Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Back in Blighty...

France. Lovely weather – three weeks in which we only had one day where the weather gods even thought about rain. Wonderful. Less wonderful was the fact that, since we were last there two years ago, something dramatic seems to have happened to the cost of living: it’s now frighteningly expensive. And, as ever, the public toilets leave you longing for Britain

But we did have a lovely time, including me wheeling out my very rusty A-level French (tenses all over the place, can never remember the gender of non-immediately-obvious nouns – A-levels are beginning to be a frighteningly long time ago…) with all and sundry, but particularly our Belgian campsite neighbour who concealed the fact that he spoke perfect English until the last evening. ‘The English – they never learn French, but you’re very good [clearly a lie but flattering none the less] and I think it’s good for you to practice.’

He had clearly had less than wonderful experiences of Brits abroad and was prepared to find my willingness more than compensation for my linguistic all-over-the-placeness. When our conversations revealed that I am more Welsh than English, he decided that this was obviously the explanation for my readiness to speak other languages. The Other Half hastily foregrounded her Irish credentials (50% genetically, 90% temperamentally).

Fortunately, because we live in the bit of England nearest to France, we haven’t come back to wet or dreary weather, which is nice…

Whilst we’ve been away, the work in progress has been on my mind hugely – in fact I can’t remember any of the books I’ve written (6 at the last count) ever preoccupying me so much. I’m hoping this is a good sign – and being able (after my resolution to turn over a new leaf and discuss my work instead of keeping it a deep dark secret until the end of the second draft) to discuss it with the Other Half helped. In fact, she came up with an idea which may go a long way to solving my approach to what was threatening to become the ‘sticky middle section’ of the book.

Now we’re home I’m back to research and while the teenagers – back from their various trek- and frisbee-based jaunts and not yet returned to work – languish in bed, I am reading about the Peasants’ Revolt and general life in the fourteenth century. Oh, and I’m also trying to find a demonstration of traditional charcoal burning so if you know anywhere that offers this, let me know!

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England really is a gem. In research for previous books (mostly Testament) I’ve read a couple of the more academic books that he quotes and have been referring to one of them (and getting bogged down in tables and endless details) as I read his lucid prose. How he manages it, I don’t know but Ian Mortimer manages to give you the most astonishing amounts of information (a digest of the more academic stuff, basically) almost without effort – reading his book feels like chatting with an immensely knowledgeable but highly agreeable person: an absolute treasure trove.

But more of that anon.

Meanwhile, the other thing which has been occupying my mind since we got back a day or two ago and I started the cyber-catch up is: should I be on Twitter?

Are you?

Is it a good thing?

Is it something writers should do?

Discuss…

15 comments:

Tim Stretton said...

Welcome back, Alis!

Have you read Mortimer's The Fears of Henry IV? Brilliant...

I'n in the Twitter-sceptic camp, and setting up my own account has only made me more so.

David Isaak said...

I am not yet a Twit, but I'd be willing to listen to cogent arguments as to why I ought to be one.

Alas, cogent arguments often take too many words.

Alis said...

Hi Tim - No, I've yet to have the pleasure of reading any of Ian Mortimer's other books - I gather from his website that he has another two royal biographies from the time in the pipeline.

Hi David - not yet a Twit, I fear I'm already a twit but not a Twit...
I think my worry about Twitter is that it will take up way too much of my available attention/brainspace/social energy.
Maybe I'll just stick to blogging.

Ian Mortimer said...

What a nice comment on Time Traveller's Guide, and another on Fears of Henry IV (google alerted me). I'm really pleased they've gone down well. Thank you!

re: charcoal burning - they used to do demonstrations of this at the weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton in Sussex. Not sure if that is still the case, or if Singleton is near to you; but I hope it helps.

Aliya Whiteley said...

I've detwittered myself, and feeling better for it.

Alis said...

Hi Ian - thanks for stopping by. I am intending to do a full review of Time Traveller at some point - I actually finished it today and I am just so impressed both with the concept and your execution of it. As well as being a great read for the interested amateur medievalist, it's going to be the most wonderful resource for historical novelists. I just wish it had been around when I was writing Testament and just leaving out details I would have liked to include but couldn't find out about, rather than guessing and getting them wrong.

And thanks very much for the weald and downland museum recommendation - I'm petty sure they're bookmarked on my internet favourites as a good source of info on charcoal burning. I shall contact them forthwith.

Alis said...

Hi Aliya - what was it that made you detwitter?

Tim Stretton said...

Good job we had something nice to say about Ian (and I'm certainly intending to read the rest of the books which seem to have a novelistic slant).

Let's hope Ken Follett doesn't wander past my blog...

Tim Stretton said...

PS - Alis, if you're planning a visit to the Weald and Downland, let me know. I live literally 10 minutes away.

Alis said...

Hi Tim - I've just emailed a query to the Weald and Downland museum about charcoal making demos, so I'll let you know if there's anything in the offing. It would be great to meet up!

Frances Garrood said...

Hi, Alis. I'm so glad you had a good break and that you're still so enthusiastic about the WIP. Re Twitter - for what it's worth, I think (in my case, at least)it would just be another handy displacement activity, and so having half signed on, I decided to leave it.

Aliya Whiteley said...

Yes, like Frances, I realised I was spending more time fiddling about on it than writing. And it's meaningless. And you're only really reaching about two people, and they probably have already bought your book. I'm pretty certain that nobody buys a book because somebody's telling them what they're doing 17 times a day. You don't want updates from your relatives that often, let alone some random writer.

Akasha Savage said...

Hello Alis...welcome back.

I am a twit! I don't go on it an awful lot, but it is good fun, although it is another thing that eats into my writing time. I mainly go on it because I can 'follow' Bill Cameron (an american author who no longer blogs and he's someone I want to stay in contact with).

Have you read Company of Liars by Karen Maitland? I think it might interest you. It's set in England during 1348 and follows a group of misfits as they try to outrun the plague. It's a good read.

Alis said...

Hi Aliya - yes, the whole wasting time for no particular discernible reader-effect is what worries me. I think I'll give it a miss.

Alis said...

Hi Akasha - Yes, I've read Company of Liars which I did quite enjoy, though not as much as I thought I was going to as I was a bit baffled by the magical element in the swan-man's thread.

I'm waiting for her next one to come out in paperback...

How's Bathory coming along?