This is a truly terrible start. It’s nearly ten p.m. and I’ve only just got around to opening up the laptop. The day hasn’t been entirely wasted though. Despite walking into a street lamp and getting a biff on the head which is now the size of a duck egg, and despite the mobile phone suddenly going dark, and despite my hoped-for free download gift of Ten Weeks that Changed England Forever not being put out as free by Amazon (and I’ve only just found out) at least I’ve done some random reading towards the new book.
This isn’t how it should be of course. A well-ordered author would have had their desk cleared of all extraneous stuff, with reference books neatly stacked, the file opened and ready to bear words freighted with infinite wisdom but instead I’ve sorted a few books and magazines into vital, useful, interesting or irrelevant but irresistible while the rest (the truly irrelevant like DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow) have been relegated to the garden bookroom. Now I’m a wreck and it’s still only day 2.
I got a bit side-tracked by something about the Templars in Yorkshire. Obviously it’s before Hildegard’s time and for Book 8 it’s definitely the wrong county but I thought I might as well have a quick look to see if if there was anything useful there and then I was hooked. It’s by Holloway and Colton and written in an engagingly racey style that makes you want to keep on reading. I have to say it’s not always accurate but it’s a good intro for anybody interested in the Templars.
I also read a few pages of what Ian Mortimer says about Henry of Lancaster during the summer of 1388, the period when the Netlay Abbey story is set. I never agree with him about Henry. He scarcely registers the barbaric and sheer malice and cruelty of the usuper king but waxes on about Richard’s so-called vindictiveness without a shred of evidence other than the opinions of his enemies. I cannot gloss over the fact that Lancaster destroyed the Cistercian monastery Strata Florida and its scriptorium which rivalled that of Lindisfarne in the value of its books several centuries earlier. It was a great seat of learning with an international reputation like Valle Crucis but Henry decided he couldn’t trust the monks – who were appalled that he had murdered his cousin, the legitimate and anointed king – so he burned their books, destroyed their monastery and had about 200 monks put to death. This is remembered in Wales but sadly we in England tend to have a blind spot about the Welsh. What the Norman-English kings did to them is perhaps too shaming to contemplate.
This led me onto a wonderful though short book about the life of Owain Glyn Dwr, the great Welsh patriot. A humane and a well-educated man in a time when kights were barely literate he deserves more attention and I shall return to him more fully later. This brief excursion off-road will not be wasted as he’s going to have a walk-on part at Netley Abbey.
Somebody thought I was writing a blog about how to write a novel. Not so! I’m writing about how I’m writing my next novel. Which is probably a lesson in how not to go about the task in the first place.
So this is day 2, roughly speaking. Read a little about alchemy, astrology, astronomy, medieval science and philosophy as grist to the mill. But I think it’s time to lie down now and nurse the egg.