|Kennington's Gorgeous Bats|
It's been a glorious week in London, just as late spring 'should' be. By contrast, there are ghastly things looming large in the world, and a fair percentage rock up in my courtroom. The lunch break is my sanity check, and I head to Kennington Park bearing salad box and writer's notebook. Stress falls away - thank the Lord for riotous flower beds, sculpted lawns and centuries-old London Plane trees.
|The Sculpted Lawns and Ancient Trees|
Kennington Park was common land for hundreds of years. It's first recorded officially in the 1600s. There were village settlements, semi-wild forest and the River Effra, a proud Celtic tributary of the River Thames. The first Queen Elizabeth sailed her barge down the River Effra to Sir Walter Raleigh's Brixton home, but now, like both of them, the River Effra's six feet under the ground.
|The Lost River Effra|
I wonder whether Sarah Elston walked on the banks of the River Effra. Sarah was the last poor woman to be burned at the stake, in England. She had murdered her husband and they consigned her to the flames, here in my beautiful park, charged with witchcraft and treason. History does not record what the husband had done to provoke her, but whatever it was, they wouldn't have burned him for it, of that we can be sure.
|Sarah Elston's Memorial Garden|
I'm lucky to live in the 21st century - albeit in a country where I won't be pilloried or burned at the stake, where my body is my own and my choice of religion likewise. I work on my novel, drafting a few plot points before I have to return to the world of witnesses, legal bundles and oath statements. Very often I'm joined by a chittering squirrel or, in late afternoon, a family of bats who circle me with eery accuracy and total silence before returning to their roost. Perhaps they too are haunted by London's Lost River Effra.
Competitions won: Coast to Coast Short Story Competition, 2nd Prize; Writers' Village Flash Fiction Competition, 1st Prize.