I may have been born in the peaks of Derbyshire, but I spent my whole childhood growing up in the east coast town of Lowestoft, and in particular the former village of Pakefield on its southern edge. I have long known of the fate that befell the parish of Pakefield with half of the community being taken under the sea, but I have never seen it so visually apparent as this book shows.
A collection of old photographs, I devoured this in just days, often looking up current and past street plans and maps on my tablet next to me to identify where pictures are, were, or might have been. It even features a picture of the house where I grew up.
I knew that coastal erosion had taken half of Pakefield – its church now sits on the clifftop when once it was the actual centre of the village – but I didn’t realise the politics that there must have been over the construction of groins and other sea defences and who pade for them, or that it was basically the sea defences that the larger and wealthier parish of Lowestoft to the north put in that contributed to the erosion faced by Pakefield.
As a writer too, I’m getting ideas of my own for a Pakefield-based story set probably at the turn of the century/early-twentieth but mainly also in an alternative Pakefield where some of what was lost has been saved and the different community that emerged.
It is clear that this story was inspired by the fortified medieval Cité of Carcassonne, and its a creative inspiration that I am all too familiar with. I was first told about this book shortly after its publication whilst I was writing my own foreign-travel-inspired-novel. I too had, independently, a character called Alice and a story that blended the real with the fantastical. It’s a BIG book though, and for whatever reason, even though I enjoyed the story I only got about halfway through before the draw of another book took me away from it.
I think it was the historical sections involving the medieval Alaïs that I had difficulty with and put me off from finishing the book. Eight year’s on, and I’m pleased that I returned to the book to read it again, from beginning (again), through to the end. It’s the kind of book that makes the Kindle worth it – I can read a BIG book without it taking up alot of space.
Second time on, and I was as gripped by the 21st century opener involving Alice and the archeological dig as I was the first time, and I did struggle a bit still with the Alaïs story too (or at least the cast of medieval characters when Alaïs wasn’t involved) but it hung together for me, and kept me moving on. I would preferred a bit more of handovers from Alice to Alaïs’ story to keep the link, and I was a little confused by the sudden appearance and importance of Will to the story? Why does Alice so completely and immediately trust him after all that has happened to her?
Having read the second book in the series, Sepulchre, first, I would say Labyrinth is the better, more complete, tale, and I’m glad I finally got round to finishing it. It’s also inspired me to continue to be creatively inspired by history and foreign places, and finding those stories to weave into a modern narrative. I really do like time-shift adventures.
The Ring In Winter
Birds circle, overhead
A cold, grey mist lingers
over mound and ditch.
Stones loom over me
For age after age, they have
stood in this place.
Seasons have passed seasons by
The distant future for those
that placed these stones
Is our long-forgotten past.
What secrets do these stones know?
What stories of lives betrayed,
of loves lost, of rites enacted
can this circle of stones report to us?
After four and thousand years
can we only guess as to their purpose.
That stands in the cold, misty winter.
I’ve been to Hemingford Grey a few times in the last year, and not realised that the manor house overlooking the river there is actually the former house of Lucy M. Boston and the setting for the Green Knowe stories. Not that is, until Emma saw an article about it in a magazine that came free with her Christmas issue of BBC Wildlife. So when we arranged to up and see the family, to see round the house was a must – and what a magical house it is too!
Originally uploaded by shepline on 28 Jan ’08, 9.00pm GMT PST.
Originally uploaded by shepline on 28 Jan ’08, 9.03pm GMT PST.
Formally a Tudor manor, it is the oldest, continually lived in, private house in the country. Moated, it is filled with history, including the three-foot gable wall still visible inside that was pulled down in order to build a new frontage along with an extension that later burned down leaving a rather curious arrangement of brickwork where the upper-floor windows would have been. This house, the actual setting for The Children of Green Knowe stories, it was not, in actual fact used in the stunning (and much under-repeated) BBC adaptation of 1986. Feste’s name plate though was ‘borrowed’ and actually hangs in the hall, and the ebony mouse is in the real attic bedroom where Tolly sleeps and sees the children.
Originally uploaded by shepline on 28 Jan ’08, 9.02pm GMT PST.
Originally uploaded by shepline on 28 Jan ’08, 9.04pm GMT PST.
One of the really special things about this visit is just how special it was for all of us. The series is one of my favourites, and one of Emma’s too, and we watched it again recently (on my ebay bought dvd – ripped from a Betamax recording complete with Andi Peters in the broom cupboard) and see the actual place is almost to be part of the story itself. Wonderful. 🙂
Wind gusts sheets of rain across the deserted forecourt under a leaden-grey sky. A van with blacked-out windows stands alone by the petrol pumps with it’s tarpaulin covered trailer buffeted by the wind and the rain. Within the service station, Helen sits opposite Andy at the window, steamed with condensation. Around then are other friends from the holiday. Helen cups her hands around her bowl of hot chocolate.
At the table next to them a man and a woman sit with their elbows on the table, each staring in a different direction, silent. Two young men in football shirts play pool, speak only to congratulate each other or commiserate over a missed shot.
Helen smiles; remembering the holiday so far.
Today is a day, much as is unfolding in Blood & Fire, and one made for writing. Finally I am getting closer to my eventual closing chapter. I am also finalising and printing and binding the second edition of my Grannie’s history, The Roe Family, thanks to an afterword from my dad, and some photos of my year old nephew and my week old first cousin, once removed, so far only only known as Mini Holm.
More patient and dedicated people than Me have, over the years compiled the various branches of my family tree; I have just the role of The Archivist, and have worked to put them all together and make them available on the world wide wide.
The list of names that follow could be seen as daunting, and so, what better place to start, but to take a look at my own family, the family of Thomas Edwin Shepherd…
And so, tomorrow, ITV will be screening part one of 49-Up, Michael Apted’s documentary update following a group of Britons whose stories have been chronicled from the age of seven – the old motif of ‘give me the child at 7 and I’ll show you the man’†.
It seems weird to think that it is now fourteen years since I first discovered this occasional series of 7-Up, 14-Up, 21-Up and 28-Up in Sociology class at a time when they were making and screening (the then most recent follow up), 35-Up. Can it really be 14 years since I did my A-Levels?! Can it be 7 years already since I last caught up the story in 42-Up? Seven years ago, I was in the midst of my three-long years of temping and still awaiting my first ‘proper’ full-time job. Seven years ago I was still living in house shares before it became houseshare from hell. Seven years ago I had just broken up with my first (and only, to date) girlfriend.
And 21? Twenty-one years ago I was starting out on my career, and my dream to be a writer…