When Terry Pratchett died, it affected me because he shaped the person I am today. The same is true of Carrie Fisher, albeit in a different way.
To women of a certain age, especially those in love with fantasy, she was an icon. There weren’t a great deal of notable female characters in the genre at the time, so Princess Leia in Star Wars was a revelation. She was determined, brave, funny and caring. An excellent shot, a true friend and a rebel leader even after her entire family and planetwere destroyed(. And she got Han Solo. No question, I wanted to be Leia. Many of the first stories I wrote included Princess Leia type heroines, fighting and shooting with the best of them.
When I got older, I began to appreciate her for the woman she was too. A brilliant writer and script doctor, she was outspoken and bitingly funny. She discussed her addictions and mental illness without shame. Ultimately, she loved words – and that’s my kind of Princess.
I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know. It was something I always did.
Even though it’s not far from neck of the woods, I’ve only just got round to visiting Stonehenge.
It helps that we’ve joined English Heritage as it’s not cheap to visit the stones. Understandable I suppose, given that it is one of the most famous sites on the planet and they have got a rather good visitors centre. Inside is a 360 display of the stones, plus an exhibition on their history and artefacts found at the site.
There’s been many a story inspired by these great, ancient stones and the burial mound covered landscape that surrounds them. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves.
Who else has been to this magnificent place? What were your thoughts?
Monk’s House was once the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Today it’s owned by the National Trust. It’s a simple, unassuming 18th century cottage with a beautiful big garden and orchard.
Virginia writing shed can be found in this orchard. And she resides here too, her ashes scattered amongst the trees.
Virginia and Leonard Woolf owned this place as a retreat from London. In it they made welcome several notable members of the ‘Bluestockings’ literary and artistic set in the 1930s.
There’s a real sense of simplicity about the place. It’s a home not a grand place to show off. Which isn’t to say it’s not interesting. It’s full of books and colourful rugs, painted chairs and vases full of flowers.
If you’re a member of the NT and you’re into your authors, this is a good place to visit and it doesn’t take long to go round.
The garden is delightful and many a visitor was enjoying a picnic on that summers afternoon. You can see why Virginia and Leonard found a creative bolthole here.
I think you either love Virginia work or admire it and I’d say I fall into the latter category. I’ve read a number of her works (favourite is The Years) and I’ve been fascinated by her themes, her use of words but I’m not as passionate as I know some will be. But her influence on the literary world and development of Feminism cannot be underestimated. So if you’re in the vicinity, why not pop in and look around.
Any fan of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ will know that its eponymous heroine is based on a real person. Alice Liddell was the fourth child in the Liddell family. They were friends with Charles Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll and it was on a boating trip that he whipped up the tale of Alice and the White Rabbit which Alice encouraged him to write down. ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ were born.
Alice lived most of her life in and around Lyndhurst in the New Forest. And it’s handily not that far away from where I live. It seemed only right that after photographing Lewis Carroll’s final resting place, I should do the same for Alice herself.
You can find her around the back of the rather grand St Micheal and All Angels. A handy sign points the way. On the headstone, Alice is referred to as ‘Mrs Reginald Hargreaves’, which does jar, but put that down to the times in which she lived.
The grave itself has a rather lovely white stone memorial. It contrasts with the very apt red and white rose bushes planted inside.
If you’re ever passing through, I would definitely recommend stopping by to see this charming site.
Adult colouring books are all the rage. And by ‘adult’ I mean they’re more complicated than ones for the kids, not that they’ve got er, ‘adult’ subject matter (maybe yours do, I’m not judging). You can’t walk into a book shop without falling over a table full of them, swoops and curls of black and white, sometimes with a hint of gold to look extra classy.
They seemed to appear as therapy for a range of mental health issues, including simple stress relief. The market for them has certainly exploded over the past couple of years, so there’s definitely a lot of people doing them.
I’ve got an Alice in Wonderland one (‘natch) that I’m working on.
As a child, colouring books were stressful, as my overwhelming perfectionism did away with any ‘fun’ I might have had. Now, older and wiser, I just go with whatever pencil comes out of the box.
The Glasgow Necropolis on a cold, bright morn; grand and Gothic and unsurprisingly, Victorian. Ever a society in love with death, elevating it into an art form fit for the ancients.
It’s easy to see why writers are fascinated by cities of the dead. Cemeteries tell a thousand tales. Inspiration and intrigue around every corner.
Sitting on a hill in the heart of the city, the Necropolis wakes. It looks over the old and new of Glasgow, a stark mix of grey-red stone and dark shadows.
The living walk amoung the dead, tourists, visitors and others poetically extolling virtues of life over breakfast beers
The grandest mausoleums sit on the prime spot at the very top of the hill. They show off wealth from the then-new industrial classes. Everlasting memorials to countless engineers and entrepreneurs, doctors, priests and generals.
You have no choice but to wander. No-one’s in a hurry. Walk and wind between the long forgotten and remember their tales.
On the other side of the hill a great screeching disturbs the dawn. An industrial site behind this resting place belches clouds of smoke and noise enough to wake the dead.
