely masculine and limited to Saturdays. In general newspaper coverage was merely a couple of pages at the back of the broadsheets and you could tell the season by what was being featured, soccer and rugby in winter, cricket in summer and Wimbledon in June. Journalists writing sports reports for The Times were allowed a maximum of 250 words per event, and that even applied to the 1966 World Cup! There were very few celebrities, and certainly no hype, except on those rare occasions when there was a scandal.

 

Nowadays sport creates icons where once such glitz and glamour were the reserve of royalty or movie stars. Why this need to put sportspeople on a pedestal? Is it their superhuman agility and ambition which inspires those who are less able? Is it because we gain a sense of taking part by celebrating their achievement? Or perhaps there is a need to understand the basis of their talent?

 

The Sport’s writer, Mihir Bose, offers the theory that, “with increasing lack of trust in politicians, men of science and letters, and even church leaders, sports stars have filled the vacuum. Sport has also become a rare source of trusted news in an intensely sceptical world; a sporting result is a fact about which there can be no argument. And sport can also be understood by all, regardless of language or culture or intellect.”

 

Modern sport likes to show it has morality at its core, that it abides by a given set of rules. But this concept of modern sport has its roots in the nineteenth century and was arguably inspired by a work of fiction. Thomas Hughes semi-autobiographical novel about his days at RugbySchool in the early 1800’s – Tom Brown’s Schooldays – was written as a means to ‘preach’ about the virtues and vices of public school education. The tale begins with a game of rugby…..and ends in a game of cricket.

“I’m beginning to understand the game scientifically. What a noble game it is, too!”

“Isn’t it? But it’s more than a game. It’s an institution,” said Tom.

“Yes,” said Arthur – “the birthright of British boys old and young, as habeas corpus and trial by jury are of British men.”

“The discipline and reliance on one another which it teaches is so valuable, I think,” went on the master, “it ought to be such an unselfish game. It merges the individual in the eleven; he doesn’t play that he may win, but that his side may.”

“That’s very true,” said Tom, “and that’s why football and cricket, now one comes to think of it, are such much better games than fives or hare-and-hounds, or any others where the object is to come in first or to win for oneself, and not that one’s side may win.”

“And then the captain of the eleven!” said the master; “what a post is his in our School-world! Almost as hard as the Doctor’s — requiring skill and gentleness and firmness, and I know not what other rare qualities.”

Hughes portrayed the school’s headmaster, Dr. Thomas Arnold, as a selfless man who deemed sports an essential aspect of a ‘gentleman’s education’. The book became extremely influential, selling half a million copies by the end of the century, and it was responsible for Pierre de Coubertin’s ideology for reviving the Olympic Games.

One of the reasons de Coubertin first visited England in 1883 was to study Thomas Arnold’s teaching methods, he passionately believed the system of education Arnold applied at Rugby was responsible for Britain’s industrial and imperial achievements of the 19th century. Thomas Arnold, the leader and classic model of English educators, gave the precise formula for the role of athletics in education. However Pierre de Coubertin’s viewpoint was decided by Tom Brown’s fictional world.

Hughes admired Arnold and wanted his book to illustrate the practical dimensions of ‘muscular Christianity’ in Victorian education. The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. But however convinced he was by the physical benefits of sports de Coubertin was critical of its class distinctions. He wanted all sports for all people. While he did not believe in paying athletes he thought that they should be provided with money if they came from a social background which meant they could not fund themselves. He publicly denounced English rowing contests, arguing that its specific exclusion of working-class athletes was wrong. And Thomas Hughes would most likely have agreed with this attitude because after attending OxfordUniversity (where he played first class cricket) he became a prominent social reformer. One of the important institutions he founded was the Working Men’s College in London and he helped establish some of the earliest trade unions.

Thomas Hughes, Thomas Arnold and Pierre de Coubertin all shared the belief that the kind of ‘back-bone’ cultivated by sports not only developed the physical stamina to defeat an opponent but also formed the moral courage and will-power to fight evil. But for these eminent Victorians there was never any question that sport could be taken up as a career. They would probably find it reprehensible that sport, as opposed to moral duty, has come to dominate the media in the twenty-first century. And earning money from sport, well that would be immoral.

 

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Love Affairs – Part Three

We’ve just returned from a trip to London. It’s been ten years since our last visit and knowing how easy it is to become diverted the day was carefully planned, however, had we thought to take passports we probably wouldn’t have even got to London. Arriving at the new international station at Ebbsfleet, near Gravesend in Kent, is more like coming to an airport terminal than a railway stop. And it’s a mere 19 minutes to St. Pancras on this high speed connection but had we been travelling in the opposite direction we could have been in the Gare du Nord, Paris in just two hours. Tempting!

