York: Roman, Medieval, Viking. And geese.

I lived in York for three years during college. It’s a beautiful city, small and full of history. My degree was a joint effort in history and archaeology and it was a privilege to just be able to wander round and soak up all the different eras.

I kept a narrow focus on medieval Britain in my studies and retrospectively I wish I’d been more open to learning about other parts of the world. There seemed so much to learn about my own country though – and I wanted to know it all.

I have very little interest in Kings-and-Queen type history, or even political history. It’s the day to day minutiae that interests me. What did people eat for breakfast? How did they repair their shoes? How did you keep warm in winter? How long did it take to walk from one place to another? York is chock-full of museums, you can’t chuck a rock without hitting one. And they’re all fascinating. But the things that fascinate me most are the little things. The faces on the gargoyles and grotesques in the Minster – are they carved in anyone’s likeness? How long did each one take to make? Or taking a walk along the walls or down The Shambles and thinking about all the people over the last couple of thousand years who have done the same. What were they thinking? Where were they going?

Pondering these questions in part has led me to where I am writing today. I like writing about people, rather than situations. Yes, my stories have situations in them, because doh, that’s life. But it’s how my characters work things out, how they deal with the day to day minutiae of living that drives me forward.

Despite all its grandeur and all its opportunity for historical and archaeological research, my main memory of York is of the waterfowl on the university campus grounds.

That’s social history for you. Forget the cathedral. It’s too big to carry with me. Let me take away my pictures of the geese.

bucolic

Beware, this is a bucolic, pastoral post, instead of me doing any actual writing of fiction.

I usually power-down between Christmas and the New Year and this season has been no different. It’s cold and it’s wet and it’s dark and it’s much nicer to spend my time curled up inside in front of the fire watching mildly rubbish TV with the kids than trying to be creative. Or to try and wrest a living from the land, which is is what I attempt to do when I’m not writing.

The children went back to school last week and Mr AL and I spent the time getting our collective heads on straight; putting the decorations back up in the loft; catching the plague of mice that arrived out of the decorations boxes and started eating the tea-towels; and generally taking a breath.

For me it was also a week of heightened anxiety, because Lost in Time was released. I didn’t realise how much boshing up self-publishing early last year had affected me, up until now. I have had to work really hard not to compulsively check for new reviews and get on with the job of writing new words. Mr AL has been looking at reviews and feeding things back to me and that has worked really well as a cushion between me and the world.

This week, then, I feel better about Acting Like A Real Human ™ and despite it being cold and wet and having spent most of the morning standing in my pyjamas shouting things like “WHERE ARE YOUR TRAINERS! HAVE YOU CLEANED YOUR TEETH! TURN ALEXA OFF!” I can feel words bubbling up inside me almost ready to boil over on to the page.

I need to plant lettuce and get the hens back in to lay and decide whether I’m going to mate the rabbits again this year. But for now all that can wait whilst I retreat to 1920s London for a while.

 

 

 

the pain and the glory

We’re at the Children’s Hospice this week – as some of you know, our child is life-limited, with an undiagnosed, but progressive, neuro-muscular disease. So we get to hang out here three or four times a year. Which is not nearly as grim at it sounds. As you can see, this morning we are exploring My Little Pony nomenclature in the conservatory. N gets round the clock care from people other than us, and we all get fed and rested and generally looked after. It’s great (she said, in a plucky, ‘making the best of it’ type of voice).

As you can see from the photo, both OH (stripey jumper, attempting to stand up ponies) and I both have our laptops open. We are going for NaNoWriMo. Yes, folks. We are doing it.

Which is, clearly, why I’m blogging and taking pictures of children and faffing around on social media.