Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle.

BBC Radio Drama

Written by Neil Gaiman

Adapted by Katie Homs

Directed and Produced by Allegra McILroy

A twisted fairy tale part Snow White, part Sleeping Beauty with women at the forefront of the tale. Sleeping Beauty is awoken by a kiss from the Soldier Queen- the prince is redundant and the dwarfs aren’t to be taken seriously. On her awakening we find that Sleeping Beauty put a counter-spell on the old woman, ensuring that she can never sleep.

A brilliant BBC radio dramatization narrated by Dame Penelope Wilton with Neil Gaiman himself as The Home Secretary.

New Year.

“I hope that in the year to come, you make mistakes. Glorious, amazing mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

Neil Gamain, Neil Gaiman’s Journal

Famous writers and Active Service.

Found an article in a National Newspaper a month or so ago. We are familiar with the war poets such as Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, but I was interested to read about other writers that saw active service.

Tolkien: served as a lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and saw action at the Battle of the Somme. He was hospitalised with trench fever.

CS Lewis: saw action in the trenches arriving in 1917 aged 19. He took German prisoners and was wounded by a shell blast.

AA Milne: Winnie- the- Pooh creator. The famous bear was named after a real bear that had once been the mascot of a Canadian Infantry that Milne joined up to in 1915. He was injured at the Battle of the Somme.

Ernest Hemingway: was wounded by mortar fire as an ambulance driver on the Italian Front, where he fell in love with a nurse.

We tend to forget our famous writers have lives apart from their books, so I was really interested to read about these classic authors in the Great War.

Goblin Market (again)

By Christina Rossetti

Stumbled across this guy on a walk at the weekend. So had to do another Goblin Market post…!

Batemans, Burwash East Sussex.

‘…

So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I toss’d you for a fee.”—
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One call’d her proud,
Cross-grain’d, uncivil;
Their tones wax’d loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbow’d and jostled her,
Claw’d with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots,
Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat…’

(Extract)

The Secret Garden.

Bateman’s Robin. Burwash East Sussex.

‘The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it.’

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Chapter 8. “The Robin Who Showed the Way.

An autumn walk around Bateman’s gardens and this engaging robin reminded me of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. A childhood favourite book.

The Mill-Pond by Edward Thomas

The Mill pond, Batemans, Burwash

THE sun blazed while the thunder yet 
Added a boom: 
A wagtail flickered bright over 
The mill-pond’s gloom:

Less than the cooing in the alder 
Isles of the pool 
Sounded the thunder through that plunge 
Of waters cool.

Scared starlings on the aspen tip 
Past the black mill 
Outchattered the stream and the next roar 
Far on the hill.

As my feet dangling teased the foam 
That slid below 
A girl came out. “Take care!” she said— 
Ages ago.

She startled me, standing quite close 
Dressed all in white: 
Ages ago I was angry till 
She passed from sight.

Then the storm burst, and as I crouched 
To shelter, how 
Beautiful and kind, too, she seemed, 
As she does now!

Peak District National Park and the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Spent a couple of days tramping around the Peak District National Park, specifically Dovedale, a valley in the Peak District- owned by the National Trust. The valley was cut by the River Dove and runs for just over 3 miles between Milldale in the north and a wooded ravine near Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill in the south.

The beautiful countryside got me thinking about literature connections to the area- any great poets or writers. There was no one that wrote particularly about the area, however a few very famous writers had passed through, lived or stayed in the area:

Daniel Defoe (1661 – 1731)- passed through.

Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)- visited.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778)- visited.

Charlotte Bronte (1816 – 1855)- visited, (around the time she was writing Jane Eyre).

D.H.Lawrence (1885 – 1930)- lived.

George Eliot (1819 – 1880)- visited.

So although the area hasn’t produced a Wordsworth or Coleridge, it still has some literary history.

The Cormorant.

Seen on my morning run in Eastbourne Harbour today.

A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/cormorant/

The Common Cormorant or Shag

by Christopher Isherwood

The Common Cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag.
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out.
But what these unobservant birds
Have never noticed is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

Afternoon Tea.

Last week (10th- 16th August) was Afternoon Tea Week. I’m a bit late with this post, but couldn’t let the occasion pass completely.

Afternoon Tea is a tea-related ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. It evolved as a little meal to stem the hunger and anticipation of an evening meal at 8pm.

