Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Looking for Richard Part 2

They've found him! Or rather, I should say, we now  have conclusive proof that the skeleton found in the Leicester car park is, indeed, that of Richard III, the last Yorkist king, cruelly maligned by the Tudors. It's the most exciting and moving news for Ricardians everywhere and for the past two days, I've felt quite obsessed. 
As I said in my earlier blog, I went on the Richard III trail in the autumn of 2011, something I'd wanted to do for a very long time.  We began at Bosworth, aware that there is now considerable dispute as to the location  of the battlefield, but very much enjoying the displays at the Centre. After that, it was on to Leicester, first to admire the heroic statue of Richard, and then, armed with a map, I went to look for the possible burial site.  (It was at this point that my husband, who was looking for a chemist so that he could buy painkillers for his back-pain,  somewhat peevishly complained that I seemed to care more about long-dead Richard than I did about him. Not true, of course, but the irony of that remark does not escape me, particularly now we know how Richard may have suffered discomfort from his scoliosis!)  Anyway, I found the plaque on the wall put there by the Richard III Society, and looked down into the car park and reflected, once again, on the unfairness of it all. He, that is Richard III, really didn't deserve such an ignominious fate and I'm glad there's been some redress. 

My first reaction on hearing the news was to sign the petition for Richard III to be interred in York Minster. Decades ago, when I was young and naive, and had mis-remembered the account of Richard's burial place in Rosemary Hawley Jarman's historical romance, "We Speak No Treason", I actually went there to see his tomb, the place where I thought it should rightly be.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  Now, however (updating my own blog in August 2013) I think it's right and proper that Leicester City should keep him. They've done a great forensic job, and, although Leicester Cathedral lacks the grandeur of York, perhaps it should be remembered that Richard did ride out from Leicester for the Battle of Bosworth and returned there in an ignominious fashion, as an abused corpse flung into a hole in the ground. Time now to give him the respect he deserves and Leicester will do it. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Looking for Richard

All power to those who've begun the search for Richard III, the much maligned king, who deserves better, in my opinion, that to be interred under a car-park in Leicester. I've always liked Richard and had my gravest suspicions about Henry V11. I went on the Bosworth trail myself last Autumn, and here I am paying my own homage, having almost got run over to get to the statue. I'd like them to give Richard a state funeral if they find him; my husband, ever the optimist, has gone one further and suggested he should be given a Nurofen and restored to the throne. Sadly, I doubt if that can be done, so I may have to content myself with seeing Mark Rylance, if I can get a ticket.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Last Romantic/Part 2

I believe (although I cannot prove this, and there may be some-one, possibly a centenarian, out there who will contradict me, ) that I may be the last fan of Sir John Martin-Harvey on the planet, a fan, I might add, of an actor who died before I was born, and whose work I only know from books, my collection of Edwardian postcards, and one silent film ('The Only Way' based on 'A Tale of Two Cities) which I had to wait nearly forty years to see, when it was finally screened at the NFT, to my absolute joy and enthrallment. I  loved it, despite the fact that by the time silent movies arrived, Martin-Harvey was twice the age Sydney  Carton is supposed to be, and therefore was recreating a role he'd first played on stage as a much younger man.
I was seventeen when I bought this postcard of Martin Harvey as Sydney Carton (in 'The Only Way')  in 1967, (I'd been in the Portobello Road looking for Henry Irving memorabilia at the time) and it was love at first sight. Here, as I quickly learned, was a man whose theatrical art had embodied everything that appealled to me at that age, romance, a tortured anti-hero bent on self-sacrifice, he'd been the ultimate, tragic, Dickensian rake. And he was so absolutely gorgeous wonder he'd been one of the top matinee idols of his day.
After acquiring the postcard, I embarked on the research; sadly, I was very inexperienced and had no idea how to go about it properly. I remember writing to The Stage, asking for anyone who remembered Martin-Harvey to write to me and received several replies, including one from his daughter, (then, I think, in her late seventies) but I was too shy to follow it up and visit her in person. Such a lost opportunity, particularly as I've since learned from the most recent book on Martin-Harvey that she lived well into her nineties. I wish I could find those letters now; there was one from an actress who'd  appeared in 'The Only Way' and who described the beauty of his voice as he proclaimed 'It is a far, far better thing...' and the agony of having to boo him in her role as a sans-culotte when all she wanted to do was listen.

