Friday, 29 January 2010
Thursday 28 January
Today, at the end of an era in my life, I packed up my London flat and the removers took everything away by 8am. I was left in an echoing couple of rooms, feeling better than I had expected. It was nice to have no radio or TV or internet for a few hours. Left alone with just one broken chair and a few papers, I mulled over 23 years of memories of recovery from a long illness, of hopes rewarded and prayers that more often than not, were fruitful. My eye then dropped to see one remaining leather bound book in the corner of one room and oddly, before stopping to pick it up I thought "I bet this book is significant". So I was nonplussed that it turned out to be a fine red and gold copy of Walter Scott's "Kenilworth". I did not even recall that I had bought a copy. Walter Scott was a Scottish lawyer (his date was about 1810) but also one of our most famous historical novelists (which is what I would love to be). Although the plot is intricate and the inaccuracies of the dates are farcical (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenilworth_%28novel%29), the writing is fascinating. After a very slow start, full of innkeepers and brigands who tell their story in a version of English that no one ever spoke (made up from half recalled words of Shakespeare and Chaucer), one gets to Amy Robsart and the Earl of Leicester at a delapidated and melancholy CumnorPlace near Oxford where Scott's imagination turns golden. Without being hamstrung by worries about silly things like "accuracy", he recreates the gardens and room of another age, a world he was closer to than we are, a world of candlesticks, four poster beds, silver Italian salt cellars, women in Elizabethan costumes and headresses, a world where Puritan women were proud not to deck themselves out as "papists do", full of poisoners and men who wore swords. Bravo, indeed. I need to analyse how Scott does it, but needless to say, I am convinced already that Walter Scott was , in his own way, a true and gifted time traveller. So reading this, I went on my way, happy that all my books go with me.