Saturday, 9 December 2017

The revised reveal....

So, Reader, I went on that course about how to get an agent….
And feel very encouraged. And thank you to any of you who’ve conveyed to me thoughts about my First Reveal…. (click here for ideas and mood-visuals in The first reveal….)

And so here is the new (I think improved) blurb
Raydan Wakes
On New Year’s Eve, Raydan Brain wants two things. He wants to be Branded into The Academy. He also wants a girlfriend. Raydan is on the brink of romantic success with Vera Valente, when they discover that both their parents belong to a secret organisation plotting dangerous missions. Can Raydan and Vera learn to trust their parents? Everyone is catapulted into chaos by society’s escalating addiction to the drug Zip, a series of random knife attacks, and the appearance of a murderous hybrid monster.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens

December, so I’m prepared to think about Christmas
A few things let me know that the season of peace and goodwill is approaching….
Lists, festive plans, preparing prezzies
Morning frost, slipping and sliding on pavements, visible breath in the colder air. And December is on the calendar. And my big bro has said White Rabbits on Facebook….

Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens
Earlier in the year we discovered the Elizabethan manor between Hull and Scarborough and went in particular to see the Gardens (blog link here.) Last weekend we had a day enjoying the Christmas trimmings.
Cosy and family-oriented
The Great Hall has a beautifully decorated tree dominating the space and a roaring fire with a piano available for punters to tinkle. Each room and space seems to have its own “theme” with quirky effects and hidden surprises.
Own personal favourites
I particularly appreciated the effects in the White Room and the Chinese Room. Garden-lover Sally especially enjoyed that materials from the Hall’s Gardens were used as base materials in many of the designs. Emily, who prompted us to go, loved the whole experience, particularly since it acted as a spur to launch this year’s Christmas season.

Home-made, personalised experience
Sometimes in grand houses it’s easy to feel venomously resentful about the disparity of life opportunities for different people in different places. But Burton Agnes, in my opinion, has an atmosphere of generosity and homeliness. Many members of staff had contributed to the decorations which, I understand, were coordinated by Olivia Cunliffe-Lister.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on your troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on your troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now


Sunday, 26 November 2017

The first reveal....

"Mood board" for Raydan and his family and friends
First draft blurb for my (first) YA novel
I’ve (so far) dumped 4,020 words of my first novel, Raydan Wakes, in the ruthless edit I begun at the beginning of November. To help me not feel so bereft, I’ve written the rough cut of the first three chapters of Book Two, Raydan Seeks, and mapped out the main strands of Book Three. (It’s a trilogy aimed at fans of dystopian fiction.) Up until this day First Reader Emily is the only person who has any inkling of what my efforts are about, but I’ll be attending a course soon about trying to get an agent, so I need to start

  • putting my head above the parapet
  • testing the waters
  • dipping my toe in….
  • and any number of other metaphors….

so here below is what I might offer to entice readers to begin turning the pages. Any thoughts or reactions are welcome, but be gentle: I’m a grown up but an easily-bruised one.
"Mood board" for aspects of the planet Rhenium

Raydan Wakes
Mysterious events catapult Raydan and Vera into a dangerous crisis. Who’s being smuggled into The Academy at midnight? Who’s orchestrating the murders of unconnected people? Where are the missing parents of Raydan’s best friend? And how are medical supplies becoming contaminated? The leaders of the planet Rhenium urge everyone to Keep The Balance but unknown forces are tipping The Balance into a civil war.
Ideas for the population of Rhenium

The Twelve Orders of Rhenium....

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Bridge over troubled waters

Humber Bridge (Yorkshire), Forth Bridge (Scotland)
Bridges
Bridges are awe-inspiring objects. I am happily married to someone who, if anything, loves bridges more than I do. One of mine and Sally’s favourite spots in Yorkshire is the elegant (and seemingly impossible) Humber Bridge. A recent trip to Anglesey provided sights of two bridges near each other: the Menai Bridge and the Britannia Bridge. Who isn’t impressed with Tower Bridge in London? (though I have a personal fetish for Blackfriars Bridge.) Even those who haven’t visited know from advertisements, films and TV what the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fancisco looks like. Sally and I hope one day to visit the Øresund Bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen and I have a fantasy that one day we’ll sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge down under.
Clockwise from top right: Menai Bridge (Anglesey), Moon Gate (Beijing), Golden Gate (San Francisco), Clifton Suspension (Bristol), Allahverdi Khan (Iran), Tower Bridge (London), Millau Viaduct (France)

