Sunday, 9 October 2011

Doing It Like Priestley

Just got back from the Faversham Hops Festival - a glorious, English end to the summer indeed. Faversham is a lovely old town in the heart of the 'Garden of England', the county of Kent, and it took no more than a couple of hours to get there on a red London bus. To while away the journey I revisited J. B. Priestly's Good Companions, which I'd downloaded to my for the purpose.

The Good Companions has a fascinating history since Priestly wrote it at a time when he was worn down with tragedy - the effects of the First World War, the death of his young and beautiful wife from cancer and the loss of his Father, tragically early at the age of 56. A single dad, trying desperately to pay the bills and bring up two daughters alone, Priestly would not have been able to take the time out to write the book were it not for the supreme generosity of his friend Walpole. Walpole, knowing that Priestly would be too proud to accept a gift of a year's salary, although he was wealthy enough to give it, instead suggested they collaborate on a book. Priestly agreed, and on these terms, Walpole donated his share of the royalties as a gift so that The Good Companions could be written.

'The Good Companions' turned out to be the book that Priestly called 'the only one I could have written at the time'. He quite literally wrote himself out of misery, with this charming tale that breaks all the publishers' rules - much too long, multiple protagonists, long rambling plot, feel-good ending. Incidentally, Priestly's knowledge of the forgotten corners of England during the Great Depression of the 1930s, all to familiar in our current credit crisis, shines through.

I love it.

Thoroughly unflattering but an essential part of the day...

My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break 
  William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Banbury Cross

Superb day out in Banbury. This charming market town was made famous in an old English nursery rhyme:

Ride a cock horse
To Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady
Upon a white horse.
Rings on her fingers
And bells on her toes
She shall have music
Wherever she goes

The cock horse was a strong horse, perhaps a bit like one of these beautiful fellows. He would have been harnessed to one's carriage when it needed extra help to pull it up a steep hill, and then unharnessed at the top, to return to his bag of hay until the next carriage came along.

After staring up at the decorated stone cross which soars above the town, I descended to the water's edge for the canal boat festival.

The canal was packed out with local people and visitors, all enjoying the hottest October day since records began, hotter than Barcelona and New York.

I really want to keep the creative well stocked because I'm working so hard on two novels at different stages and I'm in desperate danger of disappearing somewhere in the swamp of their unresolved plots. Decided to try daily Haiku. I got this idea when I was studying for my degree with the Open University. The point of the haiki is to get daily practice at focussing on a single creative thought.

Banbury Canal Day
Barges festooned with flowers
Floating in the sun