A little tour of Blackfriars

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re staying safe and well in these strange times.

It’ll be a while until we can travel overseas. But the last couple of times I was in London, I made this brief video for readers of The Firewatcher Chronicles, so you can see some of the sites where action happens in the books.

I’ll post another one on mudlarking, and what we can find in the Thames (besides magical Roman rings) soon.

PS I just made it on my phone, racing around the laneways – it’s not going to win any Oscars! But hopefully it will help kids who haven’t been to London to imagine some of the places where Christopher and his friends race against time to fight fires and solve the mystery of the ring. And how you really wouldn’t want to fall in that river.

Westward ho!

I’m heading off to the west of Ireland soon, for another round of research for Grace, my novel about the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley (Gráinne Ní Mháille) and her meeting with Queen Elizabeth 1.

Woodcut of Grace and ELizabeth meeting

Two queens meet: Anthologia Hibernica, vol. 11, 1793

It’ll be winter in Ireland then (the change of season is November 1 – early winter!) but that will be an adventure in itself. Grace ruled the waves around Clew Bay and the coast of County Mayo – now part of the wonderful Wild Atlantic Way. Last time I was there, it was uncharacteristically sunny and calm. I look forward to a little wildness.

Stay tuned for lots of photos of me standing damply beside castle walls.

Map of Mayo
And in other marvellous news, I’ve been awarded a Fellowship to spend some blissful writing time, working on Grace, at Varuna, the National Writers’ House, next year.

Feeling very grateful.

The pleasure of ruins

I’ve been in England and Ireland the past few weeks, researching lots of things at once.

But I keep getting distracted by the many ancient stories all around me, some of them told in stone, brick, weeds and rubble.

 

Image of ruined cloister

 

I’m reminded of the lovely book The Pleasure of Ruins by Rose Macauley (I like it so much I have two editions – one with photographs by Roloff Beny).

The intoxication, at once so heady and so devout, is not the romantic melancholy engendered by broken towers and mouldered stones; it is the soaring of the imagination into the high empyrean where huge episodes are tangled with myths and dreams; it is the stunning impact of world history on its amazed heirs.

Especially on the west coast of Ireland, the ruins of cottages and whole villages often tell the story of the Famine or the Rebellions and their aftermath, or the expulsion of small farmers, or mass emigration of people like my own ancestors, or simple poverty – or all of these.

 

Deserted cottage on The Burren

 

Then there are ruined castles and towers, churches and abandoned graveyards, wells and tombs and ancient monuments.

 

Image of Poulnabrone dolmen

 

So many stories can be read – or imagined – in ruins, in stone.

 

Image of Stonhenge