Bridges in culture
Wordsworth wrote a famous poem Composed Upon Westminster Bridge and Longfellow’s The Bridge was always an accessible and attractive poem to use when teaching younger pupils (both easily found online.) If war films shiver your timbers you will be familiar with The Bridge Over The River Kwai or A Bridge Too Far (bridges at Tha Ma Kham and Arnhem respectively.) A far gentler bridge experience is explored in The Bridges of Madison County but recently the Swedish/Danish TV thriller, The Bridge (Bron/Broen) has been a favourite watch in my house when the main characters are desperate to bridge gaps of understanding in multiple ways as they cross backwards and forwards from Sweden to Denmark and in and out of each other’s lives.
Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark

Westminster Bridge (London), Mackinac Bridge (Michigan)
Bridges as symbols
For our subconsciousness and in our dreams a bridge can mean many things:
  • a bridge can most obviously represent a journey….
  • whether it crosses to the other side or falls short is said to be connected to transitions in our life that are difficult….
  • whether it falls down or has gaps in it or is wobbly can indicate great anxiety….
  • a bridge can represent a crossing from one state to another, from one phase of life to another, a bridging of a gap….
  • in Tarot The Bridge represents stability, progress, directions or connections….
  • we talk about “pulling up the drawbridge” to mean hunkering down and hiding away….
  • we talk about “crossing over to the other side” meaning to die, to reach heaven….
  • we advise against “burning our bridges” for obvious reasons, highlighting the inability to turn back on a decision….
  • a bridge can symbolise birth, the penis (in Freudian analysis apparently), the meeting between men and women, young and old, ancient and new….
  • in a dream a bridge can represent both safety or danger depending on context, an obstacle that needs to be confronted and crossed….
  • a very useful and fruitful symbol, a bridge is….
Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge in Zhangjiajie National Park (China) and Clopton Bridge (Stratford-upon-Avon)
Potentially tragic, potentially hopeful
Crossing a bridge can feel like an act of sadness if you’re leaving somewhere precious; but equally it can be an uplifting and exciting arrival to a new way of life. Bridges are phenomenal feats of engineering, a real tribute to the human capacity for determination and imagination. Bridges can be associated, tragically, with suicide spots; but equally couples regularly propose on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. (Current, only-for-now US President Trump, could do well to pay heed to his fellow American, Joseph Fort Newton, who said People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.)

Raydan at the Watchtower overlooking Grayton Bridge
The main character in my book, Raydan Wakes, starts his story overlooking a bridge. Raydan is on Bridge Duty, keeping an eye on the comings and goings over a particular bridge in a remote spot. His watch partner is throwing up in the bathroom so Raydan is left on his own feeling jittery when a small group arrives unexpectedly in the minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve….
Blue Bridge (Wakefield), Brooklyn Bridge (New York), Clifton Suspension (again, in Bristol), Garabit Viaduct (France), Eshina Ohashi (Japan, nicknamed the rollercoaster bridge)

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Not necessarily in the right order

Andrew Preview with Eric and Ernie

The late great Eric Morecambe
In the celebrated sketch with Andrew Preview (André Previn), Morecambe and Wise trick the great composer and conductor into raising his baton to steer Eric Morecambe through a performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto. Of course Ernie is insanely wound up trying to make things go smoothly and Eric is full of advice for the orchestra (“not too heavy on the banjos”!) But the line that is quoted most often (by me anyway) is when Mr Preview (as he is still addressed by taxi drivers apparently) roars at Eric that he is playing “all the wrong notes” and Eric grabs André Previn (the epitome of a good sport) by the frock coat lapels and exasperatedly growls at him “I am playing all the right notes – but not necessarily in the right order!”

Stephen King
In his superb On Writing Stephen King recounts the story of a friend of James Joyce who visited to find the genius Irish author sprawled in agony over his desk at the end of his writing day. The conversation went something like this:
Friend: James, what’s wrong? Is it the work?
James Joyce: (nods in despair)
Friend: How many words did you get today?
James Joyce: Seven.
Friend: But James…. that’s good, at least for you.
James Joyce: Yes, I suppose it is…. but I don’t know what order they go in!

