March 6th 1052 was a day of mourning in England – at least for some. On that day in history, Emma of Normandy – Queen to two Kings of England, mother of two more – passed away. She was at least in her 60’s although we do not know her exact age. I expect this is most inconvenient for historians: as a writer of historical fiction I find it downright annoying. Still, at least fiction writers can get away with making things up if the facts are not there.
One thing I am not making up: our goose. Guaranteed to raise laughter. She really is a silly goose, I can quite see where the saying comes from. Her name is Bernadette, although I have to be honest, she might be a Bernard. We’re not sure, but we’re sticking with Goose, not Gander.
Bernadette Goose lives in the orchard now that the Build is finished. She wanders about alongside the hens and the ducks, although they are two distinct rival gangs. The Webfoots and the Clucks. Think Romeo and Juliet: the Capulets and Montagues. Or West Side Story, the Jets and the Sharks (hum or sing various tunes from the famous movie if you like, but I suggest this one from YouTube) Not that the goose, or the hens can click their fingers, but you can bet your life that Goosey would if she could! She waddles around as if she is a plump queen surveying her Queendom. Woe betide anyone who encroaches into her realm. Even if that does include myself or son-in-law Adam when we go to let them out of their Overnight Suite Accommodation of a morning. She hates us. We are her minion slaves, or in her eyes, the Cops of New York’s West Side: Officer Krupke of course!
She hisses, pecks and attacks Adam’s wellies and my dressing gown. (What? You expect me to be dressed at 8ish in the morning?) It is probably my white dressing gown that started the whole ‘Peck the Humans’ routine. It is large, white and fluffy. To Bernie I resemble a giant goose. Adam, she just hates. She chases him. His fault, he shouldn’t run!
And Kathy? Well Goosey adores Kathy. Kathy is Juliette, or Maria… and this one from West Side Story just IS the goose: YouTube “I feel pretty”.
Western Power were here a while ago to trim back overhanging branches from the power lines. In the end we had to shut Bernie away because she was terrorising the workmen. All that hissing and flapping, you would think she was being measured up for the pot or something. There again if she keeps going for Adam’s wellies… we do usually have goose for Christmas.
On a completely separate but vaguely attached topic: I cannot believe that it is a year since Kathy and Adam got married. Happy Anniversary to you both!
The Orchard is looking a little sorry for itself. A lot of the top end was badly churned up because of the Build; not the builders’ fault, slopes of grass dowsed by pouring, persistent rain soon becomes a replica of the Somme. The grass will grow back, but skis would be good for getting down the slippery bits.
The evening of February 23rd was spectacular. We had a thunderstorm. Grumbles and rumbles echoing all along the valley and the entire panorama of the sky turning a lurid shade of purple. The previous storm, a few weeks back, tramped over the horizon in the early hours of the morning, announcing itself with the most enormous bang that shot us all out of bed wondering what had been hit. Turned out it was a power cable pole in the next village a couple of miles away.
We are prepared for storms. Power cuts are always a possibility, and the trouble with them is, we don’t lose just electricity. The pumps for the oil-fired Range and the water-filter that draws water from the well are both electric. So no power means no light, heat, or water.
Fortunately these storms usually lurk over the moors; Exmoor to the north, Dartmoor to the south – both near enough for us to hear the bangs and see the flashes. Our bit of the Taw Valley is fortunately fairly sheltered. Just in case, though, I have a couple of bottles of water, torches, candles (and matches) always on standby. A bucket is accessible in case we need to draw water from the well (not to drink unless boiled, but handy for loo flushing). The log-burner gets very hot, so with our trusty old kettle we can have tea or coffee, can warm up soup, or cook baked beans and fry eggs - make toast. Or crumpets buttered with Devon Butter.
As for Emma. I ‘met’ her when writing Harold the King, (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US). I came to like this fascinating woman and wanted to know more about her – hence, she got her own novel, A Hollow Crown. Titled The Forever Queen in the US – and frankly the better of the two editions.
I have a scene where Emma, as a young woman, fends off an angry swan that is about to attack a child. Had I known then what I know now, I would have made it a goose not a swan.
Part of my itch to write her story was a desire to explore why she and her firstborn son, Edward, (later known as The Confessor) hated each other. The relationship was hostile. And that is why I say that not everyone in King Edward’s Realm of England that day in March 1052 was mourning. I reckon Eddie put the flags out and celebrated. Silly man.
Read more here - posting March 6th 2015 - a full article about Emma.
Lege feliciter (read happily).
As you all guessed, the resolutions I so glibly made at the start of the New Year have already been broken.
This is what you will read in last month’s Journal:
1. Have a shower before 10.30 a.m. I don’t get up late, in fact I am often in my study by 8.30 but I tend to tell myself, “I’ll just answer these e-mails… update Facebook/my blog” then discover it is well past ten o’clock. Although, there is something cosy about writing in my nice snuggly fluffy dressing gown on a cold and frosty morning. BROKEN.
Well what do you expect on cold, wet, dark wintery mornings?
2. Say ‘no’ more often to things that I don’t really want to do, or do not have time to do. I know this one will be broken, because I’ve made the same resolution for the past nth years. Yes, BROKEN.
What IS the difficulty with saying ‘No’?
