The crowd assembled outside Shakespeare’s Globe roared gleefully as a long rowboat emerged from beneath Southwark Bridge and began to make its laborious way across the river. Arriving by rowboat would seem to be an ambitious undertaking, given the strength of the tide and the choppiness of the water. Bedecked in foliage from head to toe, the Holly Man waved, unfazed by the cold and the water that periodically threatened to swamp the boat.
It was the coldest day of the winter so far, with low cloud obliterating the tops of London’s new crop of quirky skyscrapers and a distinct chill in the air. Rain threatened. But the theatrical troupe the Lions part, in all their extravagantly costumed glory, were not about to let the weather have the last say. The Twelfth Night celebrations, an annual ritual on Bankside, would carry on, no matter what.
The river had its say, though, as the boat initially misjudged its approach and had to circle back under the pier gangway and come around again. It finally managed to tie itself to the stairs where wherry men of old used to deposit their passengers on their way to see a play at the original Globe.
With the Holly Man safely ashore, the merriment could get properly underway. Before a well wrapped-up crowd, Saint George, the Turkey Sniper, the Doctor (not that Doctor) Clever Legs, Father Christmas and the Old ‘Oss performed a Mummers’ Play, described as a ‘freestyle folk combat play’. Saint George and the Turkey Sniper briefly halted their duel to get their breath back and take a selfie, before returning to battle in slow motion worthy of a martial arts movie.
Just as everyone was beginning to freeze, events moved to The George Inn, which was a fitting end to a wonderfully bonkers afternoon.
So, it’s 2015 already. Where did 2014 go, that’s what I want to know.
As it’s the start of the year, my mind has turned to New Year’s resolutions, and I am reminded that I often don’t do very well at them. My good intentions tend to fizzle out around the end of February, if not before, which makes for very expensive gym memberships.
So I’ve decided to forgo the usual list resolutions – join the gym, go on a diet etc. – in favour of a more themed resolution for the year.
In 2015, I’m going to be bold!
In a vague sort of way, I’ve thought this would be a fine goal for quite a while, now, but I often get waylaid by various factors, such as my shyness (thankfully less severe than it used to be), my talent for procrastination, and a tendency to second-guess myself.
This year is going to be different (she tells herself sternly). I am going to get out there and do things!
First off is a self-made challenge on You Tube. I started dabbling in You Tube last year, and I think I’m slowly getting the hang of it. It’s very strange seeing myself on camera, though. I think my ease with it will increase as I get more practice, so I’ve decided to put up a video every day for the month of January. This should help me get a bit more comfortable with it, and hopefully clarify what my channel is about. At the moment it’s a travel/history/art mix, and it is definitely taking me out of my comfort zone!
I have a few more plans under the ‘Bold’ heading, including sending out query letters to all and sundry, write a novella and put together a collection of short stories. I will keep you updated!
In the meantime, here’s my first video of January!
I have had a short story accepted over at Alfie Dog Fiction! It has gone live today, and has done wonders for my confidence, prompting me to get a number of new stories started. It’s amazing what a little bit of encouragement can do for my mood. And my productivity.
The story, The Perfect Wave, has been around for a while. It was a runner-up in a short story competition (I well remember the day I got the news – dancing around the living room was involved), then it was published in The Lady magazine.
Since then, the story has been hiding on my hide drive. The explosion in the number of online literary magazines made me think I really should do something with it, but most of them don’t accept reprints, which had me stumped for a while.
Then I discovered Alfie Dog Fiction, which, aside from having a great name, accepts reprints. Yay!
They aren’t a magazine, really; they’re more of a publisher, a market-place for some great stories. You can download a single story for the princely sum of £0.39. Do check them out, and maybe take a look at The Perfect Wave while you’re there?
I think I’m getting my fiction mojo back! Here’s my first Friday Flash in a loooong time.
She knew she had arrived when she bought her first Monet. No longer the ingénue, the starlet under the thumb of a would-be Svengali, she had finally graduated from forgettable supporting roles to star billing. Her name was now above the title, and she was in a position to pick her own scripts.
And buy her own art.
It began when she accepted a role in an edgy independent film for next to no money and many column inches, and headed to London. It showed what she could do and it made her Svengali’s teeth grind, which was always a plus. And the shoot had coincided with the first auction of impressionist art of the year.
She always did have great timing.
It was a cold, bright day in February, she remembered. She had been warmly wrapped up in coat, hat, and gloves, the very picture of elegance. At the auction house she mingled with the sharply-dressed crowd like she had been hobnobbing with the wealthy all her life. Then she took her seat and composed herself, as she would before a performance. All these years later she could still feel a remnant of the adrenaline that had coursed through her as she imperiously raised her paddle for the first time.
No-one could do imperious quite like her. All the critics said so.
For a moment she had been worried that she wouldn’t succeed. But one by one her rivals fell away and the Monet was all hers.
It would set a pattern for the years to come. Win an award, buy a painting. She had quite the collection, but that first Monet would always have a special place in her affections.
They do say you never forget your first.
I have written about the Charles Dickens Museum before in Calling on Charles Dickens, but that was before I discovered the video button on my camera. The museum is fascinating and well worth a return visit, especially now that I have my National Art Pass and can get in free! Here’s the video – here’s hoping it whets your Dickensian appetite for your next visit to London.
The Charles Dickens Museum is at 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX. Adult tickets cost £8 (free with National Art Pass from the Art Fund).
In a mingling of Greek and Egyptian myth, the rose came to be associated with secrecy in the ancient world. According to one version of the story, Aphrodite gave a rose to her son Eros, who in turn gave it to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to ensure his mother’s indiscretions were not disclosed. Harpocrates was the Greek name for the Egyptian god Horus.
When a rose hung over a council table, all present were sworn to secrecy, an ancient form of the Chatham House Rule. Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series is therefore the secret history of Rome, as seen through the eyes of Gordianus the Finder. Gordianus is an ancient Roman private detective, a cross between Philip Marlowe and Sherlock Holmes, and he has a great eye for the wonders, absurdities and dangers of Roman life.
I first read these books some years ago, and loved them. I am now rediscovering their virtues, as I work my way through my boxes of books, and I’m reminded of why they’re so good. In books like The Venus Throw and Rubicon Saylor shows the scholar’s knack for fascinating detail, allied to a wonderful sense of story. He also has a great talent for genuinely surprising endings that at the same time make you think “Of course!”
The books are set in the last decades of the Roman Republic, when powerful figures such as Sulla, Catalina, Pompey and Caesar are jostling for power. Saylor uses real events and real characters as backdrops to his stories. There’s certainly enough dramatic material there to fuel a hundred books!
I talk a little bit more about these books in my video. (These videos are fun, but there is a learning curve!)
For more information on the series, check out the Roma Sub Rosa page on Steven Saylor’s website.