In my humble opinion there’s naught quite so magic as the folklore and history of the Isles of Britain. Having spent a decade in Australia, I was taken aback upon my return by how much there actually is. Sometimes you have to be removed before you realise just how rich a land is.
Every village, graveyard, church and chapel has a story.In woods and field you hear the echo of an ancient past, stumble on the remains of Iron Age forts or medieval castles, find sites of monasteries, the trappings of war and victory, defeat, loss. From ghostly hauntings to paranormal strangeness, ancient rites and a druidic past, it’s a place to love.
Now I find it invades my writing.
I really don’t mind. In fact I welcome it. It first happened when I penned the short, 'Magpie'. Indeed I was inspired by a number of quite different events. The first was nature. Two magpies own the road we live in. They hop up and down the verge. Strut. Fly roof to roof, garden to garden without any care or fear. This is their kingdom and they giggle together in the trees.
Lovers, of course!
So it was the character ‘Magpie’ was born.
Her setting became a tiny hamlet called Cockayne Hatley in Bedfordshire. A tiny place my daughter and I explored that dates back to Saxon times. There on its edge we discovered Potton Woods, an ancient woodland, quite tranquil, quiet and beautiful. Deserted for the most part, it's full of butterflies and wildflowers in the summer. The woodland stands across a field from the Church of Saint John's, wherein is found the loot of the Napoleonic Wars, and in WWII the wood had been the site of an air crash in which a number of the crew died. Whilst exploring the trees for the crash site, searching for history, we had our own ghostly encounter.
A pungent and heavy scent of smoke, the polite cough of a man.
But there was no one there.
We were quite alone.
We left flowers.
We went on to visit the graveyard where there is still a memorial to the crew, only to then discover it’s the resting place for the real-life inspiration behind Peter Pan’s Wendy. Another story of a child who died too young: one Margaret Henley. A haunting child. I promise to explore the stories of Maragaret and the woods ghostly airman in later posts, but for now suffice to say it is their essence and resting place that greatly inspired me. Influenced characterisation and setting. To my mind, it was the isles, their local history, nature, folklore, and the promise of the paranormal on every corner that conspired to make a strange story short...
Set in a feudal future, folkloric and ghostly in the telling, it follows a girl called Magpie; toys with there being more to this world than what we see.
I enjoyed writing it.
And so, in 2018, I’m going to post a blog entry (a tale or snippet) that relates to folklore, history or the ghostly spirit of these special islands and its people. To keep me in some sort of order, a winding holloway, so to speak, I will loosely follow the alphabet. So please, join me for the letter ‘A’ next week. I'll be considering the work of just four amazing artists (painters, photographers and illustrators) that I've stumbled across thanks to my fascination with folklore and writing.