60 to 36
I’m not equating myself with either Eric Morecambe or James Joyce, but I know how they feel…. sometimes I think I’ve got the right words in my writing but they’re not in the right order, and sometimes I think what's drafted and redrafted could be better. Oh, the agonies of composition. What I have realised (something I taught to teenagers but now I know it’s true in reality because of my experience as a retirement-hobby writer) is another insight from Stephen King:
To write is human, to edit is divine
One decision I’ve made (since I’ve now embarked on writing Book 2 (and editing Book 1) of my Rhenium Tales trilogy) is that to stand any chance of finishing my magnum opus, the frequency of my blog posts needs to reduce. So from next year, instead of 5 posts a month, I’m going to aim for 3 posts a month (36 a year instead of 60 a year.) I started my blog in August 2014 as way of disciplining myself to “publish” something regularly whether I wanted to or not and I’ve mostly managed that but I have to acknowledge that Raydan’s story is tugging at my mind more insistently than ever and I have to manage time more efficiently.

Omit needless words
In his second forward to On Writing Stephen King quotes from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (published in 1918.) King absolutely believes in the Rule 17 in the chapter entitled Principles of Composition. Rule 17 reads: “Omit needless words.” Therefore….

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Sally, me, Harriet, Emily, Chris at Bolton Abbey bonfire 2017 - all pictures from the night by Emily, Harriet or Chris
Chariots of Fire
Fireworks to make the brain gasp…. food, drink and a mighty bonfire…. 2017 November 5th at Bolton Abbey. Mulled wine and stodgy snacks…. a treat of a night after a sunset walk along to the Strid and through the spooky woods.

No Flaming Guy
Happily there was no guy on top of the bonfire so Guido Fawkes (and my Primary School teachers) can rest easy. No “Let’s burn the Catholic” sentiments…. I assume Fawkes’s school in York, St Peter’s, continues to refrain from burning their former student. And there were no bones either, as far as I could tell, on the Bolton Abbey bonfire, even though that’s where the word comes from: bone-fire, the fire that burnt all the dug-up bones when medieval priests needed to make more room in the cemetery…. ah, the lovely traditions of the UK…. we’ll stop burning human bones after the Gunpowder Plot and instead celebrate the incineration of a particular Catholic who was caught red-handed in a London cellar on November 5th 1606.

36 barrels
The conspirators positioned 36 barrels underneath the House of Lords. Robert Catesby’s plot may well have succeeded had (probably) one member not warned off his brother-in-law. It’s possible the gunpowder might have been degraded so far as to be useless since the event kept getting postponed. But if Guy Fawkes (aka John Johnson – an excellent secret agent name!) had indeed lit the fuse and the explosion succeeded it would have taken out an area with a radius of 500m from the impact, certainly enough to kill the king and a great number of peers of the realm gathered for the State Opening of Parliament. Although the original cellar was destroyed in a fire during the Victorian period, the Yeoman of the Guard still parade through the cellars of Westminster, looking for explosive devices, in the hours before the State Opening of Parliament today.

Pope Day
Why don’t we commemorate Robert Catesby, the ringleader, rather than Guy Fawkes? The recent BBC dramatisation of events suggested Catesby was fuelled by personal revenge as much as political and religious belief. The design of the production certainly caught the tensions and paranoia throughout the land following the end of Elizabeth I’s long reign. And captured accurately the arbitrary and often violent punishments given to recusant Catholics. In America Bonfire Night was called “Pope Day” throughout the 17th Century.

Broken neck
Do we remember Guy Fawkes because James I apparently admired the guy for surviving two days of torture before finally (supposedly) making a confession? The Attorney General ordered that each of the (surviving) conspirators would be drawn backwards to his punishment, by a horse, with his head nearest the ground. They were then to be be "put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both" by cutting off their genitalia which would be “burnt before their eyes.” Their bowels would then be removed in full view and, if the condemned were still alive, their hearts would be removed. They would then be decapitated and their dismembered bodies displayed in “different corners of the land so that they might become prey for the fowls of the air and the instruction of all.” Guy Fawkes, refusing to have his bollocks removed whilst alive, jumped from the dismemberment platform to break his own neck.
Josh's Screaming Skull pumpkins and creations by neighbours

The U certificate rhyme
Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot?
Impressive pumpkins by Harriet and friends

The (now-forgotten?) verses (note the later ones!)
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow

By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match
So, holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!

A stick and a stake for King James’ sake
If you won’t give me one, I’ll take two
The better for me and the worse for you

A rope, a rope to hang the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him
A pint of beer to rinse it down
A faggot of sticks to burn him

What shall we do with him?
Burn him!
Burn him in a tub of tar
Burn him like a blazing star
Burn his body from his head
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.

Hip hip hoorah! Hip hip hoorah! Hip hip hoorah!
Terrorists or freedom fighters?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Catherine and Guy


Catherine Wheel
It was a shock to learn at some point when I was a child that the whizzing firework of a Catherine Wheel was named after a saint who was imprisoned, tortured and finally martyred by being beheaded. At first the (male) authorities tried to “break” Catherine of Alexandria on a “breaking wheel” but, according to history/legend, the wheel shattered and pieces flew everywhere, hence the design of the firework in later years.
Margaret Clitherow
Saint Catherine was one of many characters parading through my brain at Primary School. Her strength of purpose was an inspiration, as was the pregnant St Margaret Clitherow who was stripped, laid on a large sharp rock and covered with the door of her own house. The door was then piled with an immense load of rocks until the sharp rock beneath broke her back…. can anybody really believe the past was the “good old days”?…. and I’m sorry to report that Margaret met her fate in one of my favourite cities, York.
Saints Margaret Clitherow, Joan of Arc, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Bernadette, Hilda of Whitby, Peter, Christopher, Anthony of Padua, Joseph, Sebastian, Francis of Assisi and books from my childhood: Butler's Lives of Saints

Saints on the brain
I’m prepared to admit that, as a young boy, I thought the sensational lives of the saints were fascinatingly gripping. In some cases the manner of their deaths lit an imaginative fire (fuelled by some statues and paintings in school and on church walls that at times revelled in the martyrdoms.) In other cases the humanitarian efforts of the saints, often in extreme poverty and violent opposition, left me awe-struck by their bravery and compassion. So, without too much agony, here are my top dozen saints, six women and six men who have become symbolic of particular ideas and impulses.
  • St Catherine of Alexandria (the Catherine wheel inspirer)
  • St Margaret Clitherow, the Yorkshire lass whose stubbornness killed her (would I have caved in? yes I would)
  • St Joan (of Arc) who features (as a villainess) in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part One but is sensationally sympathetic in GB Shaw’s play Saint Joan and who received visions from both squashed Saint Margaret and firework-famous Saint Catherine. Joan inspired the French to raise the siege of Orleans and gain successes in the Hundred Years War against England but she was ultimately burned to death at the stake (with the agreement of both France and England as an act of political expediency)
  • St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross who faced her end in the gas chambers at Auschwitz
  • St Bernadette who faced bullying and disbelief in her home town of Lourdes when her chats with Mary the mother of Jesus were doubted, despite her ability to summon up rushing holy water springs that would help the town become a major tourist attraction
  • St Hilda (of Whitby) is admirable in my book because she was a phenomenally powerful figure in 7th Century Northumberland having started her life in France. Anyone who can run abbeys in Hartlepool and on the cliffs of Whitby has my respect
  • St Peter, the tragic cock-crowing denier, fated to be the first Pope but who paid a high price by being horrifically crucified upside down
  • St Christopher, the “Christ-bearer”, braved raging rivers to help travellers to safety
  • St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost items and lost people (and sometimes fish and fishermen) died peacefully but after a long period of hardship and poverty. He makes my list because I was named after him (without an ‘h’)
  • St Joseph, Jesus’s daddy, an excellent carpenter according to tradition and I always rooted for him because his son and the mother of his son (wife?) got far more attention than he did
  • St Sebastian, favourite of classical artists, riddled with arrows after disobeying his superiors in his role as captain of the Praetorian Guard (sadly the truth is that he was probably clubbed to death and dumped in the Roman sewers rather than shot with arrows but artists chose the latter image)
  • St Francis of Assisi, wolf-tamer, beloved of conservationists and the first true hippy
One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter
Penny for the Guy
Bonfire Night was a time of private conflict for my childhood brain. Although I loved everything about the fire, the food, the fireworks, I felt uneasy about putting a “Guy” on top of the bonfire. My primary school taught me that Guy Fawkes wasn’t necessarily a gunpowder-toting terrorist. He could be seen as a freedom fighter, trying to restore the rights of Roman Catholics in England during the period of The Henry VIII Club. I don’t know which teacher taught me to call the Church of England The Henry VIII Club but it stuck with me, as did the political complications of an event like the Gunpowder Plot. What should people do if they think the world isn’t listening to them? Blow up parliament? Vote for Brexit? Elect Trump? Become a suicide bomber? Die a martyr? Like the saints? Was Guy Fawkes, in his way, following his beliefs to their logical conclusion, like St Catherine of Alexandria? I’ll think about both Saint Catherine and Guy Fawkes at tonight’s Bolton Abbey bonfire.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Hallowe'en

All Hallows Eve
And so 31st October comes around again. How will I be celebrating Halloween this year? Handing out treats to avoid being tricked? Bobbing apples? Dressing ghoulishly? Putting on Wiccan robes and taking part in Samhain rituals along with other pagans? Dancing naked round a fire in a forest, daubed in symbols to deflect evil demons?

Celtic beliefs, All Saints, All Souls, Hallowtide
Like most celebrations in the UK the origins of All Hallows Evening lie in our Celtic past: pre-Christian, pre-Roman, preAnglo-Saxon, preViking, preNorman, pre all the other invasions that make up our mongrel culture. The Celts believed demons, evil spirits and ghosts roamed the earth more frequently at the “turn” of the year when the leaves fell and it seemed as if nature was dying. In the 7th Century Pope Boniface IV created All Saints’ Day on November 1st and in the 11th Century Benedictine monasteries added All Souls’ Day on November 2nd spurred on by St Odilo of Cluny at Cluny Abbey in France. The three days (the Eve, the Saints’ Day and the Souls’ Day) became collectively known as Hallowtide and praying for the dead fitted in well with the pagan beliefs about spirits walking at that time of year.

American? Not.
There is a myth in England that we imported trick-or-treating from America, but strictly it’s a re-import because European immigrants introduced it to America in the first place. The practice was common in both Germany and Ireland – appeasing wicked spirits with sweets. Throughout Europe, in medieval times the Catholic Church encouraged congregations to go house to house on Hallowe’en asking for food in return for a prayer for the dead. (In unscrupulous parishes the priests would keep the food, whereas in more “Christian” areas the gifts were distributed again to the poor, or, on 3rd November, turned into a community feast.) Masks, costumes and pumpkins were all features of the attempts by pre-1500 folks to scare away the dead. The candle inside a pumpkin represented a soul trapped in purgatory; only later did pumpkins acquire carved “faces.” So America can blame Europe for all the trappings of Halloween. And we can blame the Celts for believing in demons and the Catholic Church for “inventing” Hallowtide to pray for the souls of the dead. (Of course we can still blame Capitalism for making it into a commercial money-spinning phenomenon, instead of its original pagan spirit-slaying manifestation.

October November December
Goodbye to my birthday month, get ready to welcome the fully Autumnal month of November in preparation for that crucible of love/despair/excess/glitter/feast/fun/regret/peace and joy that is....December....

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Venus and Adonis 1592-3

Photo Credit: RSC (Greg Doran/Little Angel production)

Venus and Adonis
From the summer of 1592 onwards, plague was rife in London so all the theatres were closed to prevent the infection spreading through tightly-packed crowds. A small book was produced in 1593, which turned out to be the most frequently printed work by Shakespeare in his lifetime. Did he write it in 1592-3? Or earlier when he was at school studying Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the origin of the story? Or did he start it earlier and finish it when the theatres were closed? This important volume of poetry, Venus and Adonis, was printed by Richard Field, a neighbour of the Shakespeare family from Bridge Street in Stratford-upon-Avon. Field had set up in London and had a reputation as a scrupulously honest printer with exacting standards. The first edition is printed beautifully.
Images of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, played by Tom Sturridge and Eddie Redmayne in different dramatisations. Shakespeare dedicated Venus and Adonis to this patron.

“The first heir of my invention”
In the dedication to the poem Shakespeare presents Venus and Adonis as “the first heir of my invention” suggesting that either:
  • it was the first thing he had ever written
  • it was the first thing he had ever printed or
  • it was the first thing he wrote that he hoped to make money from
Writing plays was not a lucrative business in Elizabethan and Jacobean England; Shakespeare made his money from being a shareholder of the theatres in which he worked and later from land-owning and property development. Poetry was one of the few ways writers could make money, especially in well-bound short volumes. Venus and Adonis sold like hot cakes. Young people apparently carried the book around with them and no less than 10 editions had been printed by the time of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, a remarkable number considering the level of literacy at that time. Only one original copy of the first print run survives in the Bodleian library at Oxford.
Rubens, Titian and de Ribera paintings

Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie

The poem tells of the goddess Venus pursuing the young Adonis who would prefer to go hunting the boar. The language is playful, comic, erotic (see lines in sub-heading above) and ultimately moving. The most frequent motifs in the poem are those of hunting, lips and kissing; the build-up of tension between the pair is a model of the will-they, won’t-they convention in comedy. Unusually for the time, the woman is the main protagonist and Venus is a lusty huntress, reveling in her own sexuality, beginning and ending the poem and driving forward the entire story. One of the key themes of Venus and Adonis is making hay while the sun shines, or, gather ye rosebuds while ye may, or carpe diem or, as the Sonnets express time and again, “love that well which thou must leave ere long.”
Make use of time, let not advantage slip;
Beauty within itself should not be wasted:
Fair flowers that are not gather’d in their prime
Rot and consume themselves in little time.
The poem is written in six line stanzas with a controlled rhyme scheme (ababcc) so the poetry bounces along playfully but is crafted to within an inch of its life.
Photo Credit: RSC (Greg Doran/Little Angel production)

"Love is all truth, Lust full of forged lies"
Venus uses all her metaphysical wit to try and persuade Adonis to give her a kiss, even fainting at one point. She is assisted by Adonis’s stallion, which gallops off lustily to nuzzle a passing mare, thus giving an illustration to Adonis of how he could behave, almost like the comic sub-plot of a play. In the recent Greg Doran/Little Angel production of the poem at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the horses almost upstaged Venus and Adonis. At the end (spoiler alert) when Adonis dies bleeding from his boar-wounds, Venus’s grief is real and painful and the Venus puppet in the RSC production became expressively heartbroken. The poem was possibly a response to Marlowe’s unbridled and unbuttoned Hero and Leander poem, with Shakespeare’s narrative being more controlled and consciously poetic, but whatever the inspiration (a poetic exercise, a way of making money when the theatres were closed, a poetry-battle with Marlowe, a joyous act of creation) Venus and Adonis cemented Shakespeare’s reputation in his lifetime and contains many elements that define his canon, not least his exploration of love:
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.
Elements of the poem reappear in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and Twelfth Night, not to mention the thematic connection with the Sonnet sequence and the other great narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece which can be seen as this poem’s tragic counterpart and which I’ll blog about in the future.
Photo Credit: RSC (Greg Doran/Little Angel production)

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Birthday 57 - Launching Book Two

Hirst Wood, Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Emporio Italia, Birthday Cake made by Sue and Brian
Numbers
11, 13, 16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 40, 50…. they’re all birthdays marked with random “significance,” being round numbers or milestones of growing up. Why not celebrate 57? It’s the sixteenth discrete semiprime number, after all. There were (supposedly) 57 varieties of Heinz flavours. In the (much-missed) Joss Whedon series Firefly, there was a brigade called The 57th Overlanders. And in 2017 I achieved the mature age of 57….
Happy Birthday to Me!

Back to the grindstone
After this weekend I’ll be diving back into my dystopian trilogy, Rhenium Tales. I had a break during September and October to breathe, think, research and assess the wood rather than the trees. I feel ready and raring to go. Slash, burn, rearrange. Friends Sue and Brian have bestowed upon me priorities, snapshots and factoids about sailing in hot climates – in and out of the islands of an archipelago. Time to launch Book 2….
Birthday Breakfast, Lunch, Tea and Cake....