3. Get my newsletter to my webmaster in good time before the end of the month. Ah, maybe this one is a keep… NOT BROKEN (yet), but read on…
4. Stop gazing out of the window and get on with my writing. BROKEN.
5. Cut down on cheese and homemade scones with cream and jam. HA HA! Did I seriously intend to keep this? How much homebrewed apple and blackberry gin had I consumed when I thought this one up?
Number three is a positive (so far, but then it is only February), except I have been hampered by Outside Interference. To whit (to quote a well-known Trekkie phrase): ‘It’s the Internet, Jim, but not as we know it.’
For a good part of January I had no Internet. Everything was working fine Tuesday evening when I logged off, disregarding the slow speed I have, but then I live in a very rural area not far from Exmoor, so that is to be expected. Wednesday morning I had an eye clinic appointment at Barnstaple Hospital. Lovely staff, very efficient, appointments run more-or-less to time. Great. When we lived in London, our local hospital, Whipps Cross, was a nightmare to visit. Sensible people took packed lunches to their appointments; it was anyone’s guess when you would emerge into the daylight again.
I was tired when I got home, and the customary eye-drops meant I could not do any work, so I put my feet up for a couple of hours. When I eventually turned the computer on, I had a connection but nothing was loading. The blue light on the router was steady. My computer declared ‘connected’ but nothing was happening beyond ‘loading’ going around and around and around. Buffering? Nope, we had very clearly hit the buffers and ground to a halt.
Certain the fault was a Service Provider problem and nothing to do with my equipment, I asked my webmaster to tag my received emails with a ‘Locked in Purdah’ notification, and took the opportunity to write.
So, Internet-less, I had two articles tucked away, three reviews of books written and took a few nice walks in the woods. Add to those this newsletter, a complete re-edit of the first half of On The Account (the next novel being written) and several new chapters completed without pause for reading and replying to emails.
Am I back online? If you haven't heard from me via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and the like, then No, I am not. If you are reading this and thinking; ‘But how did she do her journal?’ the answer is simple. There is still the old-fashioned way. I wrote it, printed it, and posted it by snail mail to my Webmaster. How he got it to this point, though, I have absolutely no idea. (You know me and my ignorance of bleh-type techie stuff…)
Maybe this No Internet business, at least for Jesamiah Acorne fans, is a good thing. Despite the distractions outside my window, writing the fifth Sea Witch Voyage - while not conversing on social media - is taking priority. At last.
We have lived in Devon for exactly two years now and I realise I have not been able to write with the in-depth concentration I require because of no longer needing to escape my surroundings. Writing was a way to block Walthamstow out. I had to live there, but could mentally transport myself to another time and place to get away from the noise, pollution and unhappiness. Here in Devon there is nothing to run away from.
So I can now enjoy the longed-for dream-come-true, but also re-embrace that other place, the World of Imagination. Maybe the Internet Disruption is a good thing – the kick-start needed to get back to writing?
Just to remind you of what you are waiting for, take a look at the Home Page graphic for February 2015.
Captain Acorne, even if he is a fictional pirate, makes very good Eye Candy for a Valentine’s Day drop-dead gorgeous hero doesn’t he? And for the guys… Tiola is a bit of alright as well!
Lege feliciter (read happily).
Woke up this morning (29th December) to a belated White Christmas – if a heavy frost counts as white, that is.
I had to let the ducks and the goose out with the aid of a hammer because the door to their Night House (safe from foxes) was frozen. And then the goose spent the next five minutes complaining because the water in their little pond was hard. Add another five minutes for her screaming at the ground because it was all nasty and white. Kathy calls her Bernadette, but I think she should be ‘Mrs Bennett’ because she reminds me of the always panicking Mrs B in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
“Oh my poor nerves!”
The goose is a character, and I can quite see where the saying “silly goose” came from… here is proof: What is that other saying? “You don’t have to be mad to live here. But it helps.”
Well, Kathy and Adam are moved into their new home – aptly named ‘Little Owl Lodge’. The days before Christmas were a tad hectic as we were finishing off the last few fiddly bits, then moving furniture from the Big House into the Little House. Here’s wishing them lots of happiness in their new (literally new) home.
On another matter and as an update: if anyone missed it, the new Sea Witch Trailer is now public on YouTube – do take a look and click ‘like’ if you have a YouTube account. There were 306 views of the trailer when I looked; it would be so nice to double that – so spread the word folks!
I have a few New Year Resolutions to make, although I know they will all be broken within a few days:
1. Have a shower before 10.30 a.m.
I don’t get up late, in fact I am often in my study by 8.30 but I tend to tell myself, “I’ll just answer these e-mails, and update Facebook and my blog” then discover it's well past ten o’clock. Although, there is something cosy about writing in my nice snuggly fluffy dressing gown on a cold and frosty morning.
2. Say ‘no’ more often to things that I don’t really want to do, or do not have time to do.
I know this one will be broken, because I’ve made the same resolution for the past nth years.
3. Get this newsletter to my webmaster in good time before the end of the month.
See above for not keeping this.
4. Stop gazing out of the window and get on with my writing.
Again, see above.
5. Cut down on cheese and homemade scones with cream and jam.
What are your New Year Resolutions I wonder? How about ‘Read all Helen’s books again”?
Whatever your hopes and dreams – I wish you all a very Happy New Year.
May the sun shine on your face,
May the Moon light your path,
And may all shadows fall behind you.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Lege feliciter (read happily).