Thursday, October 29, 2020

Strange Coincidence

Long ago, in the Before Time — before Breixt, before Trump, before COVID — I began writing a fantasy/adventure series for my grandsons. Any dedicated reader of Postcards… will be aware of this, as I keep banging on about it. Previously, however, I have only talked in general about the series; today I am going to mention something quite specific.

The series involves Arthurian legend and a stone—an obsidian Scrying Mirror called the Talisman—that holds the power to save the Land or, in the wrong hands, destroy it. The good thing about writing fantasy (something I had never envisioned doing) is that you can make shit up. So, I did.

The Talisman gets its power from Brighid (an actual goddess, supposedly, the origin of the goddess Britannia) and becomes even more powerful when placed in the Sacred Temple hidden deep beneath the Glastonbury Tor.

Of course.

The Tor is a place imbued with mystery, which made it the ideal location to hide a sacred temple. But how does one get at that Temple? What I came up with was the idea of a big, round stone, set into the side of the tor. The stone would mark the entrance to the underground temple and, to open the gateway, they had to…but that would be telling. What I can tell you is, I arbitrarily set it on the south side at the 5th level, simply to make it hard to get to as well as to avoid having it at the top, a location where there is, quite obviously, no large, round stone.

Earlier this year, while writing the final book, I needed to take another look at the Tor to help set up a scene, so I fired up Google Maps, as I have done countless times in the past. This time, however, I noticed something new: a location indicator pointing to something called the Egg Stone. A quick check revealed that this was the stone I had been writing about all along, without even knowing it was there.

The Egg Stone (said by some to be the “Dragon Egg” laid out by the Dragon of Avalon) has been there probably as long as the tor, and over the years has become mythologized as the gateway to the underworld, which is exactly what it is in my books. Even more coincidentally, it is in the same location as the stone in my books—the south side, on the 5th level.

It was a weird feeling, discovering that the fictional stone I had been writing about for eight years actually existed. I felt I needed to go see it in person so, on a lovely, sunny day in September—while my wife and I were on holiday in Somerset—we made a side trip to the Tor.

Level 5 on the South Side

We walked to the top, enjoyed the views, and then I set off to find the Egg Stone. It wasn’t difficult locating it—I’ve known exactly where it sits for years—but getting to it wasn’t easy, which is how it is in the books. I scrambled up a nearly vertical slope, dodging sure-footed sheep, prickly bushes and stingy nettles, to find it as I imagined, nestled in the slope rising from the fifth level. I was really chuffed, but there was no one to share my moment with. Then a woman came down the slope, wearing sandals, a psychedelic tee-shirt and glittery harem pants. She descended to the level ground and gave me no notice, even when I greeted her. Instead, she placed her hands on the Egg Stone and just sort of stood there, touching it.

The Egg Stone, right where I said it would be.

I figured that must be the thing to do, so I joined her, placing both my hands on the rock, but I didn’t feel anything, just cold stone and a rising embarrassment. Having achieved my goal, I left her to it, not bothering to say, “Good-bye” as I left.

Good thing, too, as I later found this review of the Egg Stone:

“A very peaceful and very spiritual place. I wouldn't disrespect it by taking photos. The best way is to go and experience it quietly and respectfully.”

So, I was a New Age Boor because I did both. But then she didn’t feature it in a fantasy/adventure epic, so I guess we’re even.




Sunday, October 18, 2020

Holiday II

We’ve just returned from holiday and, as usual, it already feels like we never left. There is laundry to be done, dishes to wash, and it seems that no one did the hoovering while we were gone.

Wait a minute! That’s the same thing I wrote last month. It’s like deja vu all over again.

But the truth is, we went on holiday. Again. This time up north, to Yorkshire, where we enjoyed the “atmospheric” (Read: clouds, rain and wind) scenery, which truly was stunning.

Scenic though it was, and even though we hiked and drove repeatedly thought the Moors (in various states of weather), I managed to take not a single photo of the breath-taking vistas. So, here’s one I nicked off the web. It’s better than anything I could do and, as a bonus, it’s not raining.

One of the highlights of the trip was a ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Heritage Railway. I’m not really a train buff, but it was certainly interesting and quite an experience.

Getting ready to board.

It's a steam train, what did you expect?

This is what it looked like when we went through a tunnel.
Must have given those Victoria couples quite the opportunity.

For you trainspotters, here's the engine.

The train brought us to the town of Whitby, a place famous for its Jet jewellery. It was a lovely town and we had a nose around, then dried out in a convivial café to wait for the train to leave and marvel at how the locals kept their famous Jet so well under cover.

We also went to Scarborough and, yes, the fair was in town. I think it’s always there.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...

Here's the beach. And this was one of the better days.

On the way back from one of our excursions, the SatNav decided to take us on an adventure, leading us onto narrower and narrower roads, up and down near-vertical inclines and over what they call a “Splash,” which is a road that runs under a creek instead of over it; a circumstance, one must suppose, reserved for those hamlets that lack the funds, ability or ambition necessary for building a bridge.

Makes you wonder how they get to the shops after a heavy rain.

Oddly, the most exciting thing we did on holiday was listen to the news. Every evening we sat, giving the flat-screen affixed to the wall our full attention, as region after region fell under the juggernaut of COVID. One by one, the surrounding counties fell, like used face-masks, by the wayside, but the county of North Yorkshire remained resolutely in Tier 1, as did our home county of Sussex.

It might not have been such an exciting sideshow, but the Government (bless them) managed to keep everyone on their toes through obfuscation, random rule-changing and offering us the opportunity to realize the sad, yet frightening, truth that they, themselves, had no idea what they were doing.

That particular week, they came up with a sort of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need for the COVID era, with a Tier System ranging from One to Three, as opposed to the traffic light system they came up with a few weeks back that went from Green to Red. Same number of levels, same meanings, same confusion.

The new Tier System.

The idea that we might be locked down in North Yorkshire and unable to leave or, worse yet, locked out of Sussex and unable to return, or perhaps be required to drive a circuitous route home to avoid locked-down counties, gave a little extra spark to our otherwise peaceful holiday.

As it turned out, we were able to leave North Yorkshire while it was still in the Green (I mean, at Tier 1) and were not required to avoid driving through any counties on the route home (fortunately, we were nowhere near Wales) and we arrived to the Sussex we left, which, though still in Tier 1, is slowly, politely, climbing the ladder—as is the rest of the country—toward Tier 2, and beyond.

Good thing we had a holiday when we could. We won’t be going anywhere else for a long time.