There are at least three references in literature to Martin-Harvey; one in Elizabeth Taylor, as already mentioned, one in a forgotten novel by Cecil Roberts, 'A Terrace in the Sun' and one in James Joyce's Ulysses, no less, when lame Gertie sees a man on the strand who looks like him, but with a moustache....which she prefers, not being stage struck.
I remain, at my advanced age, very stage-struck.....

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Last Romantic

What is the link between this photograph and the wonderful English novelist,
Elizabeth Taylor, whose centenary is currently being marked by an on-line Readathon? I'll be back later to answer this question!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Year, New start?

I'm sure that most aspiring writers would agree that seeing something you've written in print is a lovely way to begin a New Year, and I was certainly cheered when the latest 'Silent Companion' came through my door yesterday, containing a short story that I've tinkered with for years (latest title, 'A Ghost's Story for Christmas') and compensating for my woeful failure last year to interest any agent in my novel. Receiving the magazine also, of course, gave me the opportunity to read some excellent stories by friends. I'm lucky to know some very talented writers, many of whom deserve wider recognition for their work and some of whom are enjoying publishing success, always encouraging news.
The 'Silent Companion' is the journal of A Ghostly Company, a delightful society for afficiandos of the ghost story that I joined a few years ago and with whom I've enjoyed some superb weekends, touring, amongst other places, parts of East Anglia associated with the master of the genre, M. R.James. (On a trip to Aldeburgh a few years back, one of our group managed to whistle up a storm, quite literally, in a tour de force that surprised us all, but that's another story.) I'm posting a link to the society in the comments box. New members are always welcome, and non-members are welcome to buy the magazine!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Caption: The Courtship of Snapperty

Surely I cannot be the only person who grew up in the 1950s who remembers the charming children's book, "Snapperty the Spider"? It was first published in 1956 by Lawson & Dunn, and was written by John de Quincey, an author of whom I know nothing other than that he penned this delightful tale. Here, we see Snapperty, the garden spider, whose mother taught him to make (or 'knit') a web, despite the tradition that dictates webs are the province of females ("Two purl, one plain, Three purl, one plain..." we hear him saying to himself), falling in love with a beautiful lady spider whom he will later marry. A nasty shock, however, awaits him on his honeymoon......erm, well he is a male spider after all!

Still, this is a childrens' book, and I'm pleased to report that, despite the arachnid odds, a happy ending awaits....

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Virago Modern Classics

Here's another bookshelf; this time my collection of Virago Modern Classics out in the conservatory (although any sharp eyed book bloggers might spot there's a non-Virago there, far left, top shelf, reason being that I wanted to put the hardback copy of Violet Trefusis's 'Broderie Anglais' that I'd found next to the Virago edition of 'Hunt the Slipper'.

The two shelves represent a mix of books waiting to be read, those waiting to be read a second or third time (I never tire of Elizabeth Taylor) and a few that I may never have time to read again but which I cherish for the gorgeous covers almost as much as for the content. The two I read most recently are at the top (they would be in the middle of this text, except I seem to be too technically inept to do that! Shame on me.)

Anyway, could there be a better marriage of cover and text than those images from the work of the quintessentially, quirky English painter, Sir Stanley Spencer and the quirky eccentric, utterly engaging writing of Barbara Comyns? It's unsurpassed, in my view, and I'm sorry to say I've been very disappointed by some of the recent Virago covers that have appeared lately, the cover for the new edition of Comyns 'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths' being a case in point. The new cover shows a photograph of a young woman with two dogs on a lead and tells us almost nothing about the book other than hinting at the period in which it is set (and why dogs, I wonder, when the heroine of 'Our Spoons Came from Woolworths is devoted to a newt called Great Warty?); the old cover, a detail from Stanley's Spencer's 'Marriage at Cana' is far more indicative of the mood of the book, with all its picturesque incidents and off-the-wall, wry humour.

I'm sorry to say that I frequently fail to buy the new Virago's because of my aversion to the bland new covers, preferring to go without until I can locate one of the lovely old Virago Modern Classic editions, with their painterly covers. (And they seem to be getting increasingly difficult to find these days!)