Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Hole, not cave
Why don't I get round to finishing that book? Is it because I spend too much time working on stuff which I know will make money? No, it can't be that.
I think I can pin-point the time when I put down the pen with the half-hearted intention of picking it up again some time soon, and that was when I heard the first episode of 'On Mardle Fen' by Nick Warburton. Then I thought to myself that I could never make such a good job of it as Mr Warburton, so I sort of gave up. I now think I should return and finish it off.
What amazed me was that On Mardle Fen contained all the key ingredients of my story, and what amazed me even more was that I did not let resentment get in the way of telling him how much I loved the series. I think it may have been a mistake to tell him about the similarities though - it must have sounded like a cover-up for stealing his ideas. Anyway, he must have forgiven me for any potential plagiarism - real or imagined - because he has become a sort of friend and alerts me to his forthcoming plays, rather like the secretary of a fan club of one.
So here's my pitch. Waverley Abbey - near Farnham, Surrey - was the first Cistercian monastery to be founded in England, and was destroyed in the Reformation - a job which was finished off by Oliver Cromwell, after which the dissolution was made more absolute by the locals carting away the stones for use in building private houses. But here's the thing - in my story it is still going strong as a working monastery.
One of the local buildings which may have benefitted from the stolen stones is Moor Park - a large, white painted and imposing early 18th century country house built for Sir William Temple, whose heart is said to lie beneath a sundial at the rear, and who brought Jonathan Swift over from Dublin to be his private secretary. This was the first place that Jonathan Swift lived at in England.
Just down the sandy lane running between Moor Park and Waverley Abbey is a pretty little thatched cottage called 'Stella's Cottage'. This (as the name suggests) was the dwelling of the young lady Stella, who was the subject of Swift's first amorous attentions after Dublin, though I am sure it was not called that at the time. Stella was also the subject of some quite overtly filthy verse by Swift which is not normally on the school curriculum - unlike Gulliver's Travels.
About half-way down the sandy lane, a small stream runs across the path and this issues from the mouth of a large cave. Inside the cave, the remains of foundations can be seen in the ground, and a patch of stone arch work shows where the roof has been reinforced to prevent any possibility of collapse. This cave is known as 'Mother Ludlum's Hole' (now more politely called, 'Cave'), and was the dwelling-place of a local witch of that name.
The stream is said to cut through the hill behind and run all the way to the village of Tilbury, where Mother Ludlum's cauldron can still be seen in the local church.
About twenty feet above the roof of Mother Ludlum's Hole, there is a much smaller cave cut into the sandy bank, and this is know as Father Foote's Hole. Father Foote was - by all accounts, I never met him - a sort of malignant hermit who would curse at swear at the passing monks of Waverley as they rode on the path below. One day, during an extreme bout of cursing, he dropped dead, rolled down the steep bank and came to rest at the feet of the monks, who took him away and gave him a Christian burial.
I have spent a couple of nights in Moor Park (sharing a room with Cro!) and I can vouch for the truth of the legend that the place is haunted by the mischievous spirit of Jonathan Swift. It was a very mischievous couple of nights. The last I heard, Moor Park was the headquarters of a famous cookery and flower-arranging school, but has now been reborn as some sort of other, non-Christian conference centre.
In my story, all of these places and characters exist concurrently, and are linked in a large circle which encompasses the whole area proscribed by sticking a compass point in the centre of Waverley Abbey and placing the pencil end just the other side of Farnham.
A freak archery accident whereby Stella skewers a child of an other-worldly group of beings (which could loosely be called 'fairies'), which happened to be playing just this side of its own dimension at the exact moment when Stella looses the arrow, causes a malignant force to descend upon the area as the creatures try to retrieve the body of their child - pinned to the very earth which it wandered into.
It is what I hope to be a dark comedy, and the area and historical characters make it very difficult not to tell a good story, I think. Oh well, I had better get writing.