The tradition of afternoon tea made its way into English literature around a decade after the brew made its way into British drawing rooms in the early seventeenth century. I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:

And of course don’t forget the sandwiches, scones and cake. Especially the cake…

We as a family made a lot of cake over the lockdown period. It was something to do and something to share from a social distance and became quite special to us all.

Here are my two favourite Afternoon Tea pictures from the unprecedented times of 2020.

Crime Dagger Awards.

Crime Writer’s Association (CWA) Dagger Awards

The 2020 shortlists for the Crime Writer’s Association (CWA) Dagger Awards have been revealed. The Daggers celebrate the best in the many different areas of crime fiction.

The winners will be announced on October 22nd.

GOLD DAGGER

Claire Askew: What You Pay For (Hodder & Stoughton) 9781473673113

Lou Berney: November Road (Harper Fiction) 9780008309336

John Fairfax: Forced Confessions (Little, Brown) 9781408711606

Mick Herron: Joe Country (John Murray) 9781473657489

Abir Mukherjee: Death in the East (Harvill Secker) 9781784708535

Michael Robotham: Good Girl, Bad Girl (Sphere) 9780751573435

IAN FLEMING STEEL DAGGER

Lou Berney: November Road (Harper Fiction) 9780008309336

Tom Chatfield: This is Gomorrah (Hodder & Stoughton) 9781473681392

AA Dhand: One Way Out (Bantam Press) 9780552176538

Eva Dolan: Between Two Evils (Raven Books) 9781408886410

David Koepp: Cold Storage (HQ) 9780008334543

Alex North: The Whisper Man (Michael Joseph) 9781405935999

JOHN CREASEY (NEW BLOOD) DAGGER

Steph Cha: Your House Will Pay (Faber & Faber) 9780571348213

Samantha Downing: My Lovely Wife (Michael Joseph) 9781405939300

Philippa East: Little White Lies (HQ) 9780008344016

Robin Morgan-Bentley: The Wreckage (Trapeze) 9781409194170

Trevor Wood: The Man on the Street (Quercus Fiction) 9781787478367

SAPERE BOOKS HISTORICAL DAGGER

Alis Hawkins: In Two Minds (The Dome Press) 9781912534180

Philip Kerr: Metropolis (Quercus Fiction) 9781787473225

SG MacLean: The Bear Pit (Quercus Fiction) 9781787473614

Abir Mukherjee: Death in the East (Harvill Secker) 9781784708535

Alex Reeve: The Anarchists’ Club (Raven Books) 9781526604194

Ovidia Yu: The Paper Bark Tree Mystery (Constable) 9781472125248

CRIME FICTION IN TRANSLATION DAGGER

Marion Brunet: Summer of Reckoning, translated by Katherine Gregor (Bitter Lemon Press) 9781912242269

Hannelore Cayre: The Godmother, translated by Stephanie Smee (Old Street Publishing) 9781910400968

E Ferrari: Like Flies from Afar, translated by Adrian Nathan West (Canongate Books) 9781786896964

Jorge Galán: November, translated by Jason Wilson (Constable) 9781472125354

Sergio Olguín: The Fragility of Bodies, translated by Miranda France (Bitter Lemon Press) 9781912242191

Antti Tuomainen: Little Siberia, translated by David Hackston(Orenda Books) 9781912374519

ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION

Casey Cep: Furious Hours (William Heinemann) 9781785150739

Peter Everett: Corrupt Bodies (Icon Books) 9781785785955

Caroline Goode: Honour: Achieving Justice for BanazMahmod (Oneworld Publications) 9781786075451

Sean O’Connor: The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury(Simon & Schuster) 9781471132728

Adam Sisman: The Professor and the Parson: A Story of Desire, Deceit and Defrocking (Profile Books) 9781788162128

Susannah Stapleton: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective (Picador) 9781509867325

Clementine and Winston Churchill

Winston and Clementine Churchill. Bronze statue in the gardens of their home Chartwell, Kent.

By Winston Churchill’s own admission, his wife Clementine was a driving force in his becoming British Prime Minister and helping him steer the country through the second world war.

The above statue of The Churchills can be found in the gardens of Chartwell, their home for over forty years from September 1922 until shortly before his death in 1965.

I love this statue and like to imagine them both taking a quiet moment beside the lakes in the grounds of Chartwell, perhaps discussing the way forward for the country. ‘Behind every great man…’

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell

H