 

When I grew up in Kent most school trips were spent in Calais. We’d cross the Channel by ferry and those not recovering from sea sickness could spend a couple of hours exploring ‘foreign’ culture before it was time to gather for the return sailing. What delights that cultural journey would have presented if a day trip led us to Paris?

 

I began my first proper job when I was fifteen years old. My father’s uppermost ambition for his eldest child being that she became a Personal Secretary I didn’t question his decision when he signed me up as a ‘temp’ with a secretarial agency for the duration of the summer holidays and I trundled up to London every morning on the 0630 train. So began years of wasting four hours a day ‘commuting’. If I pushed through the crowds I might squeeze into a seat where I could read a book but nine times out of ten the whole journey was spent in standing packed like a sardine with other regular commuters. To discover that same journey now takes 19 minutes is mind blowing.

 

London has changed but not beyond recognition. One of the reasons for this trip was to research the Tudor city. Obviously the river and the medieval Tower of London haven’t changed so we began by walking along the riverbank and crossing London Bridge where we managed to discover the pub where Shakespeare is believed to have performed his first plays, except nowadays The George Inn belongs to The National Trust. Its terraced courtyard lies just across the road from Southwark Cathedral where the bard’s brother Edmund Shakespeare was buried in 1607 after he died from the plague. We discovered that same year a John Harvard was christened at the church. John’s mother owned another famous bawd house called The Queen’s Head but John obviously felt no ties with the place because when his mum died because he sold it, for £600, and took his fortune to Boston. I did mention I was easily diverted.

 

In Tudor times there was only one bridge crossing the Thames and it stood in virtually the same position as the London Bridge of today? But one of the many reasons the Shakespeare boys favoured Bankside was its utter lawlessness. This wasn’t just a den of iniquity seething with bear pits and bull rings it was an area that positively flaunted its position outside City law. Before the Reformation even the Bishop of Winchester had a ‘licence to provide’ 400 whores in his parish between Southwark and Lambeth. He also controlled ‘The Clink’ the sordid gaol that incarcerated anyone who displeased his grace. Notorious to this day the lower rooms flooded at high tide so few long term prisoners survived. It comes as no surprise that the reconstructed Globe Theatre is in the same street as The Clink.

 

When I worked in London there was never time to enjoy the city and although I appreciated its history I didn’t seek out the past. It’s exciting to discover that despite all the changes over five hundred years most of the old streets remain because South Bank wasn’t destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. Recently the foundations for the Shard revealed a wealth of archaeology now on display in the Museum of London, our next port of call. A purpose built museum near the Barbican it offers an excellent introduction to the city’s history but I felt my research was more grounded in the actual buildings and streets of London than in carefully sanctioned displays of artefacts. But the coffee and cakes were excellent.

 

Our final stop was meant to be the Temple Church. Built in 1185 it’s the Mother Church of English Common Law. It proved difficult to find in the warren of Inner and Middle Inns of Court and unfortunately we finally arrived at the same time as her majesty the Queen. The security forces made it clear we would not be allowed to enter the building but luckily we had a day in hand and with the high speed connection making the journey easy we decided we must return the following day. 

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The Occupation

Thank you everyone, your good wishes worked. David and Stacey retained their title. Now my nerves have settled (well almost) and we have Christmas to look forward to I can get back to the business of writing instead of worrying. Well perhaps….

 

It’s been a roller-coaster couple of weeks. Our lives are always thrown into chaos when my son comes home but this year was even busier, perhaps it’s because we are living under a state of occupation. My parents sold their home (of 30 years) in the south and moved north in the summer. The plan had been that they live in the flat my daughter and her family had just vacated but mum and dad found that was just big enough to store their belongings (they were supposed to downsize). With barely a blink they announced they would have to live with us until they found something suitable. And they have found something suitable – in the next village – but they haven’t moved in yet.

 

During the subsequent occupation I have come to the conclusion I have an overdeveloped need for privacy. Mum and dad are great, they do the washing and ironing, organise meals, play hide and seek with the great grandsons and generally make life brighter. However…their occupation has been a disaster for my creativity. Or more precisely for my ability to write.

 

I like my peace and quiet. I have my own workspace where I spend part of my day writing. I can do that because I am grown up now and don’t have to ask mum’s permission to do anything anymore. But after half an hour mum always comes in with a cup of coffee and gives me a look that I know means she doesn’t consider someone sitting down in front of a computer during daylight hours to be employed in doing anything commendable. So I feel guilty. And that isn’t a good state of mind for a middle aged writer.

 

 

 

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