A random YouTube mix brought US singer Halsey into my life by way of the video for New Americana. After viewing and listening to a number of her other tracks, I was impressed enough to buy her album ‘Badlands’.
I haven’t enjoyed an album so much in a long time. In fact my only complaint is that it’s too short and left me wanting more. There were no duff tracks, just lyrical pop gems in my opinion. I liked the strong Feminist streak through the album and the songs that dealt with mental illness that Halsey herself has experience of. My highlights are ‘Ghost’ an upbeat but melancholy search for love and ‘Haunting’ which pleads with a lover to stay, even if the relationship is over. ‘Control’ brings up questions of mental health and inner turmoil in disturbing fashion. I can imagine listening to this when writing something with well-defined female characters, perhaps in the Young Adult arena.
One of the main things I wanted to do when I visited London, was go on a tour of The British Library. I booked the tickets beforehand to make sure we had a place but being a Tuesday morning there were only six of us on the tour anyway.
We started the tour with a trip outside to see the building and learn some interesting facts.
The building was designed in 1960s by Colin St John Wilson but due to delays and relocations, that design bares little resemblance to what was actually built.
It was meant to be built near to the British Museum where the library was first kept. In the end that wasn’t possible so it wound up across the city near to St Pancras Station.
The foundation stone was laid in 1982 and the building opened in 1997. The project went wildly over-budget until the government cut off funding at which point it just stopped being built, with unfinished bits left, well, unfinished.
Below the library is the basement which goes down eight storeys and stores most of the libraries books. The film “Alien” was shot there whilst it was being built. We didn’t get to go down there but hopefully no alien’s got left behind after they finished!
To store the new books it receives, the library is now having to build a new premises in Boston Spa, outside of London. By law, every book published in the UK has to have a copy sent to the library. They receive about 8,000 a day. Even newspapers and magazines have to send copies in – including the pornographic ones!
As far as ‘behind-the-scenes’ goes, we didn’t see too much but our guide did show us how requested books are hand-picked then whizzed around the building. And we got an eagle-eye view of one of the reading rooms.
We also learnt more about The King’s Library, donated by King George IV after he inherited it from his father. It’s kept in this rather snazzy area in the middle of the main atrium and can only be accessed by about 30 people.
I also have to mention the gift shop because it’s like heaven for any lover of literature, with souvenir postcards, bags, badges, notebooks, pens etc as well as actual books both fiction and non-fiction.
All the pretty, pretty things. I wanted to jump in them and swim about, but that’s probably frowned upon.
Anyhoo, I know the question you want to ask which is “Wordlander, did you get a notebook?”
Of course I did – but more about that in another blog post!
I hope you enjoyed my ‘taster’ of my British Library tour. They only appear to be going on until 30th September this year so if you’re interested get in there quick!
A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.
Today is Roald Dahl day! I feel a bit guilty because I didn’t know this existed until a few days ago and Dahl is one of my favourite authors. How could I not know when his birthday was?
Still I know now so I have an excuse to talk about my favourite book of his is “Matilda”. Being a smart, bookish child (but no way near as smart as Matilda is) I felt an important connection to her character. Fortunately I had much nicer parents and teachers than she did! There’s a pretty decent film version of the book directed by and starring Danny DeVito.
And there’s a musical version that’s received tremendous reviews. Unfortunately I have yet to see it but it’s on the to-do list.
His work for adults is often overshadowed by his books for children, but I particularly like his short stories. His dark streak is shown in a much deeper hue in many of them.
We’re planning a short holiday in London this September. As we’ve visited most of the tourist spots before, I’m hunting for more unusual and inspiring things to do.
Here are five interesting things I’ve found. Maybe they’ll give you some ideas if you’re planning a visit or are a local!
The British Library is offering behind-the-scenes tours this summer. I’ve never been that far into the building so I’m very excited about this one. It’s not too pricey either at £10 each for adults. I’m hoping they’ll let me take photos so I can share the experience on here.
I’m hoping for some macabre inspiration from the Hunterian Museum. Attached to The Royal College of Surgeons, this free museum houses all manner of weird and wonderful things. Usually in jars.
Next up a tour of the London Underground, £20 each for a two-hour tour (plus you have to pay for your tube travel). My boyfriend and I share a fascination for underground spaces like tunnels, caves and mines so we’re both intrigued by this one. The chance to view a disused platform should be a highlight – who knows what could be down there?
On toDennis Sever’s House, a rather unique bit of history. Dennis lived in the house from 1979 to 1999 and refurbished the place room by room. Each one is set up as if the family Huguenot silk-weavers who lived there have just stepped out.
Lastly, you can’t go to London without taking in a show, but musicals aren’t my thing. Instead we’re going to see The Woman in Black. I can highly recommend the book if you’re a fan of ghost stories and, though different, the Daniel Radcliffe film was suitably moody. The reviews of the stage version are superb and it’s been going for twenty-five years so they must be doing something right!
I’d love to hear of any other recommendations. Do you have an inspiring place in London or an activity there